We should have expected it… As soon as TRM had posted about JimTim taking 15 years to catch a Tongariro brown trout we received more enquiries demanding details as to where and when is the best time to target them? We understand. When anglers are organising their extended fishing holiday involving expensive overseas travel, etc. they like to do their homework to select the best time. First I have to qualify any information from TRM is usually based on feedback from many other inmates experiences. The TRM smokehouse could tell many stories. But some prospective fishy guests have asked for my own experiences. That makes it harder…
Some TRM inmates – they know who they are – are dedicated hunters focusing on just brown trout. Mainly from overseas, they visit during the summer months to try to land a trophy trout in double figures,- i.e. over 10 pound. Do not be surprised at how often they succeed. i.e. Before we came here in the 1990’s the most popular anglers accommodation was Anglers Paradise where John (the Legend) offered a free T-shirt for anyone catching a Tongariro Brown Trout over 10 pounds. I believe he awarded a total of 75 shirts. His strategy was to access the lower Tongariro at night by boat, well down-river from the usual pools – in what used to be known as Poplar Reach near the confluence of Dan’s Creek. That is beyond most visiting anglers ability.
Since we have been here, most – but not all – of the trophy size trout (i.e. worth mounting) have been caught at Lake Otamangakau. This remarkable little trophy lake deserves a full report on its own but this is all about the Tongariro as Lake O is closed off for spawning during winter months. Nevertheless, for those determined to land a big brown trout, we have attached a brief video of how TRM inmates do so well at Lake O below. Warning – it is much more difficult than that indicated. Many hours of patience and learning new skills are involved. If it is your first time then you can save a lot of time and frustration by hiring a TRM guide. Hint, hint…
Back to the Tongariro River – in the previous report we hinted that most brown trout are seen going through the smoker in the summer months. But some (picky prospective guests I hope!) have requested more detail – like exactly when is best? This is a thorny question as it is much more than just the date. Other important factors to take into consideration are to plan for after a “fresh” when the river is recovering from recent rainfall, when the barometer rising/falling, moon phases – to avoid a full moon, timing it for minimum angler pressure, etc. But if we had to choose the month when we see most big browns caught it would have to be late summer in March.
There is a good reason for this. From late December every year, Tongariro anglers pray for a huge cicada hatch. Some dry years nothing happens. Other years, like the last two, it is spectacular, but it might come and go with the rain. It can happen in late December but the usual time is during late January. Often that is too early for the trout as they might take a couple of weeks to recognise what they are, to really switch into them.
Once they have gorged themselves on a big feed of cicadas they seem to give up looking for anything else. Then it is all on. Also then, usually in February, every other angler is super aware and on full alert too, resulting in crowded combat casting in the main town pools. Ugly stuff! For some reason, excited anglers competing to cast to rises tend to forget the etiquette rules when cicadas are crashing and smashing on the surface. Try to avoid that peak holiday time as the competition can completely spoil the fishing experience. Patience is a virtue.
Once the buzzing ceases at the end of the cicada hatch and normal service resumes is, in our experience, the best time. That is why we prefer to recommend March. By then the trout have developed an addiction for cicadas only – often still looking for them long after the cicadas have stopped hatching. Nobody warns the trout that the cicada season is over. Then they will be hungrier and still be anxiously seking them, several weeks after the lack of buzzing signals the end of their flying mating season. Then the fishing is far more exciting with much less competition and virgin water can be found which has not been touched.
We have seen it year after year when all it needed was to cast and splash the surface to alert any brown trout to a cicada arriving. I can remember casting towards a rise, only to miss (blame the breeze?) and land the fly behind the trout. In a
One suspicious inquiring email specifically requested personal evidence of the most number of brown trout I have landed in a day on the Tongariro River. Aren’t some fishos demanding (!) but he is planning to stay for three weeks in 2020 so you all might as well know too? I checked the photo library.
In 2009 two of us left TRM about 11 am and by the time we returned we had landed 21 browns and 15 Rainbows. All casting was to sighted trout – all on cicada imitations. The next day we sneaked down the other side of the river and failed – only about 15 browns and about 10 Rainbows. We did not see another angler. etc… OK? The images above and below confirmed the date in March 2009. Sadly, since then the lower river has been totally changed by WRC (Waikato Regional Council) and DOC with their flood protection and gravel extraction. But the trout are still there – somewhere…
In our experience, the worst thing that upsets the anglers aiming for brown trout down-river, are other anglers in boats… Once a fizz boat zooms up the river the wake will put down any brown trout for the rest of the day. They spend the remainder of the day sulking and will not rise to anything. There is nothing worse for the keen angler to spend an hour or longer trekking down to no-mans-land to only discover a boat has been speeding around to ruin any fishing
So now you know. It is unfortunate that some of the best Brown trout nursery and spawning grounds on the Tongariro River have systematically been destroyed by WRC over the last ten years. Fortunately, to survive, the trout still have to spawn somewhere in the murky shallows down the river. These days, if a trophy brown trout is the most important reason for your visit, then we suggest the best strategy is to leave the Tongariro brown trout population to us and book after Lake O opens. Be prepared for a wonderful steep learning curve, but that is another story… see below.