HomeNelson – MarlboroughNelson Marlborough: Where to fishWaimea River

Waimea River


The Waimea has reasonable fish stocks and is an easy river to fish that flows across the Waimea Plains to reach the sea near Nelson.
Fish type Brown trout
Situation 15 minutes from Nelson
Setting The Waimea river drains the Waimea Plain near to Nelson. It is fed by three tributaries (the Wairoa, the Roding and the Lee rivers) in its headwaters, each of which provide challenging fishing for trout in crystal clear waters. The tributaries join into the Waimea near the town of Wakefield and then flow across mostly farmland. As the river nears the sea it widens and becomes affected by the tidal movement.

Access map

View the river flow.

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast
Description In the headwaters the water is very clean and clear making the spotting of large cruising fish easy (though it is also easy for the fish to spot the approaching angler). This section is for anglers prepared to hike in to this remote section. The rivers run through a series of riffles, rapids and surprisingly deep pools and the fish must be approached with stealth. It provides excellent back-country fishing.

As the river crosses the Waimea Plains it is much more sedate but still offers the chance to fish some good water. After the Appleby Bridge the river flows over wide gravel beds and through deep pools. The Waimea can get very low during the dry weather as farmers and others draw water of the river. During these warm months of low flow, the river is often best fished in the upper reaches where water flows are less affected by being drawn off for other purposes.

Fish numbers and size There are reasonable numbers of fish throughout the Waimea and its tributaries and average around 2lb in size. There are some much larger fish in the upper reaches however and large sea-run trout do move into the lower reaches during the early part of the season.

The Waimea has many access points throughout its length. State Highway 60 (Nelson to Motueka) crosses the Waimea in its lower reaches with a small road giving access to a good section both up and down stream. State Highway 6 crosses at Brightwater and the Aniseed Valley road gives good access to the headwaters and tributaries. An easy river to fish in the lower and middle reaches though a little more difficult through the gorge area and in the headwaters. See the access map.

Recommended lures

Small nymphs (size 14 or smaller) such as Hare and Copper and any Pheasant Tail variant works consistently.

Dry flies:
Small Adams, Greenwell's Glory, Hardies Favourite or March Brown flies work well throughout the day. Try cicada patterns later in the summer.

Wet flies:
Small wets such as March Brown, Invicta, Greenwell's Glory work well especially during the evening. In the lower reaches a large Grey Ghost or Jacks Spratt work well during the day in the lower section when whitebait are running.

Spinners: Spinners are best in the lower reaches especially when the Whitebait are running. Try any silver pattern such as a Silver Toby

Regulations (1)
Applicable to Waimea River downstream of the confluence with the Lee River
Region Nelson/Marlborough
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Waimea River upstream of the confluence with the Lee River
Region Nelson/Marlborough
Season 1 October - 30 April
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) None

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