It’s an easy one to pinpoint what draws me to Turangi during the famed winter months. It can be a miserable and inhospitable place at the best of times, cold, wet and just plain hard, so it’s sure as hell not the weather.
It’s not the fish that draws me here either, whilst basically a Steelhead in appearance and run-characteristics, they are often not large by New Zealand standards, in fact I’ve yet to land a rainbow over 7.5lbs on the Tongariro and it’s is definitely not the methods I use, like unwieldy rigs, long leaders and shuttle-clock sized indicators that all combine to send your cast skew-whiff at the slightest of breeze.
A fish-fight, stifled by the heavier gear which necessitates the turnover of said rig, and the often long reaching casts, are a physiotherapists dream on return to the “big smoke” where most of us reside.
TURANGI FLY FISHING IN WINTER
I do know why I keep coming back year after year though. Quite simply, it’s the companionship and camaraderie that comes from pulling together like-minded individuals from all over New Zealand and Australia - all set on itching their “off-season” scratch. It’s such a unique fishery and method, even calling it fly fishing is pushing the boundaries! A form of specialised ‘lobbing’ might be a more adapt! But fun it is. So much fun.
The conversations from across the river, shouted bravado and encouragement all the while standing shoulder to shoulder with a stranger who shares a common bond. The friendships often lasting, the swapping of advice invaluable and handed down through fellow anglers more than one might think.
Not a day would go by during the Taupo winter rainbow runs where you don’t see two anglers approach a pool, one will assume the lead, arm extended indicating where the lie is in the pool, information passed down from fellow strangers years prior, now the noob is the expert, a fly fishing super-hero in the eyes of his prodigal sidekick, whom the following season, puff chested extends his arm, and points out the lie to a new generation of experts.
IT’S DEFINITELY NOT SUMMER FLY FISHING
Summer comes and the river takes on a different character, the flows decrease, golden hues light up the foliage and small rainbow trout litter any bath-tub sized pocket they can find. Large hooked-jawed brown trout of trophy proportions begin their lazy passage into the shallow tributaries to procreate.
Large buoyant cicada flies drifted down vegetated banks drawing a huge snout from the depths, 30 degree heat and the constant crunching of broken wings and exoskeletons underfoot add to the experience. This is the time, this is life at its finest, but there is nobody about to share the experiences with, something’s missing. Gone are the anglers, replaced by the occasional tourist, the serenity broken with a “got any bites”.
WINTER TROUT FISHING TURANGI
Winter is coming soon, time to catch up on the river with good friends, a beer in the pub and swap stories of that 4lb tail-hooked rainbow who stripped 100 yards of line in a blistering run. It was never seen, “but well over 10lbs he was” rings out at increased volume in the hope the group at the other table will chime in with their own recollections from the day. A friendship blooms right there at a table in the Turangi Tavern.
Friends like Mike Kirkpatrick who guide on the pristine mountainous back country waters of the South Island, “It’s not really my kind of fishing” they proclaim, however they come, they smile, they laugh and they vow to return the following winter, is it the fishing? No, is it something very unique to the central North Island? Absolutely.
A magical place bathed in mate-ship, friendships forged, the old wetliners are gone but the memories will forever remain for those fortunate to grace her mighty banks, you’re a great friend Turangi and the Tongariro River.
ABOUT MATT HINCE
Quick witted TV star and serial rod breaker, Matt Hince is a great man to be around whether you're on the river or kicking off the post match function.