A Beginners Guide To Twizel Canals Fishing

Update: May 2024

Fly Fishing in the McKenzie basin canals sure comes with it's fair share of controversy. In fact, it's more 'fishing' than fly fishing. Most will use conventional tackle in the hope of landing a monster. Most people will also be doing it wrong. If you are thinking about heading to the land where legends are made, you need to make sure you know what you are getting yourself into.

You may find that the only muscles you tire out are your legs from miles and miles of walking. If you want to get a bend in your rod and put your arms to work on you McKenzie canal mission, take a few notes from the article below. Our team have been fishing in the Twizel canals back when it was easy and now have perfected techniques to ensure you land a fish of a lifetime. 

And...perhaps the best update to this article is the most comprehensive Twizel canal map and spot guide. Each and every spot is listed and we tell exactly what you need to do to land the trophy of a lifetime. You're welcome.

Mckenzie country canal fly fishing

The McKenzie canals are both loved and hated. Folks love the idea of catching a twenty pound plus rainbow, but they hate the fact that few like that are caught these days. People love the fact that when they do catch that elusive trophy trout, but they hate the fact that many people dismiss it as a 'freak' or not real fishing. People are also torn that if they do catch one in the Twizel Canals, they know they will never catch something like that in their local river. It's like flying business class, then having to go back to economy. 

However your approach to the McKenzie Canals, we hope you can just go out there and enjoy it. To make sure you do...read on.



While the Twizel and Tekapo canals are often viewed as a fishery full of big, dumb trout, this is certainly no longer the case. The amount of fishing pressure the canals now gets is truly staggering, and the fish have become more and more wary as a result. A very technical approach is often required and as with most fisheries it is now a small percentage of anglers that catch a large percentage of the fish. The slightest changes in rigging and techniques can make all the difference between toiling away fruitlessly for hours on end, or a manic session of hooking into trout the size of small submarines.

Tekapo Canal, Mackenzie Country

Fishing the Mackenzie canals can be broken down into four main techniques which we’ll attempt to demystify over the course of this article:

  1. Fly Fishing
  2. Softbaiting
  3. Egg Rolling
  4. Spinning

All of these techniques can be extremely productive when done right, and each requires significantly different approaches depending on the season and conditions which we will also cover along with a handy canal fishing spot guide so you can turn up and get stuck in.

But let’s start where our heart really lies…


While the vast majority of fishing at the canals is done with conventional tackle, there is a growing contingent of fly anglers being lured by the potential of doing battle with the behemoth trout that inhabit their milky blue waters. With their deep, fast flowing and largely featureless terrain the canals can be a challenging place to fish effectively with the fly rod, but the rewards can be truly spectacular.

A lot of the fishing is done blind with the biggest fish generally holding in the deepest parts of each canal, but there are plenty of sight fishing opportunities, particularly through the warmer months. As with most fisheries, early morning and late afternoon/evening can bring on some hectic sessions – seeing dozens of 20-30lb+ trout porpoising in every direction is truly a sight to behold!

Chris Wong Fly Fishing

The winter season offers the best opportunities for fly anglers to get themselves attached to some properly big fish, as the fish congregate in big numbers near the top sections of each canal on their spawning run. Huge rainbows will at times sit within sight along the edges of the canal providing sight casting opportunities that will get even the most experienced anglers hands shaking. The terrain lends itself to euro nymphing, and fishing Tongariro style with big indicators, bombs and eggs can produce great results in certain areas.

The warmer months can be tougher fishing particularly through the middle of the day, but also open up some incredible sight fishing and even dry fly action with an abundance of browns cruising the edges.

The fish become very active in the mornings and evenings, and the evening rises can certainly get the heart pumping. Night fishing is also an excellent summer option and the best way to target the monster browns that are super wary during the day – coming tight to a 30lb brown in the pitch darkness is something that definitely needs to be experienced!

