Spring in New Zealand has arrived in dramatic style, with strong winds and heavy rain hammering most parts of the country… no change there then! For the NZ trout fisherman Spring also signals the build up to the start of a new trout fishing season – 2015 /16 Season kicks off 1 October.
While many larger rivers and lakes have remained open throughout the winter, especially around Lake Taupo, it’s the myriad of smaller rivers, lakes and back country streams that have been ‘off limits’ since June that will fire the imagination of many anglers. Time to get planning – and praying to the weather gods!
Experienced anglers will already have a well trodden path that helps them negotiate the new season. The less experienced trout hunter however might benefit from the following suggestions and observations.
Firstly we need to get our licences sorted out. This year I simply used the Fish & Game NZ website, which turned out to be very straight forward. I completed the online forms, went through the payment process and the plastic credit card style licence arrived a week later along with the latest book of rules and regs. Easy! As highlighted in an earlier WildernessTrout post, Fish & Game has introduced a few new licence options this year, that might offer better value for money to occasional anglers or those who prefer to focus on fishing a single region.
Next up is equipment. Perhaps that floating line wasn’t living up to it’s description last time out… maybe your landing net was consumed by heavy bush on a previous adventure… car doors and rods have a habit of coming together in a very destructive way… and trout flies will have divorced from your tippet in favour of a union with assorted riparian flora. The bottom-line is, you’ll probably need to replace and prepare stuff. Personally I quite enjoy cleaning rods, greasing reels, dressing fly lines etc, but that’s probably just my OCD showing through! Whatever your approach, giving a little thought to getting kitted-out now will help ensure you’re ready to go on 1 October.
The style of fishing will also have a bearing on the choice of equipment. If you are hoping to cast a delicate dry fly to rising fish using a light weight set up, you might be in for a long day. In reality early season fly fishing is mostly about getting a nymph down to the trout. In a fast flowing river this can be achieved using a tungsten nymph under a strike indicator, or even swinging a wet fly/streamer across the current using a fast sinking fly line. A smaller creek will allow for a lighter rod but you will still need to get your flies down through the water column. Leaders and tippets can be on the heavier side, given the fish will be a little less wary. Also a heavier tippet gives you a better chance of landing a big strong fish in fast water. Whatever approach you adopt you’ll find it easier if you select the right tackle for the job and get it ready in advance.
What’s your casting like? I’ve been fly fishing for over 30 years and consider myself to be pretty proficient with a fly rod but I still get rusty if I haven’t cast for a while. If you’ve been winter fishing then you’ll be fine, but if not, it might be a good idea to polish up your technique before heading out. You don’t even need water, a patch of grass will be fine – as long as you have enough space.
Deciding on a destination is probably the sexiest part of planning for the new season. I must confess my early season trips tend to revolve around tried-and-tested locations. The choice is usually driven by the potential to catch larger fish that are less wary than normal, courtesy of the fact that they’ve not seen an angler for a few months. However if you are looking for a change from the norm, the internet provides a great opportunity to gather information about new places and help plan trips. Websites such as www.nzfishing.com include loads of info about places to fish, successful methods and even accommodation.
So you’ve decided where to fish. All done, right? Well no, not quite. Now is a good time to consider the weather! The start of the trout fishing season in New Zealand occurs during one of the wettest and most unpredictable times of the year. Many rivers can easily become unfishable following periods of heavy rain, forcing you into a last minute search for an alternative spot or even to abandon fishing altogether.
To avoid this last minute frustration it’s much easier to already have a ‘Plan B’ in mind. Websites such as the Met Service can be very useful in the final weeks before the trip, as can a number of other resources.
With a bit of thought and planning you can ensure you get the best out of your start to the season. Tight lines!