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March 18th, 2020

Fly Fishing in Fiordland

Why is fly fishing so good in New Zealand’s South Island?

  1. Fiordland’s unique combination of pristine backcountry environments, low fishing pressure and extraordinary mayfly hatches makes for one-of-a-kind trout fishing.
  2. The rivers and lakes of Fiordland provide a healthy environment for cool-water, river-bred fish, mostly rainbow and brown trout. 
  3. Fiordland is a protected ecosystem and as such, is abundant with sources of food. Rivers like the Upper Waiau boast some of New Zealand’s richest fish stocks ranging from 300 – 400 fish per kilometre.
  4. Fish here are anything but hook-shy making it a favourite fishing location for families and first-timers.
  5. Jet boating is the best way to access fishing on the Upper Waiau River. Jet boats offer expert manoeuvrability for drift fishing and an easy way to access areas which are inaccessible by foot.

Where is the best fishing in New Zealand’s South Island?

Some of the best fishing spots in the South Island of New Zealand are the Upper Waiau River, Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri. Fly fishing locations in Fiordland are plentiful, much like its stocks of rainbow and brown trout.


Fly fishing in Fiordland

Lush and abundant are two words often used to describe Fiordland. Located in the south-west corner of New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland provides a healthy environment for cool-water, river-bred fish. The waters around here are teeming with hard-fighting rainbows and wily brown trout. And while the fishing is superb, what makes Fiordland one of the best fishing locations in New Zealand is the scenery that goes along with it. The rivers are flanked by towering mountains of lush, dense beech forests. Gin-clear waters sourced from glacially-carved lakes and mountain-fed creeks and springs provide outstanding sight fishing opportunities. A protected and conserved ecosystem, Fiordland is rich with sources of food. The healthy fish stocks reflect this abundance. 

Two flyfishers stand in the river with lines cast, part of a Fiordland Outdoors Co. fishing package.

Despite the abundant fish stocks and the spectacular scenery, the waters around Te Anau and Fiordland are surprisingly unpressured. A lot of this comes down to the fact that the best fishing locations in Fiordland are not that easy to get to. There are very few roads through Fiordland National Park and the river waters and lake conditions are highly changeable. If you’re planning a fishing trip out of Te Anau, we highly recommend doing it by boat; and with an experienced local.

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Can you fish in Fiordland National Park?

Take the Fiordland Water Taxi for a fly fishing trip in fiordland
Fly fishing in Fiordland

Yes. You will need a current fishing licence to fish in Fiordland National Park. Fiordland is favoured by anglers because it offers unpressured fishing environments. Fishing licences and catch limits help keep this in check. If you’re fishing with us, we can arrange your licences.


Jetboat fishing in Fiordland

A couple packing the gear into the boat following a Fiordland fly fishing trip.

Around here, we use jet boats to access river fishing locations. The Waiau River is dotted with islands, beaches and eddies that are impossible to reach on foot. We use custom-built jet boats to navigate the Waiau and find those elusive magic spots. Don’t be put off by the use of the jet boat – trout on the Waiau are forgiving and settle fast once the boat has moved through. 

As experienced anglers, we would choose a jet boat any day for backcountry fishing. Apart from looking and sounding fantastic, the jet boat provides superior manoeuvrability making it ideal for both drift fishing and for accessing beaches and islands inaccessible by foot. Combining backcountry fishing and jet boating is a quintessential kiwi fishing experience.

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Why catch and release fishing?

Our fly fishing trips are catch and release to ensure the ongoing viability of fly fishing. Like everything in Fiordland, conservation is key. The large brown trout are highly valued and releasing them back to the river ensures stock numbers stay healthy. 

Fish are vulnerable when they come out of the water, particularly after a hard fight. We make sure each fish is handled correctly before it’s released back into the water, ready to fight another day. But not without snapping that all-important photo first, of course.


What fish can I catch in Fiordland and Te Anau?

The cool waters of Fiordland and Te Anau are full of hard-fighting rainbow and wily brown trout.

New Zealand Brown Trout

An angler holding a Te Anau prize - a native brown river trout.

Found throughout New Zealand, brown trout favour cooler waters, so it’s no surprise they are abundant in Te Anau’s fly fishing spots. Appearance varies depending on their habitat, but river brown trout are generally darker and show brown or red spots. Brown trout seldom have spots on their tail, making them distinguishable from rainbow trout. Lake dwelling brown trout frequently appear more silver than river fish. 

Brown trout are known for being wary and are hard to deceive with artificial flies. Despite this, they are a common species in Fiordland giving anglers of all levels a good chance of success.

New Zealand Rainbow Trout

An angler holds up a rainbow trout, freshly caught on a Fiordland Outdoors Co. Fishing trip.
Fiordland Outdoors Co. NZ Fly Fishing

Originally introduced to New Zealand from North America, rainbow trout are widespread throughout south island fishing locations. They are not as common as brown trout, but most anglers stand a good chance of a catch. Rainbow trout are easy to identify thanks to their dark green markings, dark spots and distinctive pink flush along the side.

Rainbow trout are considered less wary than brown trout and therefore easier to catch. But they are fighting fish and will put on a good battle for the angler. 

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What do I need to take fishing in Fiordland?

It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert angler or an absolute beginner. Whether you’ve fished all over the globe or you want to get the kids out to have a go. Fishing in Fiordland is about the whole experience. From the scenery and the conversation to the jet boat journey on the river.

Our fly fishing and jet boat fishing experiences include all the gear, from rods, lures and bait to providing fishing licences and picnic lunches.

This is not a high-pressure day. A day out fishing should be fun and give you plenty of time and space to improve your casting or learn the finer details of river drift fishing. 

To fish any waterways in Fiordland will need a current Sports Fishing Licence. You can get your licence online, or simply ask us to do it for you.


The fly fishing guides

Father and son show off their catch on a Fiordland Outdoors Co. fishing trip.

Our fishing operation is headed up Mark Wallace. Mark’s a local, a life-long angler and someone who loves nothing more than showing guests his fishing spots. Although like any serious angler, he’s got a few spots he’ll keep to himself.

Mark’s depth of knowledge on all things fly-fishing is matched only by his good-natured, casual kiwi style. Alongside him, Mark’s team of fly fishing guides share his passion for fishing and that famous kiwi flair for honest hospitality. 

Meet the fly fishing guides here


Where is the best fishing around Te Anau?

The Waiau River is considered one of the South Island’s best fishing locations. The clear, deep waters of the Upper Waiau River offer exceptional fishing. This section of the river holds some of the largest fish stocks in New Zealand, an average of around 300-400 fish per kilometre.

The majestic Waiau River, an anglers paradise. Book a fishing trip with Fiordland Outdoors Co.
Waiau River New Zealand

Here, the fish are anything but hook-shy, and rise freely making your chances of success high. The Waiau often offers outstanding evening rises and Mayfly hatches. 

The Waiau River is the largest in Southland and begins as the outflow of Lake Te Anau. It then becomes the outflow from Lake Manapouri, where it continues south for 70km before emptying into Foveaux Strait near Tuatapere. It also takes water from Lake Monowai. The Upper Waiau River between Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri is the stretch of river we call fishing paradise.

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