Meet the Team: Shaun Bilham
Fly Fishing Guide
With a lifetime spent exploring the rugged terrain of the South Island’s mountains, lakes and rivers, few offer a level of knowledge and appreciation for the outdoors like Shaun.
Part of the Fiordland Outdoors Co. team since 2014, Shaun (pictured above on the left) is our fishing guide, jet boat driver and wild food enthusiast. His understanding of the intricacies of wilderness fly fishing is matched only by his enthusiasm for the sport. Over the years, Shaun has helped countless guests realise their dream of catching wild trout in a wild New Zealand river.
Beneath the quintessential Southern Man persona, Shaun offers a sharp wit and impressive culinary skills. Fiordland is renowned for delicacies such as crayfish (lobster), trout and venison and Shaun is famous for turning this produce into a gourmet wild food feast.
Shaun holds a commercial jet boat operator’s licence. You’ll catch him guiding our Wilderness Fly Fishing and Jet Boat Fishing experiences where he delivers an outstanding day whether it’s for devoted anglers or absolute beginners.
We managed to get him and his dogs down from the hills to ask a few questions about how he ended up as a fishing guide in one of the most spectacular fishing spots on the planet. Here’s what makes Shaun tick,
The inspiration to choose the outdoors life…
Shaun’s earliest memory of the outdoors is fishing with his dad around the rivers in North Canterbury. He says he remembers a lot of walking in rivers, a lot of slapping the water but not a whole lot of catching. But the seed was planted, and Shaun discovered a love for fishing and also a love for spending time outdoors.
How the outdoors became a career…
After leaving study, Shaun took a job with Fish & Game. The role was backcountry survey work monitoring the fishing habits of local and visiting anglers. He spent three seasons in the Nelson Lakes area and the Greenstone and Caples Valleys in the southwest of the South Island. Much to his delight, Shaun would spend up to five months at a time out in the wilderness.
In the winters, Queenstown beckoned, and Shaun worked on the ski fields. Shaun’s next move was to Fiordland to take a job managing overnight cruises in Doubtful Sound. This is was where he began to explore Fiordland National Park, its fiords and, of course, Manapouri and Te Anau lakes. At this stage, Shuan was already a keen hunter and fisher, and he was sure Fiordland was a place he could call home.
Over the years, Shaun has worked in other roles like farm management, landscaping and a few, busy years as the co-owner of Te Anau’s Sandfly Café. But he always comes back to the fishing and guiding.
The ultimate day out fishing is…
We’d all love to have perfect weather and perfect visibility for a day out fishing in Fiordland, but the reality is you can’t rely on that around here!
Understanding that, Shaun reckons the perfect day out has nothing to do with the weather. It’s when everyone on the boat is happy to take the day as it comes. It’s an environment where things are always changing. From the river conditions to the fish to the weather. So if guests are happy to trust the guide and happy to be adaptable, then it’s bound to be a good day.
When he’s not at work, you’ll find Shaun…
Anywhere out in the backblocks. The wilder and more remote, the better. Shaun’s spent a lot of time in the Hollyford Valley and considers it one of his favourite spots in Fiordland.
It’s not all about fishing and boating…
Shaun is a keen chef and thinks it’s important to know how to create a meal out of the wild game you take. Particularly with what we have available in the forests and waterways around Te Anau and Manapouri. So, it’s no surprise some of Shaun’s jobs have involved cooking including time working on the Hollyford Track, Doubtful Sound and at The Sandfly Café.
After 30 years of working in the outdoors …
Shaun’s keen for everyone to experience Fiordland at some stage in their life. But there are a few things he reckons people should know before they come. Fiordland is big, it’s remote and there’s a good chance you’ll experience four seasons in one day. He’s seen a lot of amazing destinations throughout the South Island, and believes Fiordland is somewhere that should never be taken for granted. When he’s out on a fly fishing trip, he likes to remind himself he is taking people into a location that offers some of the best fly fishing in New Zealand. To be able to catch wild trout surrounded by a World Heritage area; according to Shaun, it doesn’t get much better.