by Stan Fagerstrom
Have you been there and done that?
I have a chance every now and then to ask that question. One of the times I use it most is when I hear some dude making positive statements about something related to fishing he actually knows very little about.
Such an opportunity came up not long ago when I overheard two anglers I know talking about fishing in New Zealand. Both said they'd love to do it but one didn't think he'd get to fish if he did.
"From what I hear," he said, "New Zealand is all fly fishing. You can't even use anything else. I don't fly fish so I guess that lets me out."
Those two guys obviously "hadn't been there and done that" as far as New Zealand is concerned.
Well, I have. I interrupted their conversation long enough to tell both of them to never pass up a chance to visit---and to plan on fishing---that beautiful country whether you've ever wrapped your hand around a fly rod.
The incident I mention wasn't the first time I've heard tales about fishing in the land of the Kiwis that just aren't true. At least they weren't when I've been there. I have great memories of the two month long trips I've spent in that beautiful country..
On both occasions I was a guest of the government's department of fishing. I was placed with a different guide about every four or five days. I got to fish one place or another darn near every day.
I was also privileged to give a casting demonstration that ran on the country's national news channel. Another of my trick & accuracy bait casting exhibitions was also featured in an appearance at the Agradome near the city of Rotorua on the North Island.
This column provides an excellent opportunity to straighten out some of those misconceptions about Kiwi angling. The first, as I've mentioned, is that New Zealand is all fly fishing. New Zealand does indeed have some of the world's finest fly fishing. Here's evidence of that.
Certainly the country offers some of the most interesting fly fishing
you'll find anywhere, but in no way are you restricted to use
of the long rod.
It's true there are waters in New Zealand set aside for fly fishing
only. You won't have difficulty finding out what they are. But for every river or lake restricted to fly fishing, there are a half dozen others where you can use spinning gear. During the times I was there I used my light spinning gear as much as my fly rod.Fly fishing gets most of the attention but there is also a super opportunity for anglers to use their spinning gear for fishing in the land of the Kiwis.
Something else that needs to be said is that a New Zealand fishing
adventure can be just about what you choose to make it. I don't
care what kind of physical condition you're in, if you can
get aboard a boat and hold a rod, you'll be able to catch fish.
One way to do that is to go to Lake Taupo on the North Island. This
huge lake is loaded with rainbows. They are beautiful, big
trout. If you go out with one of the lake's experienced guides, you
can expect to catch fish running from two to seven pounds.
The lake has rainbow larger than that, but I'm talking about
fish you can expect to catch darn near every time out.
Those fish will most likely be caught by a method the Kiwis
call "Harling." Don't let the term confuse you. What it
boils down to is trolling a fly.
There's a bit more to it than that, but it's not unlike trolling lures for larger trout here in the United States. You let your fly out behind the boat and the guide puts you where the fish are. Be assured you'll know it when one of those big 'bows latches on to your fly.It was my spinning gear that let me get the net under this New Zealand trout.
Unless things have changed you don't have to be concerned about inviting some of those Lake Taupo trout you catch to join you at dinner. The guides I fished with told me New Zealand fish officials encouraged anglers to keep Lake Taupo fish.
There is a better average size when that lake isn't over populated.
Some of the older guides told me about what happened at Lake
Taupo during World War II. At that time there was virtually
no fishing pressure on Taupo and the average size of its fish
You won't be encouraged to keep fish on most New Zealand
trout streams. Guides in that beautiful country are just as
interested in conservation as they are here.
And despite what you may have heard, don't expect to go to the best known trout streams and catch fish every cast. It won't happen.
It bugs me to read exaggerated accounts of how somebody
clobbered trout all over New Zealand on just about every other cast. You bet the country has great trout fishing. But like trout fishing elsewhere, that doesn't mean fish are always going to fight over your lure each time out.
I've seen days I couldn't buy a hit on New Zealand rivers that were loaded with fish. If your only interest is in numbers of fish, you'll be better off going to someplace like Alaska.
If you prefer a challenge with your trout fishing, and if you want to visit a land where both the countryside and the people can rightly be called beautiful, you'll flat out love New Zealand.
Among some of my most cherished New Zealand memories are trips made for brown trout on certain pristine streams of the South Island. It was as much like hunting as fishing.
The guide used Polaroid glasses to spot fish. He sneaked up to the stream bank ahead of me until he saw fish. The he'd tell
tell me where to place my fly. When I did it right---kerwhop! And here's what that trout looked like! Note the beauty of the mountain lake from which it was taken.
I put those brownies back. I know right where they are. If I'm fortunate enough to get back there again, don't get in my way. I know exactly where I'm going and I want to get there fast.
I've had the good fortune to fish for trout in Argentina and Alaska as well as New Zealand. Each area has its charms, but I fell in love with New Zealand. The country and its people remind me of the folks I knew as a kid growing up in North Dakota long years ago.
There is a friendly openness about the Kiwis I've not often found in travels elsewhere. And they still love Yanks. I keep mentioning the people because it's the men and women you encounter wherever you go who make the biggest difference in how you feel about visiting a foreign land.
Think about it. Paradise itself won't be much fun if Saint Peter turns out to be a big grouch!
Again, fishing in New Zealand can be what you choose to make it. And don't sweat it if you'd rather catch ‘em trolling than casting with a fly. You'll find ample opportunity to do both.