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Nevis River

The Nevis River is a remote high country river that flows over barren tussock land and provides anglers with the opportunity to fish for a reasonable population of brown trout in a beautiful wild setting. A backcountry licence is required to fish this water.

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Fish type Brown trout (with some brook char in the headwater tributaries of this remote river).
Situation The Nevis rises in the Hector and Garvie mountains and flows north-east to join the Kawarau River midway betweeen Queenstown and Cromwell

Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast for Queenstown.

The Nevis is a small to moderate sized river that flows through dry barren high country along side the Remarkable Ranges. It flows over a stone and shingle bed between tussuck lined banks. The water is very cold and generally clear enough to spot the trout in the pools. While fish numbers are not high, the size and quality of the fish plus the stunning scenery make this one of New Zealand's very special waters.

As from 1 October 2009 a backcountry licence will be required to fish the Nevis River. This is free of charge to whole season licence holders and can be obtained from Otago Fish and Game.

Upper reaches


In the upper reaches the Nevis is quite small running over a stone and shingle bed. The water is almost always very clear and bitingly cold. Fish in this section are very wary especially as the season progresses and the fish become angler-shy. Consequently this area is best fished early in the season before the main holiday times sees many holiday makers decend on the river.

This section can be extremely frustrating and at times appear barren of fish. As with all reasonable sized fish however, they will find the best places to lie and will only come out to feed when the time is right and they feel safe.

Fish numbers and size

Trout numbers in the upper reaches are low but the size of fish much bigger than in the lower reaches. As the warmer weather progresses, many fish drop down stream. In some of the headwater tributaries such as the Drummand, Kingston Schoolhouse and Wrights Creeks there are a small number of brook char.


Access to this section is on New Zealand's highest public road, the Cromwell-Nevis Road from Garston (though it can also be reached from the Bannockburn end). Note this is a "dry weather" raod and really only suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles).

Middle reaches


The middle reaches are the most popular tho fish and hold the best numbers of fish. From Nevis Crossing (where the road first meets the river when coming from Bannockburn) up to the middle gorge, there are sevral kilomtres of fishable water. The river flows over a stable rock bed and is a series of riffles and deep fish holding pools.

A few kilometres upstream from Nevis Crossing, the river enters the middle gorge for approximately 4 kms. This is a difficult section to fish though during the height of summer when water levels are lower (and holiday makers are around) it can be a good place to try for any fit and reasonably energetic angler. It is a series of faster water and deep pools.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers in this section are moderate with there being many good fish. The fish in the gorge area are more plentful but on average smaller.


Access is via the Cromwell - Nevis Road.

Lower reaches


The lower section below Nevis Crossing is through a largely inaccessible gorge - the domain of experienced kayakers who want an adreniline rush. There are good fish in this section, especially as the season progresses but it is only for those who want the challenge of fishing the most remote and challenging water.

Fish numbers and size

Good fish numbers in this section if you can get at them.


Almost impossible

Methods This is fly fishing territory. During the season fish respond well to nymphs and as theseason progresses will readily rise to dry flies.
Recommended tackle Rods capable of casting weights 5 - 7 lines (remember that wind can be a problem in this high wild valley). long leaders and muted coloured floating or intermediate lines.
Recommended lures

Nymphs: Slim profile nymphs in caddis patterns, Pheasants Tails or Hares Ears.

Dry flies: Early in the season use attractor patterns such as a Royal Wullf with Humpies, Hoppers and Cicadas from summer onwards.

Wet flies: Small spider patterns


There a number of very small tributaries in the upper reaches that can be worth exploring to see if you can snare a rare Brook Char. These include the Kingston, Drummand, Wrights and Schoolhouse Creeks.

Applicable to Nevis River
Region Otago regulations
Season 1 Oct - 30 April to backcountry licence holders only.
Methods Fly fishing only
Bag limit 1
Size limit (cm) 400mm (40cm) maximum size. Any fish larger than this must be returned to the water unharmed.


Michael Vetters

Michael Vetters, Fly Fish the South

Aspiring Guides

Aspiring Fly Fishing

4WD Hire

New Zealand 4WD Hire


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