Tag Archives: fly fishing

Passing the Baton at Fish & Game

Martin Taylor (left) to take up the role of Fish & Game NZ Chief Executive following the retirement of Bryce Johnson (right).
Martin Taylor (left) will take up the role of Chief Executive at Fish & Game NZ when Bryce Johnson (right) retires at the end of October.

Fish & Game New Zealand has recently appointed Martin Taylor to take over as Chief Executive from the organisation’s long serving head, Bryce Johnson.

Martin Taylor has wide experience in the corporate sector, including as Chief Executive of the Aged Care Association.  He has also been chair of the Wellington Fish & Game council and is presently working for the Capital Coast DHB as a project manager.

The chair of Fish & Game’s New Zealand Council, Lindsay Lyons, is delighted with Mr Taylor’s appointment. “Martin’s the right person for this demanding role.  He’s highly qualified, an experienced leader and politically astute,” Mr Lyons says.

“He’s also a mad keen angler and loves the outdoors and New Zealand’s wild places, so from our point of view, this is a perfect combination.  We are delighted to have him on board.”

Martin Taylor will take up the role of Chief Executive in November following the retirement of the highly respected Bryce Johnson. Bryce has held the position since Fish & Game was established in 1991, and was previously the first national director of the Acclimatisation Societies (Fish & Game’s predecessor) from 1980.

Lindsay Lyons, says Bryce Johnson’s decision to retire is a significant landmark for the organisation. “Bryce is the face of Fish & Game New Zealand and has been a hugely effective leader and advocate.  He has been in his role since Fish & Game’s inception and his hard work has helped shape it into a widely respected and effective environmental organisation.”

Bryce has placed Fish & Game at the forefront of the battle to protect New Zealand’s waterways and wild places. His passion and tenacity have secured 12 of the 15 Water Conservation Orders that currently provide ‘national park’ levels of protection to high value waterways. He also led the way, challenging the ever increasing intensification of agriculture, especially the rapid expansion of dairying and it’s damaging impact on NZ’s rivers and lakes.

Fish & Game under Bryce’s leadership has spearheaded the debate about declining freshwater quality, bringing the issue into the public domain, where it could play a role influencing the upcoming general election.

While Martin Taylor will have big waders to fill, he will lead an organisation that boasts a strong foundation for protecting the interests of anglers and hunters alike, as well as those with an interest in protecting New Zealand’s wild places.

I look forward to the continuation of Fish & Game’s robust role protecting the environment.



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.

Saltwater Fly: Kahawai Encounter

My eldest son Josh phoned to say he was organising a weekend fishing trip with his brother Callum, to track down Kingfish in the Huaraki Gulf… would I like to come along? I had been toying with the idea of having a crack at Kingies on fly, so a plan was hatched!

Finally I managed to hang on to a fish!

A calm sunny morning gave way to a sweltering afternoon, with only a light sea breeze to cool things down on the boat. Early plans to tempt fish out from a mussel farm using ‘burley’ met with limited success. Just as we were discussing where to go next, a 70cm Kingfish turned up in the burley trail, picking out lumps of diced pilchard. The fly rod was set up and I was ready to cast.

It was heart stopping to see the fish move in on the fly, only to turn away at the very last moment. After five aborted ‘follows’ I decided on a different approach. Rather than strip the fly back in an attempt to mimic a fleeing fish, I simply let the fly drift like a chunk of pilly. The sea fishing equivalent of matching the hatch perhaps! First cast and bingo, the Kingfish engulfed the sinking fly without hesitation.

What happened next might be best described as a brutal demonstration of power. I’ve never seen an aftm 8 weight fly rod tortured in this way before… while the reel simply screamed as line was ripped off the spool. Fortunately for me the first run headed away from the mussel farm and deep towards the seabed. My luck was not to last however, after a couple of minutes the fish changed tack and found the sanctuary of submerged structure within the mussel farm. A short tug of war and everything went slack… the leader had been shredded.

There was no time to dwell on the loss. We shortly came across a fast moving pack of young Kingfish and large ocean Kahawai chasing a shoal of small baitfish, driving them to the surface and causing the water to boil. Callum took responsibility for driving the boat and chasing the pack, while Josh and I manned our rods… Josh used spinners and baits while I elected to stick with the fly.

Spinners were immediately successful, connecting to a couple of large Kahawai. Just as Josh was bringing one to the boat, we noticed two very excited Kingies following. A couple of casts with the fly rod and I was on again. A blast of speed and power saw backing fizz off the reel while the rod contorted into a now familiar arc. Once again I survived the first run but this time we were in open water… I had a chance! The rod and drag were working hard absorbing plenty of punishment from the young Kingfish. We got into a cycle of gaining and loosing line… 5 metres to me 8 to the fish, 10 meters to me 6 to the fish, 15 metres to me 10 to the fish. Just as I began to get the upper hand… that sickening slack sensation. The fish was gone. I wound in expecting to find a break in the line but everything was fine, the hook had simply lost it’s hold.

Not to be deterred we continued following the feeding frenzy knowing that it could stop at any time. Josh and Callum both caught good sized Kahawai on lures. I landed a large fish trolling a softbait while Callum was positioning the boat, trying to get ahead of the action. However it was a fly caught fish that I really wanted.

Callum perfectly positioned the boat, and Josh was soon playing another fish. I cast towards a violent splash and 3 good Kahawai immediately turned to chase my fly. The middle fish connected with venom. Not to be overshadowed by the Kingies the Kahawai did his level best to reach the horizon. After a couple of initial searing runs the battle turned into an arm wrestle. The Sony Action Cam caught the final phases… see movie clip above.

My first serious attempt to catch a Kingfish on fly may not have been wholly successful but the  magnificent Kahawai more than made up for it. I have no doubt that a 75cm Kingfish can be tamed on an 8 weight trout set up – you just need lots of backing and plenty of open water to play it. A reel with a more robust drag system might also prove a valuable investment!

Finally it was great spending time on the water with my sons Josh and Callum, who both caught plenty of fish. I’m looking forward to the next trip.