The lower pools of the Tongariro River.
|Access||3 indicates good car and foot access; 0 indicates poor access.||3|
|Difficulty||Reported difficulties getting the fly to the fish or finding the lie.||2|
|Setting||Scored for natural beauty and pure enjoyment.||3|
|Reliability||Indicates reliability as a top producing pool all year round.||9|
|Snags||No likelihood of snags scores 1; if known for snag(s) score 0.||1|
|Wading||If waders are not needed, score 1; if difficult to wade then 0.||1|
|Pressure||If a pool is too popular and regularly crowded, score 0.||1|
|Total||The closer to 20, the better overall rating the pool received.||20|
|Marks out of||(3)||(2)||(3)||(9)||(1)||(1)||(1)||(20)|
|Lower River Pools|
The Tongariro River map – Fifty pools to fish before you die – the Tongariro Bucket list – is available at Tongariro River Motel reception.
These maps are essential for every angler on the Tongariro River. Ancillary info includes fishing regulations, minimum size chart (40cm) and Pool Rating Cart where every pool is rated for reliability, access, snags, beauty, etc. On the back of the map are blow-ups of the Braids, Town Pools etc. for more detail.
Warning – the Braids section including the Honey-pot and Spot X is now out of date following river excavations in 2012. The new Honey-pot has car access from Crescent Reserve on the TLB. The earthworks continue down river from Reeds Pool to DeLatours Pool.
Daily Report for 22 May 2012
Major changes to Tongariro River Pool Ratings
The recent issue 132 of NZ TROUT FISHER featured an interesting article on the Tongariro River by American fishing journalist John Murphy. He commented on the unique map – “Bucket List for the Tongariro River” and the “Fifty Pools to Fish Before You Die” ratings chart… which reminded me to remind you to remind anglers to update and amend the Rating Chart for all pools affected by recent major changes to the lower river. Some of the existing Ratings are now obsolete and misleading.
The comprehensive TRM ratings of the Tongariro River pools were originally based on feedback from anglers staying at the Tongariro River Motel during 2006-2007, with “professional” help from local fishing guides (Hi AC) for fine tuning – last comprehensively updated in November 2010.
However, with the 2012 winter runs now underway, due to the recent excavation work of some heavy earth moving machinery in the lower river, we need to warn anglers that the Lower River and some of the Town Pools are hopelessly out of date. Since then they have been occasionally adjusted by the TRM Ratings Committee (i.e. SWMBO & Boof) based on feedback – sometimes accurate, sometimes dubious – from guest anglers. When we get two or more comments we adjust accordingly.
We have to be a little bit cautious as some devious anglers (can you believe it!) try to lower the score on their preferred pools. We invite your input and comments… It is particularly helpful for anglers who are not familiar with the Tongariro.
Note the original unadulterated Pool Ratings are also available on NZ Fishing.com and on the Advocates’ Tongariro Bucket List map which features Fifty Pools to Fish Before You Die. Over the next week TRM will amend the various individual Pool Reports above in more detail.
Scoring System: Some fishos – probably a sub-species of wet liners? – consider this rating system is an arbitrary interesting way of wasting valuable fishing time comparing and analysing pools for anglers planning trips over a beer. Others value it to the point of copying the chart and carrying it with them around the pools. We have been encouraged by the number of Australians who use it. The point is there are few places or rivers in the world where anglers would have the courage to grade a wild (?) fishery as such. The Tongariro is unique in many ways as it has the physical characteristics and volume and reliability of spawning runs providing enough evidence of catches to produce a Pools Ratings Chart that means something…
The seven categories were scored as follows:
Category Description Out of
Access 3 indicates good car and foot access; 0 indicates poor access. 3
Difficulty Reported difficulties getting the fly to the fish or finding the lie. 2
Setting Scored for natural beauty and pure enjoyment. 3
Reliability Indicates reliability as a top producing pool all year round. 9
Snags No likelihood of snags scores 1; if known for snag(s) score 0. 1
Wading If waders are not needed, score 1; if difficult to wade then 0. 1
Pressure If a pool is too popular and regularly crowded, score 0. 1
Total The closer to 20, the better overall rating the pool received. 20
i.e In 2010 the highest scoring pools were Judges, Breakfast, Boulder Reach, and Big Bend at 16 out of 20. Lowest scoring pools were Poutu and Fence pools; 9 out of 20. Many now disagree with these ratings. How pools have changed…
More competent anglers i.e. those who know the pools intimately are often only interested in the “Reliability” category. As such, we repeat below the Reliability Score (out of 9) for the affected pools on the list, and remind anglers this is the most contentious and unreliable and difficult category to mark. But for the following pools it should be completely disregarded for 2012.
