Rainbow trout in Tongariro headwaters

Tongariro On the Up

If you visited the Tongariro this winter there’s a good chance you had a productive trip.

Much has been written over recent years about the decline of the Taupo trout fishery, and in particular the winter spawning runs on the world famous Tongariro River. Conversations with some of the more ‘mature’ anglers will often turn to tales of ‘the good old days’ when huge runs would occur and trout averaged over 5lb. We may not have returned to those glory days yet, but for me, this year stands out as a step in the right direction.

While local folk are always in with a good chance of being in the right place at the right time, visiting anglers have had to contend not only with fewer and smaller fish, but also the fact that spawning runs were taking place over an extended period of time – in effect reducing the chance of encountering a good run of fish on any individual visit. This winter however has been different.

Andrew Harding a.k.a. ‘troutboynz’ recently managed to capture some amazing action –

Why has this year been different? Many believe it’s because more frequent periods of heavy rain have pushed river levels up regularly, providing more opportunities for fresh trout to enter the river. The net result, greater numbers of trout running the river in the traditional winter period – an observation supported by DOC’s spawning traps. When you also consider that most trout have been in excellent condition, you start to understand why it’s been a good winter for local and visiting anglers alike.

For my part, I’ve taken the 2.5 hour trip down SH1 from Cambridge on a number of occasions and as a visiting angler I certainly felt there were more fish to be caught – and a few good ones lost too for that matter!

On one trip I managed to convince my wife that Turangi would be the perfect spot for a quiet weekend away… a chance to stay in a nice lodge and take a morning stroll along the river and reconnect with nature. I may have forgotten to mention that we’d be taking a fly rod with us. Anyway we successfully managed to connect with nature, be it mostly in the form of angry trout! As a bonus my wife discovered a hidden talent for filming –

So, if you get the chance to fish the Tongariro River this winter, especially after rain, I strongly suggest you go for it. But even if you miss the rain it’s always worth a trip. The Tongariro is more challenging when the river is low and the weather is bright but its a big river and if you’re willing to explore you should come across a few fish.

James Barnett

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