Archive for the ‘NZ North Island’ Category

Taranaki wonderland

We decided to spend winter in Turangi and take advantage of the year round fishing available in Lake Taupo and some of the local rivers; the mighty Tongariro being the most famous of them all. New PlymouthAlthough the number of fish and their size and condition had been in decline for several years, the fish already caught by anglers this winter season seemed to indicate a remarkable recovery and we were looking forward to being back.

First climbse of Mt TaranakiBut before heading to Turangi, the west coast of the North Island with Mount Taranaki and Egmont National Park stood high on our bucket list. On all the previous trips to New Zealand, we missed out on this spectacular region and it was time to change that. We had seen Mt Taranaki from the top of its eastern neighbour, Mt Tongariro, but from up close it looked even more impressive. 2’518m high Mt Taranaki/Mt Egmont is flanked by two smaller volcanoes and dominates the landscape with its distinctive shape. With the summit being just over 20km from the coast, the mountain offers unparalleled views out to sea and over fertile farmland. The slopes of Mt Taranaki display a unique mosaic of many different types of vegetation, from lush rainforests to tussock lands and alpine swamps. As early as 1900 Egmont National Park was established, covering around 33’500 hectares. Today, the mountain features a visitor centre, several access roads and a great network of walking tracks. Taranaki is also an important dairy farming region and has attracted an unusually high number of settlers from Switzerland. May be the area reminds them of their home country?

Mt Taranaki is an active volcano, research shows that the last major eruption took place in the middle of the 17th century; statistically Mt Taranaki has a major eruption every 500 years.

Mountain Cabbage TreesDawson Falls_Egmont National ParkWe based ourselves in New Plymouth, the major city of the region and with a population of just over 50’000 a very lively place. The area features some of New Zealand’s best surfing spots and if one is keen enough, it is possible to go skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. We decided to take it easy and explored the costal walkway with its great beaches. New Plymouth has upgraded its waterfront remarkably and pedestrians and cyclists have an excellent choice of designated tracks. The city is also home to many beautiful parks and even with winter still in full swing, many plants were already blooming thanks to warm weather and a generally mild climate. And we walked some of the great tracks up the mountain of course, enjoying the stunning scenery and the unique flora.

Te Rewa Rewa bridge_Coastal WalkwayCoastal WalkwayNew Plymouth Coastal WalkwayAfter 10 very pleasant and relaxing days, we left New Plymouth and headed east. The Forgotten World Highway from Stratford to Taumarunui proved to be a very picturesque route indeed and we enjoyed the relaxed drive through steep hill country with small settlements and many historical features.

Hinemaiaia catchAlthough the Taranaki region has some amazing fishing for trout on offer, the rods stayed put over there and we were as keen as mustard to give it a go in Turangi. When we arrived, the rivers were running low and clear, usually not the best conditions for good runs of fish. But despite the lack of rain, the fishing improved a week or so after our arrival and the number and size of fish caught were remarkable. We have said it before, if one is seeking solitude and tranquility, fishing the Tongariro in winter is probably not going to be a good idea. Taupo RainbowToo many anglers are keen to catch one of the famous Taupo rainbow or brown trout and the river can get really crowded. The smaller rivers north of Turangi are usually less frequented and we found a new favorite of ours. More of a stream than a river, it was an absolute pleasure to fish. We spent many days along its banks and only twice did we encounter other anglers.

Trout paradiseDuring the first weeks of our stay, the Taurango Taupo River and the Hinemaiaia River, two other personal favourites, did not hold a lot of fish due to a lack of rain. But after a spell of wet weather, the fish started to run up from the lake and we had exciting fishing. Both rivers are a trout’s paradise with deep pools, shallow riffles, long glides and heaps of drift wood and some impressive log jams.