That is mainly why we gave it to our expert – Andrew Christmas – Taupotroutguide.com – to update in 2010… but you knew that. If you wish to add your contribution please do so, or if you prefer Andrew to update all of them, send him an email request – to [email protected]
LOWER RIVER POOLS:
DOWNS 6 (should be reduced)
DE LATOURS 7 (should be reduced)
BENDS 6 (now practically gone?)
PARADE 7 (should be reduced)
SMALLMANS 7 (should be reduced)
JONES 8 (Significant changes but still OK)
REED 8 (Significant changes but still OK)
LOG 7 (Flow reduced)
LOWER ISLAND 6 (Now more of a hydro canal)
BAIN 6 (Changed considerably)
PLANK (TLB) 7 (now a big long useless puddle)
STONES 8 (now dry river bed quarry)
HONEYPOT 8 (now part swift hydro canal and part dry river bed)
SPOT X BYPASS 7 (now dry river bed)
VERAS 6 (Still there but more of a hydro channel)
SWIRL 5 (Still there with more flow and part firing in certain conditions)
From then on the pools are unaffected by the proposed quarry excavations but still need updating. Hopefully this is a temporary situation. Last time “they” removed gravels from the Braids they created as many new pools as they destroyed. Whether the needs of anglers are even considered, or more importantly the requirements of spawning trout in one of the best trout nurseries in the world are factored in during the excavations, is another debatable issue?
Regardless of the gravel removal, the wonderful adaptable Taupo trout still have to breed and history has proved they will continue running up the Tongariro to their spawning grounds as long as there is enough water flow to swim in.
Update Daily Report 24-25 September 2012
To explain the physical differences for fishing the Tongariro River is a big ask, but worth a repeat as TRM or SWMBO are often requested to advise where is the best area to fish? So SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed is TRM’s manager) can now print TRM’s (Tongariro River Motel) version below to try to explain the angling specifications to new anglers.
TRM suggest the Tongariro River almost needs to be fished as four different rivers. As each section has its own peculiarities and methods, to avoid confusion, we will mention one section a day. If we manage to do it properly, (?) which is increasingly rare, these will then be posted onto the Tongariro River Pool reports on LINKS above for future reference.
This is quite an ambitious task but novice anglers need more clarification. As usual, if this info is correct and helpful we will not receive any feedback comment (although we do accept donations called rent). If it is wrong, then SWMBO will get flooded with protest emails. Great…
The four different sections are:
1 Delta to Graces Road
2 Below the Road Bridge…
3 Above the Road Bridge to the Fence Pool Winter limit.
4 Above the Winter Limit.
1 The Lower River
Following several email requests for info on this lower river, we start with (1) the lower river from the end of Graces Road down the TRB (true right bank) or from the end of Awamate Road for the TLB down to the delta, where there is hiking access along the banks down to the old Cherry Pool. Beyond the Cherry Pool to the Delta a boat is necessary as the banks are over grown and impassible. It is tiger country.
Historic pool names are used for geographic reference only as the river no longer holds an actual pool. All the lower river pools are silted up and the best fishing is spread out rather than confined to any specific spots, although extra time on the inside of the big bends is usually productive..
