H2O Magazine


The South Island of New Zealand


New Zealand’s South Island is practically uninhabited; today, in an overpopulated world, it still has huge extensions of land without any human trace. In this wonderful land you can drink the water of rivers and lakes (the famous “gin clear”), fish with dry flies for big and combative autochthonous trout, both brown and rainbow which come from those brought here at the end of the 19th century by British colonists and acclimated with record sizes.

These trout shine beautifully from a morphological point of view and have huge mouths, endless fins and intense colours, which make the brown and rainbow trout of New Zealand the biggest and most combative wild trout that a dry-fly fisherman can meet on Planet Earth.


The South Island is traversed in length by the mountain chain of the New Zealand Alps; these mountains, with their peaks, snow-clad tops and everlasting glaciers, are crossed by numberless falls, streams and rivers, with crystal-clear glacial lakes of unparalleled beauty and purity.

The temperate rain forest is made up of austral evergreen beech trees, several fern species, even wooded ones, soft carpets of moss and lichens flooded with such dazzling sunlight that on days with clear skies there are alpine scenarios of absolute beauty. In this island there are not only stony rivers and streams, but also quiet “Spring Creeks” flowing in the meadows like English “Chalk Streams.”


I went to this distant land in early February 2012 in the middle of the austral summer, together with my dear friend, Alberigo Nardi, an enthusiastic and expert fisherman with great experience in fishing travels around the world, with Alaska, Yellowstone, Colorado, Christmas Island, and Cuba among his most significant and gratifying experiences.

The real possibility of catching wild trout weighing 6 lbs and with a “Dry Fly” made us both dream. In New Zealand we were led by Gordon Watson’s organization, “South Island Trout Stalker.” “Gordy” is a really special guy, and each of our catches made him happy. We will always remember his welcome as well as his love for nature, together with the landscapes and trout of the South Island.

His knowledge of Southland, Fiordland National Park and West Otago turned out to be necessary and irreplaceable for the great success of our travel; we also got to know and appreciate young Sam, a collaborator of Gordy’s mountaineering and fishing guide.

The period chosen was mid-summer, which opened to us the possibility of fishing in the western Fiordland  reached only by helicopter, surrounded by unique alpine scenarios and immersed in that naturalistic paradise of the rain forest, where the levels of rivers and streams are ideal for careful and successful fishing  by “stalking” or floating on a dry fly.

Big brown trout reacted to the correct presentations of our dry flies: day-flies, terrestrials and sedges.However, fishing in the “Spring Creeks” cannot always be successful as the low levels and moderate current of this period influence the behaviour of big trout. Phlegmatically patrolling the pools in all directions, they notice the angler even at a considerable distance and frustrate his attempts to approach.


Nevertheless, fishing on the “Spring Creeks” of the West Otago was amazing. In this trip, we flew for the first time on a helicopter and camped under a clear sky where the full moon allowed us to fish at night with a floating mouse, which ended in the catch of a tapered powerful rainbow trout.

We also got to know the “Kea,” big mountain parrots which are endemic in New Zealand and fatally attracted by the rubber parts of the guides’ off-road vehicles, and saw the enormous and aggressive eels living in the sweet New Zealand waters, natural merciless enemies of the trout in the battle for survival.


Edoardo Pelligotti

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