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Waipa River Trout Fishing

The Waipa River is a very highly regarded river system with over 30kms of excellent and varied fishing for a large head of fish in scenic surroundings. It is the major spawning tributary of the Waikato River and offers a wide variety of different waters suit all types of angling at all levels of skill for a very high population of rainbow and brown trout.


View maps
Fish type Resident rainbow and migratory brown trout.

The Waipa is the largest tributary of the Waikato River, rising in the hills of the central King Country, flowing north through the townships of Otorohanga and Pirongia to enter the Waikato River at the historic town of Ngaruawhahia. It is an extensive river system with many very fishable inflowing tributaries.

As well as the high population of resident fish, there can also be an excellent run of spawning fish late in the season.


Upper Waipa maps:
Access map
Access map with topography

Lower Waipa maps:
Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions

View the MetService weather forecast for Te Kuiti.

Weekly situation report

Environment Waikato publishes a weekly situation report which provides an overview of river levels and rainfall.

Rainfall and river level graphs

View graphs of rainfall  and river levels for the past 7 days at the Environment Waikato website.

F&G pamphlet The Mighty Waipa Trout Fishing
Upper reaches

The upper Waipa river is the section upstream from Toa Bridge.


Above Toa Bridge, there is a 15km stretch of backcountry water that flows over a gravel bed through some beautiful native bush and over rough farmland. The section of the river is a delight to fish, being a mixture of long gravel runs, rapids and pools. In the late season some surprisingly large fish can be caught in this section as they move upstream from the Waikato to spawn. It provides excellent dry fly and nymphing water throughout the season although the spin fish angler will also find plenty of scope for their preferred method.

The attractive mix of pools, long glides and runs lead further upstream to a steep gorge with large boulders, rapids and turbulent runs.


This is ideal nymph and dry fly water though a spinner fished upstream and brought down with the current just above the river bed also works well.


From Toa Bridge upstream into the headwaters, anglers must walk as the best fishing is a good hour's walk upstream. Just south of Otorohanga, turn off SH3 into Otewa Road and continue along Waipa River Road as far as Toa Bridge, then walk. For a fit angler the walking required is worth the effort as the trout are bigger in this section and the scenery beautiful.

You can also reach these waters (after requesting the landowner's permission) by crossing private farmland from Owawenga and Barber Roads, though the walk can be long and steep.

See the Upper Waipa access map.

Middle reaches

Toa Bridge to Otorohanga


The most popular part of the Waipa river are the middle reaches from Toa Bridge to the small town of Otorohanga. The section of the river is easily accessed and is a delight to fish for the high population of both rainbow and brown trout as it runs over open farmland and small stands of bush. The river is gravel-bottomed with riffles, rapids and pools set amid attractive farmland and native bush. The overhanging willow trees often shelter high numbers of trout. While the water generally has some colour making fish hard to spot it provides many kilometres of wonderful dry fly nymph and spinning water.


This is ideal nymph and dry fly water though a spinner also works well.


The middle reaches of the river between Otorohanga and Toa Bridge is readily accessible by car as a sealed road runs along its length. Mostly this area is farmland and farmers are only too happy to give permission to anglers to cross their land as long as the normal rules are followed.

Otewa Road and Rangitea Roads follow the course of the Waipa for several kilometers above Otorohanga but on opposite sides of the river. From Otewa Road, you can continue along Waipa River Road as far as Toa Bridge.

See the Upper Waipa access map

Lower reaches

Below State Highway 3 Bridge in Otorohonga


The lower reaches of the Waipa river from Otorohanga down to its confluence with the Waikato is not a popular fishery. The river here is much larger and generally flows between willow lined banks and as such is best suited to spinning. Those who do fish the section can be surprised by the number and size of the trout present however. Below Otorohanga and down to Pirongia, the nature of the Waipa gradually changes to become a much deeper and slower moving river, often flowing over a silt bottom.  Vegetation often grows along the lengths of the banks.

Fish numbers and size

There are big fish in this section and fish up to 4kg have been caught.


The lower Waipa is suited to spinner fishing when the river flow is low, although some sections offer the angler the opportunity to cast a wet fly. It is best late in the season as the large trout move up from the Waikato River to spawn.

It is worth trying around any of the numerous stream mouths in the warmer months as the fish often congregate here to take advantage of the cooler water entering the river.


Access to the lower reaches is not as easy as willows and steep banks can be a hindrance to anglers. A road does follow much of this section however, allowing anglers to get to any number of fishing areas. See the Lower Waipa access map.

Fish numbers and size Fish numbers in the Waipa are very good, with fish averaging around the 2-3lb mark. As the Waipa is also a major spawning river for the resident Waikato brown trout, it can produce some very large fish especially early and late in the season.
Recommended lures

Nymphs: In all the waters above Otorohanga, there is excellent nymph water. Try small nymphs such as size 14 - 16 Hare and CopperPheasants Tail, Hare's Ear, Gold Bead Hare and Copper, or Theo's Bomber. When the water is discoloured move up to heavier and larger sizes.

Dry flies: Small winged patterns such as Greenwell's Glory, March Brown or try a Parachute Adams  or Royal Wulff. Passion Hopper flies are very effective late summer but must be no larger than a size 16.

Green Beetles are effective in early summer and cicada patterns from late summer are very effective.

Wet flies: Small wet flies such as March Brown, Greenwell's Glory or sedge emerger patterns work well

Spinners: Small bladed spinners such as Veltic or Mepps are best when fished upstream, with Black and Gold Toby's working well in the lower reaches.


Tributaries of the Waipa include the:
- Mangaokewa Stream
- Kaniwhaniwha Stream

- Punui River
- Waimahora Stream

Regulations (1)
Applicable to Waipa above Toa Bridge
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations >>>
Season Oct 1-Jun 30
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 5
Size limit (cm) 30cm minimum
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Waipa between SH3 Bridge and Toa Bridge
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations >>>
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit


Size limit (cm) 30cm
Regulations (3)
Applicable to Waipa below SH3 Bridge at Otorohanga
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations >>>
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 5
Size limit (cm) 30cm minimum


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