Winter Fly Fishing The Mackenzie Canals


Winter fishing the Mackenzie Country canals is a truly unique experience. Temperatures in double digits below freezing are common, and conditions ranging from crystal clear to hoar frosts to blizzards and everything in between provide plenty of challenges to contend with. Add highly pressured fish and deep, fast flowing water to the mix and it can be a daunting proposition for fly anglers. The rewards, however, can be spectacular with thousands of ridiculously overgrown trout congregating in certain areas of the canals.


With the canals being man made of a relatively uniform structure along their 57km of water it would be easy to think that a relatively narrow selection of kit would have you covered. But as with most fisheries there are a number of ways to approach things and the more options you have at your disposal, the more likely you are to crack that 20lb+ behemoth everyone dreams of.


At the bare minimum for a winter trip you’ll want to be taking a euro nymphing set and a standard, fast action set capable of throwing big streamers and big indicator/bomb setups.


A multitude of fly options is a necessity, the fish can be extremely fussy due to the abundance of food and the amount of pressure they receive. Subtle changes in egg patterns can make all the difference, so make sure you have a range of pale, bright and chartreuse eggs to cycle through.

Switching to naturals in clear conditions is always a good option, and a box of big streamers with plenty of movement will cover your night fishing escapades. 

Check out this post on flies for the Mackenzie canals as a great starting point.


Take plenty of leader as a mixture of snags and beatings by huge trout will make sure your boxes are lighter on the way home and unfortunately that’s an inevitable part of the game at the canals. The Simms Freestone Hip Packs and Freestone Sling Packs are the ideal mode of transport for all of this kit, with their large capacity and easy access making long walks back to the car to re-rig unnecessary.


A good Simms winter clothing layering system is another part of the equation that is essential to get right, the climate here is seriously unforgiving! From experience, being under gunned in the clothing department when its -15c doesn’t make for a particularly fun days fishing.

Quality Simms base layers coupled with a well-insulated waterproof jacket and fold over mitts will keep you mobile and fishing all day regardless of the conditions. Couple this with a pair of quality breathable waders like the Simms G3 Guide waders and Simms Flyweight Access boots and you’ll stay warm, dry and comfortable while chasing that dream fish.

Summer Fishing The Twizel Canals


Summer in the Mackenzie Country offers some spectacular opportunities to fly fishermen with an abundance of options from small streams to cruising fish on lake edges and everything in between. Often overlooked in favour of these more traditional options are the hydro canals and the gargantuan trout that take residence in them. Sight fishing to 20lb+ browns along the edges is as exhilarating as it gets, and swinging streamers in the dark for unseen beasts really gets the adrenaline pumping!


Summer fishing in the canals doesn’t require significantly different kit to conventional summer missions.


In the rod department, a fast, punchy 9’ #6 will cover your sight fishing and indicator fishing requirements, matched with a Universal Taper line, or Power Taper for punching out bombs. For swinging streamers around, the same rod will work around the “fishbowl” where there is plenty of space and no obstructions. But for tackling the monster night-time browns the canals are famous for, upping the artillery is thoroughly recommended! A grunty #8 is the way to go, both for punching out the XL streamers and for (maybe) getting the fish under control around the cages.


In the fly department, all of the usual suspects will work well. Adams variations, caddis and gnats are the go to options for dries, and pheasant tail variations work best as droppers. Mix is up with something with a bit of flash when indicator fishing to get the attention of the numerous big rainbows. In terms of streamers, go big or go home! These fish get extremely predatory at night and a quick walk along the bank with the torch will reveal hundreds of sub-2lb fish cowering in the shallows. Dark colours and plenty of movement will entice the most hits, and having a couple of lumo options in the box is always worthwhile.


The conditions in summer can be equally as harsh as winter, with scorching days sapping energy and burning any exposed skin. Lightweight, comfortable boots are a must, and your pack needs to be capable of taking plenty of hydration with you. Cover up from head to toe in Solarflex clothing, the Simms range of sun protection will keep you cool and protected for a full day of fishing even on the brightest of summer days.



Euro nymphing, aka czech nymphing, is potentially the most effective way of targeting a monster winter trout on the fly. The upper reaches of the Tekapo canal lends itself particularly well to this method, with a cleaner bottom than other sections and an abundance of big spawning fish. Identify areas with finer gravel deposits and you will be in business.

