Learn How to Fly Fish

This info if for the new fly fisher and is designed to help you unravel all the elements required to make you a successful fly fisher! The time I spent guiding (some 12 seasons guiding up to about 100 days a year) taught me a lot about the finer points of fly fishing so hopefully that experience I can pass onto you.

Why do we do it? Well it probably starts out as that Hunter Gatherer urge that's embedded in our beings, but as time goes by it becomes a reason to visit and explore New Zealand beautiful back country, it becomes a reason to be there and to enjoy the whole out door experience

The Basics
The essential tools you'll need to get started are;
  • A Fly Rod
  • Fly Reel
  • Fly Line
  • Fly Line Backing (Goes on the reel under the fly line)
  • Leader
  • Tippet
  • Flies

By far the easiest way to get set up is to buy a fly rod package that incorporates all of the above, it gives you a place to start and go on from.

Fly Rods

A general fly rod for New Zealand conditions is a #6 weight rod. Rods and fly lines are rated by their weight and one should be matched to the other.

Why the weight is important is that it needs to match the type of rivers or lake you will generally be fishing and the size of fish you'll be catching. It's the weight in the flyline that allows us to cast, if that line is too heavy you'll tend to frighten fish as the heavier line lands on the water with more force. If the line is to light it will be more difficult to cast in windy conditions. Also a light rod wont handle a large NZ trout very effectively.

So as a general guide;

#4 Weights: A specialised rod for small streams and recommended for an experienced fly fisher
#5 Weights: Good for medium to small waterways for the experience angler
#6 Weights: Good general river rod and lake edge rod. Recommended as a general purpose rod weight for NZ conditions, will cope with wind.
#7 Weights: Good for medium to large rivers and lakes, windy conditions
#8 Weights: Large river rods for heavy nymphs and lures, and lake fishing where more distances is needed
#9 Weights: Specialised large water rod, limited applications in NZ (Salmon fishing)

Fly Reels

Generally fly reels are a storage device for your fly line and as long as they have enough capacity and the drag functions correctly they don't need to be sophisticated or expensive. It's recommended you match the reel size to the rod weight.

While fly reels can have very good drag systems; for trout fishing though you actually have more control if you use the palm of your hand to control the pressure on the fish as apposed to relying on the drag as you would in other types of fishing. This is because often we use very fine tippets and we can control the pressure on the fish much more effectively with our hand. So a reel with an exposed rim is recomended so you can 'palm' the reel. The drag is set just high enough so you don't get over runs when you pull line off the reel.

Fly Lines

After the rod a fly line is the next most important piece of your outfit. A good quality line will have a good coating on it that will glide through your rod guides, it should float well, be supple, and lay out smoothly on the water

Generally in New Zealand we use floating lines for most situations so your first line should be a floating line matched to your rod weight.

There is much discussion about line colour, and I recommend you use a dull coloured line, olive gray or tan are good. There will be many occasions as you learn the art of fly fishing when you will end up casting too long and your line will end up within the fishes view, a bright line is sure to spook the fish, so put as many factors as you can in your favour and you'll have more sucess. Fly fishing is all about stealth, there's little that's stealthfull in a bright orange line - don't go there!


Fly lines are only around 30 meters long so to fill up the reel and to provide more length to your line we add some backing to the reel first before we attached the line. Care should be taken when setting up the reel not to put too much on as if the reel ends up being too full the fly line can catch or rub which you find anoying, just remove some backing if this is the case. Backing should be around the 20lb test and how much you need varies with each brand of reel


Leaders are tapered clear nylon that is used link the fly line to the tippet. Using a tapered leader helps transfer the energy of the cast which will help your leader to trn over and lay out on the water


Tippet is the fine nylon or fluorocarbon that we attach the fly to. We use tippet to extend out leaders overall length, and by using tippet we can make our leaders last much longer.

For the beginner good quality 6lb test tippet is recommend (But it does depend on the circumstance, use heavier if you can get away with it)

For more detailed information click on this link for how to set up your fly rod