Fly fishing for trout in New Zealand is a unique and challenging experience. New Zealand trout are wild and larger in size on average than many Northern Hemisphere trout fisheries. This combined with a world class landscape gives so many anglers reason to travel thousands of miles to test their ability in this unique fly fishing environment.
Like many fisheries and landscapes world wide New Zealand waterways are also under huge pressure environmentally. Climate change, agriculture, industrial pressures along with increasing angler numbers are all having an effect on this world class fishery. Below I have made a short list of some basic key points that visiting and local anglers, can practice to mitigate their negative footprint on our trout fisheries here in New Zealand. Many of you will know the points I make below but it’s always good to share for up and coming anglers. And in some cases to remind those who are more experienced.
Always put the environment and the fishery first
This is important in warm dry conditions. Trout suffer in warm water, catching them in these conditions exacerbates their suffering and will more often than not kill them if caught and handled poorly in low warm river flows. My rule is if the water temp hits 18 degrees it’s time to pack up and have a beer no matter how many you have landed for the day. Once water temps are above this it’s way too risky if you are practicing catch and release.
This may seem obvious but many anglers are guilty of cutting and discarding fishing line on the river bank. It may be hard to see but it’s still littering albeit small pieces that you are dropping. It all adds up, put it in your pocket or a container and discard it in the bin when you arrive home from fishing.
Use a landing net where possible
If this is not possible gently beach your trout in shallow water being careful not to drag it up onto grass or rocks.
Catch and release
Done right this is a great way to help sustain a healthy trout population for others to enjoy. Learn to play fish to the net quickly, keep them in the net and fully submerged in cool flowing water. Remove the hook quickly but carefully (take very special care if the hook is in the gills or near them). Without removing the trout from the water release carefully back into a moderate flow, making sure they are healthy before releasing. If your fish is bleeding from the gill plates do not release it straight away. I believe it’s best to hold the fish in soft flow keeping it calm allowing the blood to clot and stop naturally. Once the bleeding slows and/or stops it’s a good time to release as described above. Always where possible keep fingers out of the gills, damage to a trouts gills often leads to death.
If a photo is on the cards make it quick
Keep your trout in the river until the cameraman is ready then lift for a few seconds get the pick and re submerge your trout. Do not squeeze the fish when holding it. You can hold the tail firmly so as not drop it (having a soft glove on this hand helps improve grip) then sit the trout on the palm of the other hand. If you are by yourself don’t muck around with selfies and self timers, most of the time the trout will suffer more stress whilst you stuff around setting up. Plus if you look back through your photos you will likely realise that you probably don’t need another fish pic (unless it is something unique like your first 10lbs beauty).
So there you have it, a few simple tips for keeping your New Zealand trout fresh and ready for the next angler. Respect the environment and most of all have fun.
Interested in a guided fly fishing trip… find out more!