HomeNorth CanterburyNorth Canterbury: Where to fishSelwyn River

Selwyn River


The Selwyn River has been severely degraded over the past decade by farming and water extraction. There is good fishing early in the season around the mouth where it enters Lake Ellesmere however and in the upper reaches.

Fish type Brown trout with some very large sea run fish early in the season at the mouth.
Situation Rises in the Big Ben ranges and then flows across the Canterbury plains to enter Lake Ellesmere.

Access map by Google

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Once one of the great fishing rivers, the Selwyn is now a shadow of its former self. Unregulated water extraction and agricultural run-off have destroyed much of the Selwyn so that it now is best fished either early in the season or late when there has been some rain.

Mostly the river flows over a shingle bed and is a mixture of long riffles and deeper pools. The water can get low and warm in the summer.

Upper reaches


In the upper reaches the Selwyn mostly flows through a gorge and is quite small requiring a lot of walking to find fish. It is best fished early or late in the season when there is some water running and fish are still in the section for spawning.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers are low and the majority of the fish are quite small.


There is access via the Glentunnel - Whitecliff road at the Selwyn Gorge.

Middle reaches


Between the Upper Selwyn Huts to Glentunnel the river becomes shingly and is willow lined. There has been a huge problem with farmers using the river for irrigation so that in periods of hot dry weather over the summer it can become very low and warm. During these times it is best to concentrate on fishing any of the deeper water especially around areas where there is cover such as willow trees for the fish.

Fish numbers and size

Low fish numbers and mostly small in size.


Roads run along both sides of the river offering good access. There are also a number of picnic spots such as Chamberlains and Coes fords. These are very popular with swimmers in the summer months and so not so great for fishing.

Lower reaches


The lower reaches are no longer the great fishery that it once was. Water extraction coupleed with agriculatural run off has degraded the river so that the water is often brackish and slow flowing. The section where it enters Lake Ellesmere can produce some great fishing for very large sea run fish, particularly early in the season.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers are low but at the mouth of the Selwyn where it enters Lake Ellesmere some very large fish are caught as they enter the river chasing whitebait and other small fish.


Take the road to Selwyn Huts.

Methods The upper and middle reaches are best fished with a small dry fly or nymph. In the lower reaches it is better to spin fish as the water is much larger and without much structure. The fish in this area are also usually feeding on small fish.
Recommended tackle

In the upper and middle reaches light tackle is best. The fish here become quite spooky as the season progresses and water levels drop.

In the lower section, wet lining with a silver lure / wet fly or spinning are by far the best options.

Recommended lures Nymphs: emergers, caddis, willow grubs and small lightly weighted pheasant tails and pheasant tail emergers.

Dry flies: Mayfly patterns such as a blue dunn, adams or twilight beauty (match the hatch with size and colour). Beetles also work well in early summer and mayfly patterns throughout the summer.

Wet flies: Small spider patterns and wee-wets in the upper and middle reaches with larger whitebait and smelt imitation flies such as a doll fly, Parsons Glory or Grey Ghost in the lower reaches.

Spinners: Silver lures such as a silver toby or zed spinner.

Tributaries There are no tributaries of note.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Selwyn River above State Highway 77 Bridge at Glentunnel
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 1
Size limit (cm) Minimum 30 cm
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Selwyn River downstream from State Highway 77 bridge
Region North Canterbury regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 2
Size limit (cm) Minimum 30 cm

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