Category Archives: flyfishing

Salt Revisited

Josh and I returned to the Hauraki Gulf with the intention of giving the resident Kahawai and Kingfish a hard time… well, a couple of them at least!

I continued with my mission to use the fly while Josh focussed on hooking a Kingfish on any method that worked. He kept his options open with an assortment of baits including frozen bait, fresh fish, softbaits and lures.

The morning began with an extraordinary encounter – a large pod of dolphins hammered a huge school of baitfish while Gannets whirled and dived from above. Fishing took a back seat while we enjoyed the show. We kept our distance but all of a sudden the dolphins turned and headed directly toward the boat. They may have passed by the boat quickly but their memory will stay with me for a long time.

On to the fishing. While the fly was successful and tempted a nice sized Kahawai it was a fresh piper the won the day. Josh flicked the bait into the path of a hunting Kingie and induced an aggressive take. The biggest issue was the gear… in the rush to get a bait in front of the fish Josh had quickly grabbed an older set up not intended for these hard fighting fish. The kingie was played and landed while being serenaded in the background by a creaking reel! We also had to tail the fish because I’d forgotten to pack the net.



It’s a Tank of a Rainbow!

The rivers and streams entering Lake Taupo can be magnets for trout seeking to escape from the warmer temperatures that occur in the surface layer of the lake during summer and early autumn.

During a recent visit I was delighted to land a ‘tank of a rainbow’ – a good sized hen in magnificent condition.  Also great to have my wife on hand cheering from the shore whilst filming… helps explain the jerky footage!

The fish gave me quite a run-a-round, even on 8 weight gear that had recently been used to tame a good Kahawai off the coast of the Coromandel. While the Kahawai may have bent the rod into a shape most trout can only dream about, the sea fish couldn’t compete with the aerobatic performance of this stunning rainbow, which leapt clear of the water on several occasions aggressively shaking its head each time. Rainbows, you gotta luv em!

After a few photos to capture the moment the trout was returned to continue her preparations for spawning, which could take place in a month or so. The icing on the cake was the nice footage I managed to capture on my old Olympus Tough TG-01 as the fish swam back to the sanctuary of deeper water.


Taupo Licence Online

July marks the beginning of the new Taupo fishing season so I’ve just purchased a licence using the Department of Conservation’s online service. It’s was simple enough to do, but to be honest I rather miss the ritual of stopping off at a local fishing store. It always formed part of the build up to the serious winter fishing and presented an opportunity for a good yarn.

The online service is certainly efficient, but the problem is it’s the only game in town – there are no alternatives. The Department of Conservation no longer supports local licence agents such as tackle stores and this can result in some frustration for both anglers and store owners alike – at least until new habits develop.

Hydro Pool on the Tongariro River
Hydro Pool on the Tongariro River


One big positive is the price. The cost for a licence this season remains unchanged at $90 per year.  DOC has also created other pricing options to cater for those with specific requirements, such as fishing for shorter periods. So when you think of the quality and diversity of fishing on offer in the Taupo region, the licence cost is very reasonable.

Technology has provided us with the facility to get a licence from any computer or smart device at any time of day or night, using just a credit card. Quite useful actually. I’ll simply have to get used to a new digitally enhanced ritual – topping up my trout flies will still give me the perfect excuse to pop into a local tackle store to chat about fishing prospects. Not so bad really.

Get your Taupo region fishing licence from the DOC website:





One That Didn’t Get Away

It was about time I turned around my loosing streak to big browns… so I did!

Early autumn provides a wonderful opportunity to intercept Lake Taupo’s big Brown Trout, as they gather around the numerous river mouths waiting for an opportunity to run up stream to spawn. They are also attracted to the cool oxygenated water, that due to the thermal stratification of the lake in summer, is much colder than the surface layer of the lake.

On the evening in question conditions were perfect – cloudy, with a hint of rain and a gentle on-shore breeze. I had been fishing for 20 minutes when fish began to reveal themselves – firstly a few large swirls under the surface, but that progressed to large fish jumping clear of the water. Adrenalin flowed as I cast towards the gathering fish. Activity continued but there were no signs of a take. A change of fly brought immediate results.

Great golden coloured Brown Trout from river mouth on Lake Taupo
Great golden coloured Brown Trout from a river mouth on Lake Taupo.

The slow twitched retrieve was suddenly interrupted by a solid obstruction. I lifted the rod and tightened up. There was no movement at all, it simply felt like I’d hooked the bottom. I maintained pressure just in case, moving the rod tip to the side in order to change the angle. Suddenly a tug, then solid unmoving resistance again.

A few more angry head shakes from the trout and the fight began in earnest. The fish finally had enough of the strange irritation and decided it was time to head back to deeper water. A powerful determined run saw the tail end of the fly line leave the reel, however on 8 weight gear with an 8lb tippet the fish was soon turned.

The remainder of the fight was typical Brown Trout stuff. Short surges of powerful torque rather than  spectacular bursts speed. After a dogged fight I was mighty relieved to guide the big golden head towards the net… a sweep forward and the large fish folded into the soft mesh.

Thanks to a friendly group of onlookers for agreeing to take a few photos.

Tribute to Southern Monsters

Some fishing trips are memorable for the fantastic fish you caught while other trips are memorable for the incredible fish that you lost. My latest painting is a tribute to the latter.


