10 Trophy Trout Rivers in New Zealand

New Zealand is renowned for its world-class trout fishing, with anglers flocking to its famous rivers and lakes in search of trophy-sized trout. While rivers like the Tongariro and Mataura have rightfully earned their reputation for number of trout, they do not usually provide the best chances of hooking a trophy.

In this article, I will share some of the better known rivers where adventurous anglers can experience the thrill of hooking into trophy-sized brown and rainbow trout.

  1. Mararoa River: Located in Southland, the Mararoa River flows through breathtaking landscapes, including Fiordland National Park. Its gin-clear waters and gravel riverbeds provide an ideal habitat for both brown and rainbow trout. This lesser-known river offers a sense of serenity and solitude, allowing anglers to immerse themselves in nature while targeting trophy-sized trout that can exceed 10 pounds.
  2. Motueka River (Upper Section): While the lower section of the Motueka River attracts more attention, its upper reaches hold secrets waiting to be explored. Flowing through the Kahurangi National Park, this remote and pristine section provides anglers with a true wilderness experience. Trophy-sized brown trout lurk in the deep pools and undercut banks, rewarding those who venture into its less-frequented waters.
  3. Ahuriri River: Nestled in the scenic Mackenzie Basin, the Ahuriri River meanders through expansive tussock landscapes and snow-capped peaks. Anglers can expect to find trophy brown and rainbow trout in its clear and well-oxygenated waters. The river’s large pool-riffle sequences offer enticing fly-fishing opportunities, where landing a double-digit trophy trout is a real possibility.
  4. Awaroa River: Situated in the Nelson/Tasman region, the Awaroa River is a smaller tributary that flows through picturesque beech forests and tranquil meadows. Although it may not be as well-known as its counterparts, this river holds promise for trophy trout enthusiasts. Targeting these elusive giants requires stealth and precision, as they hide among logjams and deep pools, ready to pounce on a well-presented fly.
  5. Hurunui River (Upper Section): While the lower section of the Hurunui River garners more attention, the upper reaches remain a well-kept secret. Surrounded by towering mountains and native bush, this remote section offers a sense of seclusion and adventure. The pristine waters harbor trophy-sized brown trout, which can be enticed by a variety of techniques, from nymphing deep runs to casting dry flies during the prolific mayfly hatches.
  6. Ngaruroro River (Upper Section): In the heart of Hawke’s Bay, the upper section of the Ngaruroro River beckons anglers seeking trophy trout. Flowing through rugged gorges and open farmland, this lesser-known stretch offers diverse fishing opportunities. Large pools, rapids, and pocket water provide the perfect habitat for trophy-sized brown trout, rewarding those who explore its scenic and less crowded waters.
  7. Upper Matakitaki River: Nestled within the picturesque Nelson Lakes region, the upper Matakitaki River offers a remote and secluded fishing experience. Accessible via a scenic drive, this hidden treasure rewards intrepid anglers with its crystal-clear water and breathtaking alpine scenery. Large brown trout, some exceeding 8 pounds, reside in its pools and undercut banks, providing a thrilling challenge for the dedicated angler.
  8. Upper Clutha River: While the lower Clutha River draws considerable attention, the upper section near Wanaka remains a hidden gem. This section offers a combination of rugged gorges, expansive braided channels, and deep runs. Trophy brown trout can be found in the river’s deep pools, where they lie in wait for unsuspecting prey. Patience and skill are key to unlocking the secrets of this lesser-known stretch and landing a trophy-sized trout.
  9. Ruakituri River: Located in the northeastern part of the North Island, the Ruakituri River captivates anglers with its untouched beauty. Flowing through remote valleys and native bush, this lesser-known river holds the potential for trophy-sized brown and rainbow trout. Stealth and accurate casts are necessary to entice these wily trout, which can reach sizes that exceed expectations.
  10. Upper Waiau River: Situated in Southland, the upper section of the Waiau River is a lesser-explored fishing destination that shouldn’t be overlooked. Accessible via a scenic drive, anglers will find themselves surrounded by awe-inspiring alpine landscapes and crystal-clear waters. Trophy-sized brown trout inhabit this hidden stretch, making it an enticing prospect for those seeking solitude and the chance to land a memorable catch.

The best time of year to catch a trophy trout in New Zealand?

The best time of year to catch a trophy trout in New Zealand can vary depending on the region and specific waterways. However, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind:

  1. Spring (September to November): Springtime in New Zealand, particularly from October to November, can be an excellent time to target trophy trout. The rivers and lakes begin to come alive after the winter months, and the trout become more active as they feed voraciously in preparation for spawning. The water temperatures are still cool, and the trout are often found in shallower areas, making them more accessible to anglers. Large trout can often be caught on whitebait imitations in the tidal reaches of rivers.
  2. Summer (December to February): Summer months in New Zealand offer longer days, warmer temperatures, and abundant insect hatches, making it an ideal time for trout fishing. December to February is particularly productive, with trout actively feeding and seeking out prey in rivers, streams, and lakes. Early mornings and late evenings can be prime times to catch trophy-sized trout during this season.
  3. Autumn (March to May): Autumn is another great season for targeting trophy trout in New Zealand. As the temperatures begin to cool, trout become more aggressive and actively feed in preparation for winter. March and April, in particular, offer excellent fishing opportunities, as trout start moving into rivers for spawning and can be found in larger numbers. This is also the time of the year where mouse plagues start to occur.
  4. Winter (June to August): While winter is generally considered the offseason for trout fishing in New Zealand, there are still opportunities to catch trophy-sized trout. Some rivers and lakes remain open for fishing during this time, and if you’re willing to brave the colder temperatures, you may find less angling pressure and the chance to hook into large trout that are more lethargic but still feeding.

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