When visiting Fiordland, many travellers come with justifiably grand visual expectations of the region. Its reputation for awe-inspiring views, pristine rivers of silver and lakes of deep blue sapphire, surrounded by emerald-green forests and steep slate cliffs are what one expects of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, but not all are aware that these rich landscapes are home to a thrilling treasure hunt beneath the surface – the highly sought-after trout.
Date 08 Sep 2021
New Zealand's wild trout are world-renowned, and Fiordland is no exception. The trout laden rivers, streams, and lakes provide a deep sense of tranquility and the excitement of opportunity, an addictive emotional state which the experienced fishermen know so well.
The lakeside townships of Manapouri and Te Anau provide the perfect launch pad for your fly-fishing adventures. These two lakeside towns are not only the gateways to magnificent streams and rivers, but excellent fly-fishing destinations in their own right. Both have good public boat launching facilities and are well located, providing access to over 20 rivers and streams that offer world-class fishing within a two-hour radius.
Classic Fiordland Fishing Spots
The Eglinton River - possibly the best fly-fishing spot in Fiordland
The Eglinton River is thick with trout averaging approximately 2 kilogrammes each, which makes it a highly worthwhile fly-fishing destination. Located within the magnificent Fiordland National Park, the Eglinton boasts nearly 30 kilometres of highly alluring, gin clear waters which are responsible for creating an unbearable level of anticipation, if only catching trout was as easy as seeing them! The Eglinton River runs from Lake Gunn to Lake Te Anau undergoing substantial changes between shingle riverbed, well-defined pools, and later boulders which were formed by gorges and old streams.
Between tussock-covered banks, the Eglinton River weaves primarily through open terrain providing easy fishing, hindered only by the occasional sections of beech woodland. The number of fish is outstanding and whilst the water is typically pure, it can occasionally pick up some colour from glacier melt, giving it a magical turquoise tint.
Lake Te Anau - boat fishing
Lake Te Anau is the biggest lake in the South Island, covering a massive 344 square kilometres of surface area and stretching 5 kilometres from its southern outlet near Lake Manapouri to its northern tip at the Milford Track. Lake Te Anau's wide eastern coast provides boat ramps and easy shoreline access for spin and fly fishing, as well as great boat fishing for a good population of trout and a few small salmon. The western bank of the lake is rocky and bush-covered, with two fiords continuing into the Fiordland Highlands. The cultivated eastern shore is straighter, drier, and grass-covered. Trolling is popular from a boat near the lake outflow or along the eastern shore from the settlement to Patience Bay. The majority of shore fishing is done with a spinning rod, and anglers have been known to congregate in sheltered spots between the rodeo grounds and the wharf at Te Anau Downs, but decent fly fishing can also be found where streams enter into the lake.
Lake Manapouri – the best kept secret
Despite being a rich fishery full of brown and rainbow trout, plus a few landlocked Chinook salmon, the picturesque Lake Manapouri receives little fishing attention. Lake Manapouri is the deepest lake in New Zealand and covers 142 square kilometres of surface area. Its vibe is a little quieter and less touristy than the township of Te Anau which appeals to people looking for relaxation and understated beauty. The lake is surrounded by vegetation and magnificent mountains with the shallow sections suitable for trolling or harling. If you have access to a boat, shoreline fishing between Frasers Beach and Supply Bay is worthwhile option. If you are on foot, the stream mouths are excellent places to try your luck. Success is often found at dawn or dusk, or on a dreary day with a wind.
Waiau River – the largest river in Southland
The Waiau River, the largest of the Southland rivers, flows from the Alps to the sea through a succession of canyons. It is a well populated river with rainbow and brown trout, providing a good variety of fishing opportunities. For those without a jet boat, Queens Reach between Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri provides easy access and breath-taking landscapes.
Wilderness Fishing in Fiordland.
The Hollyford River - challenging trout fishing
If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, the Hollyford River will suffice. Located in isolated, rocky terrain, the Hollyford River is a medium-sized, mountain-fed river, with turbulent upper portions that makes catching its brown trout that little bit more difficult, but perhaps also a little more satisfying? The river is calmer below Hidden Falls, yet it is still perilous to cross despite its clarity. When staring at the water, don't be misled, it may look shallow and sedate at times, but it is generally far deeper and more powerful than it appears. It's also supposedly very cold! Although Hollyford River fishing is really only suited to skilled and fit fishermen, we know that a challenge and a yarn to tell for years to come has tempted the odd angler from time to time.
Glaisnock Wilderness Area – back country fishing
Located at the far end of Lake Te Anau’s North Fiord, the Glaisnock Hut is reached via water taxi from Te Anau Downs and is the ultimate experience when it comes to truly remote Fiordland back country trout fishing. The Glaisnock hut has 12 bunks, and you will need to get hut tickets from the Department of Conservation before you go.
What you need to know about fishing in Fiordland
- Fishing on the lakes is permitted all year round.
- Fishing in Fiordland rivers is allowed from the 1st of November until the 31st of May (with the exception of the Waiau River which opens on the 1st of October until the 31st of May).
- The Upper Waiau between Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri holds the largest fish stock in New Zealand.
- A fishing licence is required any time you are fishing in Fiordland. Licences are available from Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre or Fish and Game NZ. Make sure you are aware of legal catch limits and double check your dates.
- Fishing equipment can be bought or hired from Outside Sports on the main street of Te Anau. Call in to purchase your fishing licences or pick up some local tips.
- Many of Fiordland’s inland lakes and rivers do not have didymo. Consequently, you will need to obtain a ‘clean gear certificate’ for all fishing gear, pack-rafts and kayaks from an approved ‘clean gear station’ such as The Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre before you go. To help prevent the spread of didymo, it is important that you clean your gear between catchments.
- Fiordland National Park is a wild and remote part of New Zealand. Regardless of your experience in the backcountry, come prepared for all weather conditions and know how to stay safe.
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