Archive for the ‘NZ North Island’ Category

Lucky days

The drive from Wairoa north of Hawke Bay to Murupara is arguably one of the most scenic in the country. Also the road through the Urewera National Park is unsealed for many kilometers, it is suitable for conventional cars. Rivers, creeks, native forest and of course beautiful Lake Waikaremoana are all features of a special journey.

On arrival at Aniwhenua Lodge near Murupara we were welcomed by Luna, a cheeky ostrich peeking through the window of our cottage. Our hosts Graeme and Joan Ryder quickly set us up with the latest information about the river conditions and the fishing and off we went. With the main rivers, the Rangitaiki and the Whirinaki, running pretty high and dirty, we had a ball fishing small tributaries of the Rangitaiki River for the next 9 days. We caught some very nice Brown and Rainbow trout on our 5 weight rods set up with 2 nymphs. The fish were aggressive and after trying natural patterns as a point fly without much success, we used small egg patterns (#14 or 16) with good results.

The Horomanga, a small river flowing through a very narrow, beautiful valley usually gets a good run of fish from Lake Aniwhenua. And the Horomanga has the added bonus of a basic track following its banks. Because of the thick, impenetrable vegetation along many of the rivers with black berry and gorse playing havoc with waders, the only way of getting up and down a river is usually in the river itself. So after many hours of fishing, a track makes walking back much easier and quicker than having to wade all the way back in the water.

The fishing was great and being on our own on the water most of the time was even better. But even good things come to an end and winter will hopefully see a lot more fish coming up the rivers and doing their thing.

We are already looking forward to being back in summer. Aniwhenua Lodge is definitely a great place to be with so many backcountry rivers and Lake Aniwhenua right at its doorstep.

The spell

With the end of the fishing season – 30th June – coming closer, we choose Hawke Bay as our next stop with the intention to fish some of the many great rivers and creeks in the bay before the winter closing. We had been looking forward to being in Hawke Bay for a long time because of good friends living there. 

Unfortunately, the rain that had been missing in other parts of the North Island for a very long time was flooding Hawke Bay for weeks and all the rivers ran high and dirty. The rain was like a bad spell and every time we had a couple of days with fine weather and the rivers started to clear, a new front arrived.

Catching up with our friends was great and we enjoyed their company very much. What a pleasure to be invited to stay in their holiday home in the hills with great views, heaps of space and everything one needs to be comfy. Fishing the rivers being out of question didn’t matter that much anymore and we did some fine walks and a lot of reading and doing nothing instead. We didn’t even bother to visit some of the many wineries in Hawke Bay, but we certainly savored their high quality products. 

Being together with our friends and on our own in our temporarily cosy home, time went by all too fast and we had to leave for Murupara, if we wanted to enjoy some of the finest end of the season fishing.

Sulphur City

Rotorua, our next destination about 200km to the south, is undoubtedly the geothermal capital of New Zealand. But there is much more to the lively town then the sulphur fumes; with 13 lakes to choose from the area is also a lake fisher’s dreams come true and if you are after some spectacular fun, Rotovegas – as the Fat Dog puts it – is the place to be. Like Queenstown it offers heaps of activities for adrenalin junkies. Whether you want a high speed jet boat ride, a bungee jump or Zorbing, Rotovegas has it all. 

Rotorua is the heartland of Maoridom and many exhibitions and events explain their culture and heritage. If you have ever the opportunity to go to a hangi, don’t miss it. The food cooked over hot rocks in the ground is very delicious indeed (watch out for the steam pudding!). 

When we arrived the weather was mild and sunny and all the rivers were running very low and clear. Conditions which did not trigger the spawning runs and there were very few fish migrating upstream even in creeks like the Ngongotaha. With the nights not cold, the winter shore fishing Rotorua is famous for was also quite slow with Lakes Okataina and Rotoiti just starting to fire up. Winter is big fish time with night fishing often bringing amazing results. 

Fisher putting in the effort and being out there very early in the morning and late at night usually got rewarded and some very nice fish up to 12 pound had been taken during our stay in Rotorua. Not being that tough any more we fished at daytime with the sun warming our backs but with much smaller fish resulting. Flies that worked well were black Wooly Buggers and lumo flies at night and brighter colored Wooly Buggers and Glow Bugs at daytime.


