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Welcome to Wild Angler!
Fly Fishing Guides for
New Zealand's South Island
The challenge of New Zealand fly fishing
Searching for the world’s finest fly fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout? Dreaming of the trip of a lifetime? Considering visiting Queenstown, Wanaka or Dunedin? Then come experience New Zealand’s South Island with Wild Angler.
Wild Angler is a quality fly-fishing guide service for the lower South Island. We specialize in one- to three-week trips to rivers like the legendary Mataura, whose lush Deleatidium hatches and wild free-rising browns make the river a dry-fly mecca; intimate Otago and Southland tributaries with big fish in small water; and classic backcountry rivers of the Southern Alps where trophy rainbows and browns sway in pools as clear as mountain air.
Learn South Island sight fishing and dry-fly techniques
Fly fishing the South Island's remote rivers in Fiordland and Mt Aspiring national parks, out of Queenstown and Wanaka, or the wild West Coast's Kahurangi National Park can be an angling dream come true. This landscape made New Zealand famous for its sight-fishing techniques, where anglers stalk large fish and pray their first cast is true.
It's a deliberate pursuit more like hunting than fishing practiced elsewhere.
New Zealand's South Island is also blessed with a wealth of lesser known pastoral streams with excellent brown-trout and match-the-hatch fishing waiting to be discovered.
The variety of water is astounding. There is challenge to match all tastes and abilities.
New Zealand fly fishing isn't easy, however.
The conditions and trout are demanding, prompting one writer to call it "the Mount Everest of fly fishing."
Several of my budget unlimited friends, who can afford to fish anywhere on earth, focus on browns and permit. "They both are ultimate gamefish, so cagey, paranoid and sapient and beautiful," he said. Some of our wily South Island browns live to be over fifteen years old. So If you want to become a better fly angler, make the pilgrimage to this angler's El Dorado. Life is short.
But be warned. The country, its rivers and friendly people may charm you into staying longer than you planned, or dreaming of your next trip and rearranging priorities.
It can become a way of life. There are worse fates.
Many of my clients find it a wise use of time to begin trips in one area and leave from another. Why double back? Take a road trip. See new country every day. Connect ecosystems, landscapes, accents, trout.
Otago and Southland fly fishing trip options
Queenstown and Dunedin are logical arrival and departure points because of their airports. And you can add Gore—or Te Anau, Wanaka ; or, if you have more time, wandering the wild West Coast then the Central South Island, and depart from Christchurch—as part of a lower South Island Trout Tour.
I often guide out of Riversdale because it's surrounded by some of the South Island's best sight-fishing water. To the east and north are dry-side of the mountain watersheds of Central Otago, often the last to blow out from southwesterly rain. To the west are Southland rivers and streams, as well as Fiordland National Park. Visitors from South America will note the parallels to Patagonia, with Otago's tussock country and big skies resembling Argentina's arid grasslands and Southland recalling Chile's wetter native forest watersheds and fiords.
The lower South Island and West Coast offer some of the finest fly fishing in the country. I specialize in custom itineraries linking Dunedin, Queenstown, the central South Island, the West Coast and Nelson.
Dunedin fly fishing
Dunedin has outstanding, little utilized water less than an hour from town.
But the city has much to offer the non-angling traveller, too. The Lonely Planet guide called Dunedin "the South Island's coolest city" for its hip vibe and unique combination of cultural and natural riches. It reminds me of Missoula, Austin, Valdivia or Seattle, in that way. Many find its laid-back charm, museums, live music, rare wildlife, scenic vistas, drives and walks, and surprising dining a great way to begin a New Zealand trip.
A civilised university town, Dunedin is also full of parks and greenbelts. And the Otago harbour and peninsula are on its doorstep. The peninsula is home to some of the world's rarest wildlife: yellow-eyed and blue penguins, albatross and marine mammals. International visitors find Dunedin a good arrival point to get over jet lag, take in the sites, or a day trip to the peninsula's hilly vistas and pristine beaches before departing for more rigorous South Island fly-fishing expeditions.
