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Whanganui River Trout Fishing: Upper/Middle Reaches

The headwaters of Whanganui River (also known as the Wanganui river) and its tributaries provide a wide variety of top-quality fishing in a remote backcountry setting for a good population of rainbow and brown trout.

Upper Whanganui map

Upper Whanganui topographic map

View maps

Whanganui River photos

View photos

Fish type, number and size Both brown and rainbow trout averaging around 1.5 kg though with some fish considerably larger. In the rugged and remote headwaters there are good numbers of fish averaging around 2 kg.
Situation

The large 220km Whanganui River runs from rugged bush country west of Lake Otamangakau towards Taumarunui, through the Whanganui National Park before reaching the mouth at Wanganui on the east coast.

The section of the Whanganui river that lies within the Auckland/Waikato Fish & Game region is described here. The lower reaches lie within the Taranaki Fish & Game region - see Whanganui River lower reaches.

Maps

Access and topographic maps:

Headwaters/Upper reaches:
Access map
Access map with topography

Middle reaches:
Access map
Access map with topography

LINZ topographic maps: 1:50,000 (260 series)

Check conditions

View the MetService weather forecast:

- for Taumarunui (if fishing the upper reaches)

- for Wanganui (if fishing the lower reaches)

F&G pamphlet Whanganui Headwaters Trout Fishing
Headwaters

Description

The headwaters lie within the Tongariro National Park and a very remote providing top-quality backcountry fishing for anglers who have an above average level of fitness. Fishing in the section is very good with fish averaging over 2 kg. The water is generally clean but may have a slight tinge of colour which actually assists the fisherman as the fish can be more easily approached without being spooked. The river runs through beautiful native forest though there are plenty of open spaces to fish from. The river flows over a stone and shingle bed and is a series of very enticing runs, small rapids and deep pools.

Access

Access to this area generally requires a four-wheel drive vehicle and some considerable walking. Access can be difficult and the angler wishing to cover a large expanse of water may have to cross some deep water at times. It is recommended to fish only when the waters are low. Prepare to get wet and take a wading staff.

There is very little fishable water above the confluence with the Mangatepoho Stream as much of the water from the headwaters has been withdrawn to service the Tongariro Power Scheme.

See the upper Whanganui River middle reaches access map.

Upstream from Taumarunui

Description

Upstream from Taumarunui there are numerous fishing areas many of which are signposted by the Ruapehu Fish and Game Club. The section of the river has a number of long bouldery runs, short rapids and deep pools. It is beautiful water to fish and highly recommended. It holds a large population of trout and provide plenty of opportunities for all angling methods. It can be crossed in places though care should always be taken. This section just downstream from the confluence with the ongarue was chosen as a venue for the 28th World's Fly Fishing Championship in 2008.

Access

Though it is remote countryside, access can be gained from Mahoe Road, Piriaka, Mananui and Ako Street in Kakahi. Much of the river is over private land so to seek permission from the farmer before you cross their land. See the upper Whanganui River access map.

Downstream from Taumarunui

Description

The Ongarue River joins the Whanganui river at Taumarunui. As a consequence there is a considerable increase in the river flow. The water also acquires a brownish tinge from this point. There is still excellent fishing to be had however as fish numbers are good. Although the river is large downstream from Taumarunui, it still has a number of excellent pools and runs as the river flows over a stone gravel bed. Wading is more difficult as more water joins the river. Care should be taken especially during the warmer months as the rocky bed can become very slippery.

Access

Access is easy as River Road runs parallel to the river for some considerable distance. See the Whanganui River access map.

Lower reaches The lower reaches of the Whanganui river fall within the Taranaki Fish & Game region. Please see Whanganui River: Lower Reaches for details.
Methods

The Whanganui river is suited to both fly and spin fishing.

Fly fishing

The rugged backcountry water found upstream from the Hohotaka Road bridge is ideally suited to nymph fishing and dry fly. Probably the most popular and productive method is using a nymph though there is plenty of opportunity for the wet fly fisherman or those wishing to pursue trout with a dry fly. Many anglers employ a dry fly and nymph combination thus doubling their chances.

Spin fishing

There is also excellent spinner fishing opportunities throughout the length of this river. Those using a spinner will find most success by casting a small bladed spinner upstream into faster water and retrieving the lure at speeds just faster than the current. Spin fishing is particularly effective downstream from the confluence with the Ongarue river.

Recommended tackle

Fly rods around 9 foot and length and capable of casting lines in weights 7 to 8 are favoured as this can be big water. Lighter weights are recommended for the smaller headwaters. Tippets need to be in the 6lb + range

Spinning gear that can cast lures around 10 g in weight is most effective (eg size 3 or 4 veltics)

Recommended lures

Nymphs: Probably the most popular method of fishing the upper reaches of the Whanganui river is by nymph. Small weighted nymphs in sizes 14 to 18 in patterns such as Hare and Copper Gold Bead, Halfback, Pheasant Tail and Stonefly nymphs work well especially early in the season. During the summer small (size 18) unweighted midge patterns can be effective in early evening.

Dry flies: During the summer the upper reaches of the Whanganui river offers superb dry fly fishing. Sedge and caddis patterns work well throughout the summer particularly on the warmer evenings at change of light. Beetle patterns including Humpy and Coch-y-Bondhu also work well in early summer, and cicada and cricket patterns from late summer to autumn. Craneflies or Daddy Longlegs can also be deadly during the summer. Royal Wulff is also an effective pattern and makes an excellent indicator-fly when fishing faster water with a trailing nymph.

Wet flies: Often when the trout are seen to be rising they are taking emerging insects just subsurface. Consequently small winged wet fly such as a Dad's Favourite, March Brown or Greenwell's Glory will often take fish at these times. In the evenings when the fish are rising a small wet fly can often be more effective than a dry fly. Also try downstream lures such as Mrs Simpson and Kilwell No 1 at any time. Or use dark patterns such as a black rabbit or Scotch poacher late in the evening as it is getting dark.

Spinners: Bladed spinners such as Veltic or Mepps work well or try a Black and Gold Toby downstream from the Ongarue confluence. To entice one of the many rainbow trout in the river use red and gold patterns during the day. Sizes around 10 grams are generally favoured.

Tributaries

The Whanganui river has a number of very important tributaries each of which offers a unique fishing experience in its own right. These include:
- the Whakapapa River
- the Pungapunga River
- the Ongarue River
- the Okupata Stream (a 2-hour hike to some special fishing).

Regulations (1)
Applicable to Whanganui above Whakapapa confluence
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations
Season Oct 1-Jun 30
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) 30cm minimum
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Whanganui below Whakapapa confluence
(within the Auckland/Waikato region)
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 5
Size limit (cm) 30cm minimum
Regulations (3)
Applicable to Whanganui River, excluding tributaries, within the Taranaki region: see Whanganui River Trout Fishing: Lower Reaches 

 

 

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