The lower river is primarily a summer fishery only. A big dry – cicada imitation? – & tiny dropper is the usual ammunition. We cannot comment on winter fishing down there as we have never been brave enough to tackle it during spawning runs. Why? There is no need. As the trout migrate up-river we just have to wait below the bridge. Eventually they will get here. Saves us a lot of energy. OK?
As indicated in the images the lower river is ugly. Really ugly. Snags the size of mature tree stumps. It is a graveyard for all the big debris floating down the river and is slowly increasing as the flow is insufficient to float the flood debris into the lake. The snags survive on artificial flies which weight them down. It is not a pretty sight. We are reluctant to take overseas guest anglers there as their enduring memory of the Tongariro should be the beautiful upper river pools – Blue Pool, Sand Pool, etc. Not the ugly lower river.
These giant river bank snags also spoil much of the fishing. Of course all the big browns are hiding in them too. All you spot is their big tail sticking out. They are too smart. If you are lucky enough to hook one then you have to land them? It can be very difficult in most places. Hence our comment – it is not for the faint hearted. If you imagine we are trying to discourage anglers you are correct. We have seen too many return dejected and tired out and never return. If you have doubts then stick to the easier upper river or town pools.
If you are determined to fish the lower river make sure you are physically fit. Seriously. I have ‘escorted’ overseas anglers down there to have them comment afterwards never to take them there again. Their lack of condition or ‘weight distribution’ spoilt their day. It is a very long hot tiring walk. A bit like some of the larger South Island rivers. You will spend over half your time just walking – or rather tramping.
The lower Tongariro is best described as a wide featureless boring Mississippi type endlessly steady but strong flow which winds to and fro around oxbows. Although it is only a few km from SH1 this is equivalent to wilderness fishing. Anglers can expect to see wild goats, wild turkeys, wild peacocks, wild cattle, hear – rather than see – endangered birds like bitterns, etc. This lower section is usually only fishable from the banks in high summer. It is not for the faint hearted.
Vehicle access is comparatively difficult for the TRB requiring a drive down a stony creek bed which forms the lower portion of Graces Road. This is really 4WD or rental car territory only. The preference for the family car is to go down the TLB via Awamate Road and park outside the local sewerage farm ponds. That is followed by a long walk following the river banks but without looking at the river – I mean minimum one hour… or much longer. Legal access is confined to the river banks only. Important – Do not take any shortcut through the farm road – anglers access is restricted to the river banks only.
SWMBO’s TRM SOP (Standard Operating Procedure – She loves abbreviations?) is to leave your rod un-assembled until you get there. That is compulsory! Do not even rig it up until you are about to start fishing at the end of the walk. Then you cannot be tempted. Why? If you stop to peep you are sure to spot monstrous trout resting close to the bank and understandably cannot resist the urge to try a few casts. Then you will never get to the destination. Ignore these fish – they are having a nap after feeding all night. They are so picky they not usually even interested in naturals. Do not be fooled. They are only there to taunt and confuse you. They have an essential role in distracting and delaying any not-so-wise anglers following you.
On your way down river you must keep well away from the river banks. Why? All you will do is ruin any fishing possibilities for your return trip. Most trout will spot you first and slide off into the depths out of sight. The few remaining trout you might see are real sadists who will easily get spooked by the first false cast and close their jaws even tighter and sulk and ignore your fine casting efforts. They are big and ugly smart river trout – real picky brutes, not easy-to-catch lake trout.
Nearly all trout caught during winter spawning runs live in the lake. I suspect you might feel insulted by us pointing out this very primitive primary school stuff (SWMBO was a primary school teacher so cannot help it) but many novice anglers still do not seem to understand and grasp this simple fact. The winter runs, about 50-60-70,000 lake trout only enter the river to run the gauntlet to upper tributaries to spawn driven by …. you know all that.
