Early Season Fly Fishing Tips From The Experts

Early Season Fly Fishing Tips

Its October. It’s our favourite time of the year once again as our brown trout rivers open and we all get an opportunity to run a fly through virgin water. While we have all been prepping and planning the past several weeks, we thought we would ask a few of our experts from around the country for their tips to help you achieve early season success.

Robfish Fly Fishing Guide

Rob Vaz - Robfish.co.nz

“Usually flows are higher early in the season so I'm prepared to fish heavier flies if required. Sometimes the fish are less wary but they’re still healthy fish and so strong tippet is a must... Check your knots. Prepare a good box of flies in a range of weights. Most importantly, be prepared for unexpected weather conditions. River levels and weather can change at the drop of a fly into long grass. Safety first!”


Fly Fishing

Lesley Smith - Legendary Lady from Hunting & Fishing Cambridge

"Try something new! Don't be afraid of bright patterns. The fish have been missing your attention so throw something pink at them. Dry dropping is an underutilised technique that I find produces great results.


Fly Fishing Brown trout

Wayne Barnes - TroutBossNZ

"Because everyone is champing at the bid to get out there, as most rivers have been closed for a while, don't sleep in. The best bet is to get to your favorite spot nice and early. If you are not first, you are last. Once you've got your spot, wait ill 9am when the fish wake a bit and throw some Kyle's Colobriscus or other similar nymphs. But if was to be truly honest, there's no better than the Wayne's Blowfly."


Ronan's Fly Fishing Missions

Ronan Creane - www.ronansflyfishingmissions.com

“Top tip! There is not a better time to explore a new stream. Fish are more spread out early season than at any other time so get out there and find a trout where you’ve never fished before. Even if it looks tiny!! Also, be prepared for a mayfly hatch. October hatches can rival April..”

Big brown trout

Bryce Helms - Manic Sales Manager

"I like fishing and you probably wont do better than the picture above. But if I really have to participate in this, then the best thing you can do is walk further than the other anglers and throw something stimulating like any ugly pattern as that will get the fish to move. Failing that, grab a squirmy and do some damage."


Todd Adolph Fly Fishing

Todd Adolph - www.toddadolphflyfishing.com

“Early season fishing can be a great time to fish if you are willing to take on the variable patterns of springtime. Everybody has their favourite locations to fish early season; I find taking the time to read weather maps assessing multiple catchments can save that first season trip that we've taken time off work for. Remaining flexible in your plans and having a plan b and c comes in clutch.

If this is not an option and your favourite river is already running chocolate by the time you get there, look for access points closer to the headwaters as they will clear quicker. I find fishing water that is slightly discoloured as the river is dropping can be incredible fishing for those trophy fish as a lot of more oversized food items get washed out from the stream bed and early season trout are looking for a big snack after losing some of their condition over the spawning season. Stoneflies and Dobsons are a go-to in these conditions. The Manic Fly Collection has some great patterns like anything maned Kyle and also, Kelly Galloup Sex Dungeons are a great articulated streamer for slightly murky waters.”

Martin Langlands Troutlands NZ

Martin Langlands - www.troutlands.com

“As the oncoming season approaches I find it a really good idea to keep a note book and start with a list of places you would like to go explore, then be brave here and start google earth-map scoping. If needed, print or screenshot these and load them into your truck. Also think about access methods etc. It’s that time of year when we can all dream and as you hit the half way mark of the season go back and refer to your list to guide you.

It’s important to carry a wide range of nymph forms in sizes 16-14-12-10-8 and even more vital to have a range of weights, after all nymph angling is so often about getting the right depth. Equally carry a range of dropper nymphs with little or no weight and chain these as droppers behind the heavy tungsten bead. Consider a range of form and colours and a selection of soft hackles are hard to go past. Finally if you hit high water don’t be scared of going big with nymphs like Russell's Creeper and the humble Squirmy Worm. If they can see it, they can eat it.”

Chris Dore Guide

Chris Dore - www.chrisdore.com

“Early season is often fraught with unpredictable weather and nothing is more disappointing than arriving to unfishable water. Here are a few ideas...

Rivers issuing from the mountains are likely to come up with snow melt in the afternoons as temperatures rise. Often fast. Plan for this and don’t get stranded on the wrong bank.

Rivers issuing from swamplands will absorb / hold back runoff to a degree, however once in flood, may take longer to drop. You can often buy an extra days fishing here before they flood.

