Blasting Down on a Friday Night
Time for a pre-Christmas hit out on the Tongariro. The challenge started as I stepped out of the office, trying to head south as quickly as possible, to get on the river before the sun dropped below the hills. Taking a few of the back roads, I was in the Koura street car park just after eight and fumbling around with my gear in an effort to get a fly on the water and satisfy the fishing bug. The river was looking gold, a bit of rain had the flow fluctuating up and down around the 30 cumec level. A quick trudge down to Major Jones and it was on, the flies were in the air for the first time in a couple of weeks. It was the 6wt Z-Axis that was attempting to do the business this time, so everything was pretty light. First cast was into the near soft water, with the second one out into the tail of the pool. BANG, fish on second cast! The fish went nuts throwing itself out of the water and all over the place, straining the 6 weight early on. Clearly it threw most of it’s juice into the first few minutes of the fight as it came to the net pretty soon after. Nothing to write home about in size but a good feeling to be off the mark.
A few more casts later and I heard a bit of splashing down river. Next minute the caddis was on and I’d headed down to get a better angle at the few fish that were rising. Like a man possessed I cast time after time, with changes in fly, but could’t hit anything. By the end there were swine slapping all over the river and I was throwing the fly to every rise, not sure what wasn’t working, may have needed to try a smaller dry but nothing thought my goods were any good. As it turned pitch black I ripped myself away from the fish and stumbled back up the track to the car. Great start to the weekend.
Tongariro: One of the Best Mornings Yet
A 5am start deserves a bit of rewarding. Can’t think when I was last up that early to get on the river, I guess a lack of beers with the lads the night before helps matters. First port of call was Major Jones again, easy to get to and guaranteed to be there before sunrise. Rigged up with a decent beaded hare and copper and a size 16 flashback pheasant tail, I hit the bottom of the pool. It took about 15mins before I was into a fish, couple of pound and looking a bit spent. A promising start, made even better by another fish about 10mins later. This one had a bit more in it and took off for the main flow straight away. I gave it a bit of grief and applied some serious strain and it came over to the net soon after, better condition and a bit heavier on the scales.
The smells from the Turangi Bakery lifted me off the river and within 10 minutes I had a mince and cheese in my hand. Nothing like some meat and cheese for breakfast, the bakery is still in fine form. it was only 7:15am, so thought I’d put in some effort and make my way up river from Red Hut bridge to RHS of Boulder Reach. On the way up the track, once you’ve got up past the bypass that empties in to the main flow below Waddells pool, there is a massive clear pool that is more or less stagnant. The track rises up a bit and gives you a perfect spot to look out into the pool, I’ve never seen anything in the pool before, but this time was different. I was looking hard and seeing nothing until I caught sight of something moving on the far bank, a MASSIVE fish had obviously seen me and was cruising back toward my side to get under cover of the bank. This thing was a beast, would have put at easily at 10lb, I’ve not seen a bigger fish in the river ever before. Promising signs for the morning ahead.
After 15 minutes I was in Boulder Reach and casting away, the water was looking really good. After a couple of movements up the pool I planted myself on a rock that was sitting out of the water and used it as a casting platform. It provided a good view of the structure in the river, I spotted a couple of good sized boulders sitting in the flow that would have been perfect for holding fish to get in behind. Casting to the first one I had not luck. The second was a bit further out and across a quicker current, so I had to throw a long cast up and then an additional upstream mend to get the line gliding naturally by the time it got to the submerged boulder. Next minute, the indicator was under and I pulled up on a fish that had no intention of coming to the surface. The rock I was standing on gave me a bit of assistance in getting some decent strain on the fish, after 3 or 4 decent runs I finally managed to get it’s head up, at which point I fumbled around and ripped my camera out of the bag and while holding the fish on the line, clicked off a couple of mid-battle shots (see one below). After the quick snaps I got the fish into the net (2.5lb) and then back into the river to continue eating. The rest of the pool was quiet, until I got to the upper end and hooked into a similar sized fish which didn’t put on so much of a display.
Next up was Cliff Pool. I was really only planning on walking up past the pool and checking out any fish that were sitting in it. Past visits to the Cliff have proved fruitless, with weird currents and spooky fish making it next to impossible to catch. Looking into the tail of the pool, I saw a couple of fish moving around and then above them saw another 3. There was no chance I was going to wander on past without having a shot at them, luck I did. First cast was short and more of a test to see what the flow was doing the with line. The next cast was a beast followed by a decent mend, I could see the fish in the water and saw one of them move after which the indicated paused. I lifted and the fish boosted downstream. Running to catch up with it, I upped the drag and angled him down into a bit of slack water, he was trying to hold his ground but I put faith in the knots and pulled him in. It held some amazing spawning colours and had clearly been doing a bit of work. After releasing I thought I’d give the other fish in the pool ago, same scenario: fly went in the pool, fish moved and indicator paused – another fish to the net. The last fish I hooked in the pool got the better of me, it seemed to give a bit more of a pull and I stupidly didn’t allow it any more drag, it broke off mid stream.
The day was heating up and the fishing was even hotter. I pushed on up to the Tongariro’s Fan Pool, a short reach that flow our of a quick bouldery section – last time we’d put Maggot through it with no luck, but it was looking just as good so thought I’d better give it a go. It was easy fishing with limited drag and only 1-2m of water, being in the upper pools is always pretty relaxing so I had a bit of time to just soak it all in. I was expecting the head of the pool to be the most productive, but half-way up I hooked into a good fish that had been sitting just in behind the only boulder visible. This one took off to the head of the pool and across into the main flow. I had a mare and got a bit excited when the fish ran back toward me, I fumbled the line while running backward and when I finally got enough line in my hand to put the tension back on, the fish was gone. Muppet. The head of the pool produced another nice fish but this time I lost it as the fish teared off down stream and was in the rapid below before I was even out of the water running down the beach. A lot of fun, even if the fish didn’t make it to the net.
It was a productive morning with 6 fish landed and another 3 lost. Probably one of the better morning sessions I’ve ever had on the Tongariro. I decided I’d give the afternoon a miss and chill out in Pukawa in the sun. I did hit the river the next morning for 30 mins while Celina went for a run, but couldn’t hit the same form as the day before – albeit the weather and the water was enough to make the 30mins worth it in Breakast Pool. Got to say it would have been better to share it all with the lads, but when they’re half way across the world dealing with traffic, buildings and scuttlers, I’ll take all the fish I can while they’re not about!