But most of the trout seen in summer months in the lower river are residents and may actually live there permanently or have decided to camp there on their return journey. They are almost a different species. That means their peanut brains are educated about what they are looking for. This requires extensive use of anglers’ “eyes”…. OK? Good polaroids are essential. Anglers actually have to look hard to spot any little rises. This may be quite a foreign experience for many Tongariro fishos and quite unfair after so much easier blind winter fishing.
If you follow TRM’s SOP then it can be a great day out. But you are warned that more often than not it will be a wasted day. Why? If one boat has been up from the Delta or one other angler has been down ahead of you then usually every trout is off their tucker and spooked. They are that sensitive.
So it is very important, indeed critical, to pick your day for down river trekking very carefully. You need to limit your casting efforts only to trout actually seen feeding – usually just beyond your best casting distance. That means you need a fine sunny still day. During summer months that is often about one out of ten. (i.e. If you book into TRM for 11 days you cannot miss.)
To avoid putting other trout down, cast only to rises that are well within casting distance. But then the only way to fool them is to walk or wade up behind them. So walk down river as far as your endurance allows. Forget wearing waders – they get too hot. Some fishos carry them down there out of habit. Any wading is usually wet wading. The river bottom is usually very soft silt or sand, often sinking in over the wading boots, so take care. Most casting is from the elevated river banks. That is often the only position you can sight any rises.
The style of fly fishing is another topic. Traditional upriver nymphers or wet liners casting across and down are outnumbered by dry fly exponents. Big attractor flies with small droppers are more popular to avoid the many snags. Use whatever you are most comfortable with, everyone to his own… In case you missed it I repeat – you can expect a lot more snags. If you have doubts about which method to use, hire a guide. They usually cheat. As they cannot risk criticism from their unfit clients they motor up the river in boats. Grossly unfair on real fly fishos who are land based.
Now TRM need to be a bit brutal (i.e. honest) here… The lower reaches are not for well dressed Simms posers. It is very physical. Older unfit over-weight (Hi SWMBO) casual social anglers should not attempt it as they are invariably disappointed. Do not bother even thinking about it during the rest of the year – only during high summer. TRM emphasise it is a hard day out. i.e. If you can comfortably walk and fish from TRM up to Red Hut and back down the other side then you will enjoy it. If not ….
TRM need to warn anglers first. Key words are perseverance, determination, fitness, high casting skills levels, more fitness, heaps of sun block, energy, emergency rations. Then at least you know what to expect. Check with TRM before and after. It is a full day’s trek. Even anglers get lost. We have had to call in the local police to mount our own search and rescue in darkness down there in the past so do not treat it lightly. If we lose guest anglers down there it is not a good look for TRM. Now you know.
So it is very different to the upper river. It offers a completely different type of angler experience. Judging by the few keen anglers seen down river, most fishos hate it. That’s OK too. We can understand that after the ease of catching trout on spawning runs during winter months. We have not even mentioned the herds of wild cattle along the river banks with their big ugly bulls fiercely protecting their harems. This is no exaggeration… The local farmers have not been able to round up the bulls for several years. Hence the images… OK? So you have been warned.
Next time, when we find the time and energy, we will cover the much more popular lower river – from the road bridge down to Delatours pool. Much more populated and interesting and productive…
Update 18 August 2011
After Tongariro River Motel posted the excellent well researched informative report on Tuesday about the Bain Pool and pool names etc. one inmate had the audacity to question TRM for not providing better images of Bain Pool location as he was confused where it is. We can’t win… I blamed SWMBO of course. But if he was confused then there are sure to be others.
That is Bain Pool in the foreground above. It was taken prior to the removal of the willows along the TLB below the Honeypot. The flow pattern has changed again since. There is now much more flow down the TLB than through the Plank Pool pines side and the Honeypot has been smashed apart.
Bain Pool is usually approached via the access track in the bottom left of the aerial photo – if you look closely you will see the cars parked at the Plank Pool. Bain is the next pool down river where the Braids end. It is usually fished from the TRB by wading out from the beach.
