HomeAuckland – WaikatoAuckland-Waikato: Where to fishOngarue River

Ongarue River

The Ongarue River is a top-quality backcountry fishery offering excellent dry fly and nymph water for a large population of rainbow and brown trout.

Fish type Rainbow and brown trout
Situation The Ongarue rises in Pureora Forest flowing first through native bush and then over open farmland before joining the Wanganui River near the township of Taumarunui.

Access map

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Description In its upper and middle reaches the Ongarue River is a top-quality fishery, offering many kilometres of excellent fly fishing waters. The river mostly runs over a stone and gravel bed and the ample bankside vegetation provides excellent trout habitat. It is a highly regarded river for the dry fly and nymph enthusiast. The close and often dense bankside vegetation can make casting difficult in  places though once on the river short casts are generally possible. As the river is quite small it is easy to wade and allows anglers to move up or downstream without too much difficulty.
Upper reaches


The upper reaches of the Ongarue River run through a mixture of native bush of the Pureora Forest and open farmland. The water in the section generally runs clean and trout can often be spotted lying in the pools or runs. In the headwaters the river often remains very clear even when other rivers in the area are dirty after rain. The close vegetation shades the water in many places and makes fish difficult to spot and casting very difficult in the enclosed spaces. So prospecting with short casts and a dry fly / nymph combination is always a good option.

There is a major waterfall approximately 18kms along the Ongarue Stream Road (the Tinihanga Falls) that has a deep pool that holds good numbers of fish, especially late in the season when fish are trying to move upstream to spawn and are blocked by this natural obstacle. Above the waterfall there is a further 3 kilometres of water that holds fish as far as the next waterfall. There are no fish above the second waterfall however.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers in the section are high and mostly in the 1 to 2 kg range with larger fish in the river towards the end of the season. There are fewer fish above the waterfall.


Excellent nymph and dry fly water.


Access to the upper reaches is via the Ongarue Stream Road which runs parallel to the river for about 20 km. You can get further upstream by tramping. The adjacent
Pureora Forest provides several areas for camping. See the Ongarue River access map.

The headwaters

There is a small section of fishable water above the Tinahanga waterfall. While this section does have some open spaces the river is mostly narrow and rocky with not a lot of good holding water for the fish. The first 2 kms are accessible along the true left bank but unless you are prepared to wade upstream past blackberry covered banks, there are very limited fishing opportunities further upstream. A second waterfall in a deepish blackberry covered gorge about 3.5kms above the Tinihanga Falls mark the upper limit of fish.

As these headwaters are on private land we urge respect for the landowner's property and due to the small size of the stream ask anglers to practice catch and release in this section. If you do wish to fish this small stream we request that you phone the landowners, John and Jane Mason (email [email protected] or phone 07 8945851)

Note that there is no cell phone coverage for much of this river so contact the Masons well before your fishing trip.

Middle reaches


The middle reaches of the Ongarue River above the small township of Waimiha flow mostly over open farmland though some sections run through stands of native bush. This is the most popular section and provides a good range of spinner and fly fishing opportunities. The river is much deeper in this section with a number of the pools
punctuated by rapids and long shingly runs.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers are high and mostly in the 1 to 1.5 kg range.


A good evening rise can be expected in the early summer but there is something suitable for all methods in this section though it is favoured by spin fishers who are able to more  easily cast in the confined spaces.


Access to the middle reaches is via the Ongarue Stream Road. See the Ongarue River access map.

Lower reaches


The lower reaches of the Ongarue River below the small township of Waimiha are seldom fished as it contains some large trout suitable for spin fishing. The river here is much wider and slow moving, and is often rather cloudy due to the silt it carries. Several sections have good structure though mostly it is quite slow moving with the water flowing sedately between open clay banks.

Fish numbers and size

Some fish reach a large size as angling pressure is low.


Some good spin fishing, especially in the gorge downstream from Waimiha.


Access to the section can be gained from SH4 and from the side road that leads to Ongarue and Waimiha townships. See the Ongarue River access map.

Recommended tackle

Weight 4 - 5 rods with a floating line in the upper reaches.

Light spinning gear for the deep pools and lower section and weight 6-7 weight fly rods capable of casting a good distance.

Recommended lures

Small weighted or unweighted nymphs such as Hare and Copper, Halfbacks and Pheasant Tails in sizes 12 to 16 work well.

Dry flies:
Small dry flies (size 14 or 16) in patterns such as Hardie's Favourite, Greenwell's Glory, March Brown and Twilight Beauty work well throughout the year. In summer cicada
patterns and in late summer, Lace fly patterns can be very effective. And the popular Royal Wullf is also a great fly on this water and a good "indicator fly" though it will often be the one that catches the fish.

Wet flies:
In the upper and middle reaches small wet flies such as Invicta, Greenwell's Glory in sizes 12 to 14 are very effective when fished just subsurface when trout are rising.

Spinners: Mepps and Veltic patterns in green or red.

Tributaries The Ongarue River has a number of important tributaries which include the Waimiha Stream, the Maramataha River, The Waione Stream, the Mangakahu Stream, and the aringamotu River.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Ongarue above Waimiha confluence
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations
Season Oct 1-Jun 30
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 5
Size limit (cm) 30cm minimum
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Ongarue below Waimiha confluence
Region Auckland/Waikato regulations
Season Oct 1-Jun 30
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 5
Size limit (cm) 30cm minimum

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