I have just returned from five days of truly unexpected and exceptional fishing.
Like other trips like this, it all started out pretty much as usual. I was going down to the Taupo region of the central North Island of New Zealand, for what I hoped would coincide with the start of annual run of brown trout into the rivers and streams that flow into Lake Taupo.
I arrived to weather that was also pretty much as expected for autumn, clear skies, (maybe too clear) and a hint of a chill in the air. The main river I was going to fish, the Tauranga-Taupo, was low and very clear, again, maybe too clear.
So, I was not expecting great fishing.
The next morning I set off up the river, and found there was no one else on the river where I was fishing. Big plus tick for that.
I also noticed lots of fish in the river. Well, to be truthful, for the first hour or two, most noticed me about one second before I noticed them fleeing to wherever it is where trout go when they notice fishermen.
But soon enough I shook off the city cloak of unawareness, and began to notice fish before they noticed me, and fling a fly at them. Sometimes they liked the fly and bit it, other times they treated the fly with utter disdain, and after repeated casts slowly moved off to that secret trout place.
Now, you may remember I was down at Taupo to catch browns, but I never saw one, but rainbows where there in big numbers.
Big numbers of rainbows was encouraging, but what was even more encouraging and unexpected was the size of the fish. In recent years the average size of Taupo area rainbows has been in decline, to the point where any fish over three pounds was considered a good catch.
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Recent reports however suggested that the average rainbow size and condition coming up to spawning was well up on recent years.
The reports were spot on. That first day I caught and released 16 or 17 fish, not one of which was less than 3lb. Most were over a pound or two over that weight, a couple may have been even bigger.
The fish were in wonderful condition, deep and round, fat as butter, and fought long and hard.
I lost a lot of fish. I was trialing a 5wt. rod (more later) which I was nervous about how it would deal with the job landing bigger fish.
Although it is more accurate to say that my skills on that first day were not yet fully up to speed. In mitigation I should also mention that a good number of those big fish I lost were very big fish indeed, on light tippets.
The next four days produced fishing the equal of day one. Sight a fish, move into casting range and position, drop the nymphs 3 or 4m ahead of the fish, strip in the line as it drifted back, and watch for the flash of white as the fish when the trout took the nymph, tighten up the line and strike.
Of course that did not happen on every cast, nor anything like every cast. No, that sort of fishing would bore me witless. But when it does happen now and then, I know why fly-fishing has had a grip on me for now over 60 years, and never let go.
There were a couple of other interesting things about those five days.
I was using a two nymph set-up, a size 14 or 12 tungsten bead head nymph, usually a Pheasant tail or derivative, above a 14 or 16 Prince nymph, tied off the bend of the first hook. Except for two fish, all of the trout were hooked on the Prince nymph.
The second item was a ten foot, 5wt new Sage ‘One’ rod I had been lent to try. It took me an hour or two get my casting sorted with this rod.
If ever there was a rod made to the exacting fly-casting mantra of ‘start slow – finish fast – stop dead’ it is this rod.
Follow the mantra and the line flows out in a tight loop, and lands just where you want it. Brilliant.
Do not follow the mantra and, well, oh dear how sad.
There is a lot of power in the rod too. I pushed it way past anything I would do on my 10’ 6 wt., also from Sage. Handled big fish without complaining.
If I can find an un-used spare arm and leg lying about I will have to get one and I did.
So there it was – a fishing trip with no great expectations other than the possibility of a biggish brown or two, and some panel-beating for a brain dinged and bent by city living.
Life can be down-right exciting if you have no great expectations – even at my advanced years.
* Terrible photos, I know. Left camera at home, and my phone's camera was then, awful.
Article written by Tony Bishop
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