Orari River Trout and Salmon Fishing – South Canterbury

Orari River – Salmon, Brown Trout, Surfcasting and whitebaiting

Salmon anglers fishing the surf at sunrise. Orari River mouth. Photograph courtesy of Josh Mcmillan‎.

Salmon anglers fishing the surf at sunrise, Orari River mouth. Photograph courtesy of Josh Mcmillan‎.

A few salmon are still landed from the surf during the season. Unfortunately, this river is now mostly dry in its middle reaches. The odd salmon and sea-run trout still enter 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!

Orari River, South Canterbury, New Zealand MapAs mentioned above there are some smallish browns to be found in the last few kilometres 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 headwaters!

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. A 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. River Flow for Orari River at u/s Ohapi Confluence, and River Flow for Orari River at Gorge.

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 sea-run 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 over summer.

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.


Busy Season for South Canterbury Whitebaiters

By Sahiban Kanwal 16 November 2015

Whitebaiting at the Orari River mouth has been a successful endeavor for those involved. Photograph JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ.

Whitebaiting at the Orari River mouth has been a successful endeavour for those involved. Photograph JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ.

The 2015 whitebaiting season has been the busiest one Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Steve Harraway has seen.

Harraway said the season, which started on August 15 and closes at the end of November, had been “fairly quiet” to begin with but picked up in mid-October.

On Friday there were 80 people whitebaiting at the mouth of the Opihi River.

“That was during the week. There were 90 to 100 people at the Orari over the weekend.

“Lots more people seem to be doing it this year than in previous years.”

The ages of whitebaiters ranged from “toddlers with their families right through to 90-year-olds”.
To read the full article click this link Stuff.co.nz, Timaru-Herald, News

About the Author

- Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.

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