Fishing Fresh Water

Reflections on a Taupo Winter

by Karl Sawyer


 This year’s winter-runs into the Taupo rivers has been one of the best in the past decade, with fresh Rainbow and Brown trout ascending the rivers in big numbers. Whilst it wasn’t surprising, given the condition of the fish that were caught in the lake over summer, it has been well received by the winter anglers who turn up in droves every winter.


Like the rest of New Zealand, Taupo too has had a wetter-than-usual winter which has kept the rivers in good flow, enticing regular runs of fish since April. All of Taupo’s eastern tributaries have fished well from the Waitahanui down to the Tongariro. The regulated flows of the Hinemaia and the spring-fed Waitahanui have saved the day for many a visiting angler this year when other rivers were blown out. The Hinemaia in particular, has had heavy angling pressure all winter but the additional upper-winter fishing limit put in place in 2010 above SH1 has helped absorb a lot of this pressure whilst providing anglers with additional angling opportunities.


At the end of June a friend and I were in Turangi, and whilst the Tongariro was unfishable following a heavy overnight downpour, the Hinemaia remained fishable. Due to my infatuation with the Tongariro, I hadn’t spent a lot of time on the Hinemaia and it was nice to reacquaint myself with what in places can be a challenging piece of water to fish. Fast flows and often short-and-deep snag-infested pools make the need for accurate presentations, and it is little surprise that many of the Hinemaia’s most successful anglers employ Czech nymphing techniques. We persisted with the standard Taupo double nymph rig and were rewarded with fish in most little pools that we came across that didn’t already have anglers in them.


Whilst Czech nymphing is popular on the smaller Taupo waters, the Tongariro has seen the continuance of the Spey style of fishing that has become extremely popular over the past couple of seasons. Apart from the odd dabble chasing salmon in Norway and Scotland whilst living in the UK I hadn’t ever chased Taupo trout with anything longer than a 9ft rod until this season. The rods seen on the Tongariro used for this application are generally 11-13 foot, in-line weights 4 through 7.  Whilst they are long compared to usual single-hand rods, once a grasp of the technique is achieved casts can be made quite effortlessly with water able to be covered that nymph fishermen or single-hand wet lining can’t reach. A great deal of satisfaction is gained from banging out a long cast, but it is the take when a trout hits the swinging fly that has got me hooked. Now whenever I fish the Tongariro I carry a nymph rod and a Spey rod, meaning I can effectively fish all the water regardless of the pool being fished or other anglers’ methods.

Karl Sawyer with a silver rainbow caught using the Spey rod

This year saw the introduction of the increase of the daily bag limit from three to six fish from the 1st of July. DOC has done this to encourage anglers to harvest more fish from the fishery, thus reducing the pressure on the food supply in Lake Taupo, which in turn should result in larger and better conditioned fish. Opinions on this are divided but personally I feel it is a good move. Whilst this year the rivers have been very busy, angler numbers are still lower than the mid-1980s when the bag limit was eight fish and catch-and-release wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. An abundance of spawning water is available to Taupo’s trout so recruitment isn’t an issue. So the quality of the trout in Taupo comes down to the food supply or a lack thereof as has been the case in some years over the past decade.


The next few months will see less and less anglers on the Taupo Rivers, but no matter where you are fishing this spring and into early summer, stay safe enjoy your time on the water and tight lines!

Richard Kibby with a prime lower Tongariro river Rainbow

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