An intro to fly fishing in New Zealand

Clifton Molatore, one of the big winners at the McKenzie Two-Fly Tournament, just got back from a fly fishing trip to New Zealand and sent us this report:

I was invited by a friend to go to New Zealand this February to fish. He said that we could stay at his parents’ house in Mataura, Southland and that his dad, Sean, who has fished the Southland for five months each year for the last 15 years, would show us the ropes. With an offer of free housing, a free guide and cheap airfare, it didn’t take long for me to say yes. The only issue was that I could only get nine days off work and with two full days of travel, that only left seven days for fishing.

Sean told me that it wasn’t worth going to New Zealand unless you had two weeks to stay. I thought Sean was saying that because the flight is long and it doesn’t make sense to travel all that way unless you can stay awhile. Well, I only had nine days and it was either go for a week or not go at all. I decided I was tough (I am easily fooled, even by myself) and I would just have to make the most of my time.

After arriving in New Zealand after 24 hours of travel, I was beginning to see why going for only a week was a little crazy. However, when Sean told me that it had been raining in Mataura for most of the last week, all of the rivers were blown out (and still rising) and he was concerned that the rivers would not get in shape before I left, I realized that there was an even more important reason to have at least two weeks when traveling to New Zealand: the weather is unpredictable and you can get rained out for a week, even in the middle of summer.

Undeterred, I asked where we could fish the next day. He told me that the only things that would be in shape were the spring creeks. In the area there were two choices: a very difficult spring creek and an impossibly difficult spring creek. We chose the very difficult option.

Upon arriving at the creek I received my first bit of good luck. The owner of the property told us that no one had fished the creek in about a month. With a spring in my step, I rigged up and headed out. After fishing for about two hours without seeing a fish (not sitting in the creek, rising or fleeing after we spooked it) I was starting to think I had figured out why no one had fished here in a month and that my New Zealand fishing experience was going to be a disaster. Sean could see the concern on my face told me not to worry and that things in New Zealand can change in five minutes.

About four minutes later we came upon a bend in the creek that looked very un-fishy to me. Sean stopped quickly and said there was a “small” fish in the creek. I snuck up to the edge of the bank, cast into the middle of the creek and hooked and landed the two to three pound brown trout pictured below. While Sean thought the fish was barely worth throwing a fly over, I was pleased to have landed my first New Zealand brown trout and was very happy with the size.


The next day we went to the famous Oreti River to try and catch a “big” fish. We didn’t get the water we were hoping to get, and despite reports of two 12 pound fish in an area I fished, we struck out. The next day most of the smaller streams around Mataura were fishable and during the next few days I caught a nice five pound brown trout on one stream, a beautiful six pound brown trout on a possie bugger on another stream, and several other fish three to four pounds. Life was good.



On my second to last full day of fishing, the Mataura was finally fishable and we spent the day on the famous Mataura near town. We were hoping to catch a good hatch and experience some of the famous Mataura dry fly fishing, but it wasn’t in the cards. I decided to try a parachute adams from the Caddis Fly and a copper john that I picked up to fish the Deschutes. Both flies worked perfectly (especially the copper john) and I caught at least 13 fish, 10 of which were between three and five pounds. The fishing was incredible. We met up with several fisherman from the U.S. who winter in New Zealand later that day and they couldn’t believe I had caught that many fish (I guess I don’t inspire confidence from my appearance) and really couldn’t believe I had caught all those fish on two flies from Oregon. The next day and a half were more of the same, with the adams and copper john combination being the ticket, although I never did experience a famous Mataura River hatch.




I spent seven full days fishing in New Zealand and could have spent another seven doing nothing but the same. If you ever have the opportunity to fish in New Zealand (even if it is only for one week), I highly recommend doing it.

Even though my trip of a week was great, I certainly recommend staying for at least two weeks. After I left, the dry fly fishing on the Mataura took off and the fishing was fantastic. Oh well, I guess there is always next year.

Send us your fly fishing stories and pics!

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5 Responses to An intro to fly fishing in New Zealand

  1. Rex says:

    Nice browns. Perhaps I can do some “field-testing” in NZ one day. Thanks for the info!

  2. Rob R says:

    Great report. Since some of us will never get there, it’s great to hear about it from you…

  3. Greg Hatten says:

    Hey Partner… can’t believe you went without me. Actually, Lou is the one you should’ve taken… he rows a beast and guides like no other.
    Cool fish and great report… did you take those fish on the Winston? I picked the 4 wt and love it. Perfect rod for this March Brown hatch.
    Stay well – come on down and fish with me sometime.

  4. Clifton says:

    Greg, you are right. I probably should have taken Lou, although the streams in NZ were a little small for the beast. I did not take the Winston, but am hoping to fish it this weekend. I got the five weight. Keep in touch and I look forward to defending our title this year and can hopefully fish with you sooner. CM

  5. Graham McCarthy says:

    Yes indeed you have enjoyed and experienced some of the best New Zealand has to offer. However a week exploring the MacKenzie Basin (Central South Island) would not dissapoint. Some stunning high country tarns and many meandering streams all full of back country trout. Not to mention the several large lakes in the region. January – March being the ideal time. Anyone wanting some more info just ask. There is no charge.

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