The famous Cattle Rustlers Pool is located about halfway between the two Tongariro River swing bridges with anglers access usually favoured from the TRB (True Right Bank looking down river).
Of course it is much easier using TRM bikes. From the Cattle Rustlers side-track it took 14 minutes biking back into a headwind to reach the Koura Street swing-bridge and a further 6 minutes to TRM.
Below is some history from old 2005 TRM reports on the Cattle Rustlers Pool prepared by one of our inmates who hides behind the name “Ol’ardy”… i.e.
Cattle Rustlers Pool ( by Tongariro River Motel guest/angler – Ol’ardy, May 2006 – we could not locate the original photos of Ol’ardy so those are from a more recent visit. He only ever fishes this pool with a vintage bamboo Hardy rod. (I have also heard it said you can always judge an angler of classical distinction by his mode of transport?)
The other images below on right illustrate the new access track to Cattle Rustlers. The old track used to emerge on the river bank requiring wading to reach the corner of Cattle Rustlers Pool. The new track has been cut through the blackberry upstream to emerge on the bank. So bikers and trampers can now have a picnic on the bank without having to wade. Thank you DOC.
CATTLE RUSTLERS POOL
This pool is essentially unchanged since 1960, (the other is the Red Hut) and fishing notes for that period still apply. It’s just that there is half the water there used to be, which gives some idea of the size of the Tongariro pre- hydro. (Deeper, not wider, and faster) Year in, year out, the Cattle Rustlers produces fish, unlike the Red Hut, which is a shadow of its former self.
To fish the pool thoroughly from the side opposite the Hatchery, it helps to have both a floating and sinking line – and don’t wade too much.
At the head, a sinking line cast into the flow as it heads towards the bank swings round into a holding area, where, if you can see them, there are often large numbers of fish on the bottom. They are usually deep for a nymph, and swirls and eddies make line control difficult, but not impossible. Optionally, stay below them in the pool, and cast a nymph on a reasonably long leader (2m+) about 15 feet out from the bank, just short of the incoming flow.
Take care as you approach the head – the fish are often close to the bank, and easy to spook, and most anglers don’t realise they are there, then wonder why they don’t catch any. They can see you quite easily, since you are on a raised bank of shingle, silhouetted against the sky. By casting into the rip, and feeding line, you can cover a lot of water, but you need to be deep, and line control is tricky.
Having gone down as far the corner, where vegetation starts, we switch over to floating a nymph (or, optionally, an intermediate sinking line – the tail is shallow).
Go right to the end of the pool, to the point just before it tumbles down to the next pool (ie, turn right when you come down to the river from the track). Work your way steadily upwards, with a shallow nymph. Why I tell you my best spots I don’t know, but this has always been a productive area, and it’s invariably under-fished. The water is about 4 feet deep, so reduce your leader to match depth/current speed. Did I say it helps if you can cast a long way? Obviously the tail can be accessed and fished from the opposite bank as well.
In days of old, when men were men (dubious), and we threw back anything under 10lbs (lies), and the limit was 20 fish (true), 20 fish were taken out of the tail in one day – and then had to be carried back to Hatchery (they were to be smoked for Parliamentarians).
Just try to avoid the – people? – who use the best holding water to wade across the river! Yes, you can wade across the tail sometimes, depending on water levels, but you are walking on fish. This, of course, is Ross’s path to the pool from the Hatchery. There is a secret society who are intending to stake a trip-wire in there to fix him.
In summer, dry fly in the tail of the pool can be extraordinary fun – and very productive – as can cicada hatches in the trees above the pool. It is not uncommon to see fish rising over the entire expanse of the tail of the pool.
Of course, not many fishermen go to the Rustlers at dawn and dusk, so this is often missed – more for those who do go at those times..
If you have finished the Rustlers, go upstream into the bottom of the Birch pool. Can be dynamite, (refer Birch Pool report!) especially if fishermen bothering the water on the other bank have sent the fish over to you. The same leader used at the bottom of the Rustlers works there in the tail of the Birches as well.
The pool is delightful in many ways – a summer’s dawn, with the Blue Herons fishing beside one about 20 feet away, can be imagined, but should be experienced. The herons nest in the pines on the other side, as do some Kingfishers. Ah, isn’t nature wonderful? Given my lousy catch rate I have plenty of time to admire the scenery and the joys of nature.
