GPS Coordinates: 41°41’12.51″S 172°27’13.04″E
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Owen River Lodge, in the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, is famed for the sheer density of streams within a 60-minute drive of the lodge, and the size and quality of the fish (predominantly brown trout, with a few big rainbows mixed in) that live in them. While lodge owner, Felix Borenstein, is more than happy to arrange heli-fishing adventures for guests who request it, the truth is he has more than enough drive-to fisheries to keep the most ardent fly fisherman busy for a week (or a month!). As with all New Zealand, anglers can expect to put in a lot of walking while fishing the streams out of Owen River Lodge, searching pools and runs for the oversized trout scattered irregularly there. With each new fish spotted, guides will coach their client in the nuances of stalking, fly selection, and casting techniques…more than simply catching fish, a day on the water with Felix’s guides is a learning experience that can be carried forward into future trips. And because the trout are so large here – 3-6 pounds, on average – each fish is a new and memorable experience. The following suggestions for tackle and clothing will help make your trip more comfortable, and enjoyable.
Getting to New Zealand & Owen River Lodge
Depart the States for New Zealand:
Direct flights from the California, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO) via Air New Zealand depart in the evening, arriving “two days” later into Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand. Though the flight time from LAX or SFO to Auckland is only 12 to 13 hours, you will cross several time zones and the International Dateline, arriving two days later on the calendar.
Air New Zealand flights will arrive at the Auckland Airport, a super-modern international facility, early in the morning. Here you will clear immigrations (passport control) and customs. This is all very easy, simple and you will immediately know you are in a different land, by the courteous and polite nature of the airport officials. As you leave Customs/Immigration and enter the main terminal, you’ll see a bag drop where you can leave your luggage (if it is at least one hour before your domestic flight). You then either walk or catch a quick shuttle bus to the Domestic terminal to catch your flight. From Auckland you will take one of several daily domestic flights via Air New Zealand to the quaint little town of Nelson.
In Nelson, you can choose to rent a car and drive yourself to the lodge (see directions below), or have the lodge arrange for a driving transfer for you. If the latter, let us know, so we can arrange it with the lodge for you. If this is the case, once you arrive in Nelson you will be met by a transfer agent, who will be arranged for in advance for you. The driver, who knows every bump in the road, will leisurely make his way upcountry the approximate 65 miles to the lodge, a 90-minute drive in an air-conditioned vehicle, showing you some of the highlights along the way.
The cost of the auto transfer in 2023, each way, from Nelson to the lodge is NZ$425, (this fee can be split between all the people in the vehicle, if more than one person utilizing it), and is payable at the lodge.
Directions for driving to Owen River Lodge, from Nelson, for those wishing to rent a car:
- Drive out from the Nelson Airport, take the first roundabout, and turn to the right. Follow this road (about 1 kilometer) until it ends at a T-intersection/roundabout. Turn right – you are now on the highway (State Highway 6) that will take you all the way to the lodge (just follow the signs to Murchison).
- The lodge is located about 100 kilometers from the airport. On the way (approximately 50 kilometers) you will go over the Motueka bridge/river – keep following the signs to Murchison.
- You will see a sign on your left pointing to St. Arnaud (don’t turn off) – you are now about 20 kilometers from the lodge. Next, you will then see a sign on your left saying Lake Rotoroa; don’t turn here, but it is a landmark to let you know you’re now about 10 kilometers from the lodge.
- You will soon see the Owen River Tavern on your left – don’t worry, you can’t miss it – it’s a 2-story white pub/hotel in the middle of nowhere.
- Slow down, you’re almost there. Just before the bridge, turn right up Owen Valley East Road. This is just after the Pub – but BEFORE you cross the Owen River bridge. The lodge is 2 kilometers on your left.
These are full fishing days, and the exact schedule will depend on the guest’s wishes, water conditions and prevailing weather conditions. Usually, over an evening libation, you, your guide, and the fishing manager will strategize a fishing plan for the next day. The waters fished by Owen River guides are incredibly extensive and varied, and most are easily reached via driving, due to the region’s dense concentration of streams.
