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Late Season Fishing Is As Good As They Say! By Mike McClelland
Late season fishing in New Zealand, after most of the tourists have departed, can be better than in the peak months of January and February, according to both fishing guides and lodge owners. I decided to find out for myself and made a one-week late season fishing trip in mid-April, just before most of the streams and rivers closed for the season at the end of April.
Once again I had the pleasure of flying non-stop from Los Angeles in the new Premier Business Class sleeper seats on Air New Zealand. After dinner, I stretched out on the horizontal “bed” and the twelve-hour overnight flight passed quickly.
I awoke, had breakfast, and landed at Auckland at 7:30am local time. The time change in the peak of the season is only 3 hours, resulting in a much easier “body clock” adjustment than most other international destinations.
Upon arrival I took the five-minute walk to the Domestic Terminal for a shower and snacks in the lounge before my one hour and twenty minute flight to Nelson. I picked up my rental car from AVIS and visited several properties before to the fishing lodge about 1-1/2 hours South.
The next day after a full breakfast the guide and I took off in a helicopter that landed next to the lodge. The weather was slightly overcast as we flew into the Kahurangi National Park. We flew past Mountain Owen and the helicopter pilot circled to show us where parts of the Lord of The Rings movie had been filmed.
The area was very mountainous and rugged with very little space to land a helicopter carrying all of the film equipment that had been transported to this site. (No wonder the movie cost so much to make).
As the sun came out the helicopter landed on a gravel bar next to a small, beautiful stream. As soon as we unloaded we immediately began to rig our nine-foot fly rods.
While we walked the short distance to the stream my guide pointed out all of the fish. Actually, he pointed out dark spots that could have been fish or rocks - I could not tell the difference. The guide indicated several were pairs of fish that were getting ready to spawn and he thought they might be distracted and not as easily spooked by a fly.
Bottom line -it was one of those truly magical days. We hooked, landed and released a total of six beautiful fish that averaged about five pounds each. Several of the fish were picky and ignored several different fly patterns we offered before finding one they would accept. We landed all of the fish hooked -a rare occurrence in New Zealand.
Satisfied with the day's fishing we walked back 200 yards to our helicopter and departed on an aerial tour of other streams and rivers fished by the lodge. Scott pointed out a number of areas where a helicopter could land that provided easy walking and excellent fishing. How I wished I had more time to stay and sample some of these other waters.
After landing next to the lodge we enjoyed a couple cold bottles of Speights beer while getting out of our waders in the lodge's screened in porch.
I have fished both the early and late seasons and had rewarding experiences both times. For those of you who want to fish before or after the “high season” has come and gone I would be hard pressed to recommend one time over the other.
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