Casting clinic with HerbMany years ago in one of the fishing magazines, we read an article about a special cast, called the Tongariro Roll Cast. The article was written by Herb Spannagl, a passionate fly fisher with an intimate knowledge of the Tongariro River. When we heard that Herb was going to hold a casting clinic, we did not have to think twice and registered for the event straight away. Herb and two of his friends did a great job indeed teaching the cast to about 15 people with Béatrice being the only woman in the group. The Tongariro Roll Cast, like many other casts, seems easy to learn when performed by an expert, but things were looking a bit different when we tried to master it ourselves. Herb was an excellent teacher though and everyone made progress during the day. The two of us will have to practice a lot more to get it right, but mastering this cast is worth all the effort; the Tongariro Roll Cast is such an amazing tool when using heavy nymphs. It is a lot less tiring then a regular overhead cast, it’s faster and it eliminates any danger of the heavy flies hitting the caster. And, like any other roll cast, it requires very little room behind the caster.

House mateWhile in Turangi, we were looking after the house of friends who spent 4 weeks overseas. It was quite a change to have a big house all to ourselves with a beautiful garden full of spring flowers and even our very own cat. Although it was for a limited time only, we thoroughly enjoyed the feeling. Time went by far too quickly and we had to think about the last two months of our stay – after almost four years of travelling, our plane back to Switzerland was going to leave at the beginning of December. After some serious thinking and debating we came to the conclusion, that we should travel south again and spend most of October and November on the South Island before heading back up north.

Leaving WELWe left Turangi and caught a ferry across Cook Strait the next day. The weather forecast predicted strong winds and we feared the worst, but the crossing was calm and no one got sea sick. Our intention was to travel down the West Coast and over Haast Pass to Mossburn in Southland as soon as possible with just 3 nights stopover along the way. While in Reefton, we checked the road conditions to make sure everything was fine. Unfortunately, the highway over Haast Pass was closed again, due to a massive landslide and rock slips caused by heavy rain about two weeks earlier. A camper van got caught up in the mayhem at the time and a young couple from overseas got killed. Because of the size of the slip, it was only possible to open the road temporarily and especially after rain, the road had to be closed again.

Otira Gorge_Arthurs PassKea_Arthurs PassArthurs PassNot knowing how long the closure would last this time, we decided to drive over
Arthur’s pass and down the East Coast.

Sweet fibreglass

Duff Epic S2 Nude 480After many years as passionate fly fishers, we thought there is not much that can surprise us anymore in regard of fly fishing equipment. As it turned out, we could not have been further from the truth.

Friends of ours had been raving about their modern fiberglass rods for quite a while, but as dedicated fast action rod junkies, we didn’t really care. When we came across Carl McNeil’s already legendary NZ made Epic fiberglass blanks a while ago though, we decided to give it a go. All that was needed was a rod builder. Then we remembered having seen Steve Duff’s Kustom Fishing Tools add in Flylife magazine many times. And we had also noticed that he uses EVA grips on his high end custom made fly rods, a feature the new rod just had to have. Having put together a list with the hardware and the finish we wanted on our rod, we sent Steve an e-mail and he got started. We couldn’t wait to receiving the finished rod, to cast it and to fish it of course. And when it finally arrived, it was like Christmas and Queen’s Birthday on the same day.

And the verdict: Woow! There is life before death after all.

Duff Epic S2 Nude 480_close upOur Duff Epic #4 rod is an absolute dream. The semi transparent white blank, the hardware and the master rod building skills that brought it all together make up for an awesome fly fishing tool. As passionate fast action addicts, we were a bit nervous, but the Duff Epic #4 is a joy to cast. We knew it would be nothing like the old wobbly glass rods and yet the light overall weight, the very smooth, responsive feel and especially the fast blank recovery surprised us nevertheless. Have a look at the stunning range of Epic blanks and other great stuff on Carl McNeil’s website.

We have not caught many fish on our Duff Epic yet, but with the weather getting warmer, it should only be a matter of time until its fish fighting abilities are seriously put to the test. Will keep you posted!

Duff Epic IDuff Epic IIDuff Epic IIIDuff Epic IVDuff Epic VDuff Epic VI

Swift FlyfishingDuffrods

North again

All things come to an end, even the good ones. After having spent almost a year in New Zealand already, it’s time to travel north again; we have to catch a flight from Auckland in a couple of weeks. On the way up along the West coast the weather is deteriorating and we miss the breathtaking views along the coast.
Just after Haast, passing one of the many road works, an oncoming car is speeding and the stones from the rough surface are flying all over the place, giving us quite a fright and smashing our windscreen with a loud bang. In Nelson, we have the windscreen replaced and our car serviced.