A very heavy bomb is required as the canals are at minimum 6 metres deep, so getting down can be tricky. Generally you want to be trying for maximum distance from the bank as the fish congregate near the bottom of the drop-off, although the odd shorter cast is always worthwhile in areas where weed isn’t an issue.

Egg flies are definitely the way to go at the top of Tekapo, with brighter coloured Otter eggs being a good option in low light conditions and pale Ultimate Eggs and Early Girl Glo-Bugs being the best options through the middle of the day.

Small is also key, these fish see a whole lot of gear so going small to size 14 flies is key. Egg patterns are also the go-to for the top of Ohau A, although mixing it up with some naturals and even a squirmy worm can produce some outstanding results particularly on the browns.

  • 10’ #4 Primal ZONE or Primal CONTACT euro nymph rod
  • FLY LAB Focus euro nymph reel
  • Airflo SLN Euro Nymph fly line
  • Trout Hunter fluorocarbon 6lb-10lb
  • Egg patterns and euro nymph flies

Manic Glo Bugs For The Mackenzie Canals


While throwing big bombs and budgie sized indicators typically conjures images of the Taupo fishery, it is a technique that can also produce dividends in the canals. Again it can be tricky to get to the required depth, particularly when flows are high, so “walking the dog” using a big buoyant indicator with a large bomb or double tungsten fly like the Simon’s Ugly is the way to go. This will allow you to fish at a greater range than you can while euro nymphing so it’s a good option for the wider sections or when the flows are low. Walking downstream with the drift will maximise your time with flies in the right zone.

For the trailing fly, mix up fly selections with eggs in the upper sections and naturals further downstream and around the Ohau A wall. Snail patterns can be extremely effective around the ‘bowl’ at the bottom of Tekapo canal fished along the edges of where the canal opens up and again where it narrows. And don’t be scared to tie on a small sz14 pale eggs pattern in summer as they can still induce takes over this period.

One thing to be wary of when indicator fishing is the terrain for casting – most of the canal system has steep banks with very little room for back casts. While this can be manageable in good conditions, when wind is a factor it’s better to stick to areas that are more forgiving to avoid endless frustration and bombs to the back of the head.


Softbaiting has long been a go-to method for spin anglers, and imitating that technique with streamers can bring similar success. The difficulty with the canals arises from their depth and swiftness, getting down to the fish can be quite difficult.

Super-fast sinking lines and/or polyleaders are the way to go during the day when the fish are holding down deep closer to the middle of the canals. During the change of light and into the darkness is when things really heat up, as the fish move in to the drop offs and start feeding aggressively on bullies and small trout.

For night fishing, concentrate your efforts around the salmon farms, fishing the gaps between the pens and the bank. Monster browns, some in excess of 40lb, will sit in these gaps, particularly on Ohau C – this is the stretch that the last two all-tackle world records have been caught.

Swing big streamers in mid-water and fish them right to the bank, these fish can be tricky to get a response out of but when they decide to go for it they will at times come charging right in to the bank to hammer a fly.

Due to the obstructions and the size of the fish around the pens, gaining control of the fish can be extremely difficult. Fish a minimum of 2X tippet and a #8 rod is ideal – it sounds absurd to say but these trout are the same size as a solid kingfish so that really puts things into perspective!


While the canals are not exactly what most people picture when they envisage the perfect dry fly environment, there are some outstanding opportunities for the sight fishing enthusiast.

Excellent numbers of 3-8lb browns cruise the edges and will readily take nymphs and dries that are placed in their path. These fish are generally well conditioned and put up a great account of themselves, and are fish that make the most of the abundant natural food sources in the canals rather than gorging themselves on stray salmon pellets.

You’ll also come across fish that will make you second guess your own eyesight and perception – there’s nothing really that can prepare you for seeing a 30lb trout cruising the bank, these beasts can be up to a meter long and a foot wide across the back!

These fish are particularly hard to hook, dropping down to 4X tippet and small nymphs is generally the way to go.

Spotting fish on the canals is generally relatively easy, the high banks provide a great vantage point and when conditions are clear even fish sitting down deep can be seen and presented to. Spotting, however, is the easy part. Getting in position without spooking a fish can be tricky and casting a fly rod at the canals is very challenging with the high, steep banks. But if you can get everything to click, the rewards can be spectacular with monstrous trout taking flies in full view making for a truly unique experience.

  • 9’ or 10’ #8 Fast action fly rod like a Scott Centric or Primal RAW
  • Large arbour fly reel, the Lamson Speedster S is a lightweight weapon
  • Airflo SuperFlo Ridge 2.0 Power Taper floating line or Airflo 40+ shooting head sinking line
  • Trout Hunter fluorocarbon 6lb-10lb
  • Egg patterns, small natural nymphs, terrestrial dries, and big streamers

Bryce Helms Fishing


The canals aren’t just a fly fisherman’s playground, there is something on offer for anglers of all ages and abilities. The vast majority of the canal system is accessible by car making it one of the most user friendly fisheries in the country. Spinning, softbaiting, bait fishing and egg-rolling (a technique developed specifically for the canals) all produce excellent results with the right approach making it an extremely diverse fishery.


If you use the term “egg rolling” to anyone unfamiliar with canal fishing, you’ll probably receive a confused blank stare in return. This technique is specific to the unique canal environment, and has been developed and refined over the last few years to become arguably the most effective way to target monster canal trout. The method basically involves casting a weighted egg rig into the middle of the canal and walking downstream at the same pace as the current effectively rolling the egg along the bottom.



Being such a unique technique, successful egg rolling requires very specific kit. Long, super sensitive graphite rods are crucial for both casting distance and bite detection. Rods in the 8-9’ range are ideal with cast weights down to 3g and a slower action through the tip section. There are a number of rods on the market now designed for this specific application, and having the appropriate gear will make a world of difference.

Match these rods to a quality spin reel in the 2500-3000 range, a smooth drag is key here with the small hooks and light leaders.


Leaders should be 6lb-8lb depending on conditions – when the canals are coloured, fast flowing or in low light 8lb is ideal, in bright, clear conditions drop down to 6lb.

Mainline should be light braid in the 4lb-8lb range, or PE0.6-0.8 giving you the best in feel and presentation.


A range of different sized weights is essential to cater for different flows, 1/8oz, 1/4oz and 3/8oz will cover you for most situations and buying the snagless wire sinkers will save you a whole lot of frustration!

Egg selection can be a crucial part of the equation, particularly on days when fish aren’t hard on the chew. A wide selection of colours, types and sizes will give you the greatest chance of success.

There are a million different options on the market these days so it can be daunting but a good selection of 6-8mm rubber eggs and a mixture of size 14 Glo Bugs will have you covered. Go for brighter oranges and chartreuse variations early and late in the day, and switch to pale opaque eggs through the middle of the day.

Change selections regularly as the fish see a lot of gear go past them so a change can often bring immediate results.

While egg rolling is predominantly a winter technique, it can also be surprisingly effective through the summer months. Some fantastic fishing can be had year round on egg patterns with some changes in location and approach. Big chrome fish stack up around the salmon pens through this time of year, so focus your efforts around the cages and drop down to the smallest Glo Bugs and egg patterns you can find. Generally very pale eggs with an orange or red dot will produce best through the warmer months.


The aim of egg rolling is to present your eggs as naturally as possible, and this is achieved with the following rig:

  • Run your mainline to a micro 3-way swivel. This will eliminate twisting and tangles while leaving the presentation unaffected.
  • From the bottom of the swivel, run a short 30-40cm dropper to your drift sinker – the appropriate length will vary slightly depending on the width of the section you are fishing and the speed of the flow.
  • From the other part of the 3-way swivel run a meter or so of leader to your choice of egg pattern. This will give the fly the best presentation allowing it to waft around in the current as it drifts downstream.
  • If conditions are favourable, you can also run a second egg by tying a 40-50cm length of leader off the shank of the first fly. This way you can cover your bases by fishing different colours and/or sizes of egg – on some days the fish can be super picky and this is a great way of maximising your chances of getting a reaction.

Egg Rolling Technique


The basic principle behind egg rolling is very simple – get your eggs travelling downstream just above the bottom at the same pace as the current. This is achieved by casting directly across the canal, allowing your rig to sink to the bottom, then walking downstream at the same pace as the current so that you stay level with your gear. When walking downstream keep the rod tip low, and keep your index finger gently touching the braid to ensure every slight touch is detectable.

As you walk downstream with your drift, you should be able to feel your sinker gently tapping along the bottom. If you can’t feel this increase your weight, if it is catching up on the bottom then drop down in weight until you get the appropriate feel.

The takes can be extremely subtle so staying in contact and being hyper aware of any touches is crucial. Any pauses of bumps that feel different to the usual tapping of the sinker should be met with a short, sharp strike – don’t go overboard as the combination of light gear and small hooks can lead to bust-offs or ripping hooks out if you try and rip their heads off on the strike.

Keep drift lengths moderate as otherwise you end up with a belly in the braid and lose out on sensitivity and make sure your drag is set nice and light for the same reasons - when you do end up attached to a canal freight train the initial run can be extremely long and powerful so too much pressure will inevitably lead to heartbreak. If you start with the drag super light you can ride out the initial runs before gradually increasing the pressure if you need to once the fish is under control.

  • 8-9ft High Modulus Carbon Fibre Rod
  • Quality 2500 size spin reel with smooth drag
  • 4-8lb braid
  • 6lb & 8lb Trouthunter Fluorocarbon
  • Micro 3-way swivels
  • Assortment of 1/8oz-3/8oz drift sinkers
  • 6mm-8mm rubber eggs
  • Selection of pale, bright orange and chartreuse #14 Glo Bugs


Softbaiting is the technique that shot the canals to fame around 10 years ago. Back then the fishing was a lot easier and the basic techniques seen on various YouTube videos worked a treat. Those days, when the salmon farms were much less skilled at keeping their fish inside the nets, are unfortunately long gone, but with some refinement softbaiting is still an extremely effective way of targeting all three species in the canals.


Softbaiting is all about feel and presentation, and the gear used needs to reflect this. Casting accuracy is crucial as you are generally fishing around the cages, and you need to be able to impart plenty of subtle twitches on the lure.


A rod in the 7’6-8’ range will give a perfect combination of casting distance and accuracy. It should have a fast action, both for sensitivity and for the ability to set hooks with the larger hooks used on the jigheads.

A lightweight reel in the 2000-2500 size range is ideal, the lighter the physical weight the better so reels with a carbon fibre body are an excellent option.


Your mainline should be as light and thin as you are comfortable with, presentation is everything when it comes to softbaiting and the thinner the mainline the less water pressure and drag there is on your line. This will allow you to use light jigheads resulting in more natural movement and presentation.

A 6lb-8lb fluorocarbon leader 1.5-2m in length is perfect, and match this to the conditions – lighter in bright, clear or slow flow and heavier in fast, coloured or low light conditions. Make sure your braid-leader knots are strong and slim, as these will definitely be put to the test once you do come tight on a fish!


Having a decent selection of weights is critical - having the wrong jighead for the conditions will result in endless frustration. A range of weights from 1/16oz-1/6oz will have you sorted for most situations, although in high winds and high flows it’s worth having a few 1/4oz heads in the tackle box.

Bait selection is another key part of the equation. Unfortunately there is no single pattern or colour that will work all the time so having a wide range of baits is essential. Tailor your selection to what species you are targeting, the lures for salmon and trout are generally quite different. Natural patterns are generally the way to go when targeting trout during the day. Paddle tails are great in that they have plenty of action on the drop and the retrieve, while with minnow style baits you are able to impart your own erratic action.

At night run super dark solid colours to achieve a nice silhouette or something with subtle lumo for a bit of extra attention.

