New Zealand Update – August 2021
Winter floods mean major river changes. Two ‘mouse years’ in 2019 and 2020, followed by a benign 2020 winter, meant the wild New Zealand trout remained in truly exceptional condition last year. However, this 2021 winter experienced several severe rain events that New Zealand had not seen for 38 years. The resultant flooding damaged spawning runs, reshaped river courses and the condition of our wild fish stocks is unknown. We’ll report back soon.
The impact of Covid-19 on our borders. It’s now late August 2021. The New Zealand borders have been sealed since March 2020. At that time, the fishing season abruptly ended as NZ residents were told to ‘shelter-in-place’ to minimize spread of the limited coronavirus outbreak here. The fish got an early reprieve as guides stopped work and overseas bookings were cancelled.
Being deep in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand’s open fishing season is from October to April each year. As the borders stayed locked to inbound non-resident travelers, our wily brown and fighting rainbows only saw some very fortunate New Zealand resident anglers, plus a few lucky travelers locked inside the country with extended holiday visas for the entire 2020-21 season.
Many kiwis took advantage of the perceived fishing pressure (or made lifestyle choices after being locked down last year) with a big rise in licence holders driving a resurgence in freshwater angling interest. But even this growth couldn’t offset the drop in fishing licenses normally sold to overseas anglers visiting New Zealand each year (previously 20% of total licence sales).
When the borders finally open to fully vaccinated travellers, likely in late 2022, getting to New Zealand early in the new season and getting off the beaten track will be important to your success.
Rivers remain open to residents in 2021. Our 2021-22 open fishing season kicks off in a month. The vaccine program is progressing, and we’re dealing with the Delta variant; the South Island is Covid-free, at the time of writing. But for a second season, our rivers are only available to New Zealand resident anglers, likely until the end of this calendar yet at least. Whether the surge in kiwi angler lockdown interest will be repeated in 2021 is not yet clear.
Good news is on the horizon. There is now increased confidence that the borders will reopen in 2022 and we can expect to see international anglers visiting New Zealand again next year. When that will happen is not yet definitive. Despite this underlying uncertainty, securing flexible return flights from October ‘22 feels like a reasonable bet.
The pent up demand for inbound destination angling will be a huge relief to our struggling fishing guides, but for our pressure-sensitive waterways, the impact will be noticeable. Getting here early and getting far off the beaten track will be important to achieve success. In the past year, there has been a severe tightening of restrictions to the overnight parking of motorhomes and self-drive vehicles and fines for infringements are commonplace. You have been warned.
It is recommended to deal directly with the lodges and guides, or contact Isolation Outfitters to discuss a custom itinerary.
A commercial perspective. If you represent an international tackle brand looking to leverage the upsurge in fly fishing within New Zealand, it’s a great time to enter the market. Brands with a strong foothold in New Zealand in 2022/2023 will enjoy increased sales from the coming international visitor explosion.
But be aware, aligned retail outlets and locked distribution agreements do mean limited avenues for new brands to scale up here. We can provide some strategic and tactical advice for brands that are new to market, or new to Aotearoa New Zealand. Feel free to make contact and we can share our thoughts.