Look I know what you're like. You have good intentions ('I'll only carry the minimum necessary, and that way I won't have to lug all this stupid lumber around'), but when it comes to applying them something goes wrong. Agonizing decisions such as: 'what if a six-weight is too heavy, shouldn't I take a four-weight as well just to be safe', and 'what if the fish are too deep for the intermediate, but not deep enough for the HiD; I'll just pack a WetCel II, just in case... it happened once before', and 'Agghh I can't decide what flies to leave behind; so I'll take them all!'

I know all these problems, because I get them too, whenever I go anywhere. And occasionally, every once in a while, the right decision was made, and the four-weight was necessary, and this seems in some obscure way to justify all the other trips were it wasn't. Well you just don't have this option in NZ backcountry. Carrying extra tackle doesn't just mean sticking it in the back of the car; it means lugging it around on your back until either the end of the trip, or until you throw it away in disgust!

So what follows is not my suggested minimum tackle selection; rather it is my suggested maximum selection.


Four-piece nine-foot six-weight. That was easy.

But you will probably break one. And what happens if that happens one week into the bush? Not good. So you want a spare. Now the tough decision making begins: do you

  • carry an identical interchangeable rod, or
  • carry a four weight as a pleasant alternative, or
  • carry an eight-weight and do a bit of saltwater fly?

You decide!


Robust, robust, robust. Some of these fish can take 80 yrds of line; so you don't want a reel with a tendency to jam up. But you will knock the stuffing out of it, so make sure it's solid. Cartridge facility is useful if you are going to carry more than a floater.


Obviously you need a floater. Now look there is a strange opinion amongst the guides in NZ, who reckon that 'their' fish are too spooky to be caught on a bright coloured fly line, and greens and browns are essential. This is of course crap. Lining a fish with any coloured line is going to spook it; the idea is that the fish doesn't see the flyline, which is why we have leaders. If colour does matter to you then go for a dark grey line since you will be putting the line in the mirror which strangely enough is a dark reflection of the bottom.

Apart from a floater, I'd also recommend (as optional) a slime line and a HiD.


Well, tapered obviously (Jim), but make your tippet around 6lbs, perhaps even 8lbs for heavy nymphing and lure fishing. For lowland rivers 4lb points will become necessary. I'm a co-polymer fan. Whatever, use a thin diameter nylon.

Waders and float-tubes

If you are a float-tube addict and you can't face being parted from your tube for the trip, then you're just going to have to bring it over, aren't you? There are no restrictions to tubing, and it can be very effective.


  • polaroids and hat

  • fly floatant

  • leader sinkant

  • forceps

  • hook sharpener

  • bumbag or chestpack


I will add the dressing to the patterns I use along with nice attractive pics of them, just as soon as I can! However patterns are fairly standard.

For nymphs: leaded patterns in sizes #8 to #16. Get as much lead on the hook as possible, without making the pattern ridiculously obese. Backcountry fish eat mainly stonefly nymphs, but any reasonably suggestive pattern will work so long as you can get it down to the fish. In general backcountry rivers are swift and the fish (especially eary season) can be deep, so heavy leading is required.

For dries: humpies in sizes #10 to #14, black bobs bits in #12 to #16, various deer hair sedges, cicadae patterns, Arden's Mataura dun (?) and if you are really one sad person, a royal wulff.

So what is the Arden Mataura dun? #16 hook, iron blue cock hackle fibres tail, olive seal body, iron blue cock hackle spun at head.

Throw in a few muddlers, some leaded damsel nymphs, a couple of rabbits, a white minkie and/or some silicon smelt (see article on this site), and a mouse and you are fully stocked.

Rod tube

There are a number of tubes available which allow you to secure the rod inside with the reel still fitted. Either buy or make one of these. This will allow you to store the rod with the fly still attached to the leader. And why is this important?

Glad you asked. This is all important because in the backcountry you will at times be travelling through bush so thick that you will have to store your rod to keep both hands free for climbing and bush bashing. Then when you arrive back at the river, and you spot a fish, all you have to do is slot your rod back together. If you have to reassemble the rod completely from scratch you will not fish nearly so often.

Why? Sandflies! There is a short period of time between stopping your tramp and the sandflies working this out. You can either spend this time catching a fish, or rethreading your rod.

You decide.