HomeSouthlandSouthland: Where to fishMataura River

Mataura River


The Mataura River is the trout fishing purists dream. It is regarded by some as the ultimate in dry fly angling for brown trout, with nearly 150km of easily accessed waters. (One town, Gore,  on the river calls itself the Brown Trout Capital of the World). This river would take months if not years to fully explore and discover its many facets.

Water Conservation Order The Mataura, popular with anglers, is internationally-renowned for its brown trout fishery. The WCO was passed in 1997 in recognition of "outstanding fisheries and angling amenity features".

To read the full legislation document for the WCO applied to this waterway click here

Fish type Brown trout and the occasional salmon.
Situation The Mataura is the second largest river in the region. It begins south of Lake Wakatipu, travels south-east to Gore, then turns south again before emptying into Toestoes Bay at Fortrose, near Invercargill.

Access map

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast

View river level, rainfall and river flow at several points on the Mataura River.

Articles 31 Jan 2010: This New York Times travel article featured the Mataura River: A Long Road to World Class Fly Fishing in New Zealand

Regarded by many as New Zealand's top dry fly water, the Mataura is a premier fishery offering over 150kms of fishable water. The prolific hatches of mayfly distinguish this river as trout will rise freely at all times of the day for this delicacy. It also has some great evening rises during the evenings in the warmer months.

The river generally runs clean and clear and mostly flows over open land and through stands of willows that line the banks.

This river presents a number of very different faces to the angler and is hard to describe as a single fishery. What is true however is that it is one of the best dry fly waters along almost its entire length.

Upper reaches

Description: Fairlight to Cattle Flat

Although not as heavily fished as the lower reaches, the conditions here are excellent providing anglers with small stream fishing for a high population of freely rising fish. The river in this section usually runs clear between open grassy banks and stands of willows. Consequently there is good shelter for the fish which will come out to feed during the day knowing that they are a short dash to the safety of cover if disturbed. .

The river flows over a shingle and sand bed and is a series of gentle rapids punctuated by pools and long gliding runs. Often there is a deep section along one bank that will invariably hold fish when they are not out in the runs feeding. Each section must be approached very carefully as the fish will lie and feed in some very shallow water and will dart for cover if disturbed.

You can easily cross the river at the tail of most pools, although watch for slippery stones. While fishing during the day will challenge the best of anglers, there is often an excellent rise in the evenings where the pools become alive with feeding fish. During these evening rises the fish can be less spooky but will often still feed selectively.

Fish numbers and size

Good numbers in the  0.75-2.5kg range.


The section between Parawa and above Garston meanders across farmland close to SH 6.

Above Garston from SH6, you can gain across private farmland. Between Garston and Athol access to the willow-lined river is easy to access across farmland.

See the Upper Mataura access map.

Middle reaches

Description - Cattle Flat to Mataura town

This stretch of slow-flowing river is the most popular with anglers as it offers many kilometres of open fishing. During the season these fish rise freely to take mayflies and so this can be described as ideal dry fly water.

The river is larger in this section though still has the same character as the upper reaches. It flows between grassy banks and through stands of willow tress. Often the river will have cut a deep trench along one bank where fish can shelter when not feeding. If no fish are seen it is often productive to try a deeply sunk nymph through these
sections or even swing a wee-wet across and down.

The river flows over a shingle and stone bed in a series of riffles and pools. There are a number of long runs where fish can be found feeding actively at any time of the day in the foam line or even in the shallow water. When disturbed however they will make for the nearest cover.

The river becomes much more substantial close to Gore and flows over a stony bottom and between some rocky outcrops. During warm evenings there can be excellent rises as pools that appeared to be devoid of fish a few hours earlier suddenly come to life.

The stretch from Wyndham to Gore Road Bridge is especially favoured and easy enough to wade in.

