Fly fishing in Mataura River - Southland is world renowned for its brown trout fly fishing
Great South

Fishing in Southland

Southland is an angler's dream, with easy public access and plenty of fish in the rivers and lakes. Fishermen (and women) travel far and wide to fish the beautiful Southland rivers for world-class trout. The environment here allows you to put your skills to the test as you enjoy magnificent mountain vistas, picturesque river valleys, lush rural areas and majestic rivers.


Gore is the ‘brown trout capital of the world’, and they are proud of it. So proud that they celebrated the achievement by erecting a large monument of the brown trout right in the centre of the town. Swing by and grab a photo with it on your rod to ‘one up’ all those tall stories you hear from your fishing buddies.

The Mataura River, located just outside of Gore, is a world-class fly-fishing destination with 140 kilometres of easily accessible trout-filled waters. The river is known for being the pinnacle in brown trout dry fly fishing with the highest population and catch rate of any river in New Zealand.

The river meanders between grassy banks and willow groves and is home to many a tale of trout measuring between “five and seven pounds” depending on what you are willing to believe.

In Gore you will find a number of expert fly fishing guides who offer personalised trips for all levels of experience. 

Regardless of whether you catch a fish, Gore is a wonderful laid back tourist destination in its own right. For the keen fisherman, a visit to the Gore Historical Museum to view the collection of historical fishing memorabilia is well worth your time. We suggest you also pop into the Hokonui Moonshine Museum where you can have a quick dram and lesson on the illicit whisky distilling in the region, appreciate the fabulous art collection at the Eastern Southland Gallery, or go for a joy flight in a Tiger Moth at the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre, which is located a quick drive down the road.

Whitebait Fishing
Whitebaiting on the Waihopai River
Robyn Edie - Fairfax NZ

Outskirts of Invercargill

 A great fishing adventure can be had in the surrounding waters of Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city and the capital of Southland. Fondly referred to as the ‘City of Water and Light’ due to its long summer daylight hours, as well as frequent sightings of the aurora australis in the night sky. 

The city features magnificent historical buildings, wide, easy-to-navigate streets, and a fantastic selection of seafood including Bluff oysters, paua, blue cod and Stewart Island salmon. We suggest you have a meal to inspire you, get your fishing gear sorted and grab a Southland cheese roll for the road, just to be sure that your epic fishing adventure is starting off on the right foot.

To the west of Invercargill, you will find the Oreti River, which trout anglers enjoy due to its sizable population of brown trout and picturesque surroundings. The Oreti River begins in the Southern Alps' Thomson Mountains, east of the Mavora Lakes, and runs 130 kilometres past Mossburn, Lumsden, and Benmore before flowing into the Foveaux Strait on Invercargill's doorstep.

The river winds through wind-parched high tussock terrain, then down into flattish farmland with decent roads. Anglers enjoy the Oreti Rivers’ wide gravel beaches, fascinating deep water holes, and great picnic spots.

The first 4 kilometres of the Oreti River from the sea entrance consist of gravel and sand beaches, with no weed banks, which provide great visibility for fish in shallow water. For optimal conditions head out on a westerly breeze and half tide with low water.


Waikaia provides the ideal location for those looking for a slower pace in which to relax and enjoy outdoor activities such as walking, biking, fishing and golf amongst a community of friendly locals.  The township of Waikaia is a quaint historic gold mining village situated on the bank of the Waikaia River. 

Located between the Garvie and Umbrella Mountains, the Waikaia River is a significant tributary of the Mataura River, its water is cold and clear close to the high country, with ample trees providing shade and cover along the river's edge. Anglers looking for brown trout can easily access the river through a number of clear sections.

Heading downstream from Piano Flat, the river widens and flows through peaceful farmland. A sequence of lengthy glides, deep pools, and riffles make up this section. The water can turn somewhat discoloured, especially after rain; and the closer you get to the Mataura, the more "tea-stained" it becomes. This portion of the river is suitable for wading, and fish are abundant. However, because the fish can be difficult to see with frequent rainwater runoffs, much of the fishing is here is blind.

Mavora Lakes Fishing - Southland, New Zealand
Chris McLennan

Mavora Lakes

Nestled within the forest and the mountains, the Mavora Lakes are home to a good population of both brown and rainbow trout making it an outstanding destination for high country, still water fishing. A family-friendly location, the lakes are equipped with basic camping amenities, no cell phone coverage and air of seclusion which is amplified by the strikingly picturesque scenery. 

The larger of the two lakes, North Mavora Lake is fringed by matagouri and tussock-covered hills. Action can be found a short distance around the lake at the borders since it has a sandy/gravel beach along much of its eastern part. Fish are known to swarm in the current to feed in the portion of the lake near the outlet.

The considerably smaller South Mavora Lake is surrounded by beech woodland forest. The premium fishing sites are near the lake's northern and southern ends, where the Maraora River enters from the North Lake, and where the Mararoa exit is located. There are a number of tiny coves throughout the lake where fish may be seen cruising and feeding, although casting can be difficult in many areas due to the dense vegetation.

Recognised as part of the Te Wāhipounamu/South-West New Zealand World Heritage Area, Mavora is an exceptional summer destination for camping, fishing, boating, 4-wheel driving, hunting, horse trekking, mountain biking and tramping activities.

Athol Bridge - Biking - Northern Southland
Chris McLennan


Athol is a small village in Northern Southland surrounded by high country stations and river valleys. The top stretch of the Mataura River that runs through Athol is less extensively fished than the lower river and the surroundings here are ideal for small stream fishing with a large population of freely rising fish. This part of the river generally runs clean between wide grassy banks and willow groves. As a result, the fish will come out to feed throughout the day knowing that they are only a short distance away from the protection of cover.

The river has a combination of moderate rapids interrupted by pools and lengthy gliding sections that flow over a shingle and sand bed. When fish are not out in the runs eating, there is often a deep area along one bank that will dependably retain them. Each part must be approached with extreme caution, as the fish will lie and eat in extremely shallow water, fleeing immediately if disturbed.

After a long day of fishing, head on down to The Brown Trout Cafe where you will find the welcoming ambience of a toasty fire, plush couches and country hospitality. Try the locally roasted Roar Coffee and southern style food which exemplifies the ideals of comfort cuisine perfectly.

No fishing trip to Southland is complete without a visit to Stu's Fly Fishing School & Superior Flies. Stu became Australasia's first certified IFFF Master Fly Casting Instructor in 2007 and is one of the most knowledgeable and highly respected professional fly-fishing guides in New Zealand.