I managed to squeeze in a couple of sessions chasing trout during a family touring holiday down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

One early morning sortie turned into an encounter that I’m unlikely to forget. I awoke to a landscape cloaked in grey with smudges of low cloud clinging to the hills behind a small lake. Overnight heavy rain had left everything saturated, but the storm had now passed and the air was still, leaving the surface of the lake like a sheet of polished glass, reflecting every detail in the bush cloaked backdrop.


I carefully approached the lake, examining the edges of weed beds about three metres out. Despite the low light levels the clear water allowed me an excellent view. Suddenly a large shape caught my attention… not three metres away but in the shallow water to my left. No more than 10cm from the waters edge! A sweep of it’s tail and the big brown trout accelerated to engulf a tiny coroxia (water boatman). The trout saw me and immediately turned towards deeper water. This was my first look at a southern monster.

Over the course of the morning I ‘covered’ in excess of ten big trout ranging in weight from 5 to 10lbs. My early efforts weren’t up to scratch but I responded by using longer finer tippets and smaller flies. My casting also became more focused, with the fly placed further ahead of the fish – anticipating it’s patrol route.

When the takes came they were brutal affairs, with big fish generating bow waves as they hurtled towards the fly. My ‘South Island education’ however was to continue… striking too soon, too hard, too late… over 30 years fishing experience and these fish had me behaving like a newby!

Any frustrations however, simply paled when I considered the incredible fish and the stream of opportunities that were presented. Eventually things came together.

A few open drainage channels entered the lake from the surrounding paddocks. They were providing rich pickings for a couple of very large trout, the largest of which, was patrolling an area so shallow that the water barely covered his back. His patrol route saw him regularly return to the discharge point where water from the two metre wide swollen drain entered the lake.

My cast was made and the trap was laid. My nymph was sitting on the sandy bottom a metre out from the drain mouth.  As the fish returned I tweaked the small nymph, triggering an aggressive feeding response. This time the strike was considered and well timed – I hooked a monster fish. My moment of triumph was short lived as the big bruiser of a trout had no intention of hanging around. He took off like a train, heading straight for the sanctuary of some flooded trees. Bugger!

I got a good look at the huge Brown Trout. He was a fierce looking warrior of a ‘Jack’ with a distinctive hook on his extended bottom jaw… the inspiration for my painting.






Suddenly a Six Piece Rod

If you’re a fly fisherman the chances are you’ve been there at some time or another… that momentary loss of concentration, that brief distraction or act of madness that leads to a broken rod tip! Often car doors are involved but trees and bushes can dish out their own special kind of havoc.

Despite their feather like weight fly rods are very strong when stress is applied throughout their length. When playing a large fish for example, the load is transferred away from the fragile tip and down towards the stronger butt section. The whole structure works in harmony acting like a large energy absorbing spring, buffering the tippet and fly from sudden loads.

nice conditioned young brown trout
The last trout for my trusty A3… at least for the moment!

Modern fly rods are superb pieces of engineering designed to enable the angler to carefully present a fly to a big fish, then do battle with it and finally coerce it towards a waiting net. A fantastic combination of delicate control and power. Of course they are very strong when used properly but not so when the fly fisherman has a brain explosion. In my case car doors and trees were not required. No dramatic story involving monster trout or fighting off wild animals… no, my error came straight from the ‘newby’ book of fly fishing mistakes.

A glorious sunny afternoon and I had been working my way up a familiar stream. I’d already landed a few feisty rainbows and a well conditioned brown. A good rainbow had just hammered a large dry fly and spat the hook during an energetic leap… so far so good. As I approached a productive series of pools I decided it was time to add a bit of floatant to the fly line.

Not wanting to waste a second I tucked the trusty Scott A3 under my armpit, pulled a floatant primed foam pad from the pocket of my fishing vest and proceeded to draw the 5 weight fly line through it. I pulled line vertically down from the tip but didn’t notice that coils of loose line had become tangled in the undergrowth, preventing line from running freely through the rings. The next thing I heard was an agonising crack.

six-piece Scott A3
Scott A3 six piece rod!

I’d inadvertently pulled the rod tip over so it was pointing directly down towards the reel, focussing all the load on the tip section… a break was inevitable. Thank goodness for Scott’s lifetime warranty!

At least the rod went out in style, having tamed a handful of feisty rainbows and a fine young brown. Thanks to the craftsmen at Scott I can look forward to using the A3 again soon… my favourite for fishing skinny water for trout at close range. The aftm 5 weight Scott A3 is great for making buttery smooth, accurate casts into tight spots. It also has regularly delivered the goods for me when absolute stealth is required on some of New Zealand’s crystal clear lakes – YouTube: Hard Fighting Wild Trout in New Zealand>

While not a ‘top end’ Scott rod the construction of the A3 remains very good and it feels like a quality piece of equipment made by a company that truely understand fly fishing and what it takes to make great rods. One of the reasons I’ve stuck with Scott and invested in their higher end ‘S4’ and ‘Radian’ rods, for my 6 and 8 weight options!

The broken A3 has now been dropped off with the retailer, who will send it back to the New Zealand distributer, who in turn will send it to Scott in the United States. The whole process could take up to six weeks… I’m hoping it can be turned around a bit quicker!