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FAQs and Key Fishing Information for New Zealand's South Island


When does the season open and close?

Although some lowland waterways remain open year round the following information provides more specificity for our region and what is applicable based on fish types:

  • Canterbury & West Coastal regions, season starts 1st of October and ends at the end of April.
  • Canterbury High Country lakes and rivers open on the first Saturday in November.
  • Rainbow trout dominated waterways open at the start of December.
  • Canterbury salmon spawning streams close either at the end of February or March, with the majority of the waters still remaining open until the end of April. A very limited number of mainly Rainbow trout dominated headwater rivers remain open during May, with only mainstream rivers and lakes remaining open to fish from June till the end of September to help protect spawning fish.

When-is the best time of the year to fly fish in the South Island?


October / November  (Spring)      

The main season begins, bringing the opportunity to fish for trout that haven’t seen a fly or been disturbed by anglers for up to 7 months. The trout have finished spawning and have had time to regain some condition but are still pretty hungry and overall pretty relaxed. Trout are mainly taken on nymphs during this period however as temperatures warm up in November, more trout tend to look up and can be tempted to take a dry fly off the surface.

The first of the warm evenings in late November brings on the nocturnal Brown (grass grub) Beetle hatches, leading to great dusk dry fly fishing opportunities The lower reaches of many east and west coast rivers can fire during this period as the indigenous whitebait enter the rivers in large numbers and are subsequently predated by resident trout.


December / January / February (Summer)

December brings long warm more settled days and increased insect activity. Generally lower river levels make fish more visible, often giving away their location when rising to terrestrials or emergent insects, making this an exciting time of the year for Anglers.

By December the last of the closed “Rainbow Waters” are open for fishing. Green Beetle hatches on high country and west coast lakes create some fantastic dry fly action.


March / April (Autumn)

Settled weather patterns - Exciting visual dry-fly fishing with trout attracted to the splash of a landing cicada sometimes travelling between 4-5 metres across a pool to consume the insect. Fish can be in spectacular condition due to all the terrestrial sourced dietary proteins they have consumed. Day length is still good but starts getting shorter later in March. Many waters will be at low levels, making fish easier to locate. The end of the main season is also a good time to try a large lure on selective trout, as the large browns start to get territorial as they begin to think about spawning. Large mayfly hatches also often occur on the rivers as winter approaches. This is also a good time to target pre-spawning browns in good condition around lake margins.


May to September (Mainly Winter) - The “off season”

This can be a “magic” time of year with an often fine, sunny, clear day occurring after a cold frosty start. Parts of both East and West Coast rivers are still open with many maiden fish still continuing to feed in the lower and middle reaches of rivers. Trout can still be found cruising lake margins, and can be stalked from shore or boats using nymphs and lures. Some Canterbury lakes have a winter season from early June to the end of August, and some West Coast lakes are open all year round. Browns will generally spawn first with Rainbows following later.

Sustainable Fishing Practices

Catch and Release (C&R)

Here at South Island Adventure Fly Fishing we consistently practice the use of barb-less hooks and careful "catch and release". Unless necessary for presentation purposes we always use strong flurocarbon or monofilament tippet to allow fish to be landed as quickly as possible, thus reducing physiological stresses on the fish. Releasing captured trout helps to sustain and preserve the fish stocks in populations into which there can sometimes be little recruitment. In many of our rivers, if every angler who visited the area during the season was to take a fish, then after a short time there would be no fish remaining to be caught. This philosophy also helps to ensure that New Zealand’s highly regarded angling heritage continues for future generations to enjoy. 

Tips For Making the Most of Your Fishing Trip


Best time of day to fish

Leaving early in the morning will ensure the best fishing spots and the best chance of encountering as many undisturbed trout as possible.Setting aside a whole day for your fishing trip will ensure that if a big hatch begins or an evening rise eventuates, you are able to make the most of these opportunities.

