Posts Tagged ‘Turangi’

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.

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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