HomeOtagoOtago: Where to fishWilkin River

Wilkin River


The Wilkin river is a major tributary of the Makarora that provides energetic anglers with a wilderness fishing experience for a good head of rainbow trout and some larger brown trout.

Fish type Mostly rainbow trout averaging 2kgs with a few large brown trout up to 4kgs.
Situation The Wilkin rises in the Mt Aspiring National Park and flows east to join the Makarora approximately 10 kms above Lake Wanaka.
Map and conditions Access map

View the MetService weather forecast

View the river flow.

Description The Wilkin is a medium sized river by New Zealand standards and tends to be very large and discoloured early in the season as snow melt adds a large amount of glacial silt to the water. Consequently it is best fished from January onwards. It also drains a large catchment area and so with the frequent heavy rain in the area can rise quickly and become a raging torrent at any time of the year. The river flows drops quickly after rain however. Care needs to be exercised when entering this area to fish.The best fishing is upstream and requires a reasonable walk to get to the best waters around the section known as Kerin Forks. In this area there are long runs and stable pools in which fish can be spotted when the water is clear. If a section looks like it may hold a fish, do spend a bit of time fishing it. Most fish are caught blind fishing especially in the faster water where they can very difficult to spot. You can fish up to a very steep sided gorge where the water is funneled through a narrow gap making fishing impossible.This is a great river to fish flowing over a rock and stone bed between beech lined valley slopes. There are good open areas for fishing. Its beauty means that it is popular and there is a popular tramping route along much of the best water - be prepared to be asked "Have you caught anything yet?" a number of times.

This is a challenging river to access and only those prepared to get wet and are able to tramp some distance should contemplate fishing it. To get to the Wilkin requires crossing the Makarora - not an easy task even in the low water conditions of summer. There is a ford across the Makarora about 2kms upstream from the confluence with the Wilkin. But be very careful - the river is cold and very powerful.

Alternatively get a boat to take you to the confluence and up a section of the lower Wilkin (this can be booked in Makarora settlement). And of course you can either fly in by helicopter or even better, hire a guide and let them arrange the transport for you.

Methods This is great nymph water though those wishing to fish with a dry fly will also do well.
Recommended tackle This is good fly fishing country and a 9 foot rod capable of casting a weight 6 - 7 line is ideal. Most anglers fish with a floating line and indicator or large dry fly / nymph combination. Length of leaders should be dependent on water clarity (and the depth of the pools of course). The clearer the water the longer the leader.
Recommended lures

Weighted nymphs such as a roughly tied Hare and copper, Goldbead Hare and copper, Pheasants Tail, Prince nymph or Halfback are all suitable.

Dry flies:
Attractor flies such as a Royal Wulff early in the season with large bushy flies such as a Humpy or cicada from summer onwards. Also carry a blowfly or bluebottle fly or two for summer fishing.

Wet flies:
Smelt imitations and bully patterns such as a Kilwell or Mrs Simpson are worthwhile around the mouth

Spinners: Toby and Rapalas or even a red veltic

Tributaries There are a number of small streams that enter the Wilkin that provide exciting fishing on small waters in their lower reaches (fish are stopped from entering the upper sections of many of these small streams by waterfalls a short distance from their confluence with the Wilkin).
Applicable to Wilkin River
Region Otago regulations
Season 1 Nov - 31 May. A backcountry licence is now  to fish this river
Methods Artificial fly and spinner
Bag limit 1
Size limit (cm) None

Other fishing waters of the region


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