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The Other New Zealand Fly-Fishing Destination

If you read the magazines, watch videos, et al. you could get the impression that New Zealand fly-fishing was confined to the South Island.

The South Island Fishery has a great deal going for it; big fish in clear water; demanding fishing even for good and better fly fishers. Most South Island waters are open during Summer, but closed during Winter.

 But the North Island too, has superb fishing, in clear streams and rivers as well, especially throughout the central North Island, and especially for anglers prepared to venture off the beaten tracks. But many of these streams and rivers are closed over Winter as well.

What to do, apart from tie flies, tell lies, and wait?

rainbow trout

The good news is that much of the Lake Taupo area, on the Central North Island Plateau is open over Winter (May through August), and it is the time Rainbow and brown trout head up the rivers and streams (all 47 of them that flow into Lake Taupo) to spawn.

(Most of the rivers, have closures on the upper reaches to facilitate undisturbed spawning from the end of June, and many smaller streams are closed over Winter.) This draws big numbers of fly fishers, (mostly over weekends), most of whom it must be said are there to catch fish to eat, and many who are fixated by chasing numbers.

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Many anglers do not fish in the Taupo area during this period, putting it down with horror stories of crowding, and 'chuck and duck' casting of heavy nymphs, or streamers on heavy shooting heads, on 9 wt. rods to fish lying deep and invisible.

Others fish the river and stream mouths with big rods all day and into the night. All the subtlety of a brick the horror story believers, cry, and it is an accurate description of many if not most of the fishing and fishermen.

But these anglers forget that skilled fly-fishers with a penchant for seeking water where the total experience of fishing is not necessarily reduced by low catch numbers are a minority of fly-fishers.

What opportunities are there in the Lake Taupo area for fly-fishers who want to avoid the crowds at the well-known pools and don't wish to use elephant guns?

There are plenty. All the rivers will have good numbers of fish, all in superb condition, all wild and all fit, great fish. The average weight is 1.5kg. (3lb).

Most of the reputation for crowding is aimed at the Tongariro River; she is big, boisterous and over Winter full of fish.

Sadly most of the well-known pools will be full of anglers too, at least in the head and midsections. But tails of pools, the long low rapids, riffles, and pocket water, will have few if any anglers.

The riffles and low rapids are all very fishable using 'Czech nymphing' or the US 'Hi-sticking' techniques. These roily waters hold big numbers of fish, but the 9wt, high lead-content brigade cannot fish it because their dredging methods hook-up on the rocks and boulders way too often.

All these sections can be fished with a 6 wt., using a sink-tip line, or nymphs off a weight-forward floater.

Actually the heads and middle sections of most pools can be fished with a 6 wt. too, but being surrounded by flying lead-bombs is not for me.

The only time lower line-weight rods become an issue is when it is blowing; remember we are talking Winter here, and it does get a tad breezy at times.

So do you move to a bigger rod? No.

Move to a smaller river. And we are talking here of distances that require only a 20 minute drive. In fact these days I rarely fish the Tongariro, except over summer when there is marvelous fishing also - and very few people.

The smaller rivers are likely to have some anglers in the well known pools, but the water between them will be barren of anglers.

The reason these areas are free of anglers is that casting needs to be accurate, as does line control. There are snags a plenty, and the banks have the last remnants of Triffid colonies (marvelously disguised as Blackberries) which reach out and grab terminal tackle. These gnarly areas hold good numbers of fish.

Fish that have had few flies swinging past them, so they are less gun-shy.

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What flies are used?

The masses will be tossing Glo-bugs (roe imitations) with plenty of lead above them to sink them rapidly to the bottom, and they will probably fish them all day.

But my dairies show, and most Guides agree, that Glo-bugs are great at dawn and dusk, but lose most of their efficacy once the sun is fully on the water, or gone from the water.

I have found going down to size 12 or 14 nymphs, gold-beaded anythings, or size 12 caddis constructed from gold translucent glass beads with a very light over-dubbing of some fur or other, are very effective.

indicator with O-ring

You will probably need some lead above the flies on a 12 ft. or more leader. You will need an indicator, but make it as small as possible. Tying your indicators onto 'O' rings makes for an easy to move an indicator to allow for differing depths.

If using a wet-line, any streamer will do if it is in the right place, and putting in the right place is critical, but you should have some Woolly Buggers and Red Setters in your fly box. Steelhead flies work well too.

So what is the attraction of this fishery; remembering it is often colder than a mother-in-law's stare?

There you stand, up to your testimonials in just above freezing water, rain being blown down your neck, and thinking, what the hell am I doing here.

The answer to that question is soon answered when a fighting-fit, bright silver, red-flecked, deep bellied, large-tailed, rainbow jumps on your fly and goes crazy, jumping all over the pool.

Suddenly the cold and wet disappears, and as you let the fish swim away with a 'what the hell was that' look on it's face, you can think of Mainlanders tying flies for the new season still months away, and thinking what a mad bunch North Islanders are, and a smug smile is in order.

Spider Fly

Article written by Tony Bishop (Bish)

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