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Fishing in Lakes & Rivers

Fishing in Lakes & Rivers


The Waiau River begins in the Spencer Mountains along New Zealands Southern Alp Range Northwest of Hanmer Springs. Much of the river flows through relatively inaccessible country through steep gorges complimented by long stretches of braided river. The Waiau River is considered by many to be on of the few remaining "wild" brown trout fisheries in New Zealand. 

Excellent brown trout are found in the upper reaches of the Waiau where double digit fish are not uncommon. These fish  present a superb challenge and are reknowned for testing the skills of the very best of anglers. World Class fly fishing can be found on the Department of Conservation managed St James Station. 

Further downstream towards Hanmer Springs, the river is more suited to spinning, as the river becomes bigger. When the river is low, however, fly fishing becomes excellent, especially in the quiet pools where the trout are feeding. Both dry and wet flies work well, with the wet Peveril of the Peak or Coch-y-bonhu type patterns suitable around dusk. 

Salmon are fished from Parnassus in its lower section. The Waiau has a river mouth that is inaccessible to foot-anglers. The Salmon run gets under way generally around mid-January and continues till about mid-March. 


The rivers which flow into the Hope River include the Upper Hope, Boyle, Nina, and Doubtful Rivers - all beginning in Department of Conservation managed lands in the Lake Sumner Forest Park. All these rivers hold both brown and rainbow trout.

The rewards can be great as these rivers frequently supply excellent trophy fish. Helicopter access is a good alternative to the long walks required by this demanding area, particularly the Upper Hope reaches. There is excellent DOC huts available in the upper reaches for  overnight stays

Fishing in this area favours light tackle, but dry fly and nymph is successful in the early morning and late evening. Weighted Hare and Copper (size 10), Green Stonefly (size 8) or a Half-back (size 12) produce excellent results. 


The Hurunui starts in the mountains and the north branch flows through Lake Sumner. Below its outlet, there is excellent water with brown trout up to 3.2kg (7 lb) or even larger. 

Mole Fly (size 10) or Royal Wulff or weighted nymphs (size 10) in Hare and Copper, Creeper or Green Stonefly work well in this area. Downstream the Hurunui becomes braided, but still has good fishing for brown trout averaging 1.4kg (3 lbs). 

The Hurunui is also one of the main salmon river is one of those erratic rivers that can have the best salmon fishing in the whole country one year, and the next be very little. Salmon fishing is usually best done in the surf at the river mouth mid-December to mid-March. Fly lures such as Grey Ghost or Jack Sprat work well with sea-run trout in this area. 


The Clarence holds a good head of brown trout and some rainbow trout. While many other rivers in the region supply brown trout averaging up to 1.8kg (4 lb), the Clarence frequently supplies fish 2.2-2.7kg (5-6 lb). 

The upper reaches flow from Lake Tennyson and for some distance below where it is joined by the Acheron, it provides excellent trout fishing. The middle reaches of the river requires to be walked and camped, or reached by helicopter. 

Below Jack's Pass offers very good trout fishing. 

Dry fly nymph fishing is best in the upper parts, but as the river progresses to the lower parts, it gets larger and deeper, and becomes more suited to spinning. Above the junction with Acheron, use weighted nymph during the day, and at dusk, use a dry fly in the pools. 


Although a tributary to the Clarence, it is as large as the Clarence itself. It is best fished the same way as the Clarence. Average catches are up to 2.27kg (5 lb) or larger. 

High country lakes in the area hold good stocks of brown and rainbow trout, and average 0.5-1.8kg (1-4 lb). 
Note: some Lakes are fly-fishing only. In these upper reaches, the lakes are exposed to winds. 


Lake Tennyson, which supplies the Clarence River, provides good fishing, although the fish are invariably smaller (average just over 2lb). This lake is exposed to the ‘nor-wester’ winds, the bane of the fly angler. 


Lake Sumner Forest Park is an excellent area for trout fishing. This beautiful high country area with its beech forest and tussock ridges has a number of huts for overnight stays. 
There are a number of lakes in the region: 
  • Lakes Sumner
  • Taylor
  • Sheppard
  • Katrine
  • Mason
Spinning is best used in these lakes. Spinners such as Black Toby or Mepps are best in this water, and dry flies such as Love’s Lure or Mole Fly. Fish can be stalked and cast to with a Pheasant Tail, Water Boatman or Dragon Fly nymph. 

Hanmer Springs Helicopters is able to provide both guides and access to some of the best spots for trophy fishing. 

There are other more inaccessible lakes and rivers that Hanmer Springs Helicopters is able to give the expert or novice angler access to. Enquire here. 

Further Fishing Information: 
Information for this guide has been drawn from fishing guides and experts in the area as well as the following books: 
  • Fishing New Zealand — A Cosmos Guide by Tony Orman
  • Trout Fishing in New Zealand by Rex Forrester
Photography on this page courtesy of Zane Mirfin. 
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