This older aerial image also serves to indicate why the Braids is so fishy. Migrating trout moving steadily up the wider lower river discover their first real rapid just below Bain Pool and then the river shallows out and splits into various bypasses etc. The shallow riffles and back waters and various options confuse them. So they are more vulnerable as they spend more time here in the Braids inspecting every bypass and sniffing around before continuing further up river looking for Nirvana.
Other images below individually described if you click on the photos. So hopefully the following pics – updates taken late July – are self explanatory and will suffice.
Above – looking up river from the TLB beach below Bain Pool.
Update: February 2011
More Tongariro flood damage
(It may be difficult to visualise but before the flood the new gravel island used to be the eye of the Honeypot Pool)
Following the big 665 m3/sec flood in late January are images below of the damage to the well known pool in the Braids, the Honeypot, to illustrate how the lower river has been trashed. It is difficult to describe so we will let the images explain for us.
Since last Sunday’s flood TRM have had a “flood” of genuinely concerned angler enquiries about the reasons why? Why does the river flood and what is being done about it. TRM have tried to explain the issues and problems previously. So the following is a repeat response to those latest enquiries to briefly scope the big picture problem.
(Standing on the stock pile of stones at the Honeypot it ma be more apparent how the flood ripped out the willows beyond the island and created a new channel)
Regular TRM inmates – anglers who have fished the river for many years since before the hydro power project – suggest to TRM that basically the problem is simple. So is the solution… In the previous natural environment the river flowed into the lake and carried the silt with it. It had effectively flushed itself for the last few thousand years. But now with the Tongariro River there is a major accelerated aggradation (the process of a river depositing sediment on its bed, thereby raising its level) issue. About 30 years ago hydro engineers meddled with nature and raised the level of Lake Taupo to suit the Government’s commercial agenda for hydro power requirements to increase the supply of water down the Waikato River and through the Tokaanu Power Station for hydro power generation. But nothing was done to minimise the damaging effects on the Tongariro River, despite the Tongariro being recognised internationally as one of the greatest trout nurseries in the world. (They would never get away with that today.)
(Looking down the TLB of the bypass below the old Honeypot. This now carries much more water away from the main flow down to the pines.)
So the images of the trashing of the Honeypot illustrate a tiny visible portion of the usual damage from floods. The much larger invisible damage – under the surface water – is far more serious. Anglers are used to these annual floods, they are a natural phenomena. But the now regular backing up flooding by the river is not natural. That is man made damage. We will try to explain again:
To feed the demand for electricity, Lake Taupo is controlled by Mighty River Power at maximum (i.e. excessive) levels. So when the river floods it has nowhere to go. When the flood hits the water dam (Lake Taupo) it backs up, spreading tonnes and tonnes of silt, mud, sand, ash etc. all through the lower reaches, also spreading out over adjoining privately owned properties. Now the natural process of aggradation has been greatly accelerated. There is no allowance for annual floods, and the likely damage they can do, at all.
(View from above the Honeypot)
The cheap band aid temporary option, the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff reaction after the big 2004 flood (which reached over 1400 m3/sec) has been to build more stop banks – as in front of Tongariro Lodge at the Braids. These do nothing towards fixing the problem. If continued , they will convert the mighty Tongariro River into a hydro canal.
The power company maintains the lake at artificially high levels to feed the power stations down the Waikato River. The only way to prevent further flooding in Turangi is to lower the lake level (temporarily for – say – two years?). Then these annual floods – traditionally in the summer months – would flush out all the sand and silt and ash from the lower river into Lake Taupo. Problem solved.