Typical Daily Schedule:
- 7.00 – 10.00 A.M. – Breakfast is available
- 8:30 – 9.00 A.M. – You and your guide head out for the day
- 5:00 – 6.00 P.M. – Return to the lodge for a hot shower and cocktails – hors d’ oeuvres follow
- 7:30 P.M. – A gourmet dinner is served
Depart New Zealand for the States:
After breakfast and saying your goodbyes to the folks at Owen River Lodge you will be transported via auto (or drive yourself if you have a rental car) back to Nelson in plenty of time to catch a flight up to Auckland to begin your journey home, or the continuation of your New Zealand angling or travel holiday. Direct flights from Auckland to LAX or SFO depart in the evening between 7 and 11 p.m., arriving back in the States the same day, mid-morning.
Kylie Sargeant is the lodge hostess, with her primary roles ranging from casting instruction – she is New Zealand’s only FFF Certified Woman casting instructor – to looking after our non-fishing guests. There are myriad non-fishing things to do in this region, from horse riding in the Tutaki valley, guided walks in the national park, farm tours, rafting down the Buller River, shopping trips to Nelson, a day tour of artist studios in Nelson/Motueka or wine tasting in Marlborough. Kylie will be keen to take our non-fishing guests under her wing and spoil them. Her bright, bubbly personality will be an asset for the non-anglers (and everyone!) at the lodge.
Walking & 4WD Access:
All the guides at Owen River Lodge operate modern off-road vehicles and can drive you to much of the best water. The easily accessible waters offer an opportunity for the classic fly-fishing experience of stalking and sight-casting to trophy browns in shallow, clear water. Anglers can expect to fish in seclusion and cast to wild fish that typically average 4-6 pounds.
The helicopters based near Owen River Lodge provide easy flights to many of New Zealand’s most famous mountain streams. Daily helicopter flights are not part of the fishing package, and can be added for an additional cost on-site, if desired. There are many remote streams which go unnoticed, and relatively unfished, only a short flight away. While it is not at all necessary to fly by helicopter to experience great fly fishing at Owen River Lodge, a flight into the surrounding mountains is the ultimate exhilarating experience for the dedicated angler. You can expect to find idyllic fishing waters, wonderful wild trout, and magnificent scenery. Three helicopter types are used at Owen River Lodge – a Hughes/MacDonald 500, Robinson R-44, or a Squirrel. The pilots have an intimate knowledge of the mountain canyons, gullies, and streams. They skillfully deposit guests, guides, and equipment into otherwise daunting terrain. The extra charge for heli-access fishing tends to average about $1,000USD/day/per angler.
U.S. Embassy Auckland, New Zealand
Consulate General of US/Citigroup Building
23 Customs Street East
Auckland, New Zealand
Phone from inside New Zealand: 09-303-2724, ext. 2800
Phone from outside New Zealand: +64-9-303-2724, ext. 2800
After Hours Emergency Assistance for U.S. Citizens
For emergencies outside the hours listed below, please phone either:
+  (4) 462 6000 and leave a message for the duty officer; or +  (9) 303 2724 ext. 2900.
Although selling fly fishing tackle and flies is part of what The Fly Shop® does, it is not our main concern. Our main concern is that people have a great trip. We know from personal experience, and from the experiences of thousands of our traveling customers, that properly outfitted and prepared anglers have the best chance of having a trip of a lifetime. This tackle and equipment planner is a guideline to help anglers assemble a reasonable collection of flies and necessary equipment so that you stand the best chance of finding success on the water. It’s not necessary you have all of these flies and assorted equipment, just a good cross-section.
- Please note that Owen River Lodge has loaner waders (Simms) and fly rods (Sage) at no extra charge – if you would like to take advantage of this, let us know, and we’ll arrange it for you.
If you have any questions concerning tackle and equipment recommendations, please feel free to call us toll-free at (800) 669-3474. Thank you.
A 6-weight fly rod is the perfect tool to effectively fish the waters accessed by Owen River Lodge, with the larger attractor dry flies and/or smaller nymphs and indicators used most often. If you are an experienced angler and can deal with the sometimes-breezy conditions, a 5 wt outfit could be a better choice for you. They key here is not having to make consistent 80-foot casts, but rather being able to deliver your fly accurately and consistently at 30-50 feet. The ability to throw longer casts is always helpful, but rarely necessary. We strongly recommend a 4 or 5-piece travel rod. Rods you might consider are Sage, Scott, R.L. Winston, and The Fly Shop’s Signature series of rods.