Request to fish near some classic Kiwi activities and enjoy some downtime at the end of the fishing day

You may also wish to include a swim in the Hanmer Thermal Pools, a winery visit or a meal at a restaurant or kiwi pub at the end of the day.

Add an overnight to the trip

An overnight stay near the area planning to be fished can greatly improve your fishing success by allowing first access to the water the next morning. An overnight stay can also maximize your fishing time by minimizing the travel time on that particular day.

Ask for exactly what you want - what are your key objectives for the fishing trip?

Specialised packages can be custom made to meet your specific requirements on request and often will not cost any extra. To see more custom options check out the Custom Packages page or contact us via e-mail or phone to discuss options.


Booking Deposits / Payments / Cancellations etc

We would usually ask for a deposit of $500NZ per guide day to secure a booking. All listed prices are current for the year/season indicated, and are in New Zealand Dollars (NZD). This deposit is fully refundable (excluding externally charged third party transaction fees) up until 3 months prior to the booked fishing dates. If cancellation occurs within 1 to 3 months prior to the booked dates than I will happily refund the deposit if I can fill the dates previously booked with other new clients. The deposit is non refundable if cancelled within 1 month of the date of the trip. Please understand that late cancellations can be a significant burden for a small seasonal business, and that by confirming a booking that I will then likely be turning away other client inquiries for these dates from that point onward. 

When paying a deposit it is usually easiest for us to send you a link via 'Paypal' or 'Wise' that allows the deposit to be paid by anybody using a credit card. The invoice would include a 4% external fee charged by 'Paypal' or around 2% when using 'Wise' to cover the cost of the transaction. If preferred by the client the deposit payment can also be paid directly either via a bank transfer / direct credit or with cash, however the client is asked to please ensure that the full amount of the deposit is received after the transaction fees are removed from the total amount being sent.  

Full final payment including any additional fees and expenses incurred by the client will be charged at the end of the trip, and this could ideally be paid either with cash or via 'Paypal' / 'Wise' or a direct bank transfer. Please keep in mind that for larger amounts of money for final payments that 'Paypal' charge a transactions fee relative to a percentage of the total amount of money being transferred, so it is usually best and cheapest for the client to make the final payment either with cash or a direct bank transfer, however using Paypal is also just fine if this is the clients preferred payment method. 'Wise' have tranaction fees usually around half of what 'Paypal' charge, so it can often be beneficial to the client to take the 10 minutes usually required to start a new 'Wise' account to save on tranaction fees if they don't already have a 'Wise' account. 

'South Island Adventure Fly Fishing Inc' unfortunately has no control over New Zealands' sometimes highly changeable weather conditions, and although trip cancellations are a rare event, they can occur from time to time if no suitable fishing locations can be found on a booked day. In the event of the guide cancelling the day then your deposit for that day will be refunded in full. We will always look to adapt fishing strategies to suit the conditions at the time of the trip if necessary. We also strongly recommend all international visitors to purchase travel insurance, as any trip into the great outdoors always carries an element of uncertainty as to what the day will present.

Although 'South Island Adventure Fly Fishing Inc' ultimately puts a client’s health and safety at paramount importance, we accepts no liability for any injuries, medical conditions, losses or claims of any nature. For the clients safety a "health and safety" briefing will occur upon reaching the fishing location for the day to highlight any issues that the client should be aware of, in order to provide the safest time possible out on the water. Any health or medical issues that the client feels the guide should know about should be shared prior to the start of the days fishing.

​​Do I need a fishing licence even for one day?

Yes. In New Zealand a fishing licence is required to be purchased by all anglers (including children). This must be purchased prior to the fishing trip. Licences can be purchased directly through Fish & Game New Zealand using their online system. This licence allows the angler to fish for trout or salmon throughout New Zealand except for the Taupo and Rotorua regions.  

Fishing Licences

Fishing by the Season

NZ Fly Fishing Guide South Island Brown Trout East Coast and West Coast Destinations