Paul Tudor from Auckland with renowned Canadian angler April Vokey, taken just before a fly fishing movie fest in early 2015. SWMBO has never seen Paul looking so young?
1 Name, brief background, where do you live. age, etc.?
Paul Tudor – I live in Auckland, a long way from any decent river systems. The Waitawheta is my nearest favourite beat, but there is a lot of walking if you want to fish it, it is small, clear and the fish in it are very spooky. But like the mighty T, it is a beautiful river, so enticing despite these flaws. I am 52 now and wish that I had gotten into fly fishing earlier, but my family were dedicated sea fishermen (my great great grandfather was a whaler at the top of the South Island) as well as hunters. I am a qualified librarian and work in information management for a large environmental and engineering consultancy.
2 When and where did you start fishing the Tongariro?
In 1996, I enrolled on the Master of Wine (MW) programme, spurred on by various members of the wine trade here in New Zealand. I enjoy wine (and cooking) and have worked in various parts of the trade, though these days I mostly write about it and run tastings, educational or otherwise.
The MW exams are some of the toughest trade exams anywhere in the world, the pass rate is around 10% if you incorporate all the re-sits that are permitted, though there is a strict limit on how many times you can re-sit. I sat my first MW exams in 2003, passed Practical (tasting) that year and then re-sat the Theory exam twice, passing in 2005.
In 2006 my MW dissertation was accepted (on attitudes towards screwcaps in NZ’s major export markets) and I became a Master of Wine.
(Photo on right of TRM’s exclusive vintage wine collection waiting for Paul’s appraisal – Tongariro anglers will shudder at such rare vintages as 1971 Montana Cold Duck?, and the classic Prime Minister’s export award winning 1982 Bakers Creek?)
3 What was your reason to start and keep returning to the Tongariro?
My company social club organises an annual trip to Turangi – it started out mainly for skiers, but the guy who first organised it (sadly passed away now) was a keen angler and hunter. We encourage newbies from the social club to try fly fishing and most years I give up my weekend to either teach them some basics, or guide them to parts of the river that they may not otherwise get to.
4 Which is your favourite pool? Why?
Blue Pool, for the obvious reason that this is where I landed my first fish, got him on the bomb and all, on the swing, so I missed the take altogether. When we came down for these social club trips we would mainly fish on Saturday/Sunday, so to get away from the crowds (the troll hole and other lower parts), we would always jump in the car and go upriver as far as we could. When we started using a guide, John Somervell, he would often start up at the Blue Pool as well, or rather in that pool just below it that does not have a name (we call it “John’s Pool”.) The Blue Pool has changed a lot over the years I have been coming, a couple of seasons ago you could wade right out into the middle of it, but it never fails to appeal. One year I was passing through Turangi around Christmas time and Ross convinced me to try fishing at night for browns. My son and I fished the lower pools at dusk, but then under Ross’s guidance, drove upriver (and didn’t tell the ladies where we were going.) It is damned hard casting in the dark, so we didn’t hook into anything, but when we got out of the car and jumped in at the bottom of the Blue we nearly stood on a beautiful fish that was just sitting there, in the shallows, resting.
5 Your most forgettable and/or unforgettable Tongariro incident?
The first year we came down I hired these rubber waders from Sporting Life and on the Sunday ended up with one of the other beginners fishing the Poutu from True Left. A damned long cast for a beginner, so of course I waded out far too far and next thing I knew one of my boots slipped on the slimey bottom and I was off, floating downstream. Somehow I managed to back paddle and Zi Ying, who was the lady with me, managed to haul me in. The first time I have been for a dip, but certainly not the last (I have dropped iPods and phones in various crossings, in fact I have lost so much electronic equipment in the Tongariro that I don’t take any near the river anymore.) That same year, Jeremy, one of the more experienced anglers and hence not fishing with the likes of me, also went for a swim and ended up floating under the State Highway 1 bridge before he was rescued.
6 Your best Tongariro achievement?
I don’t catch many fish, but several times now I have been the person to catch the first fish of the trip. One time Chris (my main partner in crime) and I had a double hook up in the Bain, that is always exciting, sadly that stretch of water is useless now. But I think the finest achievement was a couple of years ago, we were having all sorts of trouble getting onto fish, there was a horrible southerly blowing down the river, and we just couldn’t see any fish anywhere. John Somervell suggested I try wet lining, so he loaned me a reel with a shooting line, told me what to tie on it, and suggested I try the tail of the Red Hut.
Sure enough, almost like magic, on the second or third run through, bang, I was on. I was actually bending down to pick up my wading stick, so I didn’t even see the fish hit, but it was almost like clockwork, I really could not believe this was happening. Needless to say, I haven’t tried wet lining since!
7 What do you like most about the Tongariro?
The variety of pools – the size of the river – the huge numbers of fish. I fish a lot of smaller rivers whenever I can, but the drama and sheer water volume of the Tongariro is so incredible. Turangi is also one of those towns that seems “just right”. It is incredible that you have a town with all these amenities, right on the banks of one of the world’s greatest trout rivers. Quite remarkable really.
8 Which is your favourite fishing style – dry? nymph? streamer?
I started out being taught “Tongariro nymphing” and that is what I continue to do. Apart from occasionally using one as an indicator, I have not tried dry fly fishing on the Tongariro, yet. I have tried on other North Island rivers – no success so far on the dry. A few years ago, we had a couple of anglers up from our Christchurch office for the annual social club trip and one was boasting of how much fish he catches. He completely struck out that weekend and afterwards said that he had a new found admiration of nymph fishermen and especially those of us who mostly fish the Tongariro. He recognises the craft and expertise involved.