HomeNelson – MarlboroughNelson Marlborough: Where to fishRai River

Rai River

The Rai is a delightful, small, easily accessed river that provides top quality dry fly and nymph fishing to the large numbers of brown and rainbow trout.
Fish type Rainbow and brown trout
Situation A beautiful scenic small river that rises near the Kenepuru Sound and travels first inland to join the Pelorus just below the Pelorus Bridge reserve. In its headwaters the Rai has three major branches all of which provide excellent sport for those that like to fish small waters by stalking large sighted fish.

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Description The Rai is a series of delightful riffles, long glides, deep pools and rapids running over mostly open land. The vegetation that grows along the banks seldom
inhibits anglers and does provide excellent cover for the  high fish population. Many describe the Rai as a purist fishery as it is an excellent dry fly river with fish rising readily to well presented small flies throughout the day and evening. It is also a fishery that responds well to other methods such as nymphing and spin fishing. It can have a spectacular evening rise, particularly during the warmer months.The river runs mostly over open farmland, though some stretches have overgrown banks with willow and other trees. An easily waded river with few sections out of reach for anglers.
Fish numbers and size Number are high, especially above the falls. Average size is around 2-3lb. In the headwaters and the smaller tributaries mentioned above, numbers are lower but the average size is around 3-4lb.
Access Easy access with a road (State Highway 6) along most of its length. Many access points are well signposted allowing access to the river. The smaller tributaries, each of which runs alongside a small secondary road, mostly flow across open farmland so permission (which is usually readily given) should be sought from the landowner. See the Lower Pelorus and Rai River map access map.
Recommended lures

Small nymphs such as Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tails and Caddis imitations in sizes 14 or smaller.

Dry flies:
Small flies such as Black Gnat , Adams, Dad's Favourite and March Brown . Fish bushier flies such as Coch-y-Bondhu and over the faster water.

Wet flies: Small wets like Greenwell's Glory, March Brown and emerger sedge patterns such as Invicta.

Spinners: Small bladed spinners (Mepps or Veltic). As there are rainbow trout in the Rai they respond well to flashier colours when spinning.


A few kilometers above Rai Valley township the Rai divides into three smaller tributaries, the:
- Ronga
- Tunakino
- Opouri

Each is an excellent small fishery in its own right. These rivers can become very small during the dry weather but still hold resident fish in the faster water and the deep pools, particularly where there is good vegetation cover along the banks.

Regulations (1)
Applicable to Rai River upstream of the Carluke Bridge
Region Nelson/Marlborough
Season Oct 1 to April 30th
Methods allowed Artificial fly or spinner only
Bag limit 2 (with only one fish exceeding 500mm in length)
Size limit (cm) No minimum size
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Rai River downstream of the Carluke Bridge
Region Nelson/Marlborough
Season All year
Methods allowed Artificial fly or spinner only
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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