A bit of coverage after a trip with “Maggot” on the middle section of the often fished Tongariro River. It seems like Auckland is giving me plenty of chances to fish the Tongariro given the last few posts have been from there but I’ll take it while it’s running clear.
Too Early to Start?
I’ve had my fair share of early starts on the river, most of them are productive as the fish swim around thinking they’re still in the safe zone. This start was a bit different, in just boots and boardies we were hurting as soon as we hit the waters. First the knees gave up and then the hands started to tell us we were muppets for getting up before the sun came. Maggot led the way and fished the tail and middle of the pool, hooking into a fish early on and hoping it would get him off the mark but it spat the fly and Mag was ripping himself a new one. My effort factor just wouldn’t rise, some half-ass casting in between taking photos and it was clear I didn’t deserve to be fishing the water. To cap things off some goose walked into the top of the pool and started to cast his nymphs in front of us. After a bit of glaring and him managing to put his own fly in his head, he retreated to the tail of the pool. Once again Turangi pies proved way too appealing and we were off the river after an hour headed for breakfast. I’m pretty sure the fly fishing on the Tongariro River and eating Turangi Pies are synonymous.
Walking Pays Dividends
The fuel of a mince and cheese pie is unbelievable. The kiwi classic is more or less a jab of inspiration, energy and drive to get back on the water and sort the fish out. Being the holidays there were plenty of anglers about so we made the call to take a walk. Back to the Koura Street car park and up the true right bank to stag pool. This place used to be the go-to-pool on the Tonga’s but apparently has quietened down in the last couple of years. We had to drop into the river well above the pool and wade down due to a lack of track clearing, luckily it was only knee deep and neither of us took a swim. Mag took the upper stag and I dropped into stag proper, the water was looking gold and it was a good place to be with no one else around. After checking the shallows for browns, I threw a few casts into the soft water on the edge of the main flow and after a couple of casts was into my first fish of the day. It’s probably a stretch to call it a fish, a mate (Podge) suggested it was more of an eel, this boy had done his business in the river and was clearly trying to recover. All the same it was a fish on and things were looking up after the freezing start to the morning. I hit the same spot again with a few more casts and on the third, the indicator sank again and I pulled up on a 2lb hen that was looking much healthier than his pal before. Mag was feeling the pressure in his pool as he saw the stag delivering for me. Unfortunately he didn’t manage to hook into anything, but he was certainly fishing the right water – maybe the fish just weren’t there.
Fishing New Water on the Tongariro River
After beating the blackberry away on the track back to the main trail, we headed downriver to check out the area around Kamahi pool. It’s got to be one of the nicest spots on the river, plenty of bush, the river always looks good and there’s loads of space for sitting about. Mag jumped into the pool to practice a bit of casting and I soaked up the sun for a while, yelling out the odd casting tip which I’m sure was ridiculously helpful!?
We’d been keeping an eye on a guide and his clients who were fishing a spot that we’d specifically come to fish. When they cleared off, we quickly made our way downstream to get onto the spot before someone else did. Mag and I joined forces on the crossing and managed a kind of run-slide movement down the river across slippery rocks almost bailing a few times before eventually ending up on the island that split the main flow and a bypass. The main flow really opened up in the main part of the fork, crashing into the bank with the remainder of water trickling over a stone run-off. It was the runoff that I’d picked out as a spot to fish before heading to the prime spot. It was hard work as the different flows cascaded down the run-off but with plenty of mending, high-sticking and determination we were into a fish within a few minutes. The first one bust off pretty quickly, it’s tough to see the take with the currents often holding the indicator steady which can be mistaken for a fish. A few more steps upstream and a couple more casts into the good water, I was into another fish which decided there was no chance it was sticking around. As always I somehow managed to run over the slippery rocks, that I’d previously edged over just to stay upright and was downstream with the fish in no time. This thing had gone deep and long, the pressure was on the line and I could feel it, Mag was ready with the net to drag it in, but just as we got it into the softer water it too spat the hook and was off. Disappointment didn’t really come into it, with the run giving us enough excitement.
Our final spot of the morning was a piece of water I’d picked up a fish in the weekend before. A pretty unique spot for the Tongariro River, only 5-6 metres wide and around 2-4ft in depth, more like fishing a small river or stream. Its one of those spots that looks like its got to have fish in it and this was confirmed when we saw a fish leap out of the water. It literally cleared the water, don’t think I’ve seen that too often before, had to be a good sign. The water was perfect for one rod, so we alternated Mag the leftie fishing the inside line and my right arm fishing the outside run.
We used the 6wt I’d been carrying all day just for the specific piece of water, tied onto it were a weighted Pheasant Tail and hanging below, a green caddis. Mag managed to pick up and quickly drop a fish, another chapter on the way to the first elusive fish! We fished the rest of the water pretty thoroughly without any love – maybe the guides clients had thrashed it to bits…I got to the top of the pool and Mag headed off to pick up our other rods from the bank. Cue the normal scenario: “just a couple more casts”. This time the normally fruitless scenario paid off as the flies dropped into the whitewater and we’re hit a few metres downstream by a fish. I started yelling at Mag to bring the net, after being bust off 60m downstream just a week earlier. The fish was jumping around and I was putting on good upstream pressure to prevent the run of death downstream. Just as Mag was hitting the sand bank, the fish shot into the air again and came crashing down on the line…poof it was gone. Bugger. Another fish dropped on a productive day for hookups but not for getting them to the net. It was a good morning session, with amazing weather and plenty of variety. The fish seemed to be taking small flashback naturals fished under a good sized tungsten nymph.
No doubt we’ll be back to that piece of water to get Mag off the mark and into one of the Tongas finest!