Heading south from Dunedin, SH1 crosses the Taieri River at Otokia, the Waipori River minutes later at Titri and then, just south of Milton, the Tokomairiro East and West branches. These rivers are ‘tea-coloured’, with lots of slow deep holes and run through open farmland. All of these factors make them ideal for spin and bait fishing. Having said this, there is also some good fly fishing to be had, particularly on summer evenings when caddis and brown beetles attract trout to rise.
The most popular lure by far on the lower Taieri is the 10g Banana Toby. The most experienced of spin anglers in the area all swear by it, particularly in the winter and spring when large migratory, or sea trout are in the river. Other patterns that work well include the range of floating Rapalas and spinning-blade lures such as Veltic or Mepps in black or green and gold colours size 3. The same selection of lures also works on the Waipori and Tokomairiro, although smaller sizes are recommended for the latter.
The most popular bait with local anglers is the porina grub (only available in winter and spring), although ordinary earthworms also work well. On the Taieri and Waipori, it is an advantage to be able to cast your bait well out into the large pools and therefore a reasonable amount of weight is required (1-1.5oz). This will also help hold the bait in position against the current, which can be strong particularly in the tidal zone. The preferred rig is to have a swivel about 40cm up the line from your bait and then thread a round lead onto the line above this so it can slide freely up and down the line. Some people call this the ‘running worm’ rig.
The most successful method in the middle and upper Tokomairiro is to use just enough split-shot to be able to cast, and then allow your bait to roll down with the current through the ripples and into the pools. In the lower river more weight is required, as you often need to cast further to get into the main channel or pool. The rig described for the lower Taieri is suitable here.
There is not a lot of flyfishing done downstream of the Allanton Bridge on the Taieri or Coal Gully Rd on the Tokomairiro, mainly due to the lack of rippled water in these sections. If you do want to try, a smelt or whitebait imitation such as Yellow Dorothy or Jack Sprat would be a good choice of fly. Upstream the rivers become steadily more interesting to the fly angler with the best water around Outram on the Taieri or upstream of SH1 on the Tokomairiro. Both up and downstream of the Outram Bridge, there are a number of nice ripples that can be fished during the day with the nymph. Favourite Patterns are Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail sizes 10-14 weighted, or even better, try a Gold Bead Hares Ear, size 12.
The evening rise can be very good with caddisfly hatches on good nights all through the summer, and brown beetle hatches on dusk in November and early December. Successful patterns include Deer Hair Sedge size 12, Coch-y-Bondhu size 10-14 and Humpy sizes 10-14.
The 2021-22 National Angler Survey report shows the Taieri River is Otago’s second most popular river fishery behind the Clutha/Mata-Au. Its catchment area is huge, but here we will only discuss the very lower reaches, which are within about 30-minute drive of the city centre. A large proportion of the fish population is made up of migratory or sea-run brown trout. Therefore, there is always the possibility of latching onto a big one.
At the SH1 bridge at Otokia you can park on the south side of the bridge and walk under the bridge across one paddock to the river, from there you can walk as far as you like up or downstream. Travelling south about 200m before you get to the SH1 Bridge you can turn left down Henley Rd, which follows the river, more or less, past the small settlement of Henley all the way to the Henley Ferry Bridge. On the south side of the Henley Ferry Bridge you can turn left and follow the river for a couple of km’s downstream to the start of the Lower Taieri Gorge walkway.
Travelling south on SH1 from Dunedin if you follow the sign-posted route to the airport and turn right at Allanton you will cross the Taieri. About 300m past the bridge you can turn right and park by the stock saleyards, and from here you can again walk up or downstream as far as you like.
About 2km north of Allanton, Riverside Rd branches to the right and if you follow this it will take you all the way across the Taieri Plains to SH87. There are several access points leading off the left side of Riverside Rd to the river, if in doubt ask at the nearest farmhouse for permission before crossing farmland. At SH87 if you turn left you will come to the Outram Bridge. You can access the river at Outram from the track on the right-hand side just before the bridge or from Outram Glen, which is the first turn on your right after crossing the bridge.
The Tokomairiro River can be found just south of Milton, about 45-50 minutes’ drive south of Dunedin on SH1. It is a small river with two main branches that converge about 1km downstream of Milton. The most popular angling branch is the West branch, which can be reached by taking the turn-off (SH8) to Alexandra about 2km south of Milton. The east or north branch also contains trout, but it is much smaller and access is more difficult. Downstream of Milton there is a long section of slow-moving water, some of which is open for winter angling.
After turning onto SH8 the first road on your left is Crichton Rd, this leads to an electricity substation beside a bridge over the river. From here you can walk up or downstream and there is some lovely water available. A few kms further up SH8 you cross the river at Glenore, from here up the river is tree-lined much of the way, but there is some nice water and a few good fish waiting for the adventurous angler.
SH8 crosses the river two more times as you head into the Manuka Gorge. There is some attractive water here that contains mostly small trout (and plenty of them) but the odd larger specimen may surprise you.
The lower Tokomairiro below Milton is easily accessed from the Toko Mouth Rd, which can be found by turning left onto Springfield Rd in the centre of Milton and following the signposts to Toko Mouth. There are two bridges across the river that provide access, one at Tokoiti and one on Coal Gully Rd approximately 2km downstream of Tokoiti. If you cross the Coal Gully Rd Bridge and take the first right onto Morgan Rd, there are several easy access points from the road, likewise if you continue down the Toko Mouth Rd there are numerous points where the road runs next to the river.
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