Fresh water
Fresh water

How to jig for trout

Estimated read time
NZFW Video productions
18 June 2018

If you love the thrill of lure fishing and catching fish on light gear, you’ll likely enjoy the reasonably recent trend of jigging for freshwater kahawai, or trout as they are otherwise known. Trout fishing is an art unto its own when it comes to using a fly rod, and many find the challenge a leap too far and will never give this incredible way of fishing a go. No matter. There is a way to get out on the lake, soak up an often spectacular view, and enjoy some real sport fishing on light gear, jigging for trout. This can be a great way to enjoy a change of scene over winter months, take the family to the Taupo - Rotorua or southern lakes districts, and expand your fishing horizons.


In this case, jigging is not performed with a single lure, but refers in general, to using a string of traditional trout flies on droppers with a small sinker attached at the bottom to get these flies down to the lake bed.

Think of it as using a light softbait outfit with a three-fly sabiki rig and you just about have it.

A dropper rig is fairly easily constructed using 6 – 10 lb fluorocarbon, however commercially tied sets are readily available at most tackle stores from brands such as Kilwell, and Pat Swift Flies.

The flies vary in size and pattern and you may find success is determined by your choice of feathers, but for the most part the flies imitate bullies (bigger, bushier green and brown flies) or more commonly smelt (thin silver or grey flies featuring a bit of flash).

If you are going to tie your own rig, a good option is to tie a big, dark fly such as a woolly bugger on the bottom (this imitates a bully or crayfish on the lake bed) and then two smelt flies such as a grey ghost or silicone smelt above.

Here's a good selection of flies to choose from if you are making your own rigs


There are some really great reasons to consider this method of fishing.

1) It is a very effective way of catching trout:

Jigging allows anglers to quietly drift across the lake covering good ground in a stealthy mode.It easily gets a range of flies directly down to where the trout are lying which may be 50 metres or more deep.Once hooked up you are pulling a trout up vertically so have a good chance of landing most fish you hook.It allows you to fish out of sight from wary trout and is still effective during the middle of the day when trout can be a bit spooky in shallow.

A small lake rainbow about to be released

2) It is great fun catching good fish on very light gear

The rod and reel combinations you will ideally use can be extremely light, 2000 size reels and 4lb braid give even a medium sized trout a sense of power.Good fish will get the drag going and often they will also run wide and jump at the side of the boat.Even if you are a seasoned trout fisherman you can appreciate the sport this offers.

3) It is easy for beginners and kids

There is no need for expensive accessories such as waders, boots, tackle bags, spare lines etc.Just drop the flies over and hold on really, a very nice way to introduce learners to the nature of fishing.You might need a friend with a boat though!

The lake districts of NZ offer spectacular scenery to fish in

4) Even advanced fishermen will appreciate fighting a trout without the added weight and drag of a fly line

Trout are not as powerful as saltwater species, so every advantage given them makes it more fun.Very light braid lines allow every bump and knock to be felt, and the fine line diameters give very little drag in the water so the trout can perform at its best.The lakes hold some monster specimens down in the deep dark corners, and they can provide a really solid battle.

Alex Waller (Trippin on Trout - Facebook )  prepares to drop a string of flies in good mid-day conditions

5) You can use a boat, dingy, or even kayak.

Jigging does require a vessel of some sort to get out to where the action is.The upside of lakes is their rather gentle surface temperament when compared with the ocean.There is often no need to travel more than a few metres offshore in some cases.Just be sure and check with local regulations that you are not in a ‘no boat fishing’ zone.

A great day out on Lake Taupo in the middle of winter


It’s a pretty simple strategy with no hard and fast rules.  As a guideline, drop your flies to the lake bed and drift while just staying in contact with your sinker.  There is not a lot of movement required as your boat will impart a bit of action, the trick is finding where trout are lying, and where they are feeding.

Start with fishing in recognised areas that hold fish.  Natural areas that will attract trout often involve cover, ledges, or current (where streams run out into the lake).  Be aware that most of these stream outlets into the lake are fly fishing only.  That does not mean your fly-jigs qualify unfortunately.

It pays to look for ledges or terraces on your depth sounder, where change of aspect will attract food and offer shelter for predatory trout.  If you can see sign on the depth sounder, it’s a good place to start.  The ideal scenario is to start fishing deep and drift in slowly towards a shallow rise or across a drop off.  Just bounce your sinker along the bottom, which will keep your flies dancing along covering up to two metres of water column.

As with all fishing, a good sounder makes a big difference when searching the depths for contours

If you can see trout sign but are drifting through without strikes, try changing to smaller flies or lighter leader weights.  If you find the action stick with it and re-drift the area as you can take quite a few from the same spot often enough.


Any light rod and reel combo in the 2000 – 2500 range for threadlines, or really light baitcasting outfits will work.  Attach a metre or two of 6-8lb fluorocarbon which will then connect with your string of flies.

A net on board is a must with such light gear.  Having a pair of snips, and a few spare flies and sinkers is all you’ll need to get into the action.

Remember of course to get your trout licence.  They are available online and the same site will generally detail all the regulations of the area you intend to fish.

Commercially available Pat Swift pre-made fly strings are the deluxe option for lake jigging


If you are a regular to the lakes and traditionally fish using lead lines or harling, definitely give jigging a go, it’s way more fun without question.

If you are looking for a change of scene from the usual day out chasing snapper, operating your boat and fishing gear in crystal fresh water can be a real pleasure.

It’s great for the boat and motor, and your fishing gear won’t even require a rinse off at the end of the day.

It’s very family friendly, and a quick picnic on one of the many pumice beaches can make for a brilliant day.  Finish up with a hot pool and a beer or two if you are in the central north island, and try popping those trout fillets into the hot smoker as an added bonus.

Here's a few proven spots to try jigging in Lake Taupo

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