HomeWellingtonWellington: Where to fishRuamahanga River

Ruamahanga River

The Ruamahanga River offers over 100 km of excellent trout fishing water for a large population of brown trout and a growing population of rainbow trout.
Fish type Mostly brown trout but with a growing population of rainbow trout averaging around 1 kg although fish up to 3 kg are not uncommon. There are perch in the lower reaches.
Situation The Ruamahanga River rises in the Tararua Ranges north-west of the township of Masterton. In the upper reaches it flows through pristine virgin forest within the Tararua Conservation Park, then over open farmland, growing in size as water is added by a number of tributaries. It finally enters the tidal Lake Onoke.

Upper Ruamahanga access map

Lower Ruamahanga access map

Check conditions

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View the Ruamahanga River flow at:

Mt Bruce (upper reaches)

Wardells (upper reaches)

Waihenga (lower reaches)

Description The Ruamahanga River offers a wide variety of fishing from top-quality wilderness fishing in the headwaters to trolling for trout in the tidal reaches before it enters the sea. Along its course it offers fishing that suits all angling methods and has something for all skill levels.
Upper reaches

From the headwaters to the Waingawa River confluence


The headwaters of the Ruamahanga flow through the Tararua Conservation Park and offer top-quality wilderness fishing. While fish numbers are not great this is compensated mby the size of the fish and the quality of the surroundings. The section is best fished during the warmer months as the trout tend to feed actively during this time.

From the Mount Bruce bridge on State Highway 2 to the Mel Parkinson Reserve, the fishing is not as good as the unstable riverbed provides poor trout habitat. As the
river approaches Masterton it improves, with fish numbers dramatically increasing in both numbers and size.


Access to the very upper reaches involves walking the track that starts at the bridge on State Highway 2 at Mount Bruce. There is also access to the river at the Mel Parkinson Reserve about 7 km north of Masterton. There is excellent access to the river around the township of Masterton itself.

See the upper Ruamahanga access map.

Middle reaches

Below the Waingawa River confluence to Martinborough.


The middle reaches hold large stocks of fish and is the most popular section of the river to fish. Although the river is much larger here it remains wadeable in many places. This section of the river is a series of pools, riffles and long runs that flow over a gravel bed. As the river increases in size, some large backwaters are formed which usually hold a number of cruising trout that will tempt (and frustrate) anglers. During the summer there are prolific hatches of mayfly and trout rising readily to take them, especially during the warmer evenings.


Access is easy as the river meanders over relatively open land. See the Upper Ruamahanga access map and the  Lower Ruamahanga access map.

Lower reaches

From Martinborough to the mouth.


The lower reaches of the Ruamahanga River provide very different fishing conditions. The first section of the river flows slowly over open land and is best fished using a spinner. As it gets closer to the sea however it widens and is best fished from a boat. There can be excellent fishing along this section as it enters Lake Onoke for the large trout and perch that can be found here. Bait fishing is also very popular and successful in this section.


See the Lower Ruamahanga access map.

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 the large fish to be found in the section. It is recommended that a 9 foot (or even shorter rod) with a weight 5 line is used.

In the middle and lower reaches, rods around 9 foot in weights 6 to 7 are favoured, and spinning gear with around 3 kg/6 pound line capable of casting lures of between 7 g to 10 g.

Recommended lures

Weighted nymph patterns in sizes 12 to 14 such as Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tail, Prince Nymphs, Willow Grub 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, Blue Dun, Parachute Adams, Humpy and beetle patterns in early summer and cicada, hopper and cricket patterns in late summer and early autumn.

Wet flies / Streamers:
Small wee-wet flies such as Invicta, March Brown, Greenwell's Glory, Dad's Favourite and Claret and Mallard work well, particularly in the evening when fish are taking emerger patterns just sub-surface. When fishing deeper try Hamill's Killer, Mrs Simpson or Red Setter, particularly in the middle and lower reaches.

Spinners: In the lower reaches larger spinners such as black and gold Toby or a Rapala pattern work well although 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 works best.

Tributaries There are a number of tributaries that enter the Ruamahanga River along its length, many of which are important fishery is in their own right. These include the Waiohine, the Waingawa, the Makakahi and the Kopuaranga rivers.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Ruamahanga River and its tributaries upstream from the Tararua Forest Park Boundary
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 Ruamahanga River downstream from the Tararua Forest Park Boundary
Region Wellington region regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit 4
Size limit (cm) None

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