Fishy update before we get to Paul’s Story.
The river is low and clear again but perhaps suprisingly there are still quite a few “sardines” in the river. They must have found a quiet place to hide while the latest fresh went through. Talking to anglers reveals a few are catching fish but they don’t seem to be holding in pools. Mike Hughes got stuck into some browns in the Judges Pool landing 5 from 7 hooked. The next day the browns had gone. John Porteous has been quietly catching fish while recovering from Ross’ Disease – bad back. The author of this report managed to catch a few in a pool down the river. A very aggressive rainbow jack raced through 5m of clear blue water to attack a cicada fly. It looked spectacular. Others I’ve spoken to have had mixed fortunes.
Now for Paul’s Story
Trip Report – Raft Fishing the Mighty Tongariro – Monday 15th Feb 2016 by Paul Gandell
The alarm went off at 6:15 am … finally the day had arrived … the holy grail for all Taupo Acclimatisation District fly fishos … Today I was to fish the upper Tongariro a stretch of river only accessible by water and in this instance on a superb raft and with a skilled guide from Rafting New Zealand. After a quick breakfast I pulled on my waders and boots grabbed my rod and headed out the door of my excellent accommodation at TRM to hook up with my rafting/fishing buddies John and Murray.
A quick stop at the Turangi bakery (they open