Above is looking up the TLB on 8 April 2019 towards the head of popular Boulder Reach. Admire the easy wading below the rapid from the Cliff Pool while it is still there… Sadly this pool appears to be increasingly under threat… Below is the scene looking down the TLB. The BIG question is “when”, rather than “if”, the river will break through below the Cliff Pool to bypass Boulder Reach.
Most years during the summer months SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed is the indefatigable manager at TRM) allows me time-out of the laundry to float down to ‘inspect’ the upper Tongariro Pools. This year that was late in January when the river was very low – around 21 cumecs. The river was still flowing about that during the latest visit. That is the lowest we have seen for the last 15 or so years. But what will happen when the river returns to “normal” flow around 25 cumecs? Even a small flood will breach the boulder bank before the main flow gets to Boulder Reach…
Whenever we do this raft trip down river we are amazed at a very different perspective of the shape and flow of pools. (I even studied it from a trout’s view underneath – when the raft flipped me out!) Even more intriguing, we always discover some interesting new spots to fish which we were unaware of – usually hidden between the named pools. This year was no exception. But for 2019 the one enduring impression again was how close the river is to take a new route from just below the Cliff Pool direct to the Poutu Pool, emerging about 100 m above the Poutu confluence with the Tongariro River.
Below is the report on Boulder Reach prepared immediately after the January 2018 flood of over 700 cumecs. This scoured out a wide by pass from the head of Boulder reach just below the Cliff Pool and directly through to the Poutu Stream. We expected it needed only one decent winter flood to make this the new course of the Tongariro River. But just because we anticipated nature, we have not had another flood in the last 15 months. So nothing has changed – yet…
A change in the river bed is not unusual in this upper Tongariro location. Many anglers will fondly remember the “Breakaway Pool” (thank you for the image above by Brian Moyse). This would have been taken from the lookout beside the access road to Blue Pool. Then without warning in the late 1990’s the river decided to scour out a new course about 200 m north – which is what we have today, completely bypassing the Breakaway Pool and Big Bend etc. But TRM anglers who know these things – they just feel it – tell me it is poised to change course again.
The image above is Jason Klivington – a regular visitor from Oregon – casting from the TRB just above where it is expected to eventually break through. SWMBO knows you like early warning of any such events. Below is looking down river from the same TRB last January.
All these other updated images taken on 8 April 2019 are supposed to warn how close the river is to heading down this bypass. If the images fail to do this then you will need to use your fishy imagination. (Most TRM anglers have extraordinary vivid imaginations after they release trout, but that is another story)
The Blue Pool access road – located 7 km south of Turangi, is deteriorating also and will soon only be suitable for 4WD (or rental vehicles?). About 1 km in take the access road off to the left. The Poutu/Boulder Reach car park is large enough for five vehicles. The walking track provides pleasant walking access except where anglers need (wading poles ?)to cross the stoney bypass.
The walking track from the car park is fine but the threat from the main river overflowing down the dry stony bypass below is real. i.e. That little puddle on the left in the photo below is in fact level with the main river waiting for the next flood to move a few more boulders and then it will be all on.
Boulder Reach access & a river waiting to happen
Previous updates on changes to the Tongariro River and anglers access since the recent 700+ cumec flood include the following:
10 January Town Pools i.e. Bridge to Hydro Pools
12 January Middle Pools i.e. Kamahi to Red Hut Pools
18 January Braids i.e. below Bridge Pool to Braids car park.
19 January Lower River – from Duffs to Reeds Pools.
22 January Lower Pools below Reeds
26 January Upper River – Waddells and Poutu
Today is Boulder Reach
Above is Waddells Pool (no changes) and below is Poutu Pools reported on yesterday:
Following the updates on Poutu and Waddells Pools today’s report is Boulder Reach.
The main changes to Boulder Reach are more to do with the anglers access.
The pleasant walk – waddle in waders – stroll from the car park now involves crossing a wash-out.
This has been such a pleasant bush walk for so long it was a surprise to see the extent of the damage.
We always enjoyed looking out for native pigeons roosting in the tops of the more mature trees and Manuka. Some were so fat from eating berries they could hardly fly.
The old dry creek bed overflow from below Big Bend was flushed out by the recent 700+ flood. This has added to the walking difficulty along the track to Boulder Reach.
You might need a wading pole just to get there…
The images may not adequately portray the extent of the washed out track but the climb down and out again is now more difficult for those older anglers – so you are warned…
On right you can see the impact from the “hydraulic bulldozer” which has re-created the old river bed.
Now the boulder bed of the over-flow, which used to have such famous pools as the old Breakaway about twenty years ago, looks like a river waiting to happen.
Then on to the Boulder Reach itself. The TLB has been subject to the arrival of a sand bank which has moved down river to make wading much easier.
Anglers can now safely wade out directly from where the track joins the river, to cast into the seam of the main flow.
It may be just as well as the bubble line from the main flow has moved well over to the TRB.
The “new beach” should be evident in the images. Usually such sand is detrimental to fishing prospects as it covers the stony pebble river bed which supported most of the trout food – caddis etc. so there is a down side. The sand is a mixture of pumice and toxic ash. Trout usually hate it.
However during our inspection two good sized Rainbows were easily spotted casually cruising up and down the sand bank – possibly searching for their previous food source.
The images should be self explanatory looking up and down this popular pool.
