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Waiau River Fishing

The braided Waiau River offers excellent fishing in stunning North Canterbury scenery. The Waiau is home to a large population of brown trout and seasonal sea run trout and salmon.

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Fish type Brown trout, salmon
Situation

The Waiau River rises in the Spenser Mountains. It flows south until it joins the Hope River, then sets off in an easterly direction parallel to SH7 (the Lewis Pass Highway). The river flows through hills and a series of gorges, from the alps to the sea just north of Cheviot.

It is located around 90km north of Christchurch, and parallels SH7 for much of its middle reaches.

Maps

Upper Waiau River maps

Access map
Access map with topography

Lower Waiau River maps

Access map
Access map with topography

LINZ topographic maps: 1:50,000 (260 series)

Check conditons

Weather forecast

View the MetService weather forecast for Christchurch.

River flow

The Waiau generally becomes fishable once it drops below 60 cumecs.

View a graph of the current Waiau river flow at Marble Point at the Environment Canterbury website

Rainfall

View a graph of the current the Waiau rainfall at Marble Point rainfall at the Environment Canterbury website

River and flood phone and text info

Phone: For river flow and rainfall info, phone 0900 74837 (RIVER). Calls cost 50 cents per minute (plus GST).

Text: For river level and river flow info, text RV WAIA to 3226. The cost to have the text message sent to you is 30 cents.

Tide tables See the tide tables for Lyttleton at the LINZ website.
F&G info

Access pamphlet

Hurunui and Waiau Rivers access pamphlet

River report

Fish & Game river report: phone 03-366 2986 (1 Oct-30 April).

Upper reaches

Above the confluence with the Hope River

Description

The headwaters above the Hope River confluence, are excellent for brown trout up until mid March (when spawning salmon enter the river). The fish can be sighted on clear bright days. They are wary so a careful approach and an accurate first cast are necessary. The medium-size river river winds across a tussock valley. It has some deep pools and long sytable rusn with grassy bank. Note that  it quickly becomes uncrossable after north-west rain.

Fish numbers and size

Both salmon and brown trout and though numbers are not high, they are usually a good size, with some trophy fish. Please catch and release.

Access

Access to the upper reaches of the Waiau is difficult. The options are:

  • From the Hamner hydro road, walk for 2-3 hours over Malings Pass or Fowlers Pass. Obtain permission first from St James Station.
  • Tramp from Lewis Pass for two days on the St James Walkway
  • Drive a 4WD vehicle through Glenhope Station after obtaining permission and arranging payment for access and use of huts.

Access to the Hope, Boyle, Doubtful and Lewis Rivers is also off SH7, then by walking. See the upper Waiau access map and access points 1 and 2 in the list of access points.

Middle reaches

Between Hanmer and the confluence with the Hope River

Description

This section of the Waiau is difficult to fly fish except in low water summer conditions.

Fish numbers and size

Both brown trout and salmon (in late summer). Fish stocks are reasonable with there being some good fish laways present.

Access

The river parallels SH7 almost to Culverden providing easy access. The best access points are the bridges at SH1, Waiau township, Leslie Hills and the Hamner River. Alternatively there is access off the Waiau-Rotherham road.

See the upper Waiau access map and access points 3-10 in the list of access points.

Lower reaches

Hanmer to the mouth

Description

In its lower reaches, the Waiau becomes a large braided river that is shingly and unstable. Though not always easy to access, there is good salmon and trout fishing using spinning gear.

Fish numbers and size

January to March sees a moderate quinnat salmon run.

Access

The lower reaches are accessed from roads leading off State Highway 1. See the lower Waiau access map and the list of access points.

The mouth

At the mouth

Description

The Waiau Mouth is a popular spot for salmon fishing. The mouth is best fished during the middle stages of the incoming tide. The surf here is generally too rough and shallow to fish.

Tide tables

See the tide tables for Lyttleton at the LINZ website.

Access

Launch a jet boat at Spotswood and boat downstream for 10 minutes. The only alternative is a long walk.

See the lower Waiau access map and access point 11 in the list of access points.

Salmon fishing methods

Spin fishing is the most effective, though fly fishing is quite feasible.

Spinning

At the river mouth: Use a medium-fast action rod of 2-2.5m in length, coupled with a fixed or free spool reel capable of holding 200m of 8-10kg line.

Up river: Lighter tackle such as a rod and reel with around 6-7kg line is recommended, with zed spinners of 10-22 grams fished right on the bottom. Target places where the current is slow and the water deep.

Fly fishing

Try streamer flies fished on sinking lines through the tails of pools or through slow flowing reaches.

Trout fishing
methods

Spinning is the best method when the river is discoloured and fly fishing when it’s low and clear enough to sight the fish.

Spinning

Cast into calm water at the top of pools using good-sinking spinners such as the Tasmanian Devil or Toby.

Fly fishing

To avoid spooking the trout, approach carefully, standing well back from the bank and spot them before casting.

Use nymphs or dry flies fished upstream on a floating line.

Recommended  trout lures

Nymphs: Use small weighted nymphs such as tungsten beadheads: see Hare and Copper Gold Bead and Caddis Tungsten Brown.

Dry flies: Well-hackled flies such as a Royal Wulff, Coch-y-bondhu, or Klinkhammer pattern (this is not a great dry fly water however)

Streamers: Hamill's Killer, Mrs Simpson , Parson's Glory, Woolly Bugger or at night a Black marabou or Black Fuzzy-Wuzzy

Spinners: Tasmanian Devil or Toby.

Tributaries Tributaries to the Waiau River include:
- Mason River
- Boyle River
- Doubtful River
- Lewis River
- Hope River
- Nina River
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Waiau River above the Hope River confluence
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 1
Salmon: 0
Size limit (cm) 400mm (or 40cm) maximum size on any fish taken.
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Waiau River below the Hope River confluence
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season All year
Methods All year: Artificial fly, spinner.
1 Oct-30 April: Bait fishing for trout only.
Bag limit Trout: 2
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) 400mm (or 40cm) maximum size on any fish taken.

 

 

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