Pelorus River Fishing for Rainbow and Brown Trout

Pelorus River Fishing for Rainbow and Brown Trout

By Tony Orman

The Pelorus River rises in the Richmond Range and runs through deep pools, and down rapids with a crystal-like clarity. Beech forested hills rise on either side. The pools are often long and still, and in them, the occasional brown trout may cruise or be sipping the surface. Pelorus River fishing permits easy access for much of its length.

The trout and the clear river are a combination to challenge and frustrate the angler. Yet the challenge is the thing. If I don’t do well what does it matter? What a great place to be.

Upstream the Pelorus River is very clear and can frustrate the trout angler.

Although trout are not numerous in the upper reaches, there is always the chance of a big fish. The better fishing lies downstream.

The Pelorus flows north and is joined by tributaries such as the Tinline Stream and then it flows beneath ‘the main Nelson to Blenheim State Highway and is immediately joined by the Rai River. It spreads and then flows directly to the head of the Pelorus Sound near Havelock.

From Pelorus Bridge downstream is the best trout fishing. Access is easy with the State Highway following the valley to Havelock. Here it is pastoral and the wilderness has largely gone. Willows line the banks and dairy cows and sheep graze the flats.

Pelorus Bridge downstream offers the best trout fishing.

Gone is the exuberance of the upper reaches. Now the river steadies and flows into long still pools and murmurs through riffles and gentle rapids. It is great pheasant tail nymph water for fish in the riffles or “cruisers” in the pools. The evening rise can be excellent.

I remember lovely soft twilights and the purplish-pink glow in the western sky. I hooked and landed rainbows on a small Hardie’s Favourite wet fly. Then the light faded, and I used a small Adams dry fly and landed four more rainbows.

Fishing a dry fly upstream in the Pelorus.

The browns are always the challenge and in the “almost dark,” the gentle rises would indicate their presence. One evening just below the junction with the Rai River, I tied on the Turkey Sedge dry fly, size 14.

It was a beautiful evening. I waited, crouched under a bank and at the tail of a pool and looking upstream to the west.

The current line was marked by a line of movement and a few bubbles of foam. The first rise was just a dimple upstream. I watched and there was a repeat. Delicate rises often signify a good trout.

I moved up and cast out above the fish. The delicate quiet rise came again. I paused – one, two, three and tightened. The trout fought strongly but eventually, I landed it, a fine four-pounder (1.75kg). I saw two other rises and I cast to each of them in turn taking each trout.

Daytime fishing is challenging. Pelorus trout are demanding respect and the best presentation you can muster. A long nylon cast and small flies are best.

Pelorus River Fishing Tips

Early in the season, trout feed on the brown beetle and in summer they turn to willow grubs dropping from the willows. Mayfly hatches during the day and early evening and sedges (caddis moths) after dusk comprise the main hatches.

Dry flies: sizes 12 and 14, Brown Beetle, Greenwell, Adams, Coch-y-bondhu.

Nymphs: sizes 10, 12 and 14. Hare and Copper, Pheasant Tail and a Hares Ear.

Wet Flies: sizes 10, 12, 14, Greenwells Glory, Hardies Favourite, Grouse and Purple.

Lures: Hairy Dog, Hamill’s Killer.

Lures can be productive after sunset. Large trout can hole up during the day and move under cover of darkness, into the shallows to feed on bullies and other nocturnal food.

Spinning can be productive especially when there is a colour in the water from rain. Try a black Toby, Mepps or articulated trout can be rewarding.

Access is easy off the state highway or by crossing the Dalton Downs bridge and driving down the Kaiuma Bay Road.

The Pelorus River’s major tributary, the Rai, is also a fine trout river.

Accommodation can be obtained at Pelorus Bridge Tearooms and camping ground (excellent cabins), the Trout Hotel at Canvastown or at Havelock township with motels and a hotel.

Three Pelorus browns. Spinning can be effective on the Pelorus if the river is slightly discoloured.

This post was last modified on 13/03/2024 3:26 pm

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