HomeWest CoastWest Coast: Where to fishGrey River

Grey River

The Grey River is a highly productive fishery that offers waters suited to all angling levels of skill for good numbers of fish to trophy sizes. It is a large river with a number of very important tributaries.

Water Conservation Order The Grey River's mouth is protected by a large sandbar, Greymouth bar, which is a notorious shipping hazard. The river was given WCO protection in 1991 for an outstanding natural characteristic in the form of a meandering incised river gorge, along with outstanding scenic features.

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

Fish type Brown trout
Situation The lower reaches flow through the town of Greymouth while the headwaters are approximately 18kms from the settlement of Springs Junction.
Setting The Grey River is a huge system that drains a large area of the West Coast. The Grey rises in the Main Divide and flows through a variety of landscapes to enter the Tasman Sea at Greymouth. This river is so large and diverse that it needs to be treated as four separate systems, each with their own unique characteristics of interest to the angler. The headwaters are very remote and are a different to other parts of the river. They are best reached via the small settlement of Springs Junction. The middle and upper reaches are also remote and are best accessed from the small settlement of Ikamatua. A remote and rugged gorge separates these two sections. The middle reaches below the junction with the Rough River are wider and flow over shingle and a rock bed through open country. In the lower reaches below the confluence with the Arnold, the river is wide and slower and flows mostly over farmland.

Upper Grey River access map

Lower Grey River access map

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast

View the rainfall and river level.


The headwaters are very remote and consist of the Upper Grey river and several tributaries that offer excellent fishing. This is fast powerful water moving over a bed of rock and large boulders. The water can colour after heavy rain but is mostly clean and clear though as the water is so boisterous it is still difficult to spot fish in much of the fast swirling water. Wading is possible but the rocks can be very slippery and the current strong. A beautiful remote wilderness region for the energetic competent angler to explore.

The reaches above the small settlement of Ikamatua are very scenic and the river here runs over a boulder and stone bed. The river flows over a mixture of open farmland, tussock country and bush and is a mixture of deep pools and fast moving glides punctuated by some boisterous rapids. The water is generally clear but the fish can be very wary of any attempt to catch them. This section can be waded in many areas especially in the mid to late season when the river is lower.

The middle reaches of the Grey are much larger having picked up the waters of several large tributaries. While much of this water is very suited to fly fishing, it is also excellent for spinning. The river is braided in places and flows over shingle and rock beds. The water is hard to spot fish in and does colour up after any heavy rain.

The lower reaches after the confluence with the Arnold sees the river become much larger and more suited to spinning though the fly angler will still find much sport  especially where any small tributary enters the river. Good fishing can be had at the mouth and in the estuary areas when the whitebait are running but the very lower section is generally of little attraction to the angler.

Fish numbers and size In the upper reaches and headwaters fish numbers are good with fish being around 4lb average though this is also the area where trophy fish can be caught. The middle reaches have higher numbers of fish though generally in the 2-4lb range with the lower reaches having good stocks of fish mostly around 2-3lb though some large sea-run fish are also always a possibility.
Ease of fishing The headwaters region is very challenging to fish. The upper reaches are easier but still offer a challenge to anglers while the middle and lower reaches are easy especially for those who prefer spin fishing.
Access Access to the headwaters is from Palmers Rd which turns of Highway 7 about 4 kms north of Springs Junction on the way to Reefton. Access to the section upstream of Ikamatua is via Golf rd while the middle and lower reaches are easily accessed by Highway 7 or Taylorville road on the other bank. See the Upper Grey access map and the Lower Grey access map.
Recommended lures

Nymphs: In the upper reaches weighted flies are recommended such as a gold bead Hare and Copper or Pheasants Tail (sizes 12 - 16). In the middle reaches anglers should use smaller nymphs, especially during the warmer months when the river is lower and clearer. Again any Pheasant Tail variant or Hares Ear or Stone Fly patterns in sizes 14 or 16 work well. Use weighted flies in the deeper or faster water. The lower reaches require larger nymphs with some weight.

Dry flies: Bushy large dry flies work well in the very fast waters of the upper reaches. Any palmered fly that floats well in a size 8 - 12 works well though when a fish is sighted it is best to change to a smaller fly such as Royal Wulff  Adams or Twilight Beauty (Size 14). In the middle reaches small dry flies are more effective.  During the early summer a Green Beetle or a Cicada pattern from late summer work well during the day.

Wet flies: Small wets work very well during the evening when the fish are rising in the middle and upper reaches. Patterns such as a March Brown, Dad's Favourite or Greenwell's Glory are all effective.

Spinners: Spinners work well best below the junction with the Ahaura river and are really the only effective method in the lower reaches. Black Toby patterns, Tasmanian Devils, Rapala work well in the lower reaches and bladed spinners such as a Mepps or Veltic in the smaller water of the middle reaches. Try using a silver or gold spinner such as a Toby when the whitebait are running at the mouth of the Grey.

Tributaries The Grey has many tributaries several of them large enough to be major fisheries in their own right. These are the Arnold, the Big River, the Rough (Otututu) River, the Little Grey (Mawheraiti) River, the Ahaura, the Brown-Grey River and the Blue-Grey River .
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Grey River upstream of Clarke confluence
Region West Coast
Season 1 Oct-30 Apr
Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total sports-fish: 2
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Grey River downstream of Clarke confluence
Region West Coast

Trout: All year

Salmon: 1 Oct-30 Apr

Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total sports-fish: 2
Size limit (cm) No limit

Other fishing waters of the region


NZFishing.com is the complete guide to New Zealand trout and salmon fishing.

Advertise Here