Fly fishing the North Island of New Zealand: A Visitors guide

Brown and rainbow trout were first introduced to New Zealand water in the late 19th century. The North Island of New Zealand is covered with many great fishing rivers, streams and lakes. Most rivers and streams hold trout. There is a great variety of water to be fished from Lowland pastoral streams to boulder mountain streams.

The North island has a volcanic history, most of the major lakes are old volcanic craters and the central north island is now still very active the last eruption was in 1997 when Mt Ruapehu threw out a little ash. The volcanic nature of the area provides a good base for trout streams. Many of the rivers are fed by catchments high in the hills or mountains in the central north island giving them clean clear, high quality fish environment.

Fish in New Zealand have flourished with little competition from other species. Fish here are made up predominantly of wild populations. These fish are easily spooked and normally require an element of stealth.

Many locations can be accessed through public access however many of the most outstanding fisheries require access across private land where Knowledge of the area and previous dealings with landowners can be useful.

You can expect to catch fish that average 2-4lbs, And many fish well over this size are caught every year.
Catch and release is advised for most locations, the exception would be the Rotorua lakes, Lake Taupo and its tributaries.

Overview of the regions

The North Island has a wide range of fishing environments. Rivers with solid rock boulders to free stone and shingle bedded spring creeks. The island has a history of volcanism and the many lakes in the Central North Island are past volcanic craters. There is little in the way of fishing north of Auckland although trout do inhabit the streams and lakes of this area.

Most streams and rivers of the North Island open for fishing between October 1st and close at the 31st of June the following year. There are many places open over the winter period and this can be an equally productive time of year to fish.

Waikato region
This area is very much a dairy farming area but has some amazing stream and rivers. Good quality water can be found throughout the region. Free rock streams in the Coromandel area, spring creeks in the South Waikato and some beautiful lowland streams near Te Awamutu make this a diverse and exciting fishery. Most areas can be accessed from Auckland on a day trip. Fish are generally not large but may be up to 4 lbs. Nymph, Dry fly and Wet flies can all be useful in different locations.

Eastern Region
This area includes the very productive Rotorua lakes and other outstanding river systems like the Rangitaiki river. Good shore line fishing in summer to cruising fish and stream mouths at night. The area holds some wonderful dry fly river fishing to brown and rainbow trout. Lakes such as Tarawera, Okataina and Rotoaira are considered trophy lakes holding fish over the magic 10lb mark. Many of these larger fish are caught at night.

This area is a Rainbow trout fishing paradise on its own. If you don't like fishing next to other people you may find this region a little too much. The area is made up of a series of rivers and streams that feed lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. These rivers provide excellent fishing over the winter months when all mature fish in the lake will run up these rivers between March and October. These fish are in exceptional condition and put up a fight like no other. In summer these rivers offer the fisherman an evening rise and fishing to mainly resident fish. Another good place to target in the summer is the river mouths where fish will on Smelt a small resident fish. Trout come in at night especially and can be caught to lesser degree during the day.

Hawkes bay 
The hawkes bay is a much drier climate that much of the island and offers a number of well regarded rivers especially for dry fly fishing over the summer You can expect a rise on most summer evenings and during the day nymphing is productive along with dry fly in the summer on most of the rivers in the region. Both brown and rainbow trout of good size especially in wilderness areas offer fishing to very large fish in gin clear water.

There are four main trout rivers in the Wellington area. Nymph and dry fly over the summer months provide excellent sport in back country locations and pastoral lowlands. The Wellington area is Predominantly a brown trout fishery with some rainbow fishing also available.


Many good fishing locations have public access, however a great proportion of rivers require access across private land. 
Permission should always be sort or use a guide to who has knowledge of quality locations.

Techniques to use

Nymphing is probably seen as the most successful method for fishing the rivers and streams.

Dry fly fishing can be exceptional over the summer months especially during the evening mayfly and caddis rises.

Streamer flies can be fished downstream in most rivers with success especially those that hold populations of smelt.

Streamer flies during the day and especially at night from stream and river mouths that run into the mainly lakes in the north island.

Backcountry fishing is at its best from October when most of the streams and rivers closed for the winter open for fishing. Most of the summer offers good fishing however Christmas to the end of January ids the hardest time fishied by locals as it is when many take there work holidays. There are good opportunities to camp. A guide can be useful to find locations that are likely to fire.

In Winter I have traditionally focused on the Taupo region. It is spawning time and One River Tongariro that flows into the southern part of lake Taupo has what is believed to be the largest spawning run of rainbow trout in the world. This is a great river to fish from June to September. Nymph and Lure fishing are the preferred technuiqes. Both the Taupo and Rotorua areas are the best places to be for the winter season when backcountry locations close.


Equipment required

Rods to bring 
Summer time you will not want anything heavier than a 6wt. A 4 wt is useful for many situations. Winter time I would suggest up to an 8wt.

Breathable waders are the best for both winter and summer as it can be very arm in summer and very cold in winter, neoprene waders are are also useful for winter fishing.

Flies you will need
The most major nymph life to be found in new Zealand is the delatuium may fly nymph and the caddis nymph in all its stages. 
As far as fish smelt a very small sleak fish found in the Taupo and Rotorua areas is very important along with good bully patterns

Nymphs: Hare and Copper nymph, Pheasant tail nymph, Sandy cased caddis, Emerald caddis, Gold bead head patterns

Streamer and lure patterns: Green rabbit, Red setter, Wooly bugger

Dry flies: Humpies, Cicada flies, Parachute Adams, Blue Dun

Tackle Shops 
There are tackle shops in most centres of the north island that can provide you with local advice, equipment and flies that are suitable for the area you are fishing.

There is such a large number of streams and rivers throughout the north Island that a guide can be invaluable in finding quality fishing water. Use a NZPFGA registered guide to insure an enjoy fishing experience. A guide will advise you as to the best methods for the location and provide you with flies and technical advice on how to fish the water. Guides are also always happy to help you find accommodation and will make sure you find fish quickly and easily. This doesn't however mean the fish will be easy prey, But local knowledge goes a long way. 
A day or two with a guide at the start of your discovery of New Zealand will give you a couple of quality days fishing and advice on where to travel to and fish next.

All of New Zealand except Taupo region requires a single licence, This is currently $23 per day or $112 a season. Taupo area is $17 per day or $90 per year.