HomeEastern – RotoruaEastern-Rotorua: Where to fishWaiau River

Waiau River


The headwaters of Waiau River provides used to some of the best backcountry and wilderness fishing to be found in the North Island in the upper reaches. Unfortunately sever floods in the past 3 -4 years have caused significant degradation with the numbers of fish presently low and the average size well down.

Fish type, number and
Both brown and rainbow trout in low numbers throughout the rivers length with fish presently much smaller than average in the remote upper reaches and headwaters.
Situation The Waiau River rises in the rugged Urewera National Park and flows southeast to join the Wairoa river near the small township of Frasertown approximately12 km before the Wairoa enters the Pacific Ocean.
Maps Upper Waiau access map

Lower Waiau access map

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast.
Upper reaches

In the upper reaches, the Waiau is a spectacular wilderness water that holds a a low to medium number of hard fighting, mainly rainbow, trout. This section of the river flows through the unspoiled Urewera National Park so providing the angler with pristine surroundings but due to some severe flooding in the past few years fish numbers and the average size are well down on what was once a premier trophy water.

The river in this section is a series of long runs, deep pools and fast water. The fish can be spotted in the generally clear water which makes for very exciting fishing. There are a number of small tributaries that enter the Waiau in this section all of which also  wilderness fishing. This section can be waded though care should be taken as the water can be deceptively powerful (and it is certainly very cold).


Access to the headwaters requires either a very long hike along well-defined DOC tracks or the hiring of a helicopter to get to the best fishing quickly. There are a number of huts spaced at regular intervals that provide a degree of comfort when fishing this section. These huts are fairly basic however and people venturing into this remote region need to take other forms of shelter plus some good wet weather gear. Do not underestimate the New Zealand bush-land - it can be very wet and cold even during the summer. See the Waiau River access map.

Middle reaches

The middle reaches of the Waiau River mostly flows over open farmland. Although more accessible than the headwaters, the river here still provides good remote back country fishing. The middle reaches has a greater flow and consequently wading is more limited. The section holds a reasonable number of fish, both brown and rainbow averaging around 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. The better fishing is to be found upstream where the river runs through bush-land in a series of long runs punctuated by deep pools. The water is generally clear they will colour up after rain. Fish can be stalked along the edges of this section during summer.


To access the middle reaches turn off State Highway 2 at Raupunga. The Waiau River follows State Highway 38 for several kilometres of its lower reaches. See the Waiau River access map.

Lower reaches The lower reaches of the Waiau River is of less interest to the angler but still holds fish. It is much more accessible though wading in this section is difficult. After rain these lower reaches can colour up quite quickly. Spinning is a very good option when fishing this area. See the Waiau River access map.
Methods The headwaters and middle reaches provide ideal nymph and dry fly fishing. Casting small wet flies and swinging them through the faster water can also induce a furious take from a large fish. Fishing of the lower middle and section upstream from the confluence with the Wairoa river favours the spin fisherman. Throughout the river however, early evening can produce some wonderful rises during the warmer weather.
Recommended tackle

When fishing the upper reaches a 9 foot rod with a weight five to seven line (floating will cover most fishing conditions) is best.  As the fish in this section are large and the river current strong, strong leader material is essential. These are powerful fish that will test your equipment so make sure when venturing into this remote region could take everything you need as it is a long way to get more.

The middle and lower reaches are best fished with similar rods and lines though there is a very good place for the wet fly enthusiast. Spin fishing is best carried out with a rod capable of casting 7g to 10g lures.

Recommended lures

This water responds well to any mayfly or caddis fly imitation such as a Halfback or Pheasant Tail style nymph. During the day these may need to be of reasonable size and weight to ensure they get down to where the fish are feeding in the deeper water.

Dry flies:
During the summer try an Deers Hair Sedge or a Goddards Caddis during the evenings. In the early summer Beetle patterns are effective with cricket and cicada patterns working well when these insects are about from late summer

Wet flies:
Often when the fish appear to be feeding on the surface they are actually taking small emerging insects and so small wee-wets can prove deadly at this time. Small soft hackled flies or spiders as they are often called, around size 12 to 14 cast just upstream of a rising fish is often the most effective method.

Spinners: Spinners such as a Toby or Rapala in the lower reaches.


The Waiau River is very large and has a number of important tributaries. In the upper reaches these include the Whangatawhai Stream, Moerangi Stream, Mangakahika and the Wairoa Streams all of which offer excellent if somewhat challenging fishing for large trout in small waters.

The middle and lower reaches also have a number of tributaries which include the Waitaretaheke River.

Regulations (1)
Applicable to Waiau River above Waikaretaheke River
Region Eastern region regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 June
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 2
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Waiau River below Waikaretaheke River
Region Eastern region regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Trout: 2
Size limit (cm) None

Other fishing waters of the region


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