The upper reaches of the Wairau are stable, swift and single channelled, until emerging into the main valley where the riverbed can be 1km wide. Here it is braided with many side channels and islands. From Renwick to the sea it is once again confined to a single channel.

The catchment has a growing population of rainbow trout, which are commonly caught in Lake Argyle, and the Branch/Leatham catchment. Many of these rainbows make their way into the Wairau and are now commonly caught in the middle and lower reaches.  

You can fish all year in the main-stem Wairau up to Wash Bridge, providing ample winter fishing opportunities.

Quinnat salmon run up the Wairau in summer and are usually 6-20lb.

Branch and Leatham Rivers

The Branch and Leatham rivers, which feed into the Wairau from the South side of the river, provide excellent fishing.  Fish & Game annually stock this catchment with 1kg + rainbow trout.  It has a 4WD road up both rivers with DOC huts along the way (though there are now mid-week access restrictions for the Branch River due to logging), and the lower part of the Branch and Leatham can be accessed by 2WD vehicle. You can fish the Branch and Leatham until May 31.

Useful links:

DOC Leatham Conservation Area

  • Wairau River Access Guide
    636 KB Adobe Acrobat PDF file