Rivers issuing from a bush catchment often rise quicker, however drop and clear quicker than others.

Our many Southern are very underrated fisheries and guess what, they don’t colour up!”

Andrew Harding youtube

Andrew Harding – Pure Fly NZ Legend

“Don’t be perturbed by high dirty water often encountered early season, fish those edges with a large Creeper or swing Woolly Buggers into the margins on floating lines.

Fish a dry dropper! It’s amazing how many fish will take a dry early season and a fish rising and engulfing an indicator is heart-breaking!

Make sure your emergency and first aid kit is up to scratch and always carry a PLB and headlamp on you, even on urban waterways! And let someone know where you are going!”

 Hannah Fly Fishing Guide

Hannah Julie Clement – She's on the Fly - Guiding

  1. Get out there and scout..! Be careful of river banks, under cuts, loose gravel but get out there and scout your waters. Fish will be in their usual resident spots but there may also be some new pools, runs or riffles they can be in too.
  2. Always wear some extra thermals or at least pack a spare top/pants. I’ve had it way to often where the river flows are high early season and someone take a fall or slip getting themselves wet… being early season, ALL temps are cooler so it pays to have a spare set of dry clothes you can jump u to if this sort of whoops happens.
  3. Go big. Bugs take a lot longer to hatch this time of year due to the cooler temps therefore they grow larger in size before coming out. With the help of bigger flows and sometimes murkier waters you can get away with bigger flies which may assist with better hook up ratios and stick better in heavier water flows.
  4. Scout new water. Alot of people will go to their fav spots, their usuals where they know they will catch fish… opening is an awesome time to get out there and scout a lot of new places… reach the head waters and see if there are any fish hiding up there. Think of the places who have had steady rainfall, look at weather patterns and go somewhere you haven’t been before. 

Karl Sawyer Fly Fishing

Karl Sawyer – Pesty

"Early season fish are generally hungry following the closed spawning period and willing to eat most things – no need to get too cute with fly and tippet size selections! Before summer flows occur I like to concentrate on some of the smaller headwater tributaries where surprisingly good numbers and size of fish can be found in these little gems before fish drop back into the main stems. The weather can be pretty cool up and down through October and into November so dress appropriately. Fishing is a lot of fun except when you are freezing cold! I generally fish a base layer of thermals with the Simms Solarflex Hoodies, Sungaiter and Exstream Jacket are my favourite pieces of kit for warmth and practicality.


Jake Bindon Rivers To Ranges Hastings

Jake Bindon – Rivers To Ranges Hastings

“With the less than ideal winter fishing coming to an end, now is the opportunity to get ready for a new season. This includes, making sure all the gear is in top order for what I am hoping will be a great opening to a new season. With plenty of time at home this year, I am sure we are all well prepared with enough flies to get us through many years of opening days. However, with all the planning we seem to do, we often miss some of the smaller details that can hugely affect our day on the river. Make sure you double check your rod, reel and particularly your fly line for any damages. A new high quality fly line can make a massive difference on the river and while you’re at it replace those old sun faded spools of tippet; you never know when you will get that fish of a life time. Just get out and enjoy yourself!”


Manny Fly Fishing

Manny Shchukin - @Mannyfishadventures

"If you’re anything like me, this is the point in the early season that the jitters are gone and some good fish have been caught. To get the most out of your season, here are a few simple ways to make maximize your fishing time:

Make sure your reel's leader is prepared the night before, free of wind knots and line damage.

  1. Ensure you have backup for all of your equipment, like a spare rod, reel, etc.
  2. Give careful thought to all the factors that will affect your trip, such as the size of the river and the available casting space. This will affect the kind of set up you prepare, and the rod you bring.
  3. Find out the weather and dress accordingly.
  4. I like to have some dry dropper setups, double nymph rigs, and some of my MVP flies ready within easy access . 
  5. Practice tying knots at home so you can change your flies up quickly. 

Utilising your time on the river wisely is essential otherwise you might consistently blow excellent opportunities. Nothing is more annoying than trying to tie rigs while sandflies are chewing on the exposed skin on your face and back. While you took your time tying a simple dry dropper rig, the trout has moved away from its optimum feeding location.  So prepare everything you can before getting in the water. Make that first cast matter, and enjoy yourself out there. "