Good quality, lightweight fly reels, with simple disk drags are the best choice. Reels should be filled with fresh 20-pound backing. Reel models to consider might include Ross, The Fly Shop’s L2A, Galvan, Abel, Hatch, and Hardy reels. 75 – 125 yards of backing is more than adequate.
For the dry fly rod, you will want a weight-forward floating fly line. Color of the line is very important to the guides in New Zealand – it must be drab; an olive or gray color is preferred. We like the Rio InTouch Gold floating line or the Scientific Anglers Amplitude Smooth Infinity taper.
Leaders & Tippet:
Long leaders are the standard in New Zealand fly fishing, with most guides preferring tapered leader lengths of 9 feet tapering down to 3X, to which they will add the appropriate amount of the correct sized tippet. It is worth noting that New Zealand guides tend to prefer using Maxima Ultragreen or Maxima Clear tippet, most commonly in 4#, 5#, and 6#…they will provide this if you don’t have it yourself.
In New Zealand there are definitely a handful of favorite local patterns but realize that most streams don’t have prolific insect hatches, so you rarely are matching a hatch. In most cases the fly pattern is less important than a great presentation. We suggest you have a few of the following patterns in your box, and then let the guide fill in with his own patterns, as he suggests.
- Mercer’s Missing Links – #14-16
- Parachute Adams – #14-16
- Clark’s Cicada – #10
- Royal Wulff – #12-16
- Black Foam Beetles – #12-16
Many guides prefer nymphs have a black bead, not the flashier gold, copper, or silver colors, and they like tungsten, as they don’t use split shot. With this in mind, we suggest the following:
- Tungsten PT Prince Nymph – #12 – 16
- Mercer’s Tungsten Bead Micro Stone – #14 – 16; black
- Czech Catnip – #8; olive
- Tungsten Swing Nymph – #16
- Mercer’s Jigged Golden Stone – #10
- Jiggy Micro Mayfly Nymphs – #14
Line Clippers, Pliers, Hemostats, & Hook File:
Essential to any fisherman and should not be left behind (though the guides are happy to do all the leader chores and tying on of flies for you).
Fly fishing in New Zealand is a very visual experience. Spotting the fish is part of the excitement, and part of the challenge and good quality polarized sunglasses are a must. Polarized sunglasses not only let you spot fish more effectively but protect your eyes from the intense sunlight experienced in New Zealand, as well as hooks. Smith Optics, Costa del Mar and Oakley make some of the best. It is advised to bring two pair, as sunglasses tend to break, get lost, or fall into the river more often than other items of gear. Brown or copper-colored lenses are preferred.
Waterproof digital cameras are handy. SLR cameras with a good zoom lens (28 – 80) are the best. If you are going to take your expensive camera equipment, make sure you have a waterproof case for it. The best waterproof cases we have found are made by Pelican Products, www.pelican.com. Don’t forget your flash unit and extra batteries.
Our favorite is one that has LED bulbs and is rechargeable.
The summer weather in New Zealand is generally pleasant. Average temperatures range between the low 60’s and mid 80’s. Though usually not hot, the ultra-violet rays of the sun in this part of the world are very intense and will burn even the most sun-seasoned anglers. Brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and frequent use of a strong sun block (SPF 30+ UVA/UVB) are highly recommended.
If you use a wading staff on your home waters, then bring it to New Zealand. It will come in handy. Bring one with a rubber tip, as the metal spiked ones make too much noise and spook fish.
The weather in New Zealand is constantly changing. One afternoon it may be 80°+, sunny and hot, then only a few hours later clouds can move in, and the conditions will turn windy with temperatures in the 60°s. The key clothing question you’ll want to decide is if you want to wear waders, or wet wade each day. If the former, then the following layering information will be useful for you, keeping in mind it is rarely cold there, so many people will find no need to have a thermal layer, preferring to simply have the base layer beneath the waders. Should you decide to wet wade, they have a rather unique but highly functional system in New Zealand, where you wear the base layer described below, over the top of which you slip either a pair of lightweight shorts, or nylon shell pants such as those used in hot weather saltwater climates. This allows you to wade all day in the cool water without getting cold, while also not getting hot on warm days (remember, a lot of hiking is the norm in New Zealand). This will necessitate wearing a pair of neoprene and/or heavy wool wading socks, to compensate size-wise for the lack of neoprene booties built into your stocking-foot waders. Many people will simply use quick dry pants, instead, which also work very well for wet wading.
