HomeAuckland – WaikatoAuckland-Waikato: Where to fishAwakino River

Awakino River

The Awakino River has been described as one of the great rivers in the North Island providing top-quality backcountry fishing. It holds excellent stocks of rainbow and brown trout in a beautiful setting.

Fish type Rainbow and brown trout
Situation The Awakino River rises in the rugged bush country of the King Country and flows south via the settlement of Mahoenui from where it runs
alongside State Highway 3 to the Tasman Sea at Awakino.

Access map

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View the river level for the last 7 days.

Upper reaches


Despite its relatively easy access, the Awakino offers an almost wilderness experience in the headwaters above Mahoenui Bridge. In these upper reaches the river flows
over farmland on the left bank, with native bush to the water's edge on the right bank. The river in this section flows over shingle and rock and is a series of easy rapids and long gliding pools. It provides the angler with easy wading along most of its length though there are some very deep pools in places.

Expect to share your fishing experience with a variety of native birds and the occasional goat that will come down through the bush to the water's edge to drink.

Note: At the end of Gribbons Road the river flows over farmland before it enters bushland. Although there is a DoC track up to the hut at Leitches landing it is asked that you phone the farmers Chris and Jan Barker on 07 877 8746 to enquire bout local conditions and ask for permission before rossing the farm land. (There is no cellphone coverage up this valley so phone before arriving). Please ask the Barkers for permission to camp on their farm. They do not charge a fee for this, but would appreciate a donation for a charity ORA: Hope for Every Child. There is a very basic campsite about 1km from the end of the road at Bill Burnell landing.


The upper reaches of the Awakino are highly regarded and are restricted to fly  fishing. The river is easily
wadeable and is ideal dry fly and nymph water. Those wishing to float a dry fly over likely water can also do very well especially in the evening when there can be a spectacular evening rise. Generally the water is quite clear, allowing fishermen to spot fish in the water. Much of the water flows between tree lined banks however and the shadow cast does restrict the spotting opportunities somewhat. Consequently
most anglers fish this section blind.

Fish numbers and size

Although trout numbers are low the fish can be large, making for an exciting fishing experience.


Above the Mahoenui Bridge, Gribbon Road runs alongside the river on the true right bank for several kilometres and then a DOC walking track follows the river to its headwaters. To reach the track you need to  pass through private property, so please contact the landowner (at the end of Gibbon's Road) for permission.

There are several good camping sites and at Leitches Clearing at the end of the track, there is a well-maintained hut.

See the Awakino River access map.

Middle reaches


In the middle reaches (below the Mahoenui Bridge on SH3 and upstream from the gorge) the Awakino mostly loops and meanders across open farmland with long stretches of slower water bounded by willows and other trees. There are however many excellent stretches of superb fishing water  with long riffles, rapids and gliding pools.  Often the water has a slight cloudy tinge though after a long dry spell can become reasonably clear. Fish numbers are very high.


Long stretches of the section of the river are willow-lined and only of real interest to those spin fishing. However, there are some excellent sections providing top-quality nymph and dry fly water with the added advantage that they are not often fished.


There are many points of access to the Awakino River from SH3 and from Papakauri Road, a side-road off SH3. Access is often across private land and permission from the landowner is required.

See the Awakino River access map

Lower reaches


The lower reaches as the river flows through the Awakino Gorge offer the angler some beautiful water. These waters are more boisterous than other sections of the Awakino
but still relatively easy to fish and provide excellent nymphing and dry fly water. It is mostly easy to wade and holds large numbers of rainbow and brown trout. Below the gorge the river widens and becomes tidal for several kilometres before re-entering the sea at the small settlement of Awakino. The final few kilometres before the river enters the Tasman are tidal and of little interest to the fresh water angler but there can be excellent fishing for both sea-run trout and kahawai. In this section from October to December you will be competing for places to fish with whitebaiters.


Excellent nymphing and dry fly water.


The river then follows SH3 down through the Awakino Gorge till it reaches the  Tasman Sea at Awakino
township. You may have to scramble down a bank from the road to get to the river in some parts. The river is easily wadeable except for the very tidal area in the lowest section.

See the Awakino River access map.

Fish numbers and size The Awakino holds good numbers of fish that average in the 2 - 3lb range. These numbers can vary from year to year depending on the spawning conditions in earlier seasons. In 2009 a drift dive survey by Fish and Game showed that, per kilometre, there were 5 fish less than 20cms in length, 5 between 20 - 40cms and 15 fish over 40cms.

State Highway 3 follows the river for most of the lower section. In places anglers will need to scramble down banks to get to the water. Finding good parking for the car can be a little difficult in places and so care should be taken as many large trucks thunder along this road.

Recommended tackle As this is a small river a weight 5 - 6 rod or similar is recommended. Those using spin tackle should also go as light as possible.
Recommended lures

During the warmer months the fish tend to be found in the fast water and so a sunken nymph can be very effective. Patterns such as a Hare and Copper, Pheasants Tail, Halfbacks, Hare's Ear, Gold Bead Hare and Copper or anything that has some peacock herl in it such as a Theo's Bomber tend to be productive. Sizes 12 to 16 are best.

Wet flies:

During the evening rises it is also worth trying small wets. A Greenwell's Glory and March Brown  work very well when fished subsurface especially during the evening rise. Sedge emerger patterns  such as an Invicta can also be very productive. Smaller patterns in sizes 14 or 16 are best. In the tidal reaches streamer flies such as rabbits, Taupo Tiger, Grey Ghost and any other pattern that represents a small fish or whitebait work well.

Dry flies: 

In the summer months from November through to March there can be a superb dry fly rise in the evening. Small terrestrials such as Greenwell's Glory, March Brown or Adams or Royal Wulff, Daddy Longlegs or Coch-y-Bondhu can be effective. Green Beetles are effective in early summer and Cicada patterns from late summer are very effective.

Below the Mahoenui Bridge the waters are open to spinning as well as fly fishing. While the faster water fishes the same as in the headwaters, the spin fisherman will find casting a spinner such as a Veltic or Mepps or Toby into the deeper pools.


The Manganui Stream is generally fished in the middle reaches where it flows across farmland.

The Mangaoronga Stream is heavily overgrown though there is some fishable open water in the headwaters.

Regulations (1)
Applicable to Awakino River upstream of  Mahoenui Bridge
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations
Season Oct 1-Jun 30
Methods Fly fishing only
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) 30 cm
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Awakino River downstream of Mahoenui Bridge
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations
Season Oct 1-Jun 30
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) 30 cm minimum

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