Rotorua offers many walking tracks around the lakes and in the forest and we enjoyed the native flora and the rich birdlife on many occasions. Unfortunately one of our favorite tracks up Mount Tarawera is no longer accessible after the land has been handed over to its traditional owners.

The ever present sulphur fumes are almost a trademark of Rotorua. We love it because it’s so special and seeing steam coming out of the pavement in the middle of town is very unique. Many households take advantage of the locality and use geothermally heated water for heating and geothermal powerstations generate electricity. But the high level of aggressive sulphur in the air has also its downsides. Many materials, especially metals get badly corroded in now time. Electronic devices such as TV’s and computers have a short live and cables, plumbings and even cars are prone to severe corrosion.  A silver ring of ours turned almost black during the first night of our stay.

Boiling mud pools, geysers, steaming hot pools and brightly colored mineral deposits are features found everywhere in and around town. We visited several thermal areas and enjoyed nature’s spectacle. And what’s better than soaking in a hot pool after a long walk?

The peninsula

The Coromandel Peninsula has long been a favorite of ours, that’s why we headed north to Tairua, a small town on the Coromandel’s east coast. Despite its popularity as a holiday and weekend hot spot for Aucklanders the peninsula is a very laid back place. Roads are scarce and many are just gravel. The center is all heavily bush clad mountains and the coastline dotted with secluded beaches off the beaten track. Even well known places like Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach have a very special atmosphere especially this time of the year with very few people around. And there is of course trout fishing to be had in several rivers and creeks.

When arriving in Tairua, accommodation was hard to find, affordable places being rare and booked out already. After several fruitless attempts we struck gold and got a private holiday home for ourselves. We felt pretty special having a house with garden, our own driveway and even a garage.

Having been on the Coromandel before we were looking forward to doing some of the many walks and tracks. Broken Hill, an old gold mining place, was one of the first we did. Remnants of the mining can be found everywhere in the area and an old tunnel is part of one of the loop tracks. A torch or headlamp is needed to walk through the 500m long tunnel with its low ceiling and cave wetas and glow worms are common. In the dark the ceiling full of the worms pale blue spotlights looked very much like a beautiful clear night sky with stars. The area is covered in native bush with dense stands of Nikau palms. On the way up to a ridge top we came across many praying mantis waiting in ambush for unsuspicious prey. As we passed one of them just caught a huge wasp which proofed to be too big and strong and was able to wrestle itself free. That’s one of the things we really love when travelling: having time to watch the small dramas and things you might miss when being on a tight itinerary.

Castle Rock is the remnant of an old volcano and provides great views over the peninsula from its twin peaks. They are covered in rich native bush with abundant birdlife. Like an island Castle Rock is surrounded by plantation forest. What a sight when we arrived at the start of the track and all the planted pine trees had gone. One of the workers told us that the area had been clear felled five years ago and replanted with new pine trees. The barren landscape looked completely different than what we were used to and we struggled to find the track up the mountain. We finally made it to the exposed rocky top and enjoyed the great view; strong gales forcing us back down into the shelter of the trees soon after. On the way back we encountered several wood pigeons.

Because of its warm summers with low flows the Coromandel is not exactly a trout fisher’s paradise, but there are a couple of very scenic waterways with Rainbow and Brown Trout present. The majority of trout being small with some bigger fish in large pools. A day to remember was the one spent fishing the beautiful Kauaeranga River near Thames. On first sight there were more rocks in the riverbed than water but a closer look revealed some deep pools and we immediately spotted fish. No time to waste and within minutes we had our gear ready. There was no activity on the surface despite the warm and sunny weather and we choose nymphs rather than dries. Béatrice got a take from a very nice fish in the first pool but pulled the fly right out of its mouth. The day went on with small fish being caught every now and then, but we didn’t manage to get the bigger ones we came across. Late in the afternoon a big trout feeding vigorously on the surface of a deep long pool caught our attention. In the blink of an eye a change was made to a dry fly and a cast fired out, but the fish did not what it was supposed to do and refused our offering after careful examination. Bugger! With several fly boxes full of feathery artwork, we were positive to find a way to deceive the beautiful rainbow. More than an hour and a dozen or so fly changes later we realized, that it was the fish’s day today. We had to quit, the light was fading already and we had to walk back to the car. So, what was it all about? We both had a slight sunburn, our bare legs got badly scratched, we lost several flies thanks to lush greenery and we were pretty exhausted at the end of the day. And we didn’t even get a fish for dinner. Silly for some, happiness for others.

