Orari River Trout and Salmon Fishing – South Canterbury

Orari River, South Canterbury, New Zealand MapOrari River

A few salmon are still landed from the surf during the season. Unfortunately this river is now dry in it’s middle reaches. The odd salmon and sea-run trout still enters the mouth when it opens. A few small trout are taken in the few kilometres above the lagoon on small dry flies and nymphs.

It would be at least 50 years since the Orari River flowed continuously from the mountains to the sea. Nowadays almost the entire middle section flows underground. George Ferris in The Trout Are Rising written in 1964, describes the Orari River as “dry in the middle reaches but provides good fishing in the foothills and around the lagoon close to the sea.” Nothing much has changed in all those years!

As mentioned above there are some smallish browns to be found in the last few kilometers before the mouth. Water from the river mouth lagoon mostly seeps through the shingle bank into the sea with the mouth only being open when the river is in flood following heavy rain in the mountains.

The Orari River is not recommended as a destination for salmon anglers. However in the 2010-2011 seasons the mouth was open for longer periods than normal following very heavy rain which continued for weeks in the head waters!

According to a Fish and Game Report salmon fishing in the Orari River hasn’t been very productive at all in recent times: “In the last two seasons 2005/2006, and 2006/2007 our survey has failed to identify any salmon caught from the Orari River. Prior to this an average season for the Orari would see 50 to 100 anglers catching 10 to 100 fish.”

The Rangitata River a short distance to the north offers more consistent salmon fishing but it too is subject to both very low flow during dry periods, and then massive floods following heavy rain in its headwaters. It certainly pays to always check river flows before heading out fishing on Canterbury’s braided rivers. Beautiful blue sky overhead is a poor indicator of river flow because it could be raining heavily in the mountains causing these rivers to rise rapidly. You can check Canterbury river flows on the Environment Canterbury website here.

It is always worth having a few casts with a ticer into the sea at the river mouth even when the mouth is closed off as salmon and searun brown trout can be cruising up and down just behind the breaker line. Also schools of kahawai sometimes come right into the breakers chasing schools of silveries (smelt). Though these schools of kahawai are nowhere near as large or as plentiful as they were a few decades ago! There is also good surfcasting from this beach for red cod and elephant fish on occasion.

Orari River, South Canterbury

Orari River, South Canterbury. Map sourced from LINZ. Crown Copyright Reserved

Here is a short video of two salmon being caught on long rods from the surf. One from the Rangitata River and the other from the mouth of the Orari River, South Canterbury.

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