Just before we leave the South Island, we get the exciting news that our car and our boat will both be waiting when we arrive in Sydney. In January, we started looking for a car and a small boat for our Australia trip. Thanks to our friends at Travel Car Centre in Sydney we came across a Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier and, after a bit of negotiation by phone and e-mail with Pius, its very friendly owner, we bought the car without having seen it. Getting a small boat without being in the country wasn’t much of a deal either. After having read many reviews in different fishing magazines, the two boats in our favor were the aluminum Quintrex Hornet Trophy and the composite 4.1 Steve Starling Signature CrossXCountry. The light yet strong construction of the CXC boat, the quiet ride it provides and the possibility of having many features customized to ones needs made us go for the rig from Brisbane. The slightly lower price and the fact, that the boat is built by a small company, being as important for our decision. Bill from CXC was great and thanks to his help and efforts everything worked out very well indeed.

Crossing Cook Strait on a brilliant day is always a pleasure and we enjoy the ferry trip very much, but not without a little bit of sadness in our hearts. But now is not the time to be sad; we are looking forward to meeting friends in Taihape and to doing some amazing fishing in the surrounding rivers. Martin, our friend, is guiding us and we enjoy two great days in the most beautiful country. We will definitely be back and explore the area much more.

The next day, a Saturday, Taihape is busy with people. The gumboot festival attracts a colorful crowd and gumboots throwing, dog barking, whip cracking, a wearable art contest and many other attractions entertain young and old.

Time is running fast now and we head for Auckland. Thanks to dear friends we have a safe place to store our car until we return to New Zealand and then it is time to say good bye. We had the most wonderful time in Aotearoa once more and hope to be back very soon. Many, many thanks to all our friends, we miss you a hell of a lot.

Australia, we are coming!


The capital – part two

We are still in Turangi and enjoying fishing the rivers and hiking on the mountains. In the last couple of weeks the weather has been pretty wet and with every decent rain more fish are coming up the rivers. The smaller ones like the Hinemaiaia are now full of trout and wherever one peers into the water there are fish. They are not that easy to land though thanks to a lot of snags and bank side vegetation and some of the willows along heavily fished pools look like Christmas trees with numerous nymphs and glow bugs decorating their branches.

With the rivers being in a natural state, every substantial flood changes their course and it was amazing to see how the last two floods changed the Tauranga-Taupo River. Some of our favorite fishing spots are completely gone or hold no longer fish and the raging torrent chewed away parts of the track and piled up some impressive logjams.

When fishing we are wearing our polarizing glasses all the time. Getting older, our arms seem to get shorter and tying on a fly or reading the small prints without magnifying glasses becomes near impossible. When looking for an alternative to glasses, we came across some stick-on magnifying lenses. Made in the USA out of a high quality plastic material, they can be cut to fit and stick to any kind of glasses.

Viktor has fitted some of his polarizing glasses with +3.00 lenses; they are nothing short of perfect and make tricky jobs so easy, see

With the rain came more snow and made the skiers and boarders happy. The ski fields over here are quite different from the ones at home. Many of them can only be reached by narrow, often unsealed roads and without a four wheel drive one has to take a shuttle bus to get to the lifts. Compared with the European Alps the fields are usually much smaller, but the slopes are well prepared and the atmosphere is very relaxed.

The temperatures are rising and spring is on its way. Along the rivers the willows just started to sprout and around the house the rhododendrons and magnolias are already in full bloom and the first tulips show their colors.

Apart from outdoor activities we love to read books and our friend Jim recently recommended Harry Middleton’s “The earth is enough – growing up in a world of trout and old men”. We both enjoyed the story very much indeed and it made us enjoy the little things in life even more.

If everything goes according to plan we will leave the North Island by the end of September and be on the South Island for the opening of the trout fishing season on the 1st of October.

The capital

Finally in Turangi, the self proclaimed trout fishing capital of the world! Situated on the banks of the famous Tongariro River at the southern end of Lake Taupo, the fishing opportunities and the quality of the fish this laid back town has to offer are truly something special. Within an hour’s drive are countless rivers and creeks just waiting to be explored. The King country to the west being much underestimated with many great fishing opportunities.