Clothing strategies should be based on the “layering system,” the idea being to trap heated air generated by your body between multiple layers of insulation. The layering system allows you to adapt to air temperature, body temperature according to activity level, and whatever Mother Nature dishes out. Here is the formula preferred by the staff at The Fly Shop®:
Start off with a synthetic fabric next to your skin (the Patagonia Capilene is a good start). This often is a pair of thermal underwear (tops and bottoms) and they usually come in three weights: light, mid and expedition. According to your individual metabolism, pick what is best for you. Synthetic (non-cotton) materials retain little moisture and “wick” moisture away from your skin. This is very important when you are walking in waders or when outside temperatures heat up.
Your second layer of insulation should match the weather and conditions you are going to be fishing in. Lightweight insulation for cool weather, mid-weight for colder conditions and heavyweight for really frigid days. Fleece is an outstanding choice here in tops and bottoms, or overalls. The new merino wool is also a good choice as, like fleece, it stays warm when damp.
- 1 set mid weight Simms wading underwear, or Patagonia heavyweight Capilene, or fleece equivalents. Tops and bottoms.
- 1 set fleece pants–Simms bibs or pants; Skwala or Patagonia Capilene Fleece
- 1 fleece jacket—Simms, Skwala, or Patagonia
Outer Shell (Rain Jacket & Waders):
Your final layer should be a breathable rain jacket and waders.
High quality Gore-Tex® type products are the best. Your rain jacket should be 100% waterproof and breathable. Rain jackets must be seam sealed, multi-layered, of QUALITY construction and from a recognized outdoor clothing company. Jackets specifically designed for fly fishermen are the most comfortable and practical. We recommend Patagonia, Skwala, and Simms.
Stocking foot, breathable waders are the way to go. You will experience little or no moisture build-up inside the waders, even after a long wade; they wear like iron, are comfortable to be in all day. For safety we strongly recommend always wearing a wading belt. Good choices are Simms, Skwala, and Patagonia.
New Zealand rivers tend to be easy to wade, with a bottom formed of non-slippery pea gravel or rocks, and mellow currents throughout. For this reason, the new knobby, “sticky” rubber Vibram-soled wading boots are recommended. Felt-soled wading boots are NOT allowed in New Zealand, as they have been found to transport invasive parasites detrimental to the trout and streams in general. If you are not a strong wader, you might consider getting aluminum studs to put into the bottom of your rubber-soled boots to keep yourself from slipping on rockier bottoms. Gravel guards are a must. The lodge can provide waders and shoes, if desired. We highly recommend Korkers, Simms, and Patagonia wading boots.
Anglers should bring enough socks to alternate daily. For a week’s fishing trip, three pairs should be fine. Do not wear the same socks every day, but alternate, leaving one pair to dry and air while wearing the other set. Smartwool, polypro, or a combination of both are the best choices in sock material. Try on your socks with your waders and wading boots before you leave for your trip to ensure that you have plenty of room to move your toes.
Fingerless sun gloves are great to protect your hands from the intense New Zealand sun.
Fishing Vest/Tackle Pack:
For vests, we like a high-quality product, in a ‘shorty’ model. Choose one that has room for a rain jacket or camera in the back. Brands we like are Fishpond, Patagonia, and Simms. If you prefer a tackle pack, take a good look at Fishpond and Patagonia.
Look for a hat that is comfortable, with a dark brim to keep the sun off your face.
Loaner Waders & Wading Shoes/Fishing Tackle:
Should you want the lodge to provide waders and/or wading shoes for you, just let us know, and we’ll check their availability. It is often possible for them to provide both if you prefer. Same goes for rods and reels.
Fish Estimation Formulas:
This is a widely accepted formula that will give you a fair estimate of your released trout’s weight.
(G x G x L)/800 = W
G = girth (inches)
L = length (inches)
W = weight (pounds)
|Conversions From Metric To Standard|
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If you thought your guide and/or the lodge staff exceeded your expectations, you may wish to tip them. Guests typically tip guides directly, and a standard amount is between $75NZ – $150NZ per guide per day. For lodge staff a typical amount is between $50NZ-$75NZ per night for our chefs, housekeepers, and other lodge support staff. Please note that these amounts are quoted in NZ dollars – as this is written $100NZ converts to about $65US. The tips for the non-guide staff are given to the lodge owner and distributed by him to make sure all team members get their fair share.