Above Boulder Reach – image on right – there is more broken water and fast riffles but it is too early with the flow at about 40 cumecs during inspection to see how much better (or worse) this may be.
The access road in from the Blue Pool Road and the car park have been improved also – see photos from the report yesterday on Poutu Pool.
Below is the ‘historic’ TRM 2005 & 2006 reports on Boulder Reach – mainly composed by “Tongariro Tom” another anon TRM inmate – for those trying to remember the changes since…
Boulder Reach Pool 2006
Boulder Reach pool is generally unchanged from 2005. It is probably the most popular pool in the upper river. This is still a top holding pool where most anglers stand in the lie and fish the top and tail of the main current although fish are found in most places throughout the pool. If you are first into the pool on the LHS make sure you fish your feet first as the trout rest in the shallows along the LHS. You hardly need to get your waders wet. Later on the usual enthusiastic angler pressure, testing their chest waders, forces them all out towards the central gut.
The foot access from the car-park has deteriorated further from flooding. DoC have now formed a walking track to the pool through the small side stream rather than down the previous road leading to the Cliff Pool.
These pool reports have been entirely based on various comments and feed-back from anglers/guests at Tongariro River Motel. By and large, they modestly claim to be the best fly fishers in New Zealand. From these accurate reliable reports, we have a hung jury on which side of Boulder Reach is best – a 50/50 call.
Boulder Reach can be crossed towards the tail, usually being about crutch to waist deep if you find the right crossing, but we recommend a buddy to hang on to, or stout wading poles, or both. Note the crossing is also the lower holding area, so if you are brave enough, try to cast ahead as you cross. You may need a net if you want to land it as well.
Once you have made it to the RHS, you can also continue further up river into no-mans land to check out the following – also covered in 2005 report.
1 Check the small swirly pool below the Cliff and by pass,
2 Check out the by-pass into the narrow gut,
3 Check the Cliff Pool, cast from the shelf at the top of the pool,
4 Check the new no-name pool above where the by-pass leads from the main river.
For nymph fishing each of these, review the leader length and weighted natural at each spot. If the river is clear, small natural patterns are reported to be more successful.
Alternatively, if you are like me and don’t like wading, you can access the RHS by crossing the Red Hut Bridge.
From the Red Hut car park cross the swingbridge and take the fork to the right – upriver. After three minutes you will descend down a dug out staircase to the sound of tuis and bellbirds to emerge in a grotto with stunning native trees fauna.
Veer off to the left hand track at the base of the steps. (The right track leads across the bypass to Poutu Pool) Then take time to enjoy a delightful stroll along the bypass. Lookout for trout in the bypass.
A few years ago fishing the bypass was frowned upon to avoid upsetting the spawning redds, but subsequent flloods have dealt to these. Have a peep from the high cliff and have a flick where the bypass flow narrows and hits the cliff – there are often hungry trout watching underneath – in summer as well as winter.
Hint – During the winter spawning season, glo bugs appear to work better in the lower river but as you proceed further up – to Boulder Reach – the trout have become more river educated and start looking for natural bugs.
Well, so we are told…although Lee reminds us no one has interviewed the trout about this, yet…
Boulder Reach – August 2005
Damn, what can anglers do when the carefully selected pool is already occupied?
Take, for example, Boulder Reach – it must be one of the most popular pools on the Tongariro River. Boulder Reach was reformed as partial compensation for the loss of the Breakaway Pool after the Tongariro flood in 2004.
Car access is through Justice Department land after crossing the Poutu River, 7 km south of Tongariro River Motel or from Turangi shopping centre. Then after about 1 km., veer left down towards the Boulder Reach car park.
Park at the T junction where the original vehicle access has now been washed out. The track to the left leads to the confluence of the Poutu Stream. The track to the right leads to Boulder Reach.
For safety reasons in these reports we always prefer the Red Hut Bridge to cross over as the Tongariro is subject to rapid increases in volume without warning.
For Boulder Reach, follow the walking track leading down the LHS for 5 minutes to this delightful nymphing pool. This will take about 3 rods comfortably although up to 5 are often squeezed in.
If you are first – you will need to be early – make sure the shallows are fully covered first. This pool produces through the full length.
Wading is easy – only knee deep to cover the main lies. It is fishable from either side although the true LHS appears to be the favoured side. Usual ammunition is a standard Tongariro nymphing rig – weighted hare & copper bomb with a smaller, say size 12-14 bead head half back or pheasant tail or prince nymph patterns. If they do not work, try glo bugs.
Traces need to be over a rod length but it is not deep or fast. It has been described as an optimal nymphing pool, ideal for training muscle memory for perfecting your casting.
The current is even and not too fast for mending practice to achieve a natural drift. Perhaps that is why it is targeted so often by professional guides. Even my cast looks good on this pool.
It seems so basic – nymphing for dummies – spoilt only by everyone else targeting this pool too. There are other options, if you arrive to find a traffic jam:-
Cross over (take wading pole in case) below the Cliff and fish Boulder Reach from RHS;
Cross over and stalk the Cliff Pool – keep a low profile so as not to spook trout lying deep;
After crossing head up river to Boulder Pools – a 20 minute cross country tramp;
Return to carpark, head left 10 minutes to Poutu confluence – again longer leader needed;
Wade up the Poutu? Popular after rain as this tributary from Lake Rotoaira remains clear;
Continue on to Blue Pool, Sand Pool, Big Bend, Boulder Pool, wherever the crowd isn’t.