Last weekend Sporting Life reported on a fresh run brown jack of over ten and a half pounds being landed. TRM inmates immediately inquired about access down the lower river below the end of Graces Road. Has DeLatours pool reformed? How many snags? Is it fishable? etc…
So that was just the incentive needed to escape the laundry and check out the conditions on a fine Monday afternoon when the temperature was exceeding 30c. Firstly we need to warn that anglers need to be prepared to get down and dirty in the lower river. It is not suitable for novices, unless they enjoy losing heaps of flies. It is too tricky.
Photo at top is where the Tongariro emerges back into the main flow from where, due to Waikato Regional Council’s unfortunate meddling, it broke through at the Bends a few years ago. DeLatours bend is now almost stagnant – forget it. As indicated the river has widened out considerably and is not fishable for a few hundred metres until you get down past the deserted house around Down’s Pool.
From there the river is much wider and has lots of snags everywhere. Many huge dead tree trunks remain washed up along the banks providing ideal shelter for sneaky trout but they rest in almost impossible positions for casting to. A catapult would be more effective?.
At the same time, just to add to the confusion, they have been excavating metal out of the big bend below Downs Pool. Unbelievable during spawning runs but this is what happens on the Tongariro!. We would not like to take tourists or sensitive purists down there. So forget everything you remembered about the old river. It has changed so much it is hardly comparable.
Now it is much wider and shallower than ever which, at first glance, provides for easier wading? But beware of many soft spots. And snags. It is not a place for old men with wonky ankles.
The following puny effort might better explain what it is like? From the higher bank I spotted one definite trout shape tucked in beside and hiding partially under a buried log which appeared to be just within casting distance. This was chosen after rejecting several others strategically located behind obstacles or in impossible lies. Too difficult for my skills anyway. Then it was a lottery to select a suitable secure casting position along the bank strewn with logs and debris. I ended up balancing precariously doing a ballet impression poised on an old tree trunk. I set up a big dry with a tiny dropper five feet below and tried casting several times with hardly any back-cast space. Eventually after losing two flies in snags and setting up again, I had it sorted to cast on target to achieve a good drift over the log but still the trout would not react. Then just as I was about to give in a huge brown emerged from right beneath my feet where it was hiding under another log. It was so relaxed it was fearless. It slowly and lazily cruised casually out of sight.
I suspect it might have been the first time it had met an angler? I could have grabbed the tail or prodded it with the rod. After that I was too exasperated to continue so returned up the elevated crumbling bank where, on closer examination, discovered the trout I was casting to had turned into a stick…
I know. I’m hopeless, but the fun in spotting and stalking and trying different combinations and difficult wading and all the other challenges make it so worthwhile, as long as you are a little bit insane (or when the other alternative is TRM’s laundry?). To most sensible fishos the excursion would have been a disaster in almost every respect, but that is what is so challenging that it becomes enjoyable for desperate fishos down river.
One other hint. Do not take a dog with you unless it is well trained or on a leash. Pumpkin spooked many more trout along the edges before I managed to spot them…
So is it worthwhile? Sorry. Nope. Physically it is too difficult and the lower river is such an ugly mess when balanced against so many easily accessed beautiful productive upper river pools. When compared to my fond memories of the original lower river it is now a disgrace. Having said that, Pumpkin and I will definitely return for more self inflicted punishment.