Rod and Thumb

Hitchhiking and Self-Guided Fly Fishing Abroad

New Zealand

Fly Fishing

Fish and Game

The New Zealand trout fisheries are some of the best managed in the world. Fish and Game is a top class organization that maintains the recreational hunting and fishing in NZ. They do an excellent job of keeping relationships with some private landowners to allow public access for certain fisheries.

Brown trout

Fishing License

Fish and Game manages all freshwater fisheries except those bodies of water in the Lake Taupo region, which are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

The Fish and Game Non Resident fishing license is good for 1 year (September 30th – October 1st) and costs $160 NZD ($125 USD). There is also a 24-hour license available for purchase, $25 NZD (~$20 USD). Fishing licenses can be purchased here.

If you would like to fish a backcountry fishery, in addition to purchasing the Non resident fishing license, you must also apply for a region-specific backcountry fishing license (at no extra cost). Backcountry fishing licenses can be found here.

In order to fish the Taupo fishery, you must buy a DOC fishing license. One year ($90 NZD, July 1st – June 30th), one week ($38 NZD) and one day ($17 NZD) are all available for purchase. Details found here.

Rainbow trout


North Island 2014-2015 Fishing Regulations here.

South Island 2014-2015 Fishing Regulations here.

Felt soled wading boots/shoes are not permitted for use in NZ fisheries in an effort to stop the spreading of dydimo throughout NZ. When flying into New Zealand, all waders, wading boots, fishing gear and camping gear are subject to inspection at the airport. Be sure to completely clean and dry all of your used fishing and outdoor gear before flying to New Zealand. Details found here.

North Island vs. South Island

If your time in New Zealand is limited to a few weeks and your transportation options are limited due to not having a vehicle, it may be best to focus your efforts to fishing only one of the two islands. By traveling overland without a car of your own, you will likely invest a significant amount of time traveling from the North Island to the South Island.

Both islands have great fisheries with healthy populations of brown and rainbow trout.

Note that it is much easier hitchhiking on the North Island than the South Island, because the South Island is less densely populated with less traffic.

A North Island stream

Where exactly to fish

Fortunately for the frugal fly fisherman, there is a good amount of information about freshwater fly fishing in New Zealand available on the internet. The best internet resource available is, with references to access points for different rivers, flies to use and maps.

The North Island Trout Fishing Guide and South Island Trout Fishing Guide by John Kent are very useful for their descriptions and information on the various fisheries of NZ. If you are unable to get your hands one these books, some of the bigger public libraries in NZ will have them (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch).

I recommend speaking with as many Kiwi fishermen as possible to learn some local knowledge. The Fish and Game staff can be very helpful in providing advice.

Public Access to Water

There are some access points that have been negotiated by the NZ Fish and Game to allow you to cross private property to access fishable water.

Feel free to ask private landowners if you can cross their land to access a river or lake. The worst that will happen is that they say "no".

Tackle Shops

Not every town has a tackle shop. Unless you are traveling to an area with a large population, be sure to have all of your tackle needs fulfilled before arriving at your destination.


Dry Flies


You can use the following nymph patterns with or without BH. If you had to take BH vs no BH, take the patterns with BH.


Bright colored fly lines

There are fisherman who believe that the trout in New Zealand are more easily spooked by bright colored fly line than trout in other countries. Whether this is actually true is up for debate, but the main key is to fish with a long leader (15-18 feet) when using dry flies and nymphs.