Reel Life February 2023

  • Nelson/Marlborough
  • 18/02/2023

Reel Life February 2023


As we enter March and the autumn period, we arrive at one of the best months for fishing.

Water temperatures return to an ideal range, there is abundant terrestrial insect life, and trout are focused on packing on condition.

Weather is generally very settled too, paving way for some memorable forays to your local trout hole.

Backcountry angling can be at its finest too; angler pressure will have reduced somewhat, and for fly anglers, dry flies are the name of the game.

Your local lowland waterway can really come into its own in March, particularly if you’re fly fishing.

Clumsy cicada’s that become befuddled by colder night temperatures, slap onto the water with regularity, making an easy meal for trout.

Abundant passion vine hoppers and good daytime mayfly hatches are the norm.

Local Tasman favourite, the Motueka River, provides stunning March fishing and is deemed by most Motueka gurus as the best month on the calendar.

Some believe trout in the Motueka do not take cicada flies, this is far from the truth.

Probing ripples with a cicada can produce some outstanding fishing, and even more successful with a small weighted nymph trailing 12 inches below the bug.

Often, the fish will come up for a look at the cicada, and if they don’t take it, they won’t be able to resist the nymph.

With the yellowing of leaves and the chirruping of night crickets, nature is reminding us that Autumn is here, and you should spend as much time as you can fishing while the going is good.

Above right: A range of cicada patterns is always a good idea. Bright and buoyant for the fast ripples can work a treat.


Recently, staff completed drift dives on the Opouri, Wangapeka & Owen rivers.

At all sites, the count was either excellent or very good when compared with historical records.

For the Opouri, a fantastic count of 40 large rainbows and 26 large browns was noted, an unexpected outcome considering the 100-year return flood that occurred last August.

Notably, all trout were in good condition with some of the brown trout seen very thick across the shoulders.

The Wangapeka River was also a standout, with the count at the lowest site was the highest on record, and the upper site at Chummies Creek also excellent.

The river was dived during a period of low, warm flows, and some very nice trout were seen in fast, deep runs at the head of pools where highly oxygenated water exists.

Coming up in the next month are the Motueka, Rai/Pelorus, Branch/Leatham, Wairau and Matakitaki rivers, plus others.


The Opouri dive count was the highest on record, a surprising result in the wake of the huge August flood.


We’ve been hearing plenty of reports of some great salmon fishing.

The small fresh down the Wairau in early February provided the stimulus for salmon waiting at the mouth to migrate upstream.

Feedback from anglers is that fish numbers have been good, with some anglers achieving multiple catches in a day, however, fish size and condition is below average.

Reports from successful anglers are that many fish are getting taken on traditional trout spin gear, so opportunities abound in the next month if you are interested in having a go on the Wairau.


Fish & Game have recently been in mediation with the Marlborough District Council over water quality appeal provisions of the Marlborough Environment Plan.

Ngai Tahu, Fish & Game, EDS, Forest & Bird, and DOC are engaging with Council and the relevant resource user interests to settle appeal points raised by parties within the plan.

We hope all water quality matters will be able to be settled through mediation (unlikely to be the case for upcoming water quantity matters).

Like all legal planning processes, good environmental outcomes are hard won and take time and money to achieve, but it is important Fish & Game continue to advocate for healthy rivers on behalf of licence holders and the environment.

Tight Lines

Jacob Lucas, Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game

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