Fishing License can be purchased at the lodge, or online prior to your trip – go to http://www.fishandgame.org.nz/non-resident-licences and make sure to also get a Backcountry License – it’s free, but needed.
Owen River Lodge is in a remote rural area; however, they have recently upgraded to the latest wireless broadband technology available to them: 4G. This allows them to provide reasonably fast & stable Wi-Fi in their guest cottage suites and main lodge building.
What is the voltage of electricity supply in New Zealand? Do I need to take a converter? Electricity is supplied throughout New Zealand at 230/240 volts (50 hertz), although most hotels and motels provide 110 volt AC sockets (rated at 20 watts) for electric razors only. For all other equipment, an adapter/converter is necessary, unless the item has a multi-voltage option (which many items do, these days). Please note that power outlets only accept flat three or two-pin plugs, depending on whether an earth connection is fitted.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a passport and visa to travel to New Zealand?
All visitors to New Zealand must carry a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the date you intend to leave the country. You do not need a visa or permit to visit New Zealand if you are a resident of United States of America.
How long is the flight from California to New Zealand?
From the West Coast of the United States, a direct flight to New Zealand takes about 12 – 13 hours and covers approximately 10, 450 Km (6,500 miles) from Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand.
Do I have to spend the night in Auckland on the day of arrival into New Zealand and on the night before departure back home?
No, you do not have to overnight in Auckland, unless you would like. International flights arrive in Auckland early in the morning and allow for you to continue onto Queenstown on the South Island on your day of arrival in New Zealand.
How much baggage can I bring?
- Economy and Premium Economy 2 pieces, each up to 23kg (50 lbs.)
- Business 2 pieces, each up to 32kg (70 lbs.)
- Star Alliance Gold Customers (including Airpoints Gold and Gold Elite) 1 additional piece per person!
Domestic New Zealand Flights:
- Economy and Premium Economy 20kg (44 lbs.) total
- Business 30kg (66 lbs.) total
- Star Alliance Gold Customers (including Airpoints Gold and Gold Elite) additional 20kg (44 lbs.)
The absolute maximum weight per piece of baggage for all customers is 32kg (70 lbs.). Each piece of baggage should not exceed total dimensions (length + width + height) of 158cm (62″).
A note from lodge owner, Felix Borenstein, regarding wading while at the lodge in summer months:
Wading Summer Months – (December – March):
In summer we wade wet rather than wearing waders. I’d recommend you bring some light weight nylon cargo/hiking style pants to either wear wet wading, or if you prefer to wear under your waders.
Alternatively, a pair of thermals underwear/leggings and pair of shorts does a fine job.
(We sell these in our lodge shop).
The weather in these parts of New Zealand can be changeable so please bring at least one fleece – the secret here is wearing multiple layers rather than 1 bulky layer.
The New Zealand government has announced effective October 1st, 2019 U.S. citizens, British, Canadian, and Australian Permanent residents along with 56 other nationalities that can currently enter New Zealand under the NZ visa waiver program will require an NZeTA visa for both arrivals by Air and Cruise ship.
This is a new policy, and if you do not have the NZeTA in your hand when you prepare to board the aircraft from the United States to New Zealand, you will not be allowed to board the plane.
*Having a NZeTA Visa is MANDATORY!*
From July 2019, travelers can request their NZeTA via the mobile app, or online at immigration.govt.nz/nzeta. The app is the preferred option because it’s fast, easy to use and offers greater data accuracy.
- The cost of the NZeTA is NZD$9 via the mobile app and NZD$12 via the Immigration NZ website.
- NZeTA requests take between 5-10 minutes to complete. Once issued, the NZeTA is valid for up to 2 years and can be used for multiple visits.
- Travelers will pay for their International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) at the same time they request their NZeTA. The IVL will cost an additional NZD$35.
For the latest information about the ETA, visit: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas
If you would like assistance with your NZeTA Visa you can contact Travel Visa Plus, our preferred visa service company.
Travel Visa Plus
Stephen and Aaron Hopkins
580 California St., Suite 1246
San Francisco, CA 94104
email@example.com | (415) 568-2164