(View looking down river past the Honeypot towards the pines and the Plank Pool)
This silting up problem started with the Tongariro Power Project removing half the water flow via canals to Lake Rotoaira and through to the Tokannu Power Station about 30 years ago. The result was that the remaining flow is insufficient to carry the silt to the lake so it is deposited throughout the river. This problem is compounded by the closing and opening of the Lake Rotoaira canal – i.e. when they reopen the canal after a flood the sudden reduction in volume results in the loss of suspension and all the silt being carried in a flood is suddenly dumped. Now, after 30 plus year, the detrimental affects of severe silting up problems are visible. It is not a pretty sight..
All anglers want is for these issues to be incorporated in a balanced Management Plan. The Tongariro must be the only major river in NZ that does not even have any sustainable catchment management plan – despite Government requests and EW (Environment Waikato) promises – to address the silting and inevitable flooding issues in the future. Anglers intentions are entirely responsible and transparent – to protect the Tongariro River fishery.
(Another view from above the Honeypot looking down river towards the Plank Pool)
Now EW’s latest Resource Consent Application is to excavate the metal in the lower river as a flood and erosion control response. The application was for (up to) 300,000 m3 per year for thirty years, but anglers believe they are wasting their time playing with nature. The gravel extraction application is their quick fix “political strategy” response. But one single flood like last Sunday would fill all their excavations with silt overnight. However, everyone agrees that any mechanical extraction is still better than building more stop banks, but it does not address the real issue.
(Some of thousands of this seasons baby trout left stranded after the flood receded)
If they lowered the lake level for a limited period – say 2 years – nature’s annual floods would flush all the silt out naturally into the lake far more effectively for another thirty (or more?) years. Otherwise anglers must expect more of the same silting up destroying a world famous fishery. The Tongariro is the most important nursery for Lake Taupo. The solution is so easy. All anglers are asking for is an integrated catchment management plan to address all these issues – so as to protect the Tongariro River for future generations of anglers to enjoy. That is perfectly reasonable. But that requires EW, the regional council, to face up to its obligations…
Update: December 2010 –
All Town Pool and Lower River Pools are likely to be subject to major physical changes in 2011 as the result of substantial river bed works for erosion control & flood protection with a resource consent application for up to 150,000 m3/year to be removed from below Hydro Pool to the Delta.
Refer to comment below by the Advocates for the Tongariro River:
Tongariro River Gravel Extraction Consent
December 7, 2010
There has been much interest in the Advocates position on the Gravel extraction consent which has been applied for by Environment Waikato.
Turangi experienced a 1 in 100 year flood in February 2004. The flood of 1958 was slightly larger and caused much damage within the river environment. Should another flood the size of 1958 or 2004 return then Turangi is in danger of flooding. Apart from moving the town to another location which is not a realistic option, the town can be protected by increasing the size of the stop banks or removing material that has built up and which endangers the town.
Given this option the Advocates support the removal of gravel and volcanic ash from the river bed to assist the river to move the bed load through to the lake. We do however have reservations about the consent document.
Our concerns are:
1. The action is piecemeal and not part of an overall plan for the river. Our desire is for an Integrated Catchment Management Plan (ICMP) to focus on the whole river and not just a section of it. We want to see an ICMP.
2. The consent period is for 35 years. We see a period of 3 years as reasonable at this time.
3. The consent document is too broad and lacks detail. Many who have seen the document think that 150,000 cubic meters per year will be removedeach year for 35 years, which is not the case, but can be read into the intent of the document. There is concern at the meaning of “diverting the river from the area of the Hydro Pool” by many.
4. The river as a fishery is seen as threatened by many. We don’t see the threat given that the fishery was not affected by the gravel removals at the time of the construction of the town and again recently when some 30,000 cubic meters were removed. We wish to see the consent spell out more strongly the protection of the fishery
The full consent document can be read by clicking on ftp://tongarirorivapps:[email protected]
It is a big document and takes time to load.
The Advocates will make a submission on these points and other such as an opportunity to dredge the mouth of the river. If you wish to make a submission then it must be with Environment Waikato by the 17th December.
An opportunity exists for you to give us your opinions through this website and we would welcome your opinions.