I remember my first trip to New Zealand with John about ten years ago. It took all of an hour to organise. A quick email to Felix at Owen River Lodge to check availability, flights booked and calendars blocked. Busy people get things done! This current trip took a bit longer to organise. John has since moved back to the States, making travel plans and coordinating flights a bit more complicated. Add to this some personal and business matters and this trip almost did not happen. Considering our organisational skills this would have been a major failure! We pulled it all together at the last moment, albeit with unfavourable flights arriving in Auckland just after midnight. The options were to check in to a hotel for a few hours’ sleep or just hit the road and just drive the 5 hours to our destination. We both agreed, ‘Who needs sleep?’ so we chose the latter option.
We arrived at our destination at around 6.30 am just in time to see the sunrise and to give us the first glimpse of the Waioeka River, which seemed to be running low, though a bit murky after recent rain. We caught a few hours sleep to partially recharge our batteries, then a quick snack and we were off and running. Well, more like a slow walk to the river than running. Bleary-eyed we approached the first run. Visibility into the water was no more than a few feet, it was drizzling but the air temperature was mild and to our surprise a few duns were popping off here and there. I tied on a size 10 Parachute Adams with a weighted nymph trailing around 4 feet below and started working a defined drop off. On my third cast I could not believe my eyes when a beautiful rainbow rose from nowhere and took the dry. I almost didn’t react as the take on the dry took me by complete surprise. I eventually struck and had the fish on… for ages. Boy these NI rainbows pull hard! We worked the river until dusk and caught a few more lovely rainbows and a brown on nymphs and cast to a few rising fish during a late flurry of duns. The drizzle and light rain persisted.
Heavy overnight rain saw the main river rise perhaps a foot and colour up to a point where it was not fishable. Disappointing, but I had an inkling that the local streams might be ok and they were! Running hard, challenging and with visibility just acceptable we managed a fantastic session catching several supercharged rainbows in the 2-3 pound range. All fish were a major challenge to land in tight fast water; we had an absolute hoot!
We exited the stream along the main highway near where an enterprising local has set up a coffee pit stop for passing travellers. We were drenched and cold, a hot coffee was a must – except both John and I had left our wallets back at the ranch. We approached timidly and asked our back country barista if we could impose and buy a coffee on credit. I think he took pity on these drowned water rats and obliged! Sweetest coffee ever! We drove to another local stream landed another nice bow and with dark upon us we retired to our hut, a roaring fire and a hearty meal.
Day three dawned after more light overnight rain. The rivers were still high and dirty but clearing. We drove back to one of the streams we fished the day before where it enters the main river. Our stream was now flowing hard but clear, spilling into the main river and creating a blue-green slick of clear water along a long fast run. Honey hole! The channel of clear stream water followed the edge of the river for about 150 metres and was 5-10 metres wide, spilling from the shallow river bank into a clearly defined drop off. This was as sexy a bit of water as one can imagine.
We snuck downstream and started fishing weighted nymphs into the drop off. The action was fast and furious with many, many strikes and fish on that would aggressively head into the river proper once hooked. With nowhere to go and conscious of not spoiling the “good” water we lost more than we landed but oh boy, what a memorable session. We spent the rest of the day working back up the now clear stream for a few more bows and eventually back for a coffee and to pay back our debt. With dark approaching we had one more session on the main river which was clearing fast and caught a few more and lost a few. What a great day!
Our last two days were spent around Taupo but the conditions and heavy rain unfortunately spoilt the party a bit. We still managed a few more good trout on a mountain stream which had some clarity, but it was way too dangerous to persist with – there was a risk that if the water rose much more, we’d be stranded. Our minds turned to the nearby Tongariro which I rarely fish but that too had totally blown out, but for those lucky enough to be there now I hear that as it clears the trigger has gone off and the run is on!
What a great trip. As usual the company was exceptional and despite the challenges and really having to work it out, the fishing was very good and as I sit here writing this report, resisting the temptation to scratch the few but still very noticeable sand fly bites, the overwhelming emotion is to get back on a plane and do it all over again!