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.
With the new fishing season still a month away, my beloved 2002 Toyota Prado VX had been showing signs of ageing. Her engine was getting noisy, and the alloy wheels were way past their sell-buy date. As if that wasn’t enough the old Pirelli Scorpion AT tyres were starting to resemble something you might find at a race track – slicks! Not exactly an inspiring combination for heading onto the muddy stuff for an early season fishing excursion. It was time to get busy.
Before spending too much money I needed to know if the engine was up to the job. The 3.4 litre, 24 valve, V6 petrol power unit had well over 300,000k’s on the clock, was seeping oil from the rocker gaskets, had noisy fan bearings, a dodgy thermostat, and the cam belt and water pump were overdue for replacement.
Rodger the Service Manager at 4 Wheel Drive Solutions asked one of his technicians to give the Prado a test drive. The prognosis was good so she was booked in. After a week of automotive TLC I was delighted topick up a refreshed truck – the engine was smooth at idle, revved freely and pulled strongly throughout the rev range. I’ve been told the 5VZ-FE engines have a very good reputation and can handle high mileages, but the key is regular maintenance, paying particular attention to the cooling system. I suspect this work was a timely intervention.
With the engine sorted, it was time to consider rims and rubber. The more I investigated options the more complex things became. It was time for a chat with Morgan, the owner at 4 Wheel Drive Solutions. I’d already established that I wanted to focus on improving the trucks off road capabilities, and didn’t need to retain the typical Prado ‘look’. In fact, I was quite keen to emphasise the off road intent behind the changes.
After running through a bunch of ideas I decided to go with a set of Mickey Thompson STZ tyres – an aggressive All Terrain tyre that gives an excellent combination of on-road and off-road performance. In terms of rims, we were down to two options, each with a different offset value. Morgan suggested the best way forward was to fit tyres on both rims and try them on the vehicle, to see exactly how they fitted. This proved to be a great idea and enabled me to confidently choose what I wanted. I opted for a set of 16×8 Australian mine site approved ROH BlackTrak steelies with an offset value of 0.
The tyres were christened on a trip to Lake Otamangakau, high on the Central Plateau above Lake Taupo. The weather at this time of year can be grim at times, with extended periods of very heavy rain. Therefore I was not surprised to find many of the tracks around the lake to be very muddy. I’m pleased to report the Prado performed well. While not ‘mudders’ the the STZ’s clawed through the soft stuff with relative ease and got me to the waters edge.
The proof of the pudding is in the catching! Fourth cast and an athletic young Rainbow hammered a black buzzer. A small fish by Lake O standards, but the season was underway.
Opening morning of a new season and Josh and I made the short drive up into the mountains from the town of Turangi to Lake Otamangakau. The weather forecast for the morning was ok, with a risk of some wetter stuff arriving in the afternoon.
At first light ‘Lake O’ was almost glass-like, with a slight breeze gently moving the surface. In the subdued light Josh and I quickly assembled our rods and set about inflating a couple of ‘Water Striders’… it may be early season but the occasional splash suggested fish were on the move and these stealthy water craft would allow us to get amongst them. As we set up, a steady stream of eager anglers arrived at the lake and in no time boat trailers filled the car park surrounding the main boat ramp. We had plenty of company but that was fine… lots of quiet corners on this lake. So far so good.
Within half an hour a bitter cold southerly blew in bringing dark grey skies and squally rain. The wet stuff arrived early! As far as the trout were concerned, mother nature had just flicked a giant switch. Any early promise had now turned to a more gritty prospect, where every fish would be hard earned.
As the morning passed, bright bars of sunlight occasionally burst through gaps in the slate clouds and plunged towards the lake. The bleak mountain landscape began to tease anglers and fish alike, with brighter periods quickly blotted out by angry looking clouds carried on the cold southerly. This harsh environment has a raw beauty that can challenge those who visit. These conditions are not for everyone. While I love presenting a dry fly to a sighted fish on a warm summer evening I also enjoy the more brutal challenge of days like this. These conditions offer a stark contrast to the convenient, controlled comfort of daily life. A chance to face up to the elements as they assault the senses. An opportunity to remind ourselves of where we fit within a bigger picture.
In the early afternoon during a break in the weather I came across a large Brown Trout feeding in the shallows. I watched him for several minutes. His broad back and dorsal fin regularly broke the surface, along with his shovel-like tail. As he turned I clearly saw his spotted bronze flank and golden yellow belly… a great looking fish of around 10lbs. This is what we came here for.
I already had a 16 ft leader attached to my 6 weight set up, but needed to change fly. On went a size 14 dark p/t nymph tied ‘Cove’ style, which was easier said than done as the adrenalin caused my hands to tremble while threading the eye. The huge fish didn’t appear to be patrolling, rather, slowly working his way along the bank picking at snails and small nymphs. I carefully moved to stay ahead of him.
Ok, the rain had stopped and even the cold wind had briefly subsided. I was ready. The cast was fired almost parallel to the bank, with the fly landing perfectly – exactly where the large trout was now heading. At that very moment I spotted another smaller Brown Trout out of the corner of my eye. It was swimming towards my fly on a determined intercept path. This interloper triggered an immediate aggressive response from the larger fish, who lunged, sending the smaller fish dashing back towards deeper water.
I watched in disbelief as the large trout swirled back towards me, but in the commotion he had bypassed my carefully presented fly and was now directly under the thick fly line. The big trout’s demeanor immediately changed as his attention shifted to the line overhead. He came to an instant stop with fins bristling. Both trout and angler frozen like statues. Then he was gone. Leaving me staring at a cloud of sand and silt!
While disappointing at the time, on reflection I was pleased to have had such a dramatic encounter with a fantastic fish. On this occasion the trout won but there will be others, and the tables will turn… such as the Waikarimoana Brown my wife Caren captured on film>
Josh and I ended up fishing a few rivers and lakes around the central plateau over three days with 10 or so fish between us. Josh was delighted to take the biggest – a 5lb ‘Lake O’ Rainbow that he hooked while using the Water Strider during the heaviest downpour of the weekend. A very hard earned fish indeed!
Last month I wrote a short piece about the Tongariro River, sharing my thoughts on how the fishing has improved this year, especially for visiting anglers. I even included a few video clips to help bring the scene to life.
It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, I wonder how many words the latest movie from Andrew Harding is worth? Quite a few I suggest, but I’ll let you be the judge:
A fantastic piece of work that captures the mood of fishing a great river. Movie clips like this provide a great illustration of just how good it can be. Great stuff Andrew.
I’d like to share my latest sketch of a rainbow trout. In this example I’m using colour pencils to explore the amazing colour combinations present around the eyes and gill cover… it really is incredible when you take a moment to look in detail.
The plan is to continue working on a few more sketches before developing a series of larger paintings. I’m hoping the new trout fishing season that kicks off 1 October will provide plenty of inspiration!
Talking of kicking off, there’s going to be a bit of rugby competing for my attention shortly. As an Englishman living in New Zealand you might imagine that the Rugby World Cup is going to test a few loyalties? Swing looow, sweet charr riot… some loyalties can’t be broken.