The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette: “A Sportsman’s Paradise”

A Sportsman’s Paradise
by Eric James
Volume 1, No. 2, December 1, 1927, Wellington, N.Z., p 16

New Zealand is well termed a sportsman’s paradise, but it is my intention to describe a tiny, and little known portion of our wonderful country, for the information of keen sportsmen seeking new fields.

The area here outline lies north of the Waitoto River, south of Paringa River, and westwards of the Durding Range, within the southern portion of Westland. Within this area less than a dozen families reside, chiefly runholders. Nearly the whole is State forest or Crown lands, and is heavily timbered. Two-thirds of it is mountainous country.

Within it roam one of the best, if not the best, red deer herd in the Dominion. From it some excellent heads have been taken, including the fine head which fell to the rifle of Lord Belper (1924), which was referred to as the pride of Wembly. This herd has gradually penetrated to the seaboard, although large areas of the inland territory are yet unstocked. Stray stags have recently made their appearance in the upper reaches of the Arawata River further south, probably belonging to the Wakatipu herds. Twenty-two licenses are issued per annum in South Westland. The holders of these are the only sportsmen to visit this country. It is almost unknown that some excellent fishing can be had in the mouths and lowers portions of all these southern rivers and lakes. English brown trout were liberated here many years ago by Captain Bollans, of the Government steamer. The late Mr. L. F. Ayson inspected the whole of the Haast River two years prior to his resignations as Chief Inspector of Fisheries, for the purpose of deciding whether it was suitable for quinnat salmon.


Lord Belper with his bag of trophy red stags from his 1925 stalk of the Landsborough valley and over Haast Pass in to the Blue River block. This is probably the most famous bag in New Zealand stalking history, the bottom row consists of a royal (left), imperial (right) and the big 16 (centre). The 16 was referred to as the pride of Wembly by James because that exhibition inspired Lord Belper’s trip to New Zealand.

At the request of the late Mr. R. J. Seddon, Mr. Ayson visited the northern and central rivers and lakes of Westland in 1897. In a letter to me he writes:– “I formed an opinion that no district in New Zealand could compare with Westland for splendid rivers, streams and lakes for different varieties of trout, and I recommended the Government to give Westland people substantial assistance in stocking its splendid waters.: Atlantic salmon have recently made their appearance in both the Lower Haast and Waitoto Rivers. Flounder fishing in the tidal river mouth s offers sport by way of a change. Deep-sea fishing can be indulged in; a row on a calm sea to Open Bay Islands (three to four mile) is brimful of exciting experiences, and a good haul of missed fish is almost assured. Those interested in feathered game will find paradise ducks are plentiful on almost every river, the Haast and Moari in particular. There is, however, no open season in that part of Westland for shooting these birds. Grey duck are plentiful in the lagoons near the Waitoto, Okuru, and Moari Rivers, and around the Tauwerikiti lakes and lagoons north of the Haast and in Lake Paringa father north. Black swan are plentiful in the same regions. Other varieties of native birds are found, including the now rare blue heron, and, in the upper reaches of the rivers, the blue mountain duck. Further south, the weka, kiwi and kakapo still exist. Keas and kakas can be seen and heard in the ranges, while teal and full rookeries are plentiful south of Jackson Bay. Lake Paringa is an ideal spot for a sportsman’s camping holiday. The lake nestles silently among low forest-clad hills, and is famous for its reflections. The silence is broken only by the song of native birds and the occasional splash of a fish. Swans may often be seen on their steady flight from shore to shore. The Main South Road (a bridle track) follows the shore for the short distance as it takes its winding course to the Moeraki (Blue) River, and rising on its winding narrow course over the forest-clad Matakitaki Range. A boat can be taken from the lake down the Hall River to its junction with the Paringa River, but a keen look-out should be kept for overhanging branches.


Lord Belper with the big 16-pointer, 1925, Landsborough Valley, South Westland. Left antler 47 inches, right 46 1/6 inches; Spread 41 1/2 inches; Beam 5 7/8 inches; Points 8 + 8 = 16.

All these beauty spots are accessible by good bridle tracks. The Haast Pass Track and Main South Road pass through the district outlined. The former connects Lakes Wanaka and Hawea in Otago with the road system on the coast. It is a beautiful track and will some day come into its own. It is a route of national importance, linking up two important termini—the Cold Lake District of Otago with the glaciers and hot springs of Waiho (Franz Josef) and Weheka (Fox Glacier).

Sportsmen in search of other than deer are advised to get their stores shipped down beforehand. A local ketch trades to Okuru, six trips per annum. Okuru settlement is connected with North Westland by a telegraph line, and machines are erected in a few of the huts on the track for the convenience of travellers. Visitors proceeding by way of Wanaka and Haast Pass have the advantage of viewing the magnificent scenery en route. Those wishing to do so could return by way of Copeland Hot Springs and Pass to the Hermitage—a delightful trip—but alpine equipment may be necessary. A better route, especially if horses are taken, would be to continue to Waiho, the terminus of a good motor service to Hokitika. Horses can be hired for these trips at Makarora, Lake Wanaka. No sportsman should leave these regions before visiting the chain of lakes and lagoons north of Haast, previously mentioned. A “flatty” could be built, thus making the journey easy. These lagoons, amidst some wild and excellent scenery, teem with waterfowl. It is approached by rowing up the Moari River from the bridge.

Bibliographic information

Title: “A Sportsman’s Paradise”, The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette
Author: Eric James
Edition: Pages 16, Vol. 1, no. 2 (Dec. 1, 1927)
The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette