Destination Reports

Owen River Lodge, New Zealand

Max Salzburg | Photography by Sonja Salzburg May 31, 2023

Owen River Lodge, South Island – New Zealand

Owen River Lodge is a multi-award-winning lodge on the South Island of New Zealand. The lodge sits in the heart of the Murchison / Nelson Lakes area which is home to some of the best sight fishing in the world. The lodge boasts 29 rivers and streams within a 90-minute drive of the lodge, and even more options if guests are willing to helicopter fish. I knew that lodge was a special blend of great fishing, top guides, world-class meals and wine, and unpretentious service. I was, however, completely gob smacked by how well-run, comfortable, beautiful, and dialed-in the lodge was.

Where did you go and how did you get there? 

My wife Sonja and I visited Owen River Lodge outside of the town of Murchison on the South Island of New Zealand. We were on a 12-day trip around the South Island, and we drove to the lodge. To get to Owen River Lodge, guests fly to Nelson (NSN) then rent a car and drive approximately 1.5 hours to the lodge. The lodge can arrange a shuttle from Nelson for a fee if guests would prefer not to drive.

Where did you fish?

I fished the Wangapeka and Wairau Rivers in the Nelson Lakes area.

How was fishing?

Fishing on the Wangapeka was tough. The river was high and dropping, but the fish were not ready to play the game yet. We saw fish and had shots at them, but they were spooky and not feeding. On one large brown trout, we changed the fly a dozen times before the fish finally spooked. We took a look at the Rolling River that comes into the Wangapeka near Siberia Flat but the water was moving just a bit fast to try to get a cast to a fish.

On the Wairau, the water was a bit lower and thus a bit more fishable. My guide Stefano put me on several fish, and we were able to land a half dozen fish, two on dry flies.

New Zealand is a quality over quantity fishery and there is often more stalking and searching for fish over casting and actually fishing to feeding fish, so landing six fish is a very good day.

How did you fish?

All fishing was walk and wade in amazing New Zealand landscapes. When the guide spots a feeding fish, the guest will get into the river downstream and make casts upstream to the feeding fish. Often fishing is done with a nymph rig, but at times fish feed freely on the surface. In New Zealand, anglers do not need to make long casts, but they do need to be accurate. The more accurate the cast and the better the drift, the higher likelihood of hooking a fish.

Where did you stay? 

I stayed at the beautiful, laid-back, and well-run Owen River Lodge. The lodge provides a high level of service with amazing meals, impeccable grounds, and lots of amenities. We spent a night doing star photography from the deck and lounge right on the Owen River. We also swiped half a bottle of local New Zealand wine after dinner and spent the evening in the jacuzzi, a welcome respite after a day of long walks on the river. What is so great about Owen River Lodge are the small details. Everything is just dialed and well thought out. While guests are at dinner, the staff is turning down the rooms, complete with Whittaker’s chocolates on the nightstand. The yogurt, muesli, and bubble water sodas are all made on-site. The ingredients for the meals are locally sourced, and most of the vegetables and herbs in the meals come from the two extensive gardens on site. The meals are prepared by two different chefs, each with their own style, and everything they make is fabulous. Every day there are fresh-cut flowers thoughtfully placed around the lodge and fresh cookies in the rooms. It is a level of service that takes a lot to pull off, and the dedicated staff absolutely knocks it out of the park every day. On top of all the great service and amenities, the lodge is a certified B Corporation, meaning that the lodge goes above and beyond environmentally and socially. There are less than 6,000 B Corps worldwide and Owen River Lodge is the first fishing lodge in the world to receive their B Corp accreditation. It is something to be proud of, and it is something that we, as traveling anglers, should support. Overall, I must say that Owen River Lodge is one of the finest sporting lodges I have ever visited. It completely blew me away.

What equipment did you use and how did it perform?

I fished a 6-weight Sage R8 Core with a RIO Gold line and a 12- to 15-foot leader. The setup performed well. The rod had the responsiveness to deliver the fly at medium distances while turning the long leader over nicely. The rod really shines in short shots where I was casting with just the tip or roll casting to quickly get the fly back into the run. Overall, I think the setup was a fantastic tool for educated, finicky trophy trout.

Owen River Lodge

Experience one of the finest sight fishing lodges in the world.