HomeNelson – MarlboroughNelson Marlborough: Where to fishOwen River

Owen River

The Owen is a small river holding a good number of excellent condition brown trout. It is a delight to fish as it winds through bush and scrub-lined banks to join the Buller River. This is  regarded by many as a purist river for its large fish in clear water.

Fish type Brown trout
Location Around 2 hours drive from Nelson, 10 minutes from Murchison and 20 minutes from St Arnaud.
Setting This small river that flows over a small stone and shingle bed between bush and scrub lined banks is a delight to fish. Water is generally clear but can develop a greenish tinge especially after rain.

Access map

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast
Description A small river that offers many kilometres of fishable waters holding large and wary brown trout. Anglers often need to push through the bank-side vegetation to reach the river but when they do are faced with hours of fishing opportunities on wonderful clear water. A very highly regarded river that despite its relative isolation does receive considerable angling pressure.
Fish numbers and size There are good numbers of fish especially early in the season and the fish tend to be in the 4lb (2kg) range though many larger fish are present throughout the river.
Ease of fishing A moderately challenging river to fish as there are some gorge areas (that hold the biggest fish) though there is much more easily fished waters as well. Some areas have difficult vegetation along the banks that must be negotiated down to the river though the riverbed is easy to wade and negotiate. The river is swift and the rocks can be very slippery however, especially in the warmer months.

Access to the lower reaches can be gained from State Highway 6 (Nelson to Westport) and the middle and upper reaches can be best accessed via the Owen Valley East Road. The Owen Valley West Rd which follows the true right hand bank does not travel up the river far and branches off following the small Johnston Creek. See the access map.

Recommended lures

This river responds best to lightly weighted nymphs such as size 16 Hare and Coppers, Pheasant Tails, or any green Stonefly patterns. (more weight may be required to get to the larger fish spotted in the deeper pools and runs).

Dry flies:
Coch-y-Bondhu, Molefly, Royal Wulff and Humpy patterns are all popular.

Wet flies:
Small wets like Greenwell's Glory, March Brown and emerger sedge patterns in size 14 work well when fished sub-surface especially during the evening rise.

Spinners: Small bladed spinners (Mepps or Veltic) fished into the faster water or through the deep pools are best for this small river.

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 Owen River
Region Nelson/Marlborough regulations
Season 1 October - 30 April
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 2 (with only one fish exceeding 500mm in length)
Size limit (cm) No minimum size

Other fishing waters of the region


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