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Fly Fishing Tips for Beginners

Professional fly fishing guide Dave Wood quickly spotted the silver lining after Covid-19 snatched away overseas visitors and battered his business. Now, he has more time to cast for joy.

Man releases Rainbow Trout back into stream

“I can’t get enough,” the Taupō angler says of his compulsion to wade into a river with a fly rod. “I’m on the river nearly every day but the last fish I caught the other day felt very much the same as the first fish I caught when I was six years old. Trout living in such amazing, beautiful places, that’s the reason it’s held me my whole life.

“And I’ve always fished on my days off. There’s a spring creek less than 10 minutes from home, so I’ll often get up early and fish for half an hour before breakfast.”

It’s been 45 years since Dave’s Scottish dad placed a fibreglass rod in his hands and sparked a lifelong obsession. Up until March last year, the guide spent 29 out of 30 days with mostly-international clients during peak months. Loyal Kiwi clients still use his New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association services, though, booking for three or four or even nine days at a time.

These days, he is able to devote much more time to fishing alongside his three sons, aged 14, 18 and 21.

So what does he tell his boys when they fish together?

Dave with his three sons a few years back

Eight dad fishing tips

  1. Stop and watch. Before you do anything else, look around. See what bugs are in the air. Is the sun on the water? What’s happening right now in front of you?

  2. Focus on smaller parts of the river. Break it down. If I’m fishing a 50m long pool, I tend to fish in three or four metre blocks, targeting a specific point in the river rather than just throwing it out and hoping something will happen.

  3. Fish your feet first. It’s a very old fishing saying but I often see people trying to cast to the other side of the river. Now, if you were on the other side of the river where would you be casting?

  4. If something’s not working, you need to try something new. That works in life, too. With fishing, people go to the same place, put on the same flies and expect the same result even though it’s been raining for four days, or it’s a different time of year. So try a longer leader, a different way of approaching the water, a different fly, a different pool.

  5. It’s not about how many fish you catch. It’s about the camaraderie and being in a beautiful place. And when I’m fishing for myself, I want the hardest fish in the river. If I think ‘I’m never going to get that’, that’s the one I’m going for.

  6. Never be afraid to ask or to learn. I’ve guided some of the best fishermen in the world and people say, if someone’s that good why do they need a guide? It’s because I’m doing it every day and I have local knowledge, I know the local conditions. And I’m still learning, too.

  7. Taking one step too far is the most common foolish thing people do. We fish in changeable, wild places that are potentially dangerous. Safety is paramount. It’s just a fish, there’s going to be another one.

  8. No man ever fishes the same river twice because no man is ever the same and no river is ever the same. That’s another old fishing saying and that’s the appeal. You’re always learning and it’s always changing. Every time we move upstream, the current is different, the conditions are different.


What’s happening around Taupō right now?

It’s pretty red hot right now. This is peak fish flow in the Lake Taupō fishery, with trout moving up all the rivers and streams to spawn. All the females are growing ova, they’ll have tens of thousands of them on board and they’re waiting for that swell in the river height.

This definitely happens later than it used to. When I was young, the first weekend in May was duck shooting and the second weekend in May, I’d come to Taupō and go trout fishing with my dad. Now, we’re looking at late July or early August.

How to fish in August

In the winter months, people should be aiming for large stone flies. Which is a river invertebrate that’s quite prolific at this time of year. You should be using pheasant tails, which is a mayfly pattern. And egg patterns as well. When the spawning runs are on, an egg pattern can be very successful. Watch the weather, too. I’m watching MetVUW like a hawk. If I’m on a river that likes high water, it’s a little bit dirty and there’s a sou’wester at the same time, I know exactly where I’m going.

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