HomeWest CoastWest Coast: Where to fishUgly River

Ugly River

The Ugly River provides excellent if challenging water to fish for large  brown trout in a pristine wilderness environment. Despite its rather off-putting name, this is a truly remote and actually attractive river to fish. It is possbly one of the most remote rivers to access in thecountry.

Backcountry fishery The Ugly River is designated a backcountry fishery requiring all anglers to obtain a backcountry licence.
Fish type Brown trout
Situation The Ugly River is located in the heart of the Kahurangi National Park. It flows south east from Lake Elmer which was formed by a landslide in the 1929 Murchison Earthquake. It joins the Karamea River in the rugged gorge section making it a difficult river to get to and fish. It is undoubtedly very beautiful however as it flows through a pristine wilderness bush setting.

Access map

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast
Description The Ugly River flows through native bush over a stone and rock bed. At times it opens out though often vegetation grows close to the waters edge. It is not a big river however but is very boisterous in the lower and middle reaches . While is can be waded great care should be taken as it is a long way to get help. Most of the river is accessible to the fit angler willing to get wet.
Fish numbers and size There are good fish numbers throughout the length of the river with most in the 3- 4lb range. The Ugly does hold some trophy sized fish.
Ease of fishing A challenging river to fish and one that is for the adventurous and purist.
Access The only access to this river is by walking or by helicopter. (Note: no helicopters can land on the Ugly so even a helicopter will require a serious walk to get to the fishing. Also the helicopter has to land on the opposite bank of the Karamea requiring anglers to cross this deep and large river). This is serious country and anyone attempting
to walk into this river should be fit and well prepared as the weather can turn bad very quickly.
Recommended lures Nymphs: Small nymphs such as Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tail and Caddis imitations all work well in sizes 14 or smaller.

Dry flies: Small flies such as Royal Wulff, Hardies Favourite, Dad's Favourite and March Brown all work well at all times of the day. Fish bushier flies such as Coch-y-Bondhu and Humpy over the faster water.

Wet flies: Small wets like Greenwell's Glory, March Brown and sedge emerger patterns work well when fished sub-surface. These flies are particularly effective when fishing the evening rise.

Spinners: Small bladed spinners (Mepps or Veltic) fished upstream into the faster water or through the deep pools are best for this small river.

Applicable to Ugly River
Region West Coast
Season Trout: 1 Oct-30 Apr
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


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