Reel Life December 2022

  • Southland
  • 12/12/2022

Reel Life December 2022


Over the summer holidays, the upper Waiau River is a favourite fishing spot for many anglers.

This stretch of river provides fantastic scenery, great fishing options for shore and boat-based anglers and the opportunity to catch both brown and rainbow trout.

However, the fishing can be challenging at times, especially for beginner anglers.

To help anglers with their upper Waiau trout fishing, I asked Ken Mitchell, owner-operator of Fishjet NZ, if he could provide a few summer holiday fishing tips for upper Waiau anglers, and he kindly agreed.

Ken and his team probably spend more time on the upper Waiau than any other anglers, and consequently, they have their finger on the pulse when it comes to fishing on the upper Waiau.

Above: Ken Mitchell with a large upper Waiau brown trout.

Firstly, can you tell us how the upper Waiau has been fishing so far this season?

The fishing has been fairly good lately.

We were catching more browns than rainbows earlier in the season, but the rainbows are really starting to come on now.

The browns have been in really good condition, and there have been some nice 2lb rainbows about which are great eaters.

Are there any must-have lures that upper Waiau anglers should have in their tackle box?

Yes, the Rapala CD5 rainbow trout pattern fishes very well. Some of the older style lures, like Tobys and veltics, are also good, especially in the fast, shallow water.

Upper Waiau flys

Three top upper Waiau flies

Are there any must-have flies that anglers should have in their fly box when fishing on the upper Waiau?

Yes, anglers should have a selection of mayfly imitations on hand.

The Adams is a great mayfly pattern.

Try using a #10-12 Adams and have a small, dark-coloured nymph as a dropper.

Anglers also need to have imitations to match all stages of the invertebrate lifecycle: nymphs, emergers and drys. If the fishing is slow, go small, something like a small pheasant tail or prince nymph.

In your experience, what time of day fishes best on the upper Waiau?

A great time to be on the river is when the sun hits the water, usually about 9-10 am.

To get the evening rise, be on the water one hour before dark.

You will usually get between 10-30mins of rising fish.

What can anglers do to increase their success rate?

Are there any common mistakes?

Sometimes boat anglers will focus too much on fishing the deep pools.

The faster run-type habitat holds more fish.

For best results, soft bait anglers need to make sure they get their soft bait right down to the bottom.

Shore-based anglers don’t need to worry about boat activity on the river.

Anglers can actually use the boat wakes to their advantage to creep up on spotted fish.

The fish are not concerned with boats coming and going; they don’t see them as predators.

Fish will continue to feed even after a boat has gone past.

These sure are some top tips from Ken.

Make sure you keep these tips in mind when you next head to the upper Waiau and hopefully, you will get a few extra trout to the net.

Using WAMS to find an access spot

WAMS map exampleOver the summer break, you might have plans to explore some new fishing spots.

To help with your planning and give you some ideas on spots to try, the Outdoor Access Commission’s access maps,4883121,1196378,4883542 is a great place to start.

If you haven’t used these maps before, start by clicking on the ‘Outdoor Access Map’ link, and a map of New Zealand will show up.

Zoom into the map, and you will start to see more map features pop up, including marked fishing access points.

If you don’t see the fishing access points, click on the ‘Layers’ tab and make sure the box next to ‘Hunting and Fishing’ is ticked.

You will see that we have stacks of access points around Southland (and New Zealand, for that matter).

You will also see some purple lines scattered all over the map.

The purple lines are areas of formed and unformed legal roads.

These purple lines (unformed legal roads) often run alongside our rivers and provide for access.

There are also green land parcels, and these areas are Department of Conservation land or marginal strip land, both of which provide for access.

If you want to change how your map looks, click on the ‘Basemaps’ tab and select your preferred map type, e.g., topographical map vs aerial imagery.


Wilson Road brown trout 1 27

A lower Oreti brown trout, caught near West Plains Road.

Over the last few years, we have produced a series of instructional videos to help you catch more fish.

They are available here ( on our Getting Started page.

We have videos on bait, spin, and soft bait fishing, as well as some location-specific videos.

These videos are worth checking out, particularly if you are new to fishing or haven’t had much luck during your recent fishing trips.


The Southland Fish & Game team would like to take this opportunity to wish all Southland anglers a fun and successful summer fishing with friends and family.

Please feel free to get in touch if you need any fishing advice this season.

Tight lines and good luck!

Cohen Stewart, Southland Fish & Game

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