Beginner Tips for Fly Fishing in the Taupo Region

Beginner Tips for Fly Fishing Taupo Rivers in Winter

I still remember the first time I tried to fish the Tongariro River. It was many years ago during a winter trip to Turangi. At this stage of my fly fishing career, I had only done a bit of fly fishing and had never seen a river this big, clear and daunting. The small streams and rivers of the Waikato was where I honed my craft.

Needless to say, I didn’t know where to start, caught nothing and was frustrated. So I didn’t return for a few years until a friend took me to the Tauranga-Taupo River. I enjoyed this smaller river much more and had success catching some lovely fresh rainbows. It’s been nearly 20 years since then and I have fished all the Taupo rivers a lot, apart from the Waitahanui, which I only recently started fishing successfully. Some call it the “way too hard hanui” I’m told, but as long as you apply some basic strategies the fish are still catchable in its swift crystal clear waters. So below I am sharing some tips for success in rivers like the Tauranga-Taupo and Tongariro during the famous winter runs.


Fly Fishing


Understand The Fishery

During winter, the trout in the Taupo rivers are not resident fish. These are spawning run fish that are moving to the upper reaches of the tributaries of Lake Taupo to spawn. This has several important implications for anglers. Firstly, the fish aren’t evenly distributed through the river, especially early season and their numbers increase toward the end before they drop back to the Lake to feed again. The season is roughly from June to October peaking in August. The trout move up the rives in “runs” triggered by environmental factors like rain and cold.  So timing is important. You want to ideally plan your trip with the best chance of coinciding with a run of trout up the river.

Another even more important implication is that these trout are not actively feeding. They move around in schools, tend to hug the bottom and usually won’t move great distances for flies, especially upward. So getting your flies to their depth is challenge number one in these often swift and deep rivers which means heavy rigs are needed. 

Fly Fishing


Use The Right Flies

Spawning run trout aren’t keen on feeding but are still opportunistic and often aggressive so a well-placed fly will get chomped. Early season and clear water often call for more natural flies like caddis imitations or the faithful hare and copper and pheasant tail variants but once it all gets underway egg imitations are the way to go. 

There is just no way to get past it, that’s what they want. A personal favourite for me is the Otter’s milking egg in combination with a heavy hare and copper bomb. It can hardly be beaten for nymphing. If swinging or wet lining is your thing go with small green or black woolly buggers when it’s clear and low and nothing gets past a good rabbit fly as well or try something with an added egg. But whatever you do make sure you get it in front of the trout. Depth matters.


Know Where To Go

There are a bunch of rivers in Taupo and while they are all well known accessing them can be a challenge. Look online for maps of the Tongariro pools and read the Manic Guide to Fly Fishing the Tongariro. Pop in at local shops like Creel Tackle House and get the latest info and some tips.


Fly Fishing


Start Small

The Tongariro is famous, stunning and can fish extremely well but it is the hardest river in Taupo to start on. So if you are new to the area and used to fishing smaller waters, try something like the Hinemaiaia or Tauranga-Taupo to start with and get used to fishing the heavy rigs and understanding where the trout are before moving on to the big T.


Ask For Help

If you have mates in the know, plan a trip together and learn from them. It will speed up your success a huge amount. Hiring a guide for a day or two can also teach you a great amount and be money well spent. And for those of you who want to fast-track your learning or prepare for a big trip across the ditch and don’t know where to start. I created an online course called The Guide to Fly Fishing Taupo Rivers in Winter.  Have a look at the video below to see what it offers and how it could help you get the best out of your winter season in Taupo.




About the Author:

Johan Kok is the man behind, Crazy About Fly Fishing, and the channel is all about fly-fishing. He make videos that are always useful to other fly-fishers. Anything from instructive fly fishing videos and vlog style videos to fly tying tutorials and more. I try to upload twice a week if possible.