Seeing dear friends after more than 8 years and catching up was wonderful and we already enjoyed many delicious dinners together. The evenings usually go by just too quickly with a yummy meal, interesting discussions and a lot of laughter. With Jock and Harry, the two new dogs our friends got a while ago, always being part of the fun. They are very handsome and love to cuddle up, but despite their very friendly nature both are great, well trained hunting dogs.

Winter is now in full swing with temperatures at night time down to -6°C and between 5 and 12°C during the day. The weather has been brilliant for the last two weeks – the school holidays – and many families enjoyed a day on the Whakapapa skifield on Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand largest skiing area. Snow is still a bit scarce, but some of the lifts are running.

Winter and especially school holidays are a busy time also on the rivers; the Tongariro being the most targeted with some of the pools close to town crowded at times. But if one is prepared to walk, there is always a spot to be found where no one is around. Because of the sunny, dry weather, the water flows low and clear everywhere and not a lot of fish are running.

The Tauranga-Taupo River or T-T needs a fresh to bring more fish up the river. The Hinemaiaia, another small river flowing into Lake Taupo, fishes well though. These small rivers are a real trout paradise full of driftwood and other structure. The wood and overgrown banks are hard on our gear and some days the number of lost flies reaches double figures. So Béatrice spends many evenings on the vice tying nymphs that will hopefully deceive the fish of a lifetime. With the water being low and clear and the fish being finicky, a combination of a heavier nymph in size 10 or 12 and a small natural nymph pattern in size 14 or even 16 brings the best results. On the small rivers we use our 5 weight rods, on the Tongariro, which requires even heavier nymphs, we use 7 and 9 weights. We are still practicing casting with our 11’ switch cast rod, which would be perfect for fishing big waters like the Tongariro. We will get there eventually.

Our wading boots get a hard beating with a lot of walking along the rivers and wading in the riverbeds with very abrasive rocks. No wonder our new sticky-rubber soles looked quite worn after a short period of use, especially in the front parts. A while ago we decided to use Simms star cleats to protect the front of the soles against premature wear. The screwed in cleats – 3 to 5 on each boot – work very well and the soles will hopefully last much longer this way.

This week a 14 pound brown trout has been taken on the Tongariro and many more fish around the magic 10 pound mark have been caught in the last few weeks. Even if fish numbers are not that high at the moment, there is always the chance of a good catch.

We haven’t done any river mouth fishing yet, but others are fishing the mouths to good avail. It’s always a funny sight to see 8 or 10 fishers standing side by side waist deep out in the lake casting their offerings out in to the depths for hours.

It’s not all about fishing though and again we did some terrific walks in the area. We did not hike the Tongariro Crossing, one of New Zealand’s great walks, this time, but we did many shorter ones up the volcanoes. Three days ago on a clear, sunny day we went up to the south crater from Mangatepopo road end – the first part of the crossing – while the peaks of Mount Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, covered in fresh, gleaming white snow, looked down on us. Out west the distinctive shape of Mount Taranaki could clearly be seen against a cloudless, blue sky. The good conditions attracted many people and some tackled the mountains in shorts and sneakers, not exactly an appropriate outfit for an alpine walk in wintertime. But as a friend uses to say: No brain, no pain.

For the first kilometers the track crosses areas with diverse alpine scrub vegetation. The higher up it goes, the younger the underground becomes and after an hour of walking we found ourselves surrounded by sharp, dark lava rocks with only very little signs of plant life. With the previous nights very cold, frost was still present at mid day and every little stream was covered in ice.

After a long hike or a day standing in a cold river, we love to soak in the Tokaanu thermal hot pools just a couple of kilometers to the west of Turangi to relax and get warm again.

The nearby Tongariro National Trout Center has seen a lot of exciting changes since our last visit in 2002 with a new aquarium still under construction, scheduled for opening by the end of this year. The visitor center offers interesting insights into the history of trout fishing and the biology of freshwater habitats. On the day of our visit there was a kid’s fish out day going on with girls and boys fishing with a fly in the Centers fish out pond. Great to see all those happy faces!

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