The Ashburton River catchment is popular with local anglers and visitors alike. Wedged in-between two famous salmon fishing catchments, Rangitata to the south and the Rakaia to the North, the Ashburton catchment attracts anglers with its numerous waterways and many sports fish species to target.
The river has two main branches which converge near Ashburton and several tributaries that hold brown trout. Perhaps more famous than the river for fishing are the many lakes in the Ashburton Basin.
The Hakatere Huts on the north bank provide access to the mouth. The area attracts salmon and trout anglers, particularly trout anglers early in the season looking for sea-run browns. The salmon run in the river is only minor and rather than a draw card the salmon fishing is more suited to the local angler. During spells of rain in spring the river can be discoloured often. When the river clears up reasonable fishing can be found in the vicinity of Ashburton and down to the mouth.
A number of ford crossings provide access to the main river and its two main branches; the North Branch Ashburton and South Branch Ashburton rivers. Good fishing water is available on the former upstream from SH72 and for the South Ashburton, upstream from the junction of Taylors Stream at Valetta. The North Ashburton between SH72 and Ashburton is prone to drying during hot summers.
Some of the Ashburton rivers small stream tributaries can be worth a look early season for the angler willing to do some exploring.
The Ashburton Lakes
This group of lakes is popular with anglers with a permanent fishing village situated between Lakes Camp and Clearwater. The area is reached from Mt Somers Township via the Ashburton Gorge Road. At Hakatere Corner (23km from Mt Somers), the road branches; right to Maori Lakes and Lake Heron and straight ahead to Lakes Clearwater, Camp, Emma, and Roundabout. Before fishing the lakes it’s is good practice to familiarise yourself with the current season regulations as they vary from lake to lake.
Lake Heron, Maori Lakes and Lake Emily
Lake Heron, 15km from the Hakatere Corner, is the largest of the lakes and home to good populations of brown and rainbow trout. There are also landlocked Chinook salmon which attract many locals for opening weekend. Rowboats and canoes may be used to fish but beware of the nor’wester which may quickly chop up the lake.
Maori Lakes bypassed on the way to Lake Heron is surrounded by wetland and raupo swamp. Fishing from anchored rowboats is permitted here. 2km past Maori Lakes is the signposted turnoff to Lake Emily, a long walk or a rough muddy 4X4 tracks leads to this unique and challenging brook char fishery.
Lakes Roundabout and Emma
On the road to Lake Clearwater 5kms from Hakatere Corner, a signpost marks the gate and vehicle track to Lakes Roundabout and Emma. Fishing from a moored row boat is permitted on Lake Emma, however boats are prohibited on Lakes Roundabout. Small to medium size brown trout inhabit these lake with perch found in Emma also.
Lake Camp, 9kms from the Corner, is the only lake where powerboating is permitted. Swimming, boating, and water skiing activities tend to dominate but during quiet periods the odd rainbow rewards the anglers efforts. Small perch are numerous in this lake.
In comparison Lake Clearwater is a place of relative peace and solitude. This scenic lake with its picturesque fishing village is 10km from the Haketere Corner. The Lake is open to both fly and spin fishing. While fishing from an anchored rowboat is permitted, most anglers prefer to walk the lake margins stalking the cruising browns with polaroids and an accurate cast. To reach the northern side away from the prevailing nor’westers drive past the village about 2km to the head of the lake and walk from there.