NT11 Trout – 40 days in New Zealand

As I sit in my home nestled in the mountains of the Swedish north, my mind cannot help but wander back to a truly epic adventure I had just two months ago. I was in New Zealand, chasing after large browns and rainbows in some of the world’s most pristine waters. This trip was especially significant and eagerly anticipated due to the global pandemic that had put a halt to all international travel. COVID had prevented me from revisiting this favorite destination of mine for far too long. I remember vividly the incredible mouse-year back in 2019-20, where I was lucky enough to experience the best trout fishing of my life.

Words by Leif Stävmo
Media by Leif Stävmo, Jan Eckmann & Alvaro G Santillan

Ever since then, I have been eagerly waiting for the New Zealand borders to open up to foreign tourism again. Finally, in 2022, my hopes were fulfilled, and I didn’t hesitate to make the long journey once again. It was a journey worth taking, as the sights, sounds, and experiences of New Zealand’s stunning nature never fail to amaze me. The thrill of the catch, the breathtaking scenery, and the camaraderie of fellow anglers all made for an unforgettable trip. Even though I am back home now, the memories of that adventure still linger on, fueling my desire to one day return to those crystal-clear streams and rivers once again.

During the summer season of 2022 we were putting the final touches and tweaks to our most exciting rod project ever, the NT11 series. A massive range of single- and double handed rods for the diehard salmon- and sea trout angler, but also a small selection of state of the art 9′ rods in line weights #4, #5 and #6 for the dedicated anglers that chase trout, grayling, arctic char and rainbows with dries, nymphs and streamers. Being a range of rods that are successors to the nano-charged NT8 Series that we launched back in 2018, we had done the homework and analysis for the action type, rod curve and power based on the Fario NT8 rods that had gained a very good reputation. The beauty of rod designing is that the process is an ever changing one based on personal experience and preferences, but also very much linked to the ongoing development of new materials and construction techniques that make every new project super interesting.

The timing of this year’s New Zealand trip was perfect for putting the new NT11 trout rods through the ultimate test. The places we flyfish in NZ are generally small to medium sized quite shallow clearwater rivers were spotting the fish before you target it is the name of the game. What makes the fishing so special is the size of the fish you are dealing with. In addition, strong winds are often a factor that you have to consider. Another thing that plays a part in choosing your gear is how leader shy the fish will be and how low you have to go in tippet strength to present your flies in and effective way and get the eat. When summing up these factors, my main rod of choice for this trip fell on the NT11 9’ #5.

Compared with the NT8 that has been mine and some very experienced NZ local guides absolute favorite rod for years, the NT11 rod has received a revised upper half that is slightly more forgiving and generates a better and more even distribution of energy into the lower half. This is quite evident both when loading the rod during casts already with very little fly line outside the rod tip, as well as during the fight of fish, when this rod protects finer tippet dimensions even better than the previous generation rods did. The power in the lower half is still relatively intact and offers the ability to put pressure on and control a fish during the initial phases of a fight. But most importantly also during the final moments of netting the fish when you definitely not want the rod blank to max out and loose its direction of force when you line up the fish on its path towards the net.

The versatility in this rod really shows when you rig it for different types of tactics. It sure manages the 18’+ long leaders we often use for both nymph- and dryfly-fishing, often combining a dry with a nymph as a dropper underneath. It also has the power to cast very challenging dry fly patterns like Cicadas that often produce great air resistance. The same is the case for heavy nymph rigs that are put under quite buoyant indicators and sometimes need to be the name of the game during high water periods after rain or when fish hold in the deeper pools during hot weather periods. The unique properties of the T1100 material in the rods also make them the most durable rods we’ve ever produced and this is a great advantage during the tough and often long hauls you go through along NZ river beds and terrain.

The NT11 9´ #4 rod is a great option for back up and complement the 5wt rod perfectly. The NT11 9´ #4 model is quite different from the old NT8 rod and is very much like a “little brother” to the 9’ #5 rod. It is crisp, lively and has a slightly deeper flex than the 5wt rod. For the calm, sunny days when fish are surface oriented and eat smaller dries and hatching nymphs, the rod would have made a great companion. The lower line weight and softer curve also makes it an even better choice for protecting tippets thinner than 4x which we often fish as standard due to the sheer size of fish we encounter. (Mostly the fish during this 5-week trip were in the 4-7lbs range). Definitely a rod that will fit the bill perfectly here at home in the mountains of northern Sweden where we have similar type of fishing, but generally not the brutal size of fish. And not the feared north-westerly, gale force winds that often occur in the NZ highlands during high pressure periods with big temperature changes between night and day.

The NT11 9´ #6 rod is so much fun to cast and fish, and is fitted with a delicate full wells handle and a small butt. For the fishing in NZ it is in my opinion to “overgun” your rig a little, as we just don’t fish any streamers, sink tip lines or other larger flies or rigs generally associated with this line weight. If you’re into night fishing with surface lures like mouse imitations, muddlers or generally like to hammer out articulated streamers in the water, then I’d definitely grab this rod and bring it along.

A final few words on the lines we used during this year’s trip. I still seem to find myself fishing the Power Presentation WF line a lot for the type of fishing we do in New Zealand. It is very much a short range thing with more often that not only 5-6 meters of flyline outside the rod tip. The reasons for this is that the leader is so long, as I mentioned earlier up to 18’ and even more, but also because many of the rivers have a structure that create a lot of secondary and micro currents that makes line control extremely difficult if you throw a longer cast. The Power Presentation line is design specifically for this type of fishing with a short front taper and a bit more mass in the first 3 meters of the belly, opposed to the lines with 5 meters or more of front taper that need more length outside the rod tip to load the rod and turn over the leader.

The new 4Cast+ is another line that worked well. Also, this line is based on a more standard-length front taper and a more level, classic type of belly that adds a bit of weight to the first 5-6 meters of line. This line also possesses a low diameter line profile, a stealthy color and is supple and slick in the feel. It sure has been another fantastic trip with lots of great memories to look back upon and it makes me more eager than ever to start up our season back home when the winter finally releases its grip of the nature outside the kitchen window of the house up here.

Words by Leif Stävmo
Media by Leif Stävmo, Jan Eckmann & Alvaro G Santillan

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