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Clutha River Fishing

The Clutha River is the fastest flowing of any New Zealand river. While offering excellent fishing, its sheer size can be daunting for inexperienced anglers though catch rates are surprisingly high. Most anglers concentrate on the upper reaches.

Clutha River photos

Access map

Topo map

View photos View maps
Fish type Brown trout, rainbow trout, sea trout, chinook salmon and perch.
Situation

The Clutha is a large river that runs from the lower end of Lake Wanaka, south through the towns of Cromwell, Alexandra and Balclutha before entering the sea at Molyneaux Bay south east of Balclutha.

The Clutha opens into a number of lakes on its way seaward, narrows again into gorges and forks around the island of Inch Clutha. From there, its gradient is shallower and the flow more even.

Maps

Upper Clutha maps:
Access map
Access map with topography

Middle Clutha maps:
Access map
Access map with topography

Lower Clutha maps:
Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions

View the MetService weather forecast for Dunedin.

Check the condition of the Clutha River:
- Below Cardrona River Confluence (upper reaches)
- At Clyde (middle reaches)
- Downstream of Roxburgh Dam (middle reaches)

- At Balclutha (lower reaches)

F&G pamphlet Lower Clutha Catchment access pamphlet >>>
Upper reaches

From the outlet to Lake Dunstan

Description

The upper reaches flow over a gravel and stone bed and around large boulders. There is a large population of brown and rainbow trout many lying deep within the pools and runs, particularly between the outlet and Albert Town.

Methods

Both spinning and fly fishing work well with fly fishing being the best and most productive method during the warmer months. Trout can be difficult to spot but there can be a very good rise when there is a sedge hatch on warm summer evenings.

Access

Road access: Access points off SH6 and further south where the road splits into SH8a and then from SH8 on the river’s east side.

Boats ramps: At the lake outlet, Albert Town Bridge and a 4WD ramp at Luggate.

Don’t forget to seek permission to enter private land where access crosses farmland.

See the Upper Clutha River access map.

Middle reaches

From Clyde to Clydevale.

Description

This section of the river holds brown trout and a small number of rainbow trout. It’s not heavily fished.

Between late January and the end of the season, salmon move upstream and congregate in pools below Roxburgh dam, where they can be caught when using heavy spinning gear.

Downstream of dam the river becomes faster with deep runs and holes. The 80km of river between Roxburgh and Clydevale is willow-lined and difficult to fish. From Miller’s Flat to Beaumont the river is slower and wide making fishing challenging. Access can also be difficult.

Fish numbers and size

Rainbow trout average 1kg.

Access

Access to Lake Roxburgh is mainly by boat, although you can fish around the dam wall. For the rest of the river, access is straightforward from public roads.

See the Middle Clutha River access map.

Lower reaches

From Clydevale to the sea.

Description

From Clydevale to Balclutha, the most popular spots are wide, open shallow gravel bars but the deeper waters or the lees of snags and obstructions hide the bigger fish. There is good fishing for migratory brown trout and salmon.

Immediately downstream from Balclutha the river forks into the Koau and Matau branches, around Inch Clutha. The Matau is one of the most heavily fished in the area and consistently produces the best fishing in the area.

The best times of year for sea trout at the tidal reaches are September to October and January to March. Salmon runs can be experienced from January to April.

Fish numbers and size

Returning salmon average 2-6kg.
Brown trout average 0.5-2kg.
Migratory sea trout average 2-3kg.

Access

Large, overhanging willows make life difficult at the river banks from Clydevale to Balcutha so a boat is extremely useful.

Access to the Matau branch is at Stirling or Kaitangata, off SH1.

See the Lower Clutha River access map.

Recommended lures

Nymphs: March Brown, Hare’s Ear, dark Caddis, Stonefly, Pheasant Tail.

Dry flies: Black Gnat, Coch-y-Bondhu, dark Greenwell’s Glory, Humpy, green Adams, Royal Wulff, Royal Coachman, Adam’s Irresistible, Blue Dun.

Wet flies / Streamers: Hamill’s Killer, Parson’s Glory, Craig’s Night-Time, Red Setter, Mrs Simpson, Woolly Bugger, Rabbit, Grey Ghost, Jack Sprat, Muddler Minnow and Yellow Dorothy

Spinners: Black, silver and gold Hexagon wobblers, silver Veltic, Silver Toby or Tasmanian Devil

Tributaries Tributaries of the Clutha River are:
- Tuapeka River
- Waitahuna River
- Teviot River
- Waiwera River
- Pomahaka River
Biosecurity
Cleaning requirement Because of the presence of the invasive alga didymo in these waters, anglers must clean their fishing gear including waders and boots, especially when moving between rivers. See Didymo Biosecurity Alert for details.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Clutha River upstream from Luggate Bridge (except Deans Bank section)
Region Otago regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 6
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Clutha River Deans Bank section (defined by landmark posts 1km below Lake Wanaka and 600m above Albert Town Bridge)
Region Otago regulations
Season 1 Oct-31 May
Methods Fly fishing only
Bag limit 6
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (3)
Applicable to Clutha River downstream of Luggate Bridge
Region Otago regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 6
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (4)
Applicable to Clutha River and its tributaries below Roxbugh Dam
Region Otago regulations
Bag limit Total: 6
Salmon: 2
Size limit (cm) Salmon: 450mm minimum
Regulations (5)
Applicable to Clutha River downstream from Balclutha
Region Otago regulations
Methods Trolling from a boat which is being mechanically propelled is permitted, provided that the boat stays at least 100m from any angler fishing from the shore.
Regulations (6)
Applicable to Clutha River from below the Roxburgh Dam to the Roxburgh Township Bridge
Region Otago regulations
Methods Fishing with a float or floating device on the line is prohibited.
Regulations (7)
Applicable to Clutha River from Albertown Bridge to the sea
Region Otago regulations
Methods Fishing for trout from a boat, canoe, pontoon or flotation device is permitted.

 

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