Peaking Fly Fishing Perfection

Posted on February 01, 2013

It all started with sunrise.

A trip anticipated for longer than a full New Zealand fishing season(which by the way is 8months) began with an excited start as the sun split the horizon over Lake Wanaka and split over the breakfast table. The weather could not have been more perfect with 28°C forecast and next to no wind. The guests all the way from Vancouver Island, BC, here in the South island for the month of January solely to sight fish in New Zealand rivers met local Guide Paul Macandrew of Aspiring Fly Fishing ( to start their day. Their host for their entire trip to New Zealand was fly fishing itinerary provider and managing director of Castabroad who was invited by the guests to join for the day also.(

The thudding of the approaching helicopter made quick work of the fresh coffee just poured by breakfast host Carol. We loaded our gear in to the chopper and off we went with a wave.

A flight which took the best part of 45minutes, floated through the magnificent terrain of our Southern Alps laced with glaciers at 2-3000m above sea level, spotting chamois & red deer, accompanied by a very interesting commentary from James Ford, our pilot from Aspiring Helicopters ( We headed West until we could see the coast and dropped down into the secret river valley that only a few are privileged to visit each year. This was a quiet moment amongst us as we saw the river come into view.

From the air the river was perfectly clear, flowing over eroded, round boulders coloured grey, white, cobalt and red from the surrounding asbestos mountain range.

A soft landing away from the river bank so not to disturb our catch and very much “release” prey. We all jumped out and waved off James our pilot leaving us with a radio and an eta for our return home to the lodge.

Quickly we set up the fly rods and chose the fly pattern for the day which was a black cicada- an easy choice with the cicada chorus in the sun drenched rainforest to our backs. Our nerves were on edge from such an incredible flight and arrival in this picture perfect fly fisher paradise, plus our hope that a large wild Brown Trout awaited an effort of presentation made it perfection. A moment never to be forgotten and experience rarely repeated. The fishing itself is something I cannot put into words that non-fishers will appreciate to the fullest, but for those of you fly fishers reading this, imagine your fly fishing Mecca, and then try to better it.

Slowly pressing upstream, covering likely waters at our leisure, having champagne supplied by Castabroad on the river bank and then a beautiful lunch, the day was filled with endless pleasures and photographs to prove it all.

 A blurt over the radio matched only by the now screaming orchestra of cicadas signaled the incoming helicopter and the end of the fishing. This was no disappointment though as we were now heading to the Whare Kea Chalet on our return. Landing at the chalet 1750m above sea level but still shadowed by the 3033m tall Mount Aspiring, we sat and tried to comprehend how incredible a day we were having.

Conversation brought up how many fishable rivers are accessible by helicopter from Whare Kea Lodge and especially how quick a trip it is to any of those waterways from the Whare Kea Chalet where we were sitting. I think we lost count at 12 rivers all with catchments of hundreds if not thousands of square kilometres. Really, we concluded; if you wanted to fly fish for a lifetime, maybe, just maybe, you would fish every bit of this area, never mind the rest of New Zealand. The chap from Castabroad agreed as did the fishing guide, that this is exactly why they have chosen to live in Wanaka and provide exactly these sorts of experiences through Whare Kea. Back into the helicopter, we thus headed home to the lodge.

Landing on the lawn of Whare Kea is always mesmerising from a passengers or even the onlookers perspective. You have this incredible setting perched above Lake Wanaka, the mountainous alpine backdrop sets the tone further realising the purpose of the lodge and its synergy with those mountains and valleys. And there is the sheer luxury of getting out of the helicopter to be welcomed in by the Whare Kea team and treated with hospitality rivaled only by few in the world.

James has prepared a five course meal for the night including West coast crayfish, Fiordland venison, tea smoked duck, Aoraki salmon and fresh Otago apricots for dessert. Michelle hosts the evening matching wine to the menu and providing a wealth of local knowledge, and then there is the quiet time after the meal while reflecting in the last of the daylight that began such an incredible day.