New Zealand has always been somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit and last month I got the chance to fit in a quick week long road trip with my younger brother, who is currently living in Auckland. It was the perfect chance to hit the road with him (it’s been some 6 years since our last road trip) and do some exploring on the North Island, drop into as many tackle stores as I could find, meet up with Cam and the team at Manic to check out some of the new ranges and catch up with Kiyoshi Nakagawa (Yoshi) for a fish around the Rotorua area.
The plan was to hit the road Saturday morning and make our way to Waihi Beach via Hunting and Fishing North Shore (where Yoshi is the resident fly fishing expert). From there we would continue on to Tauranga for the day before heading off to Rotorua for two nights then onto Taupo for a couple of nights before the drive back to Auckland.
By the time we got to Rotorua my casting arm was starting to twitch and I was beyond keen to catch my first trout on fly. I met up with Yoshi at 6:30am the next morning. It was quite cool compared to what the norm is for that time of year and the area received some recent rain the days leading up so I was unsure what to expect. He quickly got me sized up with a pair of Simms waders and boots then we were off.
In the months leading up to my trip I’d been keeping up with Yoshi’s angling adventures via his social media pages. This guy is a hellman behind the lens and captures some amazing images with some seriously beautiful backdrops, I can see why he enjoys guiding in this part of the world.
After a quick drive we were arrived at our destination, we quickly donned our waders and boots, grabbed the Scott Radian 5wt and started making tracks. After a quick stroll we were now looking down on a beautiful clear stream surrounded by ferns, which were highlighted in the morning sun. We found our path and made our way to the edge of the stream and within seconds Yoshi had already spotted a couple of rainbow trout.
As a complete greenhorn when it comes to trout fishing, I was eager to absorb every bit of information that Yoshi had to offer sort of like a fly fishing sponge. Yoshi said that we’d be fishing a dry and dropper rig and explained the importance of a nice accurate cast and to be able to maintain a natural drift to tempt our prey. So what did I do…..get snagged on an overhanging tree first cast on the back cast, great! We quickly retrieved my flies from the nearby foliage and got back to business. Within a few casts I managed to make the right cast, maintain a good drift and watch my target eat the nymph with gusto. The dry quickly disappeared below the surface and with lightning speed Yoshi was calling “strike!” and I was onto my first rainbow. Somehow I managed to not cock it up and soon this feisty little rainbow was in the net and I had a smile from ear to ear. Yoshi had a good chuckle and said “Oh man it’s always funny watching you saltwater guys catch your first trout” and after a quick bit of instruction on correct rod angles to protect the light tippet we were back into it.
We continued to make our way up the stream, spotting and catching more rainbows along the way along with a couple of little browns which were another first for me on fly. As we made our way around a bend Yoshi motioned for me to stop and pointed out a beautiful big brown, which he estimated at around 6lb only 15ft ahead. I took my time to get into position before making the cast, which missed the mark by about a foot so I took a breath before re casting. This time the cast was on the money, the drift was good and with a slight tick in the line I set the hook on what was to be my best fish of the morning. I managed to keep this beautiful buttery brown out of a laydown tree and other underwater hazards, Yoshi produced the landing net and as I guided it towards the net…..POP!!! After a few expletives and a bit of heartbreak from both angler and guide I realised I had applied a bit too much pressure on the light tippet and it had given way. I thought back to what Yoshi had said earlier about rod angles and light tippet and thought to myself “well you just blew that one!” But hey I was here to learn and we were still catching plenty of rainbows up to 3lb and enjoying plenty of laughs along the way, mainly at my expense when I managed to go “ass up” scrambling a section of bank.
After a change in spot and landing some more rainbows and a beautifully marked brown it was time to wrap up the morning and grab a quick coffee with Yoshi before he dropped me off. It was great to have a chance to test out some of the great gear from Manic that I wouldn’t normally get to play with. The Scott Radian/Waterworks Lamson Speedster combo was a pleasure to fish with and I was glad to try out the new Airflo Dash line as I’ve been considering it for some of my other freshwater applications.
Having good gear always makes a session that much more enjoyable however the real winner for me was fishing with an experienced guide. As a newcomer to trout fishing I learnt so much within a short period of time and couldn’t recommend Yoshi highly enough. I look forward to hosting Yoshi in Australia on his next visit to repay the favour.
Now that I’m back to reality I’m counting down the days to when I can get back to the North Island. Turangi and the Tongariro are definitely on the cards next trip. I couldn’t believe it when we parked the car, walked along the river for 5 minutes and then looked down and watched a 4-5lb rainbow proceed to sip passion vine hoppers off the surface for the next half an hour. This was followed by a local wading out and within four casts landing a 10lb+ rainbow. How good is New Zealand!!
If New Zealand isn’t on your bucket list then I suggest you add it. I only got to experience a small snippet of this beautiful country and already I’m in love with the place and have decided that an annual trip will have to be on the cards. Until then I’ll just continue to scour Youtube and read every part of trout fishing literature and past Flylife articles I can get my hands on.