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Waikaia River Fishing

The Waikaia River is the major tributary of the Mataura and is a very highly regarded brown trout fishery which is easily accessible.

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Fish type

There is a large population of good sized brown trout – usually around 1-2kg.

Situation The Waikaia has its headwaters in the Umbrella Mountains and flows generally southwards to join the Mataura River at Riversdale.

Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions
F&G pamphlet Mataura River Anglers Access
Water quality The land is farmed throughout most of the catchment with a relatively low stocking rate. As at January 2008, there were problems with faecal bacteria in the river, most likely to be caused by stock access to it. However this does not affect the trout population. But anglers and other river users are advised not to drink the water where sheep and cattle have direct access to the river.

The headwaters of the Waikaia are difficult to access and fish and less inviting to the angler. The headwaters flow from high country with vast areas of swamps and tussock land which means that the water is cool and clear when it arrives on the plains. The trees along the river’s margins provide good shade and shelter. There are plenty of clear reaches also where anglers can get to the river and fish for the abundant stocks of fish.

In the stretch downstream from Piano Flat, the river opens out and flows mostly over farmland. It is made up of a series of long glides, deep pools and riffles. The water can become slightly discoloured, especially after any rain: the closer to the Mataura the more "tea-stained" the water tends to become. Wading is possible in this section and fish rise freely. Much of the fishing however is needed to be done blind as the fish can be difficult to spot except for during long dry spells and in bright conditions.

Wading is possible, especially during the summer months. But while there are lots of good sized trout they are not easy to catch when the river is low and clear.


Access to the river is via the Riversdale-Waikaia-Piano Flat road. A track, the Waikaia River Track, provides good walking access as well, especially to the upper reaches. However, the headwaters are remote and difficult to access.

Methods This is ideal dry fly and nymph water.
Recommended tackle Rods between weight 5 -7 are ideal with leaders of around 12 feet.
Recommended lures

Nymphs: Pheasant Tail, Hares Ear, and Hare and Copper all work well. In late summer when there is a willow grub fall, use Willow Grubs.

Dry flies: Parachute Adams, March Brown, Kakahi Queen, Goddards Caddis and Dad's Favourite or other patterns that imitate caddis or mayflies.

Wet flies: Small hackled wee wets work well especially when fished through the riffles.

Spinners: Very small blades spinners (Veltic or Mepps style) or small Rapalas (that imitate a juvinile brown trout)

Tributaries Two small tributaries, the Dome Burn and Steeple Burn, are spawning streams for the Mataura system and often hold trout early in the season. Some early spawning fish may even enter them very late in the season if water flows allow.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Waikaia River
Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct-30 Apr
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait.
Fishing from any boat or flotation device is not permitted.
Bag limit Total: 4
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Waikaia River tributaries
Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct-30 Apr
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait.
Bag limit Total: 2
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit


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