For targeting salmon, triggering their aggression is key. Baits with as much movement as possible is what you’re looking for and a grub tail softbait fits the bill perfectly. Solid dark colours with plenty of UV content provide the most consistent results during the day, although in overcast conditions, or if there’s a bit of colour in the water, bright pink and chartreuse lures are a great option as well.

At night, lumo is key. Choose baits that glow bright and long, and recharge them regularly. Again movement is a great attribute, so lumo grubs and paddle tails would be first choice for an after dark salmon.

Softbaiting for South Island Canal Salmon


The rig for softbaiting is about as simple as it gets, no doubt another factor contributing to the popularity of this technique. Basically all you need is a length of fluorocarbon leader with one end joined to your mainline and the other tied to a jighead.

To join your braid and leader, any of the popular knots such as an FG knot, Albright knot or double uni will work as long as they are well tied and slim. Your leader should be roughly 1.5-2m in length, and tie the leader directly to your choice of jighead.

Presenting your bait correctly on the jighead is another key part of the equation. Your jighead should be threaded straight through the middle of the bait with the hook well exposed out of the back of the bait. There should be no bends of kinks in the bait, any imperfections will prevent the bait/jigheads ability to self-keel and it won’t swim or present correctly.

Some people prefer to use a quick release clip to connect from leader to jighead, however my preference is to use a simple uni knot as the clips can effect swimming and presentation.


The secret to successful softbaiting in the canals is relatively simple – keeping your lure in the strike zone for as long as possible every cast. The fish in the canals generally hold very close to the bottom, which can be anywhere from 5m-10m+ deep, so the basic goal is to get the lure down to where the fish are and to keep it there.

Achieving this, however, is not quite as simple and requires a fair bit of technique and practice.

  1. When making your initial cast, angle it upstream to allow the lure to sink effectively. The amount of angle upstream depends on the speed of the current and the amount of weight you are using.
  2. When the lure hits the water, maintain contact with the lure without being tight on the line, and you want the lure to touch down on the bottom roughly perpendicular to you. Once it touches down, give it a swift flick upwards to get it just off the bottom then proceed to walk downstream with the current.
  3. While walking downstream, impart plenty of subtle twitches while slowly retrieving – your retrieval speed should mean that you are only very occasionally tapping the bottom. This will get the softbait darting around erratically just above the bottom where the trout will be holding.
  4. When you do get a hit, respond with a swift powerful strike to punch the hook home. The hits can range from hard aggressive takes that virtually set the hook themselves, to super subtle barely detectable nudges so staying aware to any pauses or changes in the drift is critical.
  5. Salmon in particular can be incredibly hard to detect, and will often come back several times if you miss initially. If this occurs, pause the retrieve and allow the lure to drop in the water column – this will often result in a more aggressive hit.
  6. Once attached you can exert a significant amount of pressure on the fish and this is often necessary due to the terrain. Make sure your knots are perfect as you’ll often need to put the brakes on a fish in a hurry to keep them out of the cages and cables.
  7. Walk downstream with the fish during the fight as it is virtually impossible to shift a 20lb fish upstream against the current, and take care not to point load the rod when netting the fish.
  • 7’6”-8’3” High Modulus Carbon Fibre Rod – fast action
  • Quality 2000-2500 size spin reel with smooth drag
  • 4-8lb braid
  • 6lb & 8lb Trouthunter Fluorocarbon
  • Assortment of 1/16oz-1/4oz jigheads
  • 3” Minnow sofbaits in assorted colours
  • Selection of 2.5-4” paddle tails in natural colours
  • Selection of high UV and lumo grubs


For those who prefer traditional spinning with metal lures, there’s plenty of viable options for you too. Both salmon and trout will readily hit a well presented lure, and it is a much easier technique to master than the others outlined above.

Use the same equipment and rig as outlined for softbaiting above, simply swap out the jighead for your choice of metal. Always be mindful of which part of the water column your lure is in, and keep it down deep through a combination of slow retrieves and casting upstream.

