Anglers with the Major Jones footbridge.
Image: Anna Elwarth | DOC


A world-famous river with a reputation for excellent trout fishing, the Tongariro offers plenty of variety, from long quiet pools and runs in the lower sections to boulder lined rapids and small turbulent pools in the upper river.

Fishing seasons: main river - 1 July to 30 June; above winter limit - 1 December to 31 May; wilderness section - 1 October to 30 June

View map of Tongariro River (PDF, 382K)

Lower Tongariro River

The long, slow flowing pools of the lower river provide ideal habitat for very large brown trout. These trophy-sized fish present a fantastic challenge for anglers, particularly during summer when these leviathans can be found sipping flies and cicadas from the surface.

Small boat or kayak access can be gained from the delta at the mouth of the river, and from there, fishing is allowed from an anchored boat as far up as the marker poles (yellow and black stripes). Occasional small islands and areas of grassy bank can make a more stable casting platform but keeping big browns out of the snags can be a challenge!

Vehicle access is also available either side of the river from Awamate Road and Grace Road. Upstream from here the river takes on a more traditional pool and run structure which attracts large numbers of anglers during winter and spring as they target large runs of spawning rainbow trout.

Middle section Tongariro River

The section of river between the SH1 road bridge and the Red Hut pool attracts considerable angling pressure throughout the year. Here anglers can get the sociable fly fishing experience which this river has become famous for.

It is mostly dominated by established pools with a history dating back to the formation of the fishery. These are complimented by more recent pools created by powerful flood events. For the most part the river bank is made up of small rocks and gravel making for safer wading.

Access is excellent with plentiful car parking and a well-maintained system of tracks and swing bridges servicing both sides of the river. Clear signage helps ensure anglers always know where they are.

Upper Tongariro River

Above the Red Hut pool the river provides a more challenging environment, with boulders and rapids making wading more difficult. In some places the river reveals its turbulent power, with fast narrow channels and cauldrons of white water.

Pools tend to be smaller and don’t accommodate large numbers of anglers. Therefore, this area is attractive to anglers seeking a more solitary fly fishing experience.

There is access to both sides of the river but the real fun in this section is exploring. Getting off the beaten track can reveal sections of water that receive far less angling pressure.

The Fence Pool marks the winter limit for fishing and the end of reasonable foot access. Above this point the river is contained within a long, deep gorge. Several rafting companies offer raft fishing trips in this section, which can be spectacular in spring and summer.

Hazards to watch for

  • River level can increase dramatically after rain. Occasional hydro maintenance work can cause an unexpected flow increase. Round rocks and boulders can make wading challenging in places.
  • River mouth has large, shallow, unstable pumice delta, unsuitable for anglers on foot.
  • Tracks have erosion possible in places, and may have fallen trees and limbs.
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