After a magic day fishing Auckland harbour for kingfish, it was time to focus on the trout. We had a few ideas and with the help of ex flyfishing guide Lindsay Lyons we were able to finalise our itinerary. Lindsay is our go-to flyfishing resource in the North Island and these days, he and his wife Adele run two lakeside cottages at Ngongotaha on the shores of Lake Rotorua. Hiring a guide is ideal but having someone like Lindsay to talk to and help plan your trip is the next best thing.
That afternoon we drove away from the lake to fish the Ngongotaha Stream. I’ve fished it before but never in the heat of summer. It’s a strange water in that all year you’ll find fish behaving like it’s spawning time. There’s a huge number of trout in this river and you see lots but they’re wary and catching them proved difficult. Nevertheless it was great to see so many fish – and so many big fish – all in a short afternoon. The catch rate wasn’t huge but we had lots of chances. This is no doubt a stream that if you spent a lot of time on it you’d soon crack the code and get very good at converting sighted fish.
That night we had grand plans for a night fish at one of the river mouths but without objection an extra bottle of red was opened and the maps were pulled out. Lindsay turned our attention towards the Whakapapa river.
The next day we arrived at the Taumaranui Holiday Park and we were soon waist deep in cool, productive looking water. With a party of four with two cars, the process of elimination becomes efficient and we quickly discovered that the best fishing was between the confluence with the Whanganui up to where the gorge country starts near Owhango. We did attempt to fish the very upper reaches of the Whakapapa (via the intake road) but access is difficult and in higher flows – it’s plain dangerous. In low flows there’d be no other way but to hike or bash your way downstream and then turn around and fish your way back. For us the water was too high to safely attempt crossing. It didn’t help that in the very first pool we tried to walk past, we polaroided the biggest fish we’d seen for the trip! We knew the fishing would be epic if we could make our way downstream but it was impossible. We walked up and down trying to find a spot we could cross but the rapids below the only possible crossing looked potentially lethal so we were forced to concede!
Overall we caught some excellent fish on the Whakapapa and some nice ones on the Whanganui and the Ongarue. The evening rise was a sure thing and if you could keep yourself on the water till 9pm then you were in for some fun as the big fish came out to play on dry flies. But fishing past 9pm is a big day and so for the evening rise we mostly opted for the Whanganui which was closer to the Holiday Park. It was a good rise but nothing compared to the Whakapapa.
Having read Nick Taransky’s article in the FlyStream Annual and FlyStream #1 Digital (free edition), we had to fish the Manganuioteao whilst in the area. It didn’t disappoint. We stumbled when we got there and headed to the lower reaches where we found the water to be warm and fish almost non-existent. Further up there was a footbridge that gave us a good vantage point from which to assess the river and we soon polaroided the inevitable ‘bridge fish’. This actively feeding brown had a beat in the slower moving pool directly under the bridge. Although I suggested I could scramble down the bank to get into a better position, my German fishing companion Petta insisted I cast from the bridge, at least ten metres above the water! After a clumsy first attempt I managed to get my cicada pattern in position and the fish ate it. Somehow I managed to keep the fish connected and then beach it on some sand below. I wouldn’t recommend fishing this way but it was good for a laugh!
The Manganuioteao was a lovely stream and one of the easier waters for an Australian angler to feel at home. It’s a bit smaller than most of the rivers we’d previously fished and this made everything more straightforward. While the top of the runs held the normal number of fish, the better trout came from the smaller, less obvious pocket water. If you’re looking to cut your teeth on a North Island river then this one is perfect, with big numbers of both browns and rainbows.
Eventually we decided we’d had enough of the ‘small’ 4 pounders the Manganuioteao had to offer and we headed off to the Mohaka River. The Mohaka is a popular water and for good reason. The fish are often big and the river is like two fisheries rolled into one. In the slower moving water there’s great polaroiding for big browns and then in the faster, heavier water you’ll find the typical stack of rainbows. We didn’t get any truly big fish but enough 5 and 6 pounders to make the drive back to Auckland airport go very quickly.
If you’re thinking about a trip to New Zealand, don’t overlook the North Island. Personally I think it’s every bit as good as the South. For a flyfishing trip, Rotorua is a great base. Lindsay and Adele’s accommodation is right on the water and within walking distance of the Ngongotaha Stream. Having someone like Lindsay give you suggestions about where and how you should be fishing, is pure gold.
If you’re interested in planning a trip to the North Island and staying in Rotorua, Lindsay and Adele Lyons can be contacted by email [email protected] or calling them on +6473574087. To view their accommodation go to http://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/properties/9135.asp