Fishing the Snowbee Thistledown in New Zealand with Scottish National rivers champion Alan Hill

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Alan Hill, Scottish International fisherman, capped at World, European, Loch, River and Stillwater level & currently Scottish National Rivers Champion took our Snowbee Thistledown2 to New Zealand…

Following on from a trip to South Island earlier in the year I was desperate to get back out to have another go at my favourite side of our sport, wild Brown Trout fishing.

So risking divorce and all manner of unimaginable torture I booked my flights and headed off for Christchurch at the start of November.

I should say at this time that for a six week trip you would think you would need a serious amount of kit with you but from previous experience you can keep this down to a minimum especially when it comes to rods and reels.

I took out 4 rods this time, one 9ft4wt, two 9ft5wts and one 10ft 6wt.

I took two reels with two spare spools and when I was packing I had to laugh because although all my lines were Snowbee floaters three of them were Thistledown’s and the other was the wf6 Original XS floater in Ivory.

Why three Thistledown’s? Well the truth is two of them are the original lines on the solid mono core and the third was the soon to be launched new Thistledown2 on a braid core which Simon at Snowbee had very kindly given to me for the trip in order to put it through its paces in some of the most challenging fishing situations you are likely to experience.

Having used the original Thistledown in recent river International matches and to win the Scottish Rivers National I thought that it would be a tough ask to improve on what already is my favourite river and small water floater however I was looking forward to giving it a go.

My travelling companion on the trip was David MacAllister from Greenock who is also a seasoned International Angler and also a lover of the original Thistledown which he had also taken as his number 1 line for the rivers.

Now NZ, or should I say South Island, when you get away from the larger towns, is not blessed with Internet cafes or free Wi-Fi zones which I love because you can escape the Rat Race. It didn’t help me on this occasion though because after the big Earthquake I think half of Scotland were trying to track us down to see if we were ok while we were merrily fishing 300miles south and knew nothing about it until a local told us what had happened three days later.

Anyway back to the fishing.

The first river system we tackled was the Mataura and one of its main tributaries the Waikaia.

The weather for the first few days was unpredictable with a strong south wind which blows straight up from the Antarctic and is quite chilly at times. Fish on these lowland rivers were however easily spotted in sheltered areas and late in the day when the wind dropped we were able to pick them off on dries.

My set up on these medium sized rivers was my 9ft4wt with the new Thistledown which performed superbly especially in the stronger winds. I should add that I use a 15ft tapered leader to a 5lb point where I add an O ring then I attach my tippet material which due to the crystal clear rivers was never less than 6ft but normally 7ft.

A long leader? Absolutely, but the Thistledown handles it with ease, even into a wind due to its exceptional tapers.

The new Thistledown was performing as good as the original but as the days went on I began to like it even more for a few reasons I’ll point out later.

First some trout from the Waikaia and Mataura.


Please excuse the ciggy……

After the Mataura we headed North up to the Glenorchy region for a couple of days where we fished on some small streams in the area and also prepared for our walk in to the Caples Hut for some backcountry fishing.

Because of some torrential rain in this area we were a bit restricted however we found some gems of small spring fed rivers which stayed clear and one little 10 acre loch connecting two small river systems where we had tremendous dry fly action catching browns to 5lbs.

After the rain let up it was time for our Backcountry trip to the Caples which was quite a hike for us but well worth it.

I had Browns up to 6lbs and we both had large Rainbows with my best at just over 8lbs.

The next three photos show the fish but also show the clarity of the water and the need for stealth and accuracy coupled with long leaders in sometimes quite tight situations. The Thistledown lines had it covered.


Pretty clear and the water at your feet was 5 feet deep.

Just over 8lbs of wild Rainbow.

Brown just under 6lbs.

After the Caples we headed up to Wanaka where we had some R and R after our adventure to the Caples and we then headed over to Fjordland south of Haast and the weather took a turn for the worst over the next 8 days and we were astounded by the amount of rain that fell in a particular 24 hour period that flooded every river in the area so we headed up to Lake Brunner and decided to have a go at a few of the lakes in that area.

Although the weather was terrible we found some incredible fishing in the Lakes and in some of the small spring creeks that fed into them over farm pastures.

Some of this was the tightest, toughest most accurate fishing I have ever done because you only got one chance at these fish but when you got it right it was incredible explosive fishing. Again the Thistledown handled every situation with ease and its accuracy and delicacy excelled.

The next two fish came from the spring fed creeks I mentioned and were no more than 4 feet wide and in some places 2 feet so accuracy was a must when trying to drop a nymph at distance on a big trout’s nose.

You can see how tight it was and how accurate you had to be.

The next pictures show some of the trout we encountered on one of the lakes where we stalked our fish with either dries or small nymphs and again accuracy and stealth were the main factors here when going for these fish in less than 2 feet of water.

I could go on and on with these photos however I want to add just two more and for me they show just what NZ is all about. These two fish were caught on a crystal clear river and both were taken on small blow fly patterns with a 22ft leader down to a 4lb point.

Both these trout are in pristine condition and fought like demons before being safely released.

As I said this was my last day and for the entirety of the trip I had used one fly line, the new Thistledown line on the braid core.

Not once during the trip did it let me down, did I have to treat it with silicone because a section or the tip was sinking or did I feel under gunned on lakes where I felt I lacked distance, indeed I was casting as far as I felt necessary on the Lakes when others were using heavier gear chucking out streamers and Woolly Buggers and I was getting the same distance and more fish using small imitative patterns.

I have other more expensive lines which over the past couple of years have become redundant and are now left at home.

Snowbee always made good fly lines but with this Line you have made an exceptional fly line which will be around for years and the benchmark for others to try and emulate.

Thanks again.

Alan Hill

Scottish Internationalist having been capped at World, European, Loch, River and Stillwater level and the current Scottish National Rivers Champion and Captain of the2017 Autumn Loch Team.


A fine Brown trout caught using our new Thistledown line...
A fine Brown trout caught using Snowbee Thistledown line…