Winter Trout Fishing Down South

by Sally Forth

While the Taupo-Rotorua area is usually associated with winter fly fishing, there are many other regional options – and even down south in the South Island.

Look for sea tuning brown trout as they can follow whitebait shoals into river mouths. Last winter whitebait were reported entering rivers in July.

In the Nelson – Marlborough region Golden Bay’s  Aorere and Takaka Rivers are open all year round in the lower reaches. 

Maiden sea-run brown trout can often be found in the estuarine reaches of both rivers. Some large sea-run browns over six or 7 lbs ( approx. 3 kgs) might enter the rivers. 

I say “might” because it’s often unpredictable. Perseverance and patience are needed to tolerate blank times and then suddenly it all comes together.

Soft baits are effective, slow and deep with rod movements to give ‘wiggle’. Fly fishers might try a Grey Ghost, Parson’s Glory or a Jack Sprat lure – size 6 or 8, on a floating line.

Across to the east of Golden Bay is the lower Motueka River, a very stable river with good stocks of brown trout. Below the state highway bridge isn inviting looking estuary. Also do not neglect the Waimea River near Appleby, west of Richmond. 

Fishing at high tide, especially if high tide coincides with dusk can be productive. Late July, through August and into September might turn up some some memorable hookups on sea-runners. Use flies as for the Aorere and Takaka Rivers. 

Spin fishing with a small silver ticer – make sure it’s small to be whitebait size – allows better coverage over the wide expanse of water at a fuller or high tide.

In Marlborough, the lower reaches of the Pelorus River near Havelock

is worth a shot. And the lower reaches and estuaries on the Diversion and Wairau Rivers are good bets.


Don’t Bypass It

Heading south the Clarence River is often bypassed but the lagoon just up from the entry into the sea – if the Clarence is clear – is worth a cast or two, best with a spinning gear. 

Further south and down to Southland is a collection of rivers from the Waiau in north Canterbury to the Taieri south of Dunedin. In between head inland to the high country lakes. Lake Coleridge is open all year round with rainbows the likely catch.

Lake Benmore can be very productive, open all-year round and good boat fishing or from the shore on a still sunny day looking for cruisers. The larger inland lakes of Otago –  Hawea, Wanaka and Wakatipu – are open all year round. May can be productive as brownies move into river mouths to run upstream to spawn in rivers.  A green Hairy Dog or Fuzzy Fuzzy fly lure may produce. And in May and June land-locked salmon may appear around river mouths running into lakes. 

And there is the Twizel canals much of which has been written about and filmed on TV. That’s a subject on its own.

Large Sea-Runners

Many of the larger Otago and Southland rivers are open in winter in the lower reaches. The lower Aparima, Oreti, Waiau and Matarua Rivers are open in winter. Spin fishing is best. Have a look at the Waituna Lagoon too. August and early September some large sea-runners even into “double figures” are caught in the lower reaches of these rivers. Western Southland has Fiordland’s lakes e.g. Te Anau, Manapouri and Monowai which are open all year round. The western rivers draining from Fiordland into Te Anau and Manapouri offer a brilliant wilderness backdrop and some good fishing at their mouths.

Over on the West coast there’s a host of lakes such as Paringa, Moeraki, Ianthe and Mapourika that are open all year round. With flaxy banks, a boat is best. Behind Greymouth Lake Brunner is a very underrated lake.

The West Coast’s larger rivers are open all year round, and of course with the large whitebait runs in the coast, estuaries are the place to home in on. The Hokitika River mouth is a good spot but there’s so many river, too numerous to name in this short guide. The Okuru and Turnbull River mouths in South Westland can feature some big browns slashing after whitebait. Try around August. In north Westland, the Buller River is open all year round.

That’s a general guide to the Mainland winter options. Go exploring.

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3 Responses to Winter Trout Fishing Down South

  1. Donald Glover says:

    Thanks Sally. I can vouch for big sea running brown trout in south Westland.
    There’s so many rivers. The Taramakau is one to note. Don’t tell anybody!

  2. L. Court says:

    Good site NZFFA.
    It is commendable to see a body up and advocating strongly. However apathy is common amongst trout anglers. We all need to “stand up and be counted”. Future generations need us – all of us – to raise our heads above the parapet.

  3. Scott Murray says:

    I find it so nice and encouraging to hear where fishermen have caught fish. Not all of us are going to leap into our vehicles and head straight there besides the fish have probably moved on. Why do a few fisher men say “caught 2 beauties a week ago’ not telling you where”
    I like to tell visitors places where they may have luck because if they do they may come back and spend some money in the area.

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