Cattle could be driven across the river here and there was a triangular ravine nearby where they could be concealed during the day, prior to being driven across at night. (X Hickling – Freshwater Admiral). After the establishment of the Rangipo Prison Farm, the butcher from Tokaanu used to drive cattle from the farm across the river at this point.
Barlow’s, situated above Cattle Rustlers at the mouth of the Waihukahuka (Hatchery) Stream, took its name from B. U. (Bubs) Barlow. NZ Fishing Gazette, March 1931 – “Mr. B U Barlow says he has taken 300 fish from the Tongariro so far this season. We understand that Mr. Barlow has a government whare at the Hatchery Camp.
The shingle Bank which was on the TLB has now moved to the TRB and the name of Barlows has transferred with it. – from Pools of the Tongariro by Barbara Cooper.
Cattle Rustlers Pool – August 2005
What an intriguing name for a fishing pool – a reminder of a more colourful history of the river. Everyone loves Cattle Rustlers. Pools like this make the Tongariro world famous in New Zealand. We are regularly reminded by email requests from eco tourist anglers (Hi Tim x Utah, Vic x Chicago, Wally x Ireland, Herbert x Austria, George x England, Geoff & Babs x Tasmania) bursting with enthusiasm after their dream trip of a lifetime – to fish the Tongariro. Too often we regret NZ’ers do not adequately respect this beautiful national treasure enough – all encapsulated in Cattle Rustlers Pool. Wow – I am already fizzing just thinking about it.
This pool is one of the most attractive traditional consistent producers on the river, so naturally Murphy¹s law makes it hardest to get to. The location is midway between two footbridges at Red Hut and Major Jones. The choice is determined by other pools you might have a flick in on your way home.
Note we suggest on your way home, as it needs considerable self restraint to walk past other inviting pools, but this is worth the effort. We know some anglers might wade across the river below the Stag but cannot recommend it for safety reasons. Too many optimistic impatient anglers wade over and then return much wiser via footbridges, plus another 4 km to their car.
Despite the 2004 flood changing the contour and washing out the bank along the LHS, the pool has survived well. The basic reason for fish holding in this pool is irresistible enticing hormonal perfume bubbling from the hatchery creek opposite. On their primeval journey to sniff out spawning redds, sex driven trout have to pause here to absorb exciting hatchery aromas, debating whether to visit DoC¹s fishy fornicatorium first or continue their swim to the great promised land.
The main concern is if, after a sweaty 40-50 minutes trudge in waders , to discover another angler anchored there. Always start with a friendly chat. Are they getting tired and ravenous? So sit down near them and start loudly munching lunch.
If that does not work, try John T’s pool negotiating technique – he swears by it – politely warn them about suspicious characters you left hanging around their car park….. We are regularly inspired by the unselfish spirit shown by most Tongariro anglers – is it imagination or does the level of courtesy improve on more remote pools? Pools like Cattle Rustlers encourage good manners. Whilst there is room for at least two rods, there are other options nearby. From Cattle Rustlers, there is easy access up the RHS below Birches, opposite the hatchery, where you will often see undisturbed red flanked trout in the shallows.
Another sneaky option, to check out the pool first, is from the TLB. A National Trout Centre visit is compulsory anyway.
Park next to the hatchery car park and follow the new track down river for about 4 minutes. Where it emerges on a mucky 4WD track, turn right, go to the end overlooking the pool where a steep track with dug out foot holds leads down to a shelf extending under the bank.. Stalk softly and observe. Undecided (?) randy trout wait impatiently in the depths. Try an extra long trace with small weighted naturals from a big backhand flick for right handers. Not recommended for infirm anglers but a popular place for guides.
Above right is the old track where it emerged on the river bank and needed wading to reach the main stone beach.
On our latest visit midday on a Saturday in the middle of school holidays there was only one angler seen on the TLB. He hooked up in the tail as we watched.
Readers advise of easier access than tramping in from the footbridges. The Tongariro River can be crossed directly below where the LHS track emerges. As we cannot encourage this we urge caution and the use of wading poles. TRM’s office have modified ski poles (patent pending) available to anglers as strong wading sticks for this purpose.
NOTE: Pool Reports for the Tongariro River are prepared from guest/anglers experiences. As such, Tongariro River Motel do not accept any responsibility for the opinions of other anglers who are traditionally acknowledged liars about their best fishing pools.