Planning A Troutfishing Roadtrip

If planning a landbased freshwater adventure, working your trip in a big loop can provide access to multiple spots and piscatorial challenges, writes Greg Morton…

Ilive in Alexandra, Central Otago, a place that sits almost exactly in the middle of the lower South Island. Located in a basin, there are three main roads that access the town. For me, a loop trip often means hitching on the caravan, leaving by one of the three roads, fishing any number of great spots as I travel and a few days or more later arriving home by one of the remaining two roads.

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Access point one (SH8) heads towards the southern lakes and if I turn south at Cromwell (SH6) I will travel past Lake Wakatipu into Northern Southland past rivers such as the Mataura and Oreti. I can then go further into Southland and the Catlins, and then back to Alexandra on access point two road (SH8) which follows the middle Clutha River and Lake Roxburgh.

Back at Cromwell I could have turned north instead of south (SH8) and travelled a different loop road through to Omarama. The road then continues down the Waitaki Valley (SH83) past numerous lakes and the Waitaki River, before looping back through the Maniototo region (SH85), and finally down the Manuherikia River valley to arrive in Alexandra via access point three road.

There are numerous fish types to target down my way: rainbow and brown trout, perch, landlocked and canal salmon, trophy canal and headwater trout, and at the mouth of the Waitaki River, kahawai, sea-run trout and salmon, plus – when surfcasting – rig, shark and red cod.

Common loop trips can always include more places, and in my case a bigger trip will mean going further south around lower Southland or further north around upper Canterbury. The size of the loop comes down to how much time you have.

Each year in this magazine a Holidays Parks Directory and Map Brochure is included free which makes booking a loop trip pretty easy. Their website is

Caravans and campervans are good accommodation choices when on a fishing loop trip, particularly if you want a bit of comfort. At the tail end of last autumn my wife and I went on two loop caravan trips, staying at several holiday parks that have fishing history in their DNA. One was Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park, located on the outskirts of Twizel. During summer this holiday park swells with up to 2,000 people staying around Christmas time, but when we were there the holiday bustle was over and it was mainly anglers and overnight tourists who were in the camp.

It had a nice feel: not commercial but low key and laid back, with nice staff. Some of the long term caravans had been parked so long they were done up as cribs, and had resident rabbits living under them. Many had fish cleaning benches and sinks. Names like ‘Ohau A’ and “Ohau C’ are common nouns as are fishing technique terms like ‘egg rolling’ and ‘soft-baiting’. I was lucky enough to catch a couple of salmon one morning so was able to walk the talk for at least one day.

Another stop was Ranfurly Camping Ground. Ranfurly is a town perfectly located for ‘angling travellers’ who want to stop off for a couple of days. It is situated on the Maniototo Plains, close to the Taieri River, as well as several ‘put and take’ pond fisheries. It is off the beaten track and at off-peak times of the year visiting anglers will have some waterways to themselves. I went out one evening and in just a couple of hours landed three plump brown trout of about 1kg.

Mossburn in northern Southland also sits close to good fishing. Local rivers such as the Aparima, Oreti, and Mararoa are top rivers that I have done very well in and at off peak times anglers will see few other anglers. Manapouri near Te Anau, Pounawea in the Catlins, Kurow in the Waitaki Valley, Glenavy near the Waitaki River mouth, and Cromwell and Alexandra in Central Otago are all close to excellent trout fishing.

Last year I did a three day loop trip that saw me spend a night each at Tekapo, Fairlie and Oamaru. This trip showed me the diversity available in New Zealand. On day one I drove up from Alexandra to target landlocked salmon in Lake Tekapo, hoping to have two bags of salmon before moving on the following day. Next, Lake Opuha near Fairlie for brown trout, then the Waitaki River for mainly rainbows on the way back to Alexandra. Lake Tekapo resulted in two trout and one salmon so a pass grade only. Lake Opuha was better with five brown trout hooked and three landed. At the Waitaki River I fished near Glenavy and fought my way up through a gorse patch to access a nice stretch of water. I landed two rainbows – so another pass mark – before calling it a day.

If there is one negative to loop trip fishing it is that you often are fishing new water and can waste a lot of time trying to figure out where to fish. A good example of this conundrum has been my loop trips through the Catlins region. I have done quite well at the northern end but further south I am floundering around in the dark. Some locations are just too hard to access and seem low in fish – or perhaps the fish are not interested in my offerings.

The plus side is that the Catlins is a beautiful part of the country, so I will be going back there many times in the future and gradually will figure out the better angling spots to target.

   This article is reproduced with permission of   
New Zealand Fishing News

October 2019 - Greg Morton
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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