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Taupo Big River Tackle Guide

Winter: (May to Sep)

Important - Felt soled boots and waders are banned everywhere in New Zealand

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Winter is the time rainbow and brown trout make their spawning runs up the rivers entering Lake Taupo. Those who have fished for steelhead in the USA will be at an advantage.

As a general rule if your fly is not hugging the bottom you are not fishing. Spawning fish will rarely move far to take a fly. So the fly is best placed right in front of their nose in their lies.

Most locals nymphing and wet fly-fishing use seven to nine weight rods. This is not only to throw big heavy flies, often in strong winds, but also to provide some power to slow down big, wild fish in big waters. But there is good scope for using a six weight at the tail of pools, in riffles, and slower runs.

Nymphing (Winter):

This fishing is very like Steelhead fishing in the USA. Your nymph must be on the bottom or you are simply not fishing. This means using at least one heavily weighted nymph.

The usual set-up in the region is to use a heavy fly, followed by an un-weighted nymph tied off to the bend of the lead fly.
It is now legal to use lead on the leader - and about time too!

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Using a heavy weighted nymph, or weight on your leader, follow with a gold-bead nymph, just about any pattern will do, or an egg (roe) imitation (Glo-bug).

As a wide but fairly accurate generalization - it is not what fly, but where a fly is - and that means the fly needs to be right on the trout's nose.

The flies are usually fished on a 4 to 5 metre (12 - 15 foot) leader of around 4 kilo (8 pounds). Don't bother with tapered leaders. The key thing is that the fly must sink very quickly.

The thick butt sections of tapered leaders merely hold up the leader for too long in the strong water flows. Besides at the leader weight necessary, what are you going to taper down from?

The flies are fished under a wool yarn indicator, (these are the only indicators allowed in the Taupo area). Fishing with an indicator in these waters over Winter is the only way to go. Otherwise you will simply miss too many strikes.

Casting these heavy nymphs requires a rod with grunt and power. A seven to nine-weight fast-action rod is favoured by most locals. This for the reasons outlined above and also because of rod protection.

Heavy nymphs, or split shot, moving very fast are lethal to the thin walled rods of 6 weight and under. Lines are primarily weight-forward, and colour does not matter too much for this type of fishing.

For very long distance casting the Scientific Anglers 'High Plateau" line (and similar in other brands) is a good choice. This has a shortish weight forward section with a very long belly section behind.

But some skill is required to get the best out of these lines. You may have to get this line in New Zealand as it is especially made for this area.

Despite the fact that most locals use the heavy elephant gun tackle outline above, lighter tackle will take as many fish, if not more, when used in riffles and pool tails. But it is worth remembering that annually averaged size fish in the Taupo area is 1.5kg (3.5lb). Over winter good conditioned fish will be bigger on average.

Wet and Streamer fly-fishing (Winter):

Just as when nymphing the wet fly must be very close to the bottom.

The usual technique is to use a very fast-sinking shooting-head on a a seven to nine weight rod. A one to two metre ( 3 to 6 foot) leader to the fly.

The fly can be any of the Rabbit flies, Woolly Buggers, or large Glo-bugs. Red Setters in a range of sizes from 10 to 8 are an old standby and still catch plenty of fish. The hook size is usually 6 or 8. (Hooks of this size may not be weighted).

The shooting head is cast across and very slightly upstream. As soon as the line hits the water, a big upstream mend must be thrown, followed by releasing plenty of backing. Then let the line sink, till it tightens up and swings.

At the end of the swing the line can be retrieved in small jerky pulls for a few metres and then pulled in for the next cast.

Mostly the fly is hit on the swing or just as the swing stops. A full fishing retrieve is usually just a waste of fishing time.

This style of fishing really excludes rod weights seven and lower. The weight of the shooting head needs to pull the fly down quickly - there is not enough weight in 7 weight and below, heads, to achieve this.

Summer (Dec - Mar):

While there are fewer fish in the rivers during summer, there still are big numbers. These fish are more difficult to catch than during the winter spawning runs.

Much more finesse and water reading skill is required, as is the ability spot fish and to make accurate casts.

In summer there is not the need for as heavily weighted nymphs as in winter, but you need good line control to drift the flies in reasonable proximity to the fish.

During Summer the rivers are often lower and clearer, so spotting fish to cast to becomes easier.

Gear can be scaled down in Summer, to 5 or 6 weight. But as you go down in line weight your skill level must rise. You may still need to cast relatively long distances and accurately with it. The biggest problem with lighter tackle weights is controlling the fish once it is hooked.

Despite the fact that water levels are usually lower, these are still big fish in big water.

Over Summer, sight-fishing to fish feeding on terrestrials is great sport.

Even though the rivers are big, during Summer real care must be taken walking the banks, fish are often only a few feet from the banks. I tend to use a big foam fly with a small 14 or 16 bead head nymph or a wee-wet fly, tied to the bend of the foam fly (25 - 30cm leader).

From February - March there are good numbers of Brown Trout in the lower reaches of the rivers. Most of these trout have moved in to the river in preparation for their spawning runs in April through to July. Some of these browns are very big indeed!

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Article written by Tony Bishop


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