The section upstream from Mataura is one of the few sections on the river that access is difficult due to the river flowing through a steep sided gorge. Those who like a challenge and are reasonably fit will be able to fish this area and are unlikely to see any other anglers.

Below Waikawa, the river enlarges with the extra flow of water and so wading becomes very difficult.

Fish numbers and size

There are high numbers of fish present in this section that average around 1.2 kgs though there are also many larger fish present.


A number of roads give good river access especially where they cross the river. These include the Ardlussa, Waipounamu, Pyramid and Otamita bridges; Monaghan’s Beach; and Ardlussa-Cattle Flat road.

See the Upper Mataura access map

Lower reaches

Description - Mataura town to the mouth

The river gets deeper here and the water quality is not as good, particularly below Mataura Island.

As with the higher reaches, fish still rise freely in this section and so it still provides excellent fly water for both the dry fly and nymph enthusiast. This section with its slower moving and larger volume of water is also good for spin fishing. There are sections where it is difficult to access, especially just upstream from the town of Mataura as the river flows between high rugged banks.

As the river gets close to the sea it becomes tidal and so really only suited to the spin and bait anglers.

Fish numbers and size

There are very large numbers of fish in this section with some up to 4.5kg.


The road follows the river from Mataura to Gore so access is easy, particularly at Beattie’s Beach. There’s also good access at Gorge Road Bridge. On the west bank at Gorge Road township, Hamill’s Road takes you to a great spot. See the lower Mataura River access map

Methods Fly fishing, nymphing, spinning.
Recommended tackle Lighter range threadline using a small bubble and a nymph cast upstream into ripples; live bait.
Recommended lures

In general, small flies work best on the Mataura.

Nymphs: Pheasant Tail, Willow Grubs, Mataura Darter and emerger patterns that imitate mayflies.

Dry flies:
Dad’s Favourite, Blue Dun, Adams(tied parachute-style) Twilight Beauty, Wickham's Fancy , Caddis, Coch-y-Bondhu, Dark Red Spinner

Wet flies / Streamers - Early season: Gosling. Invicta and spider patterns such as a March Brown Mid-late season: Greenwell’s Glory (wet), Alexandra, Claret and Mallard and spider

Spinners: Tobys, Mepps , Rapalas, small Veltics

Matching the Hatch See the feature article Matching the Hatch: A Guide to 'Cracking' the Mystery of the Mataura River by fly fishing guide Chris Dore.

Tributaries of the Mataura River include:
- Waikaia River
- Waikaka River
- Mimihau River
- Mokoreta River

- Otamita Stream

- Waimea Stream

Regulations (1)
Applicable to Mataura River and tributaries upstream of Humes' Road Bridge, Garston (Trophy Trout Zone - all fish larger then 400mm must be returned)

Note:  Fishing from any boat or flotation device is not permitted

Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct-30 - 30 April
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit Total: 1
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) 400mm maximum (Trophy Trout Zone)
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Mataura River - Garston Bridge to Gore Road Bridge

Note:  Fishing from any boat or flotation device is not permitted

Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct-30 Apr
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total: 4
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (3)
Applicable to Mataura River - Gore Bridge to the Mataura Island Bridge

Note:  Fishing from any boat or flotation device is not permitted

Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct-31 May (excluding  2nd and 3rd May)
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total: 4
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (4)
Applicable to Mataura River - Mataura Island Bridge to the Gorge Road Bridge
Region Southland regulations
Season Trout: 1 Oct-31 May (excluding  2nd and 3rd May)
Salmon: 1 Oct-31 Mar
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total: 4
Salmon: 1
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (5)
Applicable to Mataura River - Gorge Bridge to the sea
Region Southland regulations


Total bag limit

All year

Artificial fly, spinner, bait

4 of which only 1 salmon.
No size limit

SeasonTrout:  (excluding  2nd and 3rd May)
Salmon: 1 Jun-31 MarMethodsBag limit: Regulations (5)


Other fishing waters of the region