About Back country Fly fishing
Back country flyfishing in NZ is defined from other flyfishing in that it always takes place in out of the way places. They are not readily accessible and to get to the back country always takes some degree of effort and planning .
They are not fishing locations that can be visited easily by casual anglers . There wont be any loaded car parks, picnic makers, swimmers, and specially groomed angler trails and seldom is another angler seen . Nor will there be route signs and the lucky backcountry anglers will have to find their own way up and down the streams which are in the main free stone waterways with forest , scrub or open mountain meadow along the sides.
It is highly unlikely there will be tar sealed roads and most certainly there won’t be condominiums, timeshares and motels . The only buildings might be the odd hunter’s hut miles apart.
Each stream is different and there is plenty to choose from . Some are bouldery with lots of pocket water , some are slow with deep pools and others are more open with wide river beds and lots of reaches and gravel, whilst others are canyon enclosed. There is lots of variety and a good back country fishing guide will be matching the streams to the anglers skill, experience and fitness level in conjunction with current fishing conditions. The guides aim is to provide the best fishing available on that day for that angler and the guide needs to have a wide range of waters which he and his client can access to realise the anglers dreams. Plans must be flexible and within a typical 4 or 5 day trip, different waters will be fished each day.
Vehicle access is by 4 wheel drive ute over mostly privately owned farmland or forest land . Permission to enter private land for access to fishing water must be granted by the owner before entry.
Public land does not require an entry permit for fishing and vehicle access to these fishing waters is normally a lot easier and is mostly in close proximity to a well formed road with access signage. Easy public access to back country rivers will nearly always translate into lesser quality fishing, simply because resident wild rainbow and brown trout don't like being disturbed or caught!
Paddy Clark NZ Flyfishing has already sought permission and been able to gain vehicle access across many privately owned properties and in so doing can fish lots of waters which might otherwise require a very long walk in from an entry point many miles downstream. The same waters are mostly available to all anglers but not necessarily the same access points.
Typically a days guided back country fishing might include an hours drive from the anglers Taupo accommodation to a private farm or forest, a quick visit and introduction to the farmer then, engaging 4 wheel drive, a ride across the farm through various gateways, passing by mobs of sheep and cattle or winding through f
orest to the chosen beat on the stream .. Park up, change into fishing gear, rig up rod , access the stream and after perhaps a few instructions commence fishing upstream. The guide will carry a net and a back pack with lunch and spare rod with other spare tackle and a waterproof camera to capture the days fishing highlights including the funny and interesting things which combined are part and parcel to fishing. The guide will also carry an emergency locator beacon.
The streams in the main will be fairly small , less than 10 yards across and wadeable but crossings have to be selected . Wading staffs can be carried but not often used .
Mostly the guide will be stalking the river edge using height from climbing trees or banks to advantage, polarising the stream for the quarry . The angler will follow along behind on the level spotting for trout as well, or perhaps casting to pockets of water not readily visible in the shade or current.
The guide will be communicating and offering advice to the angler and imparting local knowledge the whole time as they slowly progress up stream .. We always fish upstream in the small , clear back country streams in order to minimise disturbing a trout as they can easily see an unwary fisherman. Trout don’t have eyes in their tails although at times I swear they might be mutating. If a trout is alarmed or spooked as we describe it , the trout will not feed and is not catchable – cut your losses and move onto the next one trying at the same time to prevent a domino effect occurring.
When a fish is spotted the guide will show it to the angler and a “cunning plan is hatched” - strategies are discussed, underwater snags noted, perhaps tippits are altered , flies might be changed , casting positions and presentations decided upon. The angler will now sneak into position , careful not to show himself to the trout or perhaps to another one which might be cruising nearby . The guide will all the while be giving hopefully useful instructions and advice whilst keeping an eye on the fish , another eye on the angler, another eye on whatever else and yet another eye focusing the camera as well, all the while without the fish suspecting anything.
The angler will strip off line , briskly cast , no more false casting than necessary and plan to lay the fly down about 8 or 10 foot directly up current of the trout. Right where his nose is pointing ..
All eyes, including the guides spare ones will be focussed on the fly or indicator plus floating line ,plus an extra eye or two on the fish and when the dry is sucked in or the indicator does its thing the guide will yell STRIKE! The angler will react like a trained leopard and then it is all on!
The trout will be doing its best to escape. The angler will be doing his best to prevent that happening and the guide will be offering heaps of unheard advice and photographing the action. The fish will, dash this way and that, go around rocks , head for snags and perhaps worst of all rush past the angler and head down stream through fast water and all the while the angler is wondering why the guide attached 4X tippit instead of 1X.
If all goes well perhaps 10 minutes later the trout will finally be netted, unhooked , quickly photographed and released and the smiles and handshakes are spontaneous. The whole event is rehashed and discussed .The “cunning plan “ worked . If it didn’t that was just a flat “ bad luck”.
This scenario will hopefully happen time again throughout the day and the back country angler will have experienced yet another wonderful day flyfishing. He will have the memories and photos forever .
This back country upstream fly fishing in the small streams of the Central North Island is really just another form of hunting , more difficult than wild game shooting perhaps, as the angler has to fool a very wary quarry into eating something false, tumbling down the current on a string instead of merely shooting straight.
Back country streams are mostly fairly small but the trout aren’t. In NZ, unlike a lot of northern hemisphere streams the bigger resident trout live in the upper reaches and the lowland waters are mainly home to immature fish but of course there can be exceptions . Many of our back country waters only seem to hold fish in excess of say 19 to 20 inches and above and a smaller fish whilst caught are unusual. 23” & 24” trout both rainbow and brown are common . Where there is a lot of fish in the low land waters the size tends to be small and if the target is bigger fish, to consistently hook them it has to be in the back country.
Helicopters of course can be utilised to access the really back, back country - the real remote waters, often several days arduous walk from the nearest road. Helicopters can generally be arranged the night before and I advise all prospective fly out fishermen to try the 4wd accessible water first , get a little NZ experience and then fly into somewhere remote if you wish . The scenery and whole experience are just great and the fishing will be very similar to back country flyfishing.