Peeling Back the Skin on the South Island: Frontcountry
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
The most demanding part of fishing the South Island frontcountry can be navigating the few hundred steps from the vehicle to the trout stream.
If the electrified sheep fences don't get you, the big angry bull across the meadow might. Agricultural impediments abound. New Zealand might just be home to the gnarliest streamside brush in the world, short of the Amazon. The nasties include native matagouri, introduced gorse, and ankle-raking sword grass. More thorns and barbs than a parliamentary debate.
But then you break through the riparian gauntlet and view a postcard-pretty stream and all is forgiven. For there are trout in that watery corridor, and though not generally as large as their backcountry brethren, the browns are just as beautiful and tend to be more plentiful - a bit more obliging in the shade-dappled pools.
The fly patterns are nothing fancy. Simple beetles. Drab mayflies. Dark beads on generic nymphs. Presentation is everything in New Zealand: a pinpoint first cast and flawless drift. Moreso than anyplace else second casts are largely ignored, the intended trout locking on the bottom or drifting away into shadowed cobble. That only intensifies later in the season, when lower flows and more stable weather are counterbalanced by super-spooky trout that have seen a thing or two.
That's it, that's all the flies I take to the South Island. Since I prefer sight-fishing I don't need to "match the hatch" per se; truth is, on the interior rivers and streams I fish - at that time of day and at that time of year - I've never seen a heavy hatch. If I was going there earlier in the season I'd probably toss in some cicadas, but they've run their course by the time I arrive in the Kiwi fall.
If you're a do-it-yourselfer on the way to New Zealand, I'd check beforehand with the more reputable outfitters or websites as to what flies to bring for the areas you intend to fish.
The best part of fishing the frontcountry are often the incidentals: the sheep scattered like white boulders on the hillsides; the welcoming pub and pint at day's end; meat pies so tasty you'll need a cardiogram back home to inventory the newly acquired cholesterol.
As always, for the best that Western Canadian fly-fishing has to offer, book your next trip with Dave Brown Outfitters. We can't promise you meat pies, but we can promise you the hardest-working guides in the business and an adventure to remember.