New Zealand sits in the mid-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere and as such our fishing season is opposite to those of North America and Europe.
Many anglers ask what is the best time to come to New Zealand. To answer in the singular would be wrong as different anglers look for and seek different experiences. Some prioritize the need to escape the chills of a Northern Winter and tend to arrive in peak summer and that is a personal choice. Often overlooked are the angling opportunities that exist both early and late season. Most guides agree the catch rates are greatest at these times and the best chance for a trophy trout is early in the season when they haven't seen any anglers and are freely consuming an abundance of food to maintain their size.
Here’s an overview of what’s on offer during the fishing season:
It’s the opening of most rivers and lakes in New Zealand, with the exception of some high country Rainbow trout streams. A major misconception about water conditions in New Zealand is the belief most rivers run high and discoloured in the Spring. This is simply incorrect as the snow pack in New Zealand is generally low and the runoff is long and gradual meaning the rivers run clear every month of the season. Only heavy rains discolour our rivers and streams and this can happen at any time of the season. The fishing is a mixture of Dry Fly and Nymph fishing for resident browns in most rivers. For many regions the chance of a trophy Brown trout is never better than in the first month of the season.
The remainder of the Rainbow Fishery rivers open for the season. The dry fly hatches and nymph fishing continues. A month with historically high catch rates. The weather is warming as Spring nears its conclusion and the fish are voracious in their feeding, accumulating bulk and muscle after wintering over.
The rivers are now dropping to early summer levels. The dry fly really starts to kick into gear as the water warms while nymph fishing continues to be very productive. A superb month to come to New Zealand, especially as many willing anglers struggle to get away from family and work commitments leading up to Christmas.
New Zealand high summer at its best. The rivers are mostly low and clear allowing the bigger rivers, which have seen little attention up until now, to fish extremely well. It’s the start of terrestrial fishing and most trout are surface oriented.
Dry fly and terrestrial fishing reaches its peak with rivers getting lower and fish needing more careful attention. Traditionally, February is the busiest month to fish in New Zealand as it coincides with those escaping the deepest darkest chills of the Northern hemisphere winter. But anglers are here for a reason and nothing compares to a magical February day when seemingly every trout in the river is rising.
A change of seasons as the first frost arrives on cue somewhere in the middle of the month. The terrestrials disappear overnight but are replaced by consistent afternoon mayfly hatches. The trout are still looking upward and focus on smaller, cast friendly, offerings. A noticeable exit of anglers from February provides less pressured fish.
It’s the last month of regular season for most Brown trout fisheries, with the fish actively feeding due to the cooler water. Cool, clear Fall days provide the most consistent mayfly hatches of the season. Brown Trout that have not seen an angler all season start staging in abundant numbers in pre-spawning runs coming out of the lakes up into the tributaries. It’s a great month for dry fly aficionados.
Most of the remaining Rainbow trout fishery closes at the end of the month but consistent fishing for them continues throughout the entire month with Fall hatches still persisting under the right conditions.
Most rivers are closed with the exception of the winter fisheries. Most lakes remain open and the Lake Taupo tributaries experience their winter run of pre spawning Rainbows. This is a popular time for fishing the Taupo-Tongariro area. Many estuarine areas of rivers in both Islands remain open and provide great sport for sea run browns especially when the smelt and whitebait arrive in August.