New Zealand Fishing Seasons
Months underlined have links to brief or detailed fishing reports, or select from menu below to jump straight to detailed monthly reports.
Summer: December, January, February
The increased warmth brings the onset of cicadas, always a good thing!
Terrestrials such as grasshoppers are also prone to drop into the rivers and streams once the weather heats up. The dry/nymph combo of an orange Stimulator and a Hare’s Ear along the overhanging banks is a good choice.
Along the lake margins, trout are aggressively cruising for spawning minnows such as Bullies (like sculpins)
and Smelt (like anchovies) in shallow water.
Often, they can be seen in 3-4 inches of water, dorsal fins above the surface as they hunt their prey. Use a small bully, smelt or koura imitation – and a floating line is often a better choice than a sinking, for fast lifts and re-casts. Best time is mid-morning, once sun reaches above the trees and gives the best angle of penetration for superb visibility. Some fish will also take a close look at a dry fly/nymph combo. Try a small horned caddis, water boatman, or snail on the dropper, and cicada, or big black gnat above.
Water temperatures climb as levels drop. Fish may become lethargic, and many will seek respite in cooler river and creek mouths, where higher oxygen levels combine to make life more bearable. At times, trout will congregate in large numbers in the first 200-300 yards of water upstream from river/stream mouths.
Stealth is a prerequisite for success in all waters. Fish have been disturbed by trolling boats, swimmers, water skiers, jet skis and other anglers, and are often easily spooked.
Coastal River mouths are also frequented by kahawai (aka Australian salmon) throughout summer, and a session of saltwater fly fishing for these is an experience no one will forget in a hurry! For the uninitiated, a kahawai is a silver torpedo with the highest power to weight ratio of any fish in New Zealand waters! Weighing 4-8lbs, they are fast, acrobatic and savage fighters. On light tackle, they are a handful, and make wonderful sashimi!
Autumn: March, April, May
March may be the best month of the year…. Weather is usually good,, insect numbers at their peak, and trout are in superb condition. The fishing is more difficult, due to the abundance of food sources, and the low, clear waters levels. However, this is a great time to explore the back country rivers, and "being there" is often more important than how many fish are actually caught. A good opportunity to hone stalking skills, and presentation and equipment must be meticulous for consistent success. Small flies, long leaders and fluorocarbon tippets all become more important!
April 30th brings the end of the main season, and all spawning rivers and streams close. Most local anglers pack their rods and tackle away, and oil up the shotgun – duck season starts on the first Saturday in May! Depending on location/weather the trout migrate upstream to spawn, and numbers do drop noticeably along the lake margins. However, the observant duck hunter might note with interest that there are still trout jumping all around the duck blind or mai-mai.
The pleasures of autumn/winter fishing are shared with few others. In fact, it is most unusual to meet another angler on the riverbanks!
Winter: June, July, August
Cold and wet as it can be, the fishing can be excellent despite being constrained to a narrower range of waters. Actually, we often have long periods of settled weather with frost followed by brilliant fine days. Those who brave the frosts, or the winter rains, can have unexpectedly good results. Lots of fleecy clothes, chest waders and warm jackets can make this time of year one of the best. On one wet and windy day in August 2001 a lady guest caught & released 10 fine trout, and another 5 the following day!
I personally think winter fishing on the West Coast offers hugely underestimated opportunities! The same guest referred to above had been pleased enough with her 1-2 rainbow per day on the Tongariro, prior to arrival at Lake Brunner. She was ecstatic after a couple of days of West Coast winter fishing.
Spring: September, October, November
Spring usually delivers the wettest weather of the year, but the fishing action heats up throughout the region. Spawning trout have returned to lakes and rivers, and are hungry. Lack of riverbank activity for several months has lowered alertness levels, and this combination can make for great spring fishing. Raincoats, chest waders, and a broad-brimmed hat are effective antidotes to the erratic spring weather.
September can produce great results for those trolling the lake. Use a Tasmanian Devil a yard or so behind a lure e.g. Hamill’s Killer etc. The Tasmanian Devil should include red/gold/black, or try a black Toby. Traditionally, those lures which are predominantly gold, with red on the head, and with either black stripes or spots, seem to catch more fish…. As observed over 40 years of fishing the lake! J
The annual whitebait season commences locally at the beginning of September. These anchovy-like fish run into the coastal rivers and streams from the ocean, bringing with them lots of opportunist sea-run brown trout. Fishing for these sea-run browns is great fun, as they are feisty, fat and fun on the fly! A sinking line fished down and across at 45 degrees, with a Grey Ghost, Doll Fly, Taupo Tiger, Silicon Smelt etc is the best method.
October 1st is the opening day of the new fishing season!!! After 5 months of zero angling pressure, all the smaller rivers, streams and lakes re-open. Fish are much more approachable, less wary, and are in great condition, feeding avidly. The weather can be a challenge, in many years the worst storms and heaviest rainfalls can be in the springtime.
New Zealand Fishing Seasons
"Guide to NZ Fishing" Menu
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