World Wide Fishing!

Trout-Tracking in New Zealand

By Mike Humphries, Expatriate Australian in Singapore

And so it began - three extremely happy people sitting in the departure lounge at Changi International Airport in Singapore waiting to board the plane to Auckland, New Zealand.

My brother-in-law Alan had just flown in from Northern Ireland to join Jayne and I for THE trip. Alan wasn't quite sure what time zone he was in after the trip to Singapore, and surely didn't know when we jumped another 5 hours to Kiwi time (about 17 hours AHEAD of Eastern Standard Time). We had planned a trip for sixteen days and figured that would be enough time to have a good look at New Zealand's North Island (the warmer of the two main islands) and fish as many of the rivers, lakes and streams as we could.

The 9-hour flight from Singapore to Auckland (Auckland is the largest population centre in NZ) was uneventful, except for some turbulence that had Jayne in a white-knuckle worry and me downing half a dozen whiskeys after which, I was bullet proof.

We arrived in New Zealand at about 11 a.m. on the first of March and were met at the airport by the campervan company and taken to the depot where we picked up the six-berth vehicle. We checked out our new home on wheels, stowed the gear (way too much), did the necessary paperwork and then we were off. Our plan was to head down to Lake Taupo for our first shot at catching a Kiwi trout and then go with the flow, wherever life would lead us.

We just about made it to Lake Taupo (near the Waikato River) before jet lag and general tiredness set in. Jayne busied herself with the fridge and food while Alan and I went to have a look at the river. We took along our fly rods and caught-and-released a couple of 16-inch rainbows before retreating to the van for dinner and a drink.

I had been to New Zealand a couple of times with work, but neither Jayne nor Alan had ever been there and I wanted Jayne to absolutely love the place as this, as far as I am concerned, is the most beautiful place on Earth.

I was up bright and early on the 2nd and, with the snoring coming from both other bunks, it was unlikely that I was going to get any more sleep. So, I took my Loomis 6-weight and went for a fish. A couple of hours later I'd caught a few small rainbows and it was time to get the others up and on our way again.

On the way down to Taupo the only audible sounds in the campervan were a lot of ooohing and aaahing over the scenery. Taupo itself is a wonderful little town and is situated right on the lake. The surrounding countryside is truly breathtaking. We stopped off, bought odds and sods, stopped in at every fishing and tackle shop and then were on to the Whaithanui Stream and the Tongariro River.

There are about 17 streams and rivers running into Lake Taupo and they all have good stocks of rainbow and brown trout. All the fish in the lake seem to come in one size, about 6 pounds. There are considerably bigger fish around but I have never caught one.

We didn't do too well at the Waitahanui, with Alan getting the only fish; again a rainbow and on a dry fly! We didn't stay long, as we wanted to be at the Tongariro before dark so we could get a line wet there. The Tongariro is a big river with good pools and runs offering superb fishing usually. There had been no rain for three weeks and, according to the locals, all the fish were waiting at the mouth ready to run up as soon as there was any rain.

The Kiwis use big flies in this area on the North Island: primarily 8's, 6's and even 4's. The Rabbit Fly; the Wooly Bugger, Hamil's Killer, the Scotch Poacher and the Red Setter are without doubt the local favourites.

We had heard about a stream that runs into the Waikato somewhere north of Taupo and decided to see if we could find it. Lots of driving, map reading, head scratching and swearing eventually put us where we wanted to be. Jayne, Alan and I had never seen anything like it!! Literally, there were hundreds of trout hanging in the stream, feeding, jumping, spooking and generally having the time of their lives. There was a concerted rush to pull on waders and fishing jackets, and it was about this time that we discovered that Alan, the most easy going of men, would walk straight over the top of anyone who might be in the way when he was going to fish.

We had a problem! There was no room for the back cast and the legging style waders we had with us were too shallow (or looking at it the other way, the bloody stream was too deep). All of those enticing fish and we couldn't get at them! Depression and despair set in. Rubber boats, float tubes and chain saws were all given thought. However, all was not lost - our saviors arrived in the form of a couple of local lads.

One of these lads stripped off his clothes as far as his Calvin Klein's (when he noticed Jayne) and leapt into the stream armed with his rod. Making a bow wave that a destroyer would envy he commenced stripping line off and casting like the line had to be there in a hurry. None of that delicate presentation bollox for these lads! He immediately hooked into a nice fish and immediately got our undivided attention. The thoughts began: how cold could that water really be?

As he walked back to the bank towing yet another nice fish he uttered the now famous words "Come on Aussie, harden up!" Now, I am an Australian and as such have serious problems with any Kiwi that may think I'm too chicken to get in the water, no matter what the temperature! With Australian pride in mind and very little in the way of clothing, in I went. Actually, it wasn't too bad, especially after numbness had set in. After a couple of false casts (just to show that I at least could keep the line out of the water), whammo, I was into the first of many fish.

We stayed the night there, had far too many drinks with the local lads and generally mended a few Aussie / Kiwi fences that, when you have two sports-mad nations that both think they are "The Best," need mending every once in a while. With the Kiwis holding the America's Cup and the Aussies holding everything else (that matters) there tends to be a little friction.

Leaving the dulcet tones of two of the world's best snorers behind me the next morning, I went down to the stream again at dawn, stripped off and had, without a doubt, the best time of my life. I caught fish after fish and landed the biggest and prettiest brownie I had ever caught - beautiful golden-brown in color with darker spots all over. Far too beautiful to kill, he joined the rest back in the stream.

Jayne came down to the bank yawning, with rod in hand, shorts and a T-shirt and promptly caught her first trout, released it and kept on catching and releasing. Watching her cast, retrieve and catch again was marvelous, especially as I knew she was the one who was really hooked.

The holiday went on like this for another two weeks. We put hundreds of miles under that van, fishing and catching everywhere we went, always having a great time.

The people in New Zealand are hospitable. The country is beautiful. The beer is plentiful. And the fish are willing. Neither Jayne, Alan nor I will ever forget our trout trip to New Zealand. Not that we will have to as we'll all be back!

Not long now and we can start planning the trip to the South Island even more rugged, with more streams and more fish! ~ Mike Humphries

More Fly Fishing Down Under:

Fly Fishing New Zealand
The Art of New Zealand Flying Fishing
Arthur's Lake, Tasmania
Trout-Tracking in New Zealand
Flyfishing Taupo (New Zealand) Streams & Rivers
Stalking the Large Trout of Australia
Fly Fishing the Northern Territory
Olympic Bass
The Best Trout Stream in the World
Ruakituri River, New Zealand
Matching the Hatch
A Guide to 'Cracking' the Mystery of the Mataura

Fly fishing in the Mitta Mitta Valley of NE Victoria, Australia
Bream on the Fly - Australia
A Very Rough Guide to Fishing New Zealand

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