HomeWest CoastWest Coast: Where to fishKaramea River

Karamea River


The Karamea River is a large wilderness river which flows through the remote and beautiful Kahurangi National Park. The Karamea is very highly rated for its excellent fishing for a large number of brown trout to trophy size in a pristine environment.

Backcountry fishery The Karamea River catchment and tributaries upstream of the confluence with the Kakapo River confluence is now designated a backcountry fishery and requires a special licence (free to season licence holders) before fishing it.
Fish type The numbers of brown trout are good: drift dive surveys have indicated that some sections have over 100 fish per kilometre. Fish in the upper reaches average over 4lb and can reach trophy sizes. There are some sea-run trout in the lower reaches which can also reach impressive sizes.
Setting The Karamea River is one of New Zealand's prime wilderness brown trout fisheries. It rises in the rugged Allen Ranges and flows for most of its entire length within the beautiful Kahurangi National Park. After flowing north for many kilometres of fishable water it turns west at the Leslie Junction (also known as Big Bend). It then flows west entering the Karamea Gorge below the Roaring Lion. After leaving the very rugged gorge region it opens out over farmland before entering the Tasman Sea near the small
township of Karamea.

Access map

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The Karamea is a very challenging and beautiful river to fish. It flows through mostly virgin bush country and provides experienced anglers with a huge range of fishing options. The water remains clear and clean except after very heavy rain. It then clears very quickly again.

The upper reaches above the confluence with the Leslie has the river flowing strongly over a stable rock and stone bed. This is ideal nymphing and dry fly water.

The section between the Leslie Junction (Big Bend) and the Roaring Lion offers a range of strong rapids and glides punctuated by some deep pools. All fishing methods work well in this section.

Below the Roaring Lion the river flows through a steep gorge and is more difficult to fish. It has superb fishing however for the more energetic angler.

The lower reaches open up over mostly farmland and are best suited to spinning though fly fishing also remains productive.

Ease of fishing In the lower reaches this is a relatively easy river to fish. In the gorge it is very difficult and should only be attempted by fit competent anglers. A guide is also recommended to get the best out of this river.  The middle reaches between the Roaring Lion and the Leslie confluence it is moderate (once you have got there) and above the Leslie it becomes more challenging.

The lower reaches can be reached by car and are about an hour from Westport.

To get to the fishing areas described in the Kahurangi park area, anglers need to be prepared to walk (about 2 -3 days depending on the area to be fished) or travel in by helicopter. See the Karamea River 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- 14). 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 smaller work well. Use weighted flies in the deeper or faster water. The lower reaches are less suited to nymphing but should anglers still wish to pursue this method use large dark nymphs.

Dry flies: Bushy dry flies are the order for the upper reaches. Any palmered fly that floats well in a size 12 - 14 works well. In the middle reaches smaller dry flies are more effective. Any Adams, Greenwell's Glory or Mole Fly can be effective and 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. Patterns such as a March Brown, Dad's Favourite or Greenwell's Glory are all effective. There is often a very good evening rise in the lower reaches as the river moves out of the gorge area. Larger patterns such as a Muddler Minnow or Mrs Simpson also work well when fished through the larger pools or at night (when very dark patterns such as a Hairy Dog or Black Fuzzy-Wuzzy should be used).

Spinners: Spinners work well throughout the river and are the most effective method in the lower reaches. Black Toby patterns, Tasmanian Devils and bladed spinners such as a Mepps or Veltic all work well.

Tributaries The Karamea has a large number of tributaries and the following are given their own chapters. They are the Crow, the Ugly, the Beautiful, The Roaring Lion and the Leslie. There are many other smaller tributaries however and these can also be worth exploring as they will contain some surprisingly large fish. These include the Kakapo upstream from the Gorge and several of the creeks that enter the Karamea upstream from the junction with the Crow River.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Karamea River and tributaries above the cableway at the mouth of Lower Gorge
Region West Coast

Trout: 1 Oct-30 Apr

Salmon: 1 Oct-30 Apr

Methods Artificial fly, spinner, bait
Bag limit Total sport fish: 2
Size limit (cm) No limit
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Karamea River downstream of the cableway at the mouth of Lower Gorge
Region West Coast

Trout: All year

Salmon: 1 Oct-30 Apr

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

Other fishing waters of the region


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