Dunedin also has a special place in New Zealand's trout fishing history. Here, in 1869, the Otago Acclimitisation society achieved the first successful introduction of trout in New Zealand when the brown trout they stocked in the Water of Leith, a small stream meandering through Otago University and the botanical gardens, survived and began reproducing. The Leith's brown trout gene pool is thus the nation's oldest. After fall rains you can commonly see large browns holding by the Dundas Street bridge or moving upstream searching for a place to dig redds.
Today the Otago Anglers' Association remains the oldest fishing club in Australasia, and the first weekend every November they host the Gold Medal, Australasia's oldest fly fishing competition.
Also important to note is that the rivers of eastern Otago are among the last to blow out when a wave of rain sweeps the South Island from the southwest. When rain pummels Southland and Western Otago, Fiordland and the Southern Alps, the last fishable rivers are closer to Dunedin.
Weather dictates so much here when planning a fishing trip. And it's difficult to predict it more than a week in advance.
Gore fly fishing: the heart of New Zealand's dry-fly culture
Gore, just two hours to the east, is located on the banks of the Mataura River.
"The world's greatest brown trout dry fly stream," proclaimed Stu Apte, field host of ABC's American Sportsman, in Field and Stream magazine. The prolific hatches and clear water meant Apte could sight fish to almost every trout, much like he did with bonefish and tarpon back in Florida. Sight fishing to solid, active trout in clear water was what impressed him.
The area has many active local angling clubs and a long tradition of innovative fly tying, with local patterns like the Dad's Favorite, the First Choice--possibly inspired by the Klinkhammer--and the CDC Upright and Downwing emergers, as well as Waipahi Red and Black, or the Pomahaka Red and Black.
South of Gore is Te Anau, gateway to Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. And two hours north of Gore is Queenstown. The Riversdale, Lumsden and Waikaia area is just far away enough to ensure the rivers around the mountain get far less pressure than the dedicated tourism destination. In the vicinity of Dunedin, Gore and Lumsden we also have rivers where we can hike in for walk-and-wade trips for a shot at trophy fish, without the need of helicopter.
Queenstown and Wanaka or Te Anau are often great places to cap off your New Zealand fly fishing experience. Not only do they offer fine lodges and restaurants but also the option of overnight wilderness trips by boat, plane or helicopter. I skip the more easily accessed water near these resort towns and guide expeditions to the backcountry to sight fish for trophy trout after tuning up casting skills on more prolific rivers like the Mataura, whose middle reach has one of the densest trout and insect populations in the country.
Queenstown has a wealth of activities for adrenaline junkies—like bungee jumping or jet boating —as well as more relaxed activities like golfing at the Millbrook Resort.
I can also highly recommend tours of the Central Otago vineyards, which produce some of the world's finest pinot noirs.
Wild West Coast fly fishing road trips
For clients with longer timeframes and more flexible schedules, I can create fly fishing itineraries that connect Southland and Otago fly fishing road trips to the remote West Coast of Westland, as well as great rivers on the North Island. Road trips are a great way to sample the best of New Zealand fly fishing options.
One of my premium tours is a long road trip from Haast to Karamea.
From affordable helicopter expeditions to walk-in wilderness to spring creeks, there's enough water here for 10-day trips to offer the first taste that will keep you coming back. The landscape and weather can be raw and unforgiving at times, though sunny and mild at others. In some areas the thick bush goes right down to the bouldery river edge, with evidence of mass flooding. Be careful planning remote trips here and take a satellite phone or emergency beacon. The mountains are close to the sea. And annual rainfall at high elevations regularly exceeds 10,000 mm (almost 400"), with lower elevation coastal locations typically recording between 2,000 and 3,000 mm of rainfall annually. Many of the watersheds here clear quickly after rain.
Whatever your preference, I can fine-tune your itinerary to suit all tastes and budgets and level of challenge, as well as the needs of non-angling members of your traveling party, which is always an important consideration.
Large wild trout, gorgeous South Island landscapes, custom flies and a professional photo service make this the trip of a lifetime.
I hope I can help you explore this beautiful country. I truly believe that every time a new visitor experiences fly fishing New Zealand's incomparable rivers, the world becomes a slightly better place. Join our tribe.