There are 30 rivers to fish within an hour of our base in Hanmer Springs. Within 2 hours that number triples. Being so close to Christchurch, so close to the high country, so close to our beech forests, and so close to the West Coast, we have an incredible diversity at Hanmer Spring’s doorstep. We make our fishing decisions based on the weather, water conditions, and try our best to be on the right water each day. As you may know the weather in New Zealand is variable. We’re on the drier side and there are many, diverse waters to fish.Canterbury and West Coast Rivers & Streams
Depending on the location we will fish, those waters can be of two different types. Coming down from steep slopes and bouldery , you will fish water pockets or fast running lowland waters with pools and glides. They will be gin clear making the spotting of the fish a lot easier, or tea stained as it can be the case in some of the West Coast beech forest rivers.
Spotting fish is our specialty in New Zealand. A good guide sees fish and learned how to do so by spending days on river banks studying how to improve the skill. Surely a good sunny day is best but if you see the fish it is more than likely the fish can see you. A cautious approach is paramount along with a good presentation. With tea stained waters the game is different so is the spotting technic . Clients who are spending most of the time fishing blind are often amazed at the skills New Zealand guides have developed at spotting fish. We are not interested in fishing streams or rivers that are too crowded and would rather take a couple of hours walking up to evade that kind of situation. There are 1000’s of kilometres of rivers . And the truth is that remote areas are the places with a lesser pressure , so less spooky fish. We fish different rivers with the change of season as of course fish movement is dictated by changes in water temperature, flow and levels. Only few permanent resident will remain in smallish water in the middle of a hot summer while the majority will have drop down to much more oxygenated waters or simply bigger rivers. Those fish will only come back up late in the season for the spawning run. Closest to home, we can drive top the main rivers valleys, into the high country to the north and explore rivers in the tussock back country. These are more exposed to dominant winds being our NorWester – while not as harsh as those on the west coast – offer series of riffles and pools with gorgeous holding water. Other days we can travel through the Lewis Pass system and explore rivers to the South Western part of te Island right at the fringe of our reputable beech and/or pine forests. Many of these waters offer higher catch rates of 4 – 8 pound browns, though there is always an exception waiting. (see photos down below).
An hour away from Hanmer Springs once we have gone over the Lewis Pass we drop into the west coast forests and the opportunities of stunning rivers flowing under the endemic forests, where toi-toi, silver ferns, and endless under-canopy shrubs lining streams. The riffle, runs, and pools are a constant sequence as these rivers flow west, back to the Tasman Sea after solid rains. These rivers drain as quickly as they rise and are equipped to handle 500mm a day falling. Fishable water within a day is usually possible in even the heaviest falls.
Spring Creeks –
A spring creek is a free flowing river whose origin is an underground spring or set of springs which produces sufficient water to consistently feed a river. The water flowing in a spring creek may be fed by snow pack or rain run-off, as in most traditional free-flowing rivers, but often the entire water source for a spring creek is an aquifer or other underground water source. For this reason, spring creeks are often filled with very pure, clean water and also demonstrate water flows that are smooth, consistent, and unwavering throughout the seasons of the year . In addition, water temperatures in spring creeks tend not to vary so much despite of the seasons of the year than traditional creeks and rivers because they are fed by underground water sources. Because of the depths of these water sources, spring creeks often emerge from their source or headwaters very cold and stay that way over the length of their runs. In addition, due to the consistent water flows and the fact that spring creek water is pushed up by the force of pressure from the source rather than pulled by the force of gravity effect of the slope, spring creeks will flow through very flat sections of land ..
This is why spring creeks are often well known in the context brown and rainbow trout fishing as excellent habitats. Brown trout and rainbow trout, often thrive and grow rapidly in spring creeks due not only to the consistent water flows and low temperatures, but also due to the advantageous insect environments they foster. Insects such as mayflies (baetis and callibaetis, among others) and caddis flies find spring creek habitats very appealing and often live, mate, and hatch on these waterways in great numbers throughout the year. Because these insects in pupal and winged form represent the principal diet of freshwater trout, the fish living in spring creeks often have ample food supply throughout the year. This element of spring creek habitats, combined with the advantageous water conditions, can create the ideal conditions for large, healthy, hefty local populations of the kind of trout that fly fisherman pursue.
Those sometimes very tiny pieces of water can offer some spectacular fishing. No matter what their substrate is, all spring creeks have a couple of things in common; firstly they all consist of clear well oxygenated water. This is primarily a result of heavy oxygen creating weed beds and cold water temperatures. Secondly, and more importantly, the combination of high oxygen levels and nutrients result in prolific mayfly and caddis populations which in turn support a fast growing healthy population of trout.
Most of them run through private property and our exceptional relationships with landlords allow us to access the creeks without issues.
We always insist on freely accessing rivers and creeks.
We are refusing to pay to access rivers as in New Zealand water belongs to the people. People have the right of water. No water is private. Farmers in New Zealand are generous and welcome anglers as long as you ask first.
We knock on doors first, ask for permission and fish.
Those hidden miniature fisheries hold fish of all size, brown and rainbows, from 3 to 6/7 pounds can be a real challenge because of undercut banks, high grasses. But the reward is exceptional . From the West Coast to the East Coast of the South Island there are numerous creeks we fish on a regular basis.Many are short, many are out of the way, but all have gin-clear water and are very productive. Again rare are the days where you will come across another angler.
When all rivers are blown and the weather conditions are dreadful we still have an amazing opportunity to fish and have a great day or two. Canterbury, North Canterbury and the West Coast, were we will transport you in a well maintained late model 4WD, have many lakes fishable from the shore, some offering year-round angling. Surely it will test your ability to spot, cast, entice the trout but also and most importantly the strike.
The lake fishing in New Zealand is exciting, fun and rewarding; the fish living in still waters are powerful, fast and cunning. By mid December damsels and dragonflies are plentiful and seeing Brownies jumping 2 feet out of the water to catch one of these provokes an exceptional adrenaline rush. There are lakes around the region within an hour driving and the methods we use go from indicator which is generally as dry fly and a suspended nymph, spotting the fish walking along the lake margins while casting a dry fly or a nymph, or streamers.
We will not take you to crowded big lakes, as we would rather offer you the wilderness of remote smaller pieces of water where an encounter with other anglers is rare. Fish size in such lakes varies from 2 to 3 pounds and you could catch a couple of dozens fish a day, to larger fish up to 6/7 pounds. Those brown trout are big fighters and have a tendency to offer a magnificent spectacle with jumps and back flips and only surrender after a long battle. In South Canterbury lakes also have big rainbows. Despite of the abundance of fish in the lakes we encourage catch and release.
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Hanmer Springs, North Canterbury, New Zealand