HomeNelson – MarlboroughNelson Marlborough: Where to fishGowan River

Gowan River


A very short boisterous, challenging river that contains a huge number of fish. This river is very difficult to fish and is not for the novice or the faint-hearted. Great care should be taken when fishing this river.

Fish type Brown trout
Setting The Gowan drains out of Lake Rotoroa and appears at first look to be a raging torrent totally unsuited to fishing or to fish. It rushes down through huge continuous rapids between well vegetated banks to meet the Buller. Yet despite the formidable terrain and conditions it has one of the highest trout populations in the country. This river is not for the timid or the novice however and must be treated with the utmost caution. it is one of New Zealand's most challenging yet rewarding rivers.

Access map

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast

The Gowan is an extremely challenging river to fish that should only be attempted by the fit and experienced anglers.

The river flows for its 10 kilometre length over rough slippery boulders and stones between vegetation covered banks. The river is very swift and with the exception
of the long glide where it leaves Lake Rotoroa, seems to be one continuous rapid. It is however really a series of pocket water and should be fished as such.

Wading is both difficult and dangerous due to the very slippery rocks that make up the bed and should be treated with the utmost caution. The close vegetation also makes back-casting difficult in many places. Most fishing is done blind in that fish are seldom able to be spotted in this turbulent water.

Fish numbers and size Extremely high numbers of fish (one drift survey counted one section as having over 350 trout per kilometre) that average 3-4lb. Catching and landing fish in this river is a real challenge.

The Gowan is about one hour's drive from Nelson or Blenheim. The Gowan Valley Rd follows the river from its junction with the Buller to its source at the small settlement of Rotoroa. There is a small road on the east side that follows the river for some kilometres. Be sure to cross this river by bridge. It cannot be crossed by wading. See the access map.

Recommended lures

Heavily weighted large nymphs are required to get down to the fish on the Gowan. Try sizes 8 - 12 in Pheasant Tail or Hare and Copper patterns though as they move so fast probably any large fly will work as it sweeps past the feeding fish. Depth and hence weight of fly is very important for success.

Dry flies:
Large bushy flies such as Deer's Hair Sedge work well in the faster water but try smaller patterns such as Twilight Beauty or a Black Gnat in the more sedate area where the river leaves the lake.

Wet flies:
In the more boisterous water try large streamer flies such as a Parson's Glory or a large Hamill's Killer fished across and downstream. Small wets such as Greenwell's Glory or Dad's Favourite are useful in the area where the river leaves the lake.

Spinners: Bladed spinners such as Mepps or Veltic work best but are difficult to manage effectively in the huge current.

Biosecurity requirements
Biosecurity Because of the presence of the invasive alga didymo in these waters, anglers must clean their fishing gear including waders and boots, especially when moving between rivers. See Didymo Biosecurity Alert for details.
Applicable to Gowan River
Region Nelson/Marlborough
Season 1 October - 30 April
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) None

Other fishing waters of the region


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