  • 7-9ft Carbon Fibre Rod – cast weight up to 15g+
  • Quality 2000-3000 size spin reel with smooth drag
  • 6-10lb braid
  • 8lb & 10lb Trouthunter Fluorocarbon
  • 12-17g Black & Gold lures for trout
  • 7-22g flashy/bright lures for salmon
  • Lumo lures for night fishing


So now you know a few different techniques of fishing that will pick up fish throughout the expansive canal system with each being viable year-round method for targeting monster trout. There are however certain areas and things to look for that will save you plenty of aimless wandering down the canal with your rod pointed at the water.

While, theoretically at least, you could catch a canal fish just about anywhere, below are a few hot spots on which to concentrate your efforts.

Bryce Helms and a massive Tekapo Rainbow Trout


The population of Ohau A mega-trout has inevitably suffered as a result of the removal of the salmon farms and the average size has dropped significantly. The lack of pressure does however mean that the fish are generally very willing, and there is still no shortage of double digit fish and 20lb+ specimens are still a regular occurrence.

With the relative lack of artificial feed, the fish here have been forced into more predatory habits, and respond extremely well to softbaiting as a result.

In low flows, concentrate your efforts around the top part of the canal just below the dam. There are huge numbers of fish here and they become extremely active on the change of light. While you may have to weed through a lot of smaller fish, there are some true giants that hang out in this stretch.

In higher flows, drop down to the farms and fish your way along the edge and underneath the cages and down to the confluence of Ohau A and Pukaki canals. And repeat the process.


This is trout Jurassic Park where the biggest trout in the world congregate. No other section of the canal system is home to more truly huge (30lb+) fish than Ohau C. This stretch has more salmon farms than any other and is the largest body of water in terms of depth and width, and the fish that reside here reach truly astronomical proportions as a result. It is also the most difficult section to master, with the size of the canal requiring super long accurate casts and making staying in touch very difficult.

It’s impossible to paint an accurate picture of the scale of these fish without seeing them for yourselves. And of all the ways to target a monster Ohau C, softbaiting is arguably the most effective.

When tackling Ohau C, you need favourable conditions and to be on top of your game. Fish opposite the cages and make sure your casts are landing within a meter or so of the pens. This requires good gear and technique to achieve, and is not possible with weights under 1/4oz so decent flow is required to fish here effectively. Minnow style baits worked with plenty of subtle twitches are the way to go in this situation.

Once your gear hits the water, keep the rod tip high to keep as much slack line off the water as possible, allowing your gear to sink as efficiently as possible. Once it hits the bottom, start the drift downstream as normal, with a firm strike when your drift comes to a stop – this will either dislodge your gear from a snag or set the hook on a fish.

Once you do hook a fish here, treat them all like they’re a monster! Often once you hook a fish, they will head straight back at you and swim pretty much to your feet. If this happens wind flat out to keep tension on or they’ll shake the hook, and be ready for them to change direction and head the opposite way at a great rate of knots. Fights can often take you a long way downstream, so it pays to have a net that you can wear on your body – your average short handle trout net won’t cut it so a large net that can be worn over the shoulder is ideal.

Once the light starts to fade, park up at the power station and walk down to the salmon farms. Fish your way down as there are plenty of fish that hug the bank in the stretch from the farms to the dam.

When you get to the farms fish the gaps between the cages and the bank – this doesn’t allow for very long drifts but this is where the big fish hang out! Use dark coloured paddle tails and work them right to the edge particularly after dark as the fish will occasionally hit a lure right at your feet. This is one of those spots that will produce fish throughout the night, some of the best fishing occurs in the very small hours of the morning so stay persistent and you’ll get results.

This stretch is also the best spot on the canals to target salmon, and the biggest specimens seem to be caught here.

Use a similar approach to above, but swap the natural colour and shapes for bright grub tails with heaps of movement. Allow them to swing downstream of you a bit more and be sure to stay hyper-aware of subtle takes on the drop.

The gaps beside and behind the cages are also worth investigating, as is the first accessible areas below the dam. Once darkness hit swap to lumo paddle tails and grubs and you should be in business.

