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Motu River Trout Fishing

The river provides excellent backcountry sight fishing for a large population of brown trout in the upper reaches.

View Motu River photos

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The Motu River was the first New Zealand 'wild and scenic' river to win protection from a Water Conservation Order in 1984. The WCO says the river should be preserved as far as possible in its natural state from the Motu Falls to the SH35 bridge. To read the full legislation document for the WCO applied to this waterway click here
Fish type In the middle and upper reaches there is a good population of brown trout averaging around 1 to 2 kg.
Situation The Motu River rises in the or Urewera National Park and flows northwards through some inaccessible country before entering the sea to the South West of the small settlement of Te Kaha in the Bay of Plenty.

Upper reaches:
Access map
Access map with topography

Lower reaches:
Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast for Whakatane.
Upper reaches

Above Motu Falls

The upper reaches are really the only easily accessible section of the river to the angler. The upper reaches flow through a mixture of open farmland and bush country. Much of these headwaters her over open land however and holds a good population of trout (and an even larger population of eels).

The river will quickly discolour after heavy rain but will clear very quickly. Consequently, trout are not hard to spot and so 90% of the fishing is to sigheted fish. It does offer excellent dry fly and nymph water is well is offering plenty of opportunity for spinning. It is a remote river and is protected by a National Water Conservation Order.


These upper reaches can be reached from the small settlement of Matawai on State Highway 2. Much of the river is over private farmland and so permission must be sought from the landowner before crossing their land.

Middle reaches

Below Motu Falls

The middle reaches below Motu Falls are very rugged and inaccessible. The section should be left to the very energetic and experienced angler and is really best suited to those wishing to spin fish. It is a popular rafting river and the use of a raft is the most practicable method of transport through this region. It is very beautiful however. Anyone who is travelling down the river by raft would be well advised to include a small spinning rod with their luggage.


Access to the middle reaches is via raft (and only experienced rafters should attempt this river).

Lower reaches

Below the Magatane River confluence

The lower reaches below the confluence with the Magatane River have little interest to the angler as this part of the Motu is silt laden and not an attractive area to fish. It is worth however, spin fishing for the number of large kahawai at the river mouth when they are running.


Road access to the river mouth on SH35.

Recommended tackle

Those fishing the upper reaches are best served by using a Rod capable of casting a four to six weight lines and by using a floating line.

Spinning is best done with rods capable of casting seven gram lure and by using two to 4 kg lines.

Recommended lures

Dry flies: Use Adams, Kakahi Queen, Caddis, Humpy, Royal Wulff throughout the day. During summer try cicada and cricket patterns and in late summer, lace fly patterns.

Nymphs: Use weighted nymphs such as Hare and Copper, Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Stonefly and Prince Nymphs.

Wet flies:
In the upper reaches: Use soft hackle or palmered flies such as Bibio, Zulu or Palmer Red and winged emerger patterns such as Invicta, March Brown or Greenwell's Glory.

At the mouth when the kahawai are running: Try smelt patterns such as Grey Ghost, rabbit patterns, Parsons' Glory, Ginger Mick and Jack Spratt during the day and dark patterns such as Fuzzy Wuzzy or Black Marabou during the evening or night.

In the upper reaches: Cast using small bladed spinners such as Veltic or Mepps and cast them upstream into the pools.

Around the mouth: If fishing for kahawai, use silver or gold Tobys.

Tributaries The two major tributaries of the Motu of interest to the angler are the Waitangirua Stream and the Takaputahi River.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Motu River above SH35
Region Eastern region regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Jun
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 2
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Motu River below SH35
Region Eastern region regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Jun
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit No limit
Size limit (cm) No limit


Motu Fishing: guided fishing

Motu Fishing

Tony (Bones) Murphy

Be Guided

Be Guided

Murray Downie Guide

Murray Downie:
Fly Fishing in New Zealand



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