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Mangahao River

The Mangahao is an attractive backcountry river with a reasonable population of large fish. The generally clear waters make for excellent sight fishing for the trout that feed throughout the day.


View Mangahao River access map

iew Mangahao River topo map

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Fish type Brown and rainbow trout
Situation The Mangahao River rises in the Tararua ranges and flows northeasterly towards Woodville where it joins the Mangatainoka River.

Access map
Access map with topography

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

Check conditions View MetService weather forecast for Palmerston North.
F&G pamphlet Upper Manawatu access pamphlet.

The Mangahao River flows through the Tararua ranges in its headwaters where it flows over a stone and shingle bed. Fish numbers in this area are low but the size and condition of the fish compensates for this. This is challenging wilderness fishing and as the water is invariably clear allowing anglers to cast to sighted fish.

After leaving the Tararua ranges, the river flows over a large stone and shingle bed between high banks. This section provides excellent back country fishing, though fish stocks are low. Use the height provided by some of the banks to spot the fish in the clear water below. Once at the river level it is possible to walk long distances along the river though the large unstable stones can make walking difficult in places. Fish can be spotted in the clear water and many reach very impressive sizes.

Note: A dam in the upper reaches can open its gates (usually in March) to desilt the headwaters. When this happens the river becomes unfishable for some time afterwards. Check locally as to when this last happened.

Fish numbers and size Brown and rainbow trout in the low to medium numbers with an average size of around 1 1/2 to 2 kg.
Access Access from Pahiatua is off the Pahiatua Track road which leads of SH 2.
Methods This water is ideal dry fly and nymph water and those who are prepared to walk and find fish and then spend getting that first cast just right will find this river with its beautiful scenery an ideal place to spend a day or three.
Recommended tackle Very light tackle such as a 9 foot rod capable of casting a weight 5 -6 line. Long leaders of 12 feet or longer may be required to avoid spooking the fish.
Recommended lures

Nymphs: Caddis patterns, Pheasant Tail and Prince Nymph patterns. Usually smaller sizes (14 – 18) and with a little weight in the deeper pools especially during the summer months.

Dry flies: Caddis fly patterns and large Mayfly patterns throughout the season with beetle patterns around November and cicada patterns and crickets in the summer months.

Wet flies: Small spider patterns fished across and down.

Spinners: Small bladed spinners in dull colours.

Tributaries There are no tributaries of note.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Mangahao River upstream from Marima Reserve Bridge
Region Wellington region regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 4
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Mangahao River downstream from Marima Reserve Bridge
Region Wellington region regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 4
Size limit (cm) No limit


Altitude Fly Fishing

Altitude Fly Fishing Guide

Go Fish Kiwi

Go Fish Kiwi


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