Ohau C is also great spot to target salmon on steel lures, particularly in low flows. Use lures with plenty of flash and UV on the to trigger aggressive responses, and fish them by casting slightly upcurrent, allowing them to sink then slowly retrieving allowing them to swing across the current. Fish either opposite the cages with long casts and 14-22g lures, or fish from the same side as the pens with short casts into the gaps and 7-12g lures. After dark switch to lures with some lumo to them and you’ll pick up salmon right through the entire night


While Tekapo is known for its outstanding winter fishing in its upper reaches, it is also home to some truly spectacular spring and autumn fishing down lower. Before and after their spawning run, the monster rainbows gather around the salmon farms to either put on or re-gain condition and feed voraciously. These fish are fit, fast and fight dirty, making it one of the more exciting places to fish.

Casts need to be pinpoint accurate, landing hard up against the edges of the pens otherwise you’ll effectively just be going for a nice walk down the canal. Once hooked up, plenty of creative rod work is required to keep the fish out of the obstructions under the cages, and you’ll inevitably need to duck and weave around a few cables.

This is one of those spots that effective colours seem to change without warning, so mix it up and fish two different eggs whenever possible. Use the lightest weight you can get away with, as you are generally fishing at a shorter range and will have shorter drifts as a result.

It can be quite snaggy through here so be prepared to lose a bit of gear. Fish hold along the entire length of the cages as well as the few hundred meters below the bottom cages, and seem to gather in greatest numbers level with the ends of each section of cages.

Releasing a mackenzie canal trophy rainbow trout


By far the most widely known and subsequently busiest stretch of canal for egg rolling, the top of Tekapo canal is synonymous with this style of fishing. This stretch of canal is narrower and shallower than the Ohau canals, so the vast population of mega trout that move upstream in winter become far more concentrated than other section.

There is also several patches that have had repair work done which collect deposits of finer gravel providing the best spawning territory in the entire canal system.

Focus your efforts around the changes in bottom structure, i.e. where the repairs have been made and where there are bends or obvious gravel deposits. The area immediately above and below the top bridge is also very productive with the canal narrowing creating higher flows, making it a particularly good area to target during periods of low flow.


The ‘bowl’ at the bottom of Tekapo canal immediately before it drops down the hill into Lake Pukaki is the canal systems premiere destination for spin fishing. The wide, deep, slow moving body of water lends itself perfectly to this style of fishing and the results can be spectacular.

Park in the designated parking area and wander around the bowl to the areas where it starts to narrow up at either the top or bottom of the bowl. Fire a long cast out into the middle before allowing your lure to freefall to the bottom, then slowly retrieve with the occasional pause to drop back to the bottom.

Traditional black and gold patterns work brilliantly here and choose lures in the 12-20g range with plenty of action.


The top of Pukaki canal is a softbait fisherman’s mecca, with perfect terrain and a big population of willing fish.

Start fishing just below the turbulent water in the boulder area, but take care while boulder hopping your way downstream with the drift – they can be super slippery and a fall here is a shortcut to a surprise nap on the bank!

Fish almost back to your feet, eats at close range are common here, however don’t fish the whole way to the bank as the last few meters are extremely snaggy. Small natural coloured lures are the way to go here, and this spot fishes well all day although the change of light as always is the hottest bite.

Fish your way down towards the highway bridge, this whole stretch holds great numbers of 2-15lb browns with the odd rainbow thrown in for variety.


Clean crisp air, a stunning Southern Alps backdrop, easy access and potential world record sized brown and rainbow trout – while the Mackenzie Country Tekapo and Twizel hydro canals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they do provide a truly unique fishery with a staggering number of 20lb+ trout that will challenge anglers of all skill levels and experience.

The cold, well oxygenated glacial water, controlled flow that never floods, a huge abundance of natural food sources and of course the numerous salmon farms that supplement the natural food supply, all combine to provide the ultimate conditions for trout to get to truly mammoth proportions.

Now it's just up to you to plan a trip and bring it all together.


Dragging lures for marlin, throwing stickbaits for kingfish, drifting flies for trout, and everything in between is all fair game for Manic's Sales manager, a very fish obsessed Bryce Helms.