my fishing trips
When does chasing big brown trout become an obsession?
I try to get down to the Taupo region on the central North island of New Zealand in March. As autumn starts to bite, brown trout move into the rivers and streams from Lake Taupo to head upstream to spawn. It is usually a reasonably sedate meander, not like the mad dash of pods of rainbows that tend to move up somewhat later.
Usually rivers and streams in March are low and clear, but this does not seem to deter brown trout. Mostly they move at night, spending the day hugging the bottom of deeper water, or tucked in under overhanging, undercut banks. Some hold deep in the branches of fallen trees – untouchable.
This year things were different. A vicious drought affecting the North Island and beyond turned the land from the famed New Zealand green to a drab lifeless brown. Driving down from Auckland I had never seen the countryside so devoid of grass. The sun literally sucking the life out of the land and waterways.
When I reached the Tauranga-Taupo River (TT), I could see the effect of the drought. The river was now a creek, very low and clear. Despite this Steve Yerex, guide and operator of the Keruru Lodge, where I regularly stay, was reasonably upbeat. Browns were in the river in some numbers he reported over the phone, but he suggested that it might take some high level of skill and more than a big helping of luck to pry one or two out of the TT.
Steve was going to be away for a couple of days raft fishing down the Mohaka River, leaving me on my own at the lodge – I liked that.
Arriving late afternoon, I decided to wander a little way downstream with my Tenkara rod and see if I could annoy a few small rainbows which by now were moving downstream to the lake. Over the next hour and a bit, more than a score of fish around 6 to 10 inches were plucked from the shallow runs. Great fun.
Next morning and now in serious fish-hunting mode I headed slowly upstream, peering intently into every pool and undercut bank. The browns were there. Some brutes among them too. Serious brutes. Brutes that have tempted and tormented me for too many years to recall.
Just back from a four day trip to fish the Tauranga-Taupo River near Taupo, Central North Island, New Zealand.
On the face of it the fishing should have been hard, the river was low and very clear, the sun was summer shining, and it was blowing hard, at times very hard.
But the river was stacked with fish. There were good numbers of rainbows making their way up-river to spawn, and bigger numbers of fish making their way back down to the lake. Even managed to bag a nice 5ish pound Brown trout – nice surprise.
The fish were not big, but big enough, and the fish in the photo was pretty typical.
The river may have been stacked with fish, but there were very few anglers about, most of the time I was alone. Bliss!
Mostly used a ‘hopper-dropper’ setup; the dropper being one of Chris Dore’s Glister nymphs. I had these in a range of sizes and weights (including un-weighted). The ‘Hopper’ was a butt-ugly foam fly of my own twisted imagination which despite appearances was monstered by more than a few fish.
I don’t think I casted ‘blind’ over the whole 4 days – just cast to sighted fish.
Just a quick note, my trip was timed on the basis of a very successful trip same time last year, and year before. I am not a regular diary keeper, but do keep notes on successful trips.
Arrived down at the Tauranga-Taupo river, just south of Taupo, central North Island, NZ, just after 1pm, last Sunday. Thirty minutes later was on the river, which was clear and as I found, full of fish. Brilliant fishing for round, fat and fit rainbows in the 3 to 4 lb. range. Better still I had the river to myself.
Tucked myself into bed that night, happiness filled and expecting more of the same next day.
Well it was more of the same that Monday morning, but by afternoon the rain Gods decided to exert their superiority over the river. Very heavy rain persisted down all afternoon, all night, and Tuesday morning revealed a river risen to flood, and I contemplated an early drive home.
I decided to stick it out, and see if the river dropped on Wednesday – it did and became fishable if not still high and slightly milky coloured. Not only did it remain fishable by it seemed that several big pods of fish decide to use the increased water levels to make their way up the river from the lake.
But the drop in the water level was accompanied by a mini invasion of anglers. Locals know that extra water means extra fish in the system. But by walking further up the river I was able to find un-populated water – and heaps of fish.
So despite the weather interruption had an excellent 3 days fishing.
Back a couple of months as the New Zealand summer meandered into autumn, I got an invitation that many anglers dream about.
"Do you want to join us on a helicopter fly-in to the high country above Taupo, (central North Island of New Zealand)?" asked Pam, bless her!
Despite my morbid fear of helicopters after some very dodgy experiences in my time in the army, I hesitated for about half-a-heartbeat, and blurted out "Yes! Please."
The day arrived and of course there was low cloud with drizzly rain, and every chance the flight would be cancelled. But no, the weather over the range was supposed to be fine and clear.
The fly-in revealed the crystal-clear headwaters of the river we were to fish. It was fairly Summer low, with shallow runs dropping into pools where the river turned in an apparently never ending series of bends. All framed by high country tussock, right up to the mostly steep banks, dropping near to, or vertically into the water. Beautiful!
