Mysteries of the Mataura River

Mysteries of the Mataura River

Spring on the Upper Mataura
Spring on the upper Mataura.

The Mataura is surely one of the best brown trout fisheries in the world. The river flows for over 200 kilometers, most of it fishable, and has an enormous variety of water, from jewel-like headwaters, where sight fishing is the rule, to deep blue-green pools, long translucent glades, immense backwater labyrinths and long glides and riffles which can hold large pods of fish. This is some of the most technical fishing in the country. Novices can easily come away frustrated, and even regulars get humbled. However, in the right conditions - and with the right guide - the Mataura can yield superb angling.

Moods of the Mataura
Low water conditions can sometimes occur in the antipodean spring months of October and November, before snowmelt. This brief window can offer brilliant fishing and sustained hatches with the possibility of good dry fly action. Nymphing techniques can also be very productive.

However, snow melt, combined with rain, can raise river levels unpredictably in spring. Sometimes the Mataura doesn’t settle down until January or February. My favourite time on the Mataura is probably the golden autumnal stretch between March and April. The lower river can fish incredibly well then. And there one has the potential for trophy fish.

The Mataura offers strong mayfly, caddis and midge hatches and its headwater tributaries, like the Waikaia, can offer sporadic stonefly hatches.

Midsummer on the Mataura: Beetle, willow grub and other terrestrials come into play. This offers the nerve-racking, rewarding experience of stalking bigger fish in backwaters.

An autumn brown trout from the Nokomai Gorge
An autumn brown from the Nokomai gorge.

When the poplars along the Mataura turn yellow and the days begin to shorten and there is a nip of season’s end and mortality in the air, the afternoon hatches come like clockwork. In good years Deleatidium spinners and duns can pour across the surface like smoke, and wide runs which once seemed barren can come alive with large numbers of rising trout. Life is made for days like these.

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'Tours of the Mataura'