Our visits to beaches and estuaries resulted in some delicious Pippi (mussels) entrées for dinner and we enjoyed collecting other bits and pieces at low tide.

Proposed gold mining is still an issue on the Coromandel. Many of the local people we talked to cannot understand that widely unspoiled parts of the country which are rich in natural features should be destroyed for short term profit as seen in other areas like Reefton. More about the issue.  

While in Tairua we got mail from our friends. What a surprise when we opened the envelope and our passports revealed a 12 months visitor permit. Many thanks to the immigration officer in charge.

The extension

When arriving in NZ, we got a 3 month visitor’s permit and wanted to have it extended as soon as possible. So, we decided to stay in Hamilton for a couple of days to apply for an extension rather than doing it in Auckland, where the immigration office is always very busy. To our surprise, we were told that it is no longer possible to get it done over the counter as previously and that the whole process would take up to 30 days.

Another reason why we were looking forward to being in Hamilton is the abundance of crystal clear spring creeks in the Waikato region. We spent magic days fishing different creeks and rivers and got our first trout of the trip. No trophies by any means, but we caught some beautifully marked rainbows. Hooking up wasn’t that difficult, to stay connected being another story though. On one occasion, we lost two really nice fish in the same pool within an hour after having changed the fly a dozen times, carefully observed by a herd of cows. With sunny weather and the temperature still around 22°C, we fished with dry flies most of the time. Because of the water clarit,y we started with long 16 feet leaders, but cut them back soon after because most of the waters we fished were heavily overgrown and our flies got stuck in the bank side vegetation all the time.

While in Hamilton, we also went to the Hamilton Gardens, an attractive botanic garden with many different sections and themes. Watching flocks of excited Asian visitors and their busy guides trying to keep them all together was heaps of fun. In the city center, a lot of work was going on during our stay because of the famous Hamilton 400 V8 race coming up. It’s a true street race on public roads in the middle of the city with up to 100’000 visitors. The Big Block Holden and Ford do not race to everyone’s pleasure as we realized when shopkeepers told us that they lose up to $30’000.– during the 4 days of racing because of the closed off streets and customers not coming trough.

Raglan, a weekender’s and surfer’s paradise on the west coast is situated a mere 40 minutes from Hamilton and we spent hours walking in the fine golden sand of its beaches, watching the seabirds and collecting shells.

The summer 2009/2010 has been a very dry one and the soil is deeply cracked; the hills are yellow and brown with little signs of growth. The drought is so severe that not only farming is affected but the native fauna as well. Even the Kiwi birds are in trouble. In Northland starving kiwis – usually a nocturnal feeder – can be seen searching for insects out in the open in bright sunlight. They are an easy target for dogs, foxes and birds of prey and the results of many years of conservation work are at risk. Let’s hope we will get a decent rain soon!

Right now it’s the time of the year with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Everywhere along the road one can buy locally grown delicacies such as juicy apples, buttery avocados and yummy feijoas from small stalls. We got to know feijoas years ago and did not like them at first because of their distinct and strong perfume like flavor. Very dominating if added to a fruit salad, but now we love ‘em and missed them back home.

Yesterday, we got an e-mail from our friends, telling us that our passports with the permit extension have already arrived, the process having taken just 5 working days rather than the predicted 2 to 4 weeks. We don’t know yet if we got the entire 12 months we wanted or just 9 months with another 3 months extension possible.

Oh, and by the way. We already had several scoops of our beloved TipTop ice cream. There is nothing better after a hard days fishing than two scoops of boysenberry and rum & raisin TipTop.