Out of the helicopter on a small clearing in the high tussock, we rigged up the rods, and that’s when things got a bit tense. Steve, our guide, and a good mate of mine saw the fly I was about to tie on, and launched into a frank and meaningful critique of "that hideous beast". Full story
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.
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… [full story]
(Terrible photo I know – but left my camera at home – and my phone camera is, well you can see.)
Am leaving in the morning before the first sparrow un-tucks it’s head from under it’s wing and completes it’s ablutions for Taupo, (central North Island NZ).
With Autumn now fully entrenched it is around this time big brown trout start to move into the rivers that flow into Lake Taupo. Big fish, but not easy to catch, still, I like the challenge.
Will also be trying and reviewing two new Sage 5wt, 10’ rods.
Watch for more.
I have just returned from a week long fishing trip in the central North Island of New Zealand. The fishing was not easy, the river I was concentrated on, the Tauranga-Taupo, was very low and clear. The weather was sunny and mid-Summer hot.
Despite that I managed to keep myself busy catching fish in and around the old and current size limit, 45 & 40cm (18” & 16”).
But last Thursday night, preceded by a torrential rain warning from the met office, the rain duly came down, every bit as heavy as forecast. It rained all night stopping at dawn. The river rose by 4 to 5 feet, and spread itself out as it saw fit.
But by late morning the river dropped 3 feet as fast as it rose, and even though the water was still muddy I decided to try a technique I had used years ago in the same type of situation. I wandered down the bank swinging a Black Woolly Bugger into any little backwater, or under banks, big enough to shelter a fish from the torrent. And I hooked an awful lot of fish. I lost most, if the trout got out into the flood it was all over. Thing was, many of the fish landed were considerably bigger than those I had caught or seen in the preceding days.
Towards the end of the day I ended up at the Cliff Pool armed at last with a camera. Here the river pours straight down, hits the cliff and does a right turn. It is a big pool, in the flood, very big. The force of the flood hitting the cliff produced a big eddy.
I was not expecting much, but dropped a couple of little Caddis nymphs into the eddy, which when they reached the bottom were snaffled. That fish made it into the main current and left me behind.
It seemed that every time I dropped the flies into the correct drift a trout grabbed it. Some I landed – some taught me me who was boss. There must have been many fish stacked up in that backwater. Finally it had to end, darkness and mosquitoes sent me back to my cabin.
The photos show two fish, one around 58cm(23”) & 52cm(21”).
I have just one question to ask myself about this episode – where in hell do all these bigger fish hide when the river is low and clear?
For a new article on fishing after the flood go here.
It was a great idea – head down to Taupo for an extended week-end of early Winter fishing before the really bad weather kicked in. Even better was the fact that my middle son Jason, could join me for the Saturday and Sunday. Well that was the plan, Stan, but the dirty digit of destiny stuck one finger in the air, skewing the plot.
I left Auckland for the usually 3.5 hour drive to Te Rangiatia, south of Taupo at 4am, but halfway down to Taupo a bout of food poisoning erupted, literally, slowing progress to a stop-start crawl – the 3.5 hours turned into 7 hours till I finally arrived and crawled into bed, heaving and moaning like a beached whale. Not pretty!
But next day, Sunday, I sprung from my cot full of the joys of living and Jason and I headed off to the Tongariro. We fished hard for most of the morning with only a reasonable fresh run fish to me. Jason decided to head up-river to a piece of water he spotted on the way down.
I laboured on for a while, fishless, till I decided to follow upstream, just in time to find him attached to a good jack which dragged him downstream. While he was engaged landing his fish I tossed a few casts into the lie, to no avail. Jason returned, I let him back in, and on his first or second cast he hooked up again and danced downstream on the boulders chasing the fish.
This same sequence repeated once again once he let his latest fish go. I could not buy a fish so Jason took pity on me, and gave me a Cadillac nymph, the fly he was getting his fish on. Made no difference – Jason would return from landing his latest fish, take over from where I was fruitlessly casting and hook up again. I think this happened 5 or 6 times – I lost count – probably did not want to count.
But I did not waste my time completely, I did some thinking. The Cadillac Pheasant Tail fly certainly did the business for Jason. It was not a fly I had come across before – and really it it is not that revolutionary – a standard pheasant-tail with fine legs. A bit of foraging around the net later revealed the pattern is not new and comes in a variety of guises.
Some are your basic pheasant tail nymph, with thin rubber legs. Others have a dubbed body and a moose hair wing case using the surplus moose hair tied back to form legs.
The nymph represents a mayfly or perhaps a stone-fly, and in the particular piece of water Jason fished so successfully, a boulder bottom with swift water over the top, my guess the fly was being seen as a stone-fly.
Either way, the next time my fly-tying bench beckons, Cadillacs are top of the fly-tying project list.