HomeWellingtonWellington: Where to fishManawatu River

Manawatu River

The Manawatu River is one of the major rivers in the Wellington region and holds a good population of  both rainbow and brown trout. It has 170 km of fishable water with the mid to upper reaches offering very good fishing for all levels of skill and for all methods.

Fish type Both brown and rainbow trout are present in the river, averaging around 1.5kg, with many fish going much larger. There are also perch in the lower reaches.
Situation The Manawatu River rises in the Ruahini Ranges west of the township of Norsewood. Over its 170 km length it changes dramatically from being a small river in its  headwaters, flowing through the large Manawatu Gorge to become a very large river where it enters the Tasman Sea at Foxton Beach.

Upper Manawatu access map

Mid Manawatu access map

Lower Manawatu access map

Check conditions View the river level at Dannevirke (upper reaches)

View the river level at Hopelands (middle reaches)

View the MetService weather forecast.

Description The Manawatu River has a huge range of different waters available to the angler. There is somewhere along its 170 km length where it is suitable for all levels skills and for all fishing methods. The lower section from Palmerston North has some great small tributaries but the Manawatu River itself is not of great interest to the angler due to its sluggish and discoloured water. Upstream from Palmerston North it becomes a great river to fish - from its small size in the headwaters to the large powerful rifer it becomes, this is a riverwhere you need to choose the area to fish to suit your preferred fishing method.
Upper reaches

Upstream from Dannevirke


The river above Dannevirke is relatively small and easily wadeable. The water quality is good and it holds a good population of reasonable sized brown trout. The river mostly runs across farmland but there are many sections with willow trees lining both banks. The river is a series of pools and long runs and fish can often be spotted in the relatively clear water. It is ideal dry fly and nymph water there is plenty for the spin fisherman as well.


See the upper Manawatu access map.

Middle reaches

Between Oringi and Dannevirke


In the middle reaches the river is larger and has a series of deep pools with long shingly runs. The water quality is not as good as in the upper reaches and fish can be difficult to spot. This is not to say it is not excellent fly fishing water. However, most fish are caught blind. The fish population in this section is very high and there is often an excellent rise on warm summer's evenings particularly for the prolific hatches of caddis.


Access is excellent along this section as many roads either follow the river or cross it. See the mid Manawatu.

Lower reaches

Downstream from Oringi


This section of river downstream from Oringi to the mouth at Foxton Beach is of less interest to the angler as the water is much larger and often coloured. While it has less interest to the fly fisherman, it does provide some good spin fishing water. The section where the river runs through the Manawatu Gorge is generally inaccessible and is not worth fishing as the river through here tends to scour out during the frequent floods, making it an unsuitable trout habitat. The last 20 km of the river are tidal and have very poor water quality though it does hold sea run fish and can be good for kahawai. There are some good small tributaries that are worth exploring however.


See the lower Manawatu access map.

Methods The most popular and productive method is using a nymph although there is plenty of opportunity for the wet fly fisherman and those wishing to pursue trout with a dry fly. There are also excellent spinner fishing opportunities throughout the length of this river.
Recommended tackle

In the upper reaches where the water is very clear, a balance must be sought between using light enough tackle so as not to spook the fish but yet retaining enough power to land large fish in the strong current. It is recommended that a 9 foot (or even shorter rod) with a weight 5 line is used.

Due to the size of this river in the middle and lower reaches, rods around 9 foot in weights 6 to 7 are favoured. Spinning gear with around 3 kg/6 pound nylon and capable of casting lures of between 7g to 10g.

Recommended lures

Weighted nymph patterns in sizes 12 to 14 such as Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tail, Prince nymphs and Halfbacks all work well. Use a smaller size (16) during the height of summer in the upper reaches.

Dry flies:
During the summer size 12 to 16 flies fished over the faster water can be very effective during the evening. Royal Wulff, parachute Adams, Humpy, and beetle patterns in early summer, cicada and cricket patterns in late summer and early autumn.

Wet flies / Streamers:
Small wee-wet flies such as Invicta, March Brown, Greenwell's Glory, Grouse and Claret and Mallard work well, particularly in the evening when fish are taking emerger patterns just sub-surface.

Spinners: In the lower reaches larger spinners such as silver Toby or a Rapala pattern work well though in the upper reaches small bladed spinners such as Veltic or Mepps fished upstream and retrieved near the river bed just faster than the current work best.

Tributaries The Manawatu River has a large number of tributaries along its length, most of which also provide excellent fishing. These include the Makuri River, the Mangatoro Stream, the Mangatainoka River, the Makakahi River, the Mangahao River, The Pohangina River, the Oroua River, the Kiwitea Stream and the Tokomaru River.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Manawatu River upstream from the Maunga Road Bridge (upstream of Dannevirke)
Region Wellington region regulations
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 1 trout
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Manawatu River downstream from the Maunga Road Bridge (upstream of Dannevirke)
Region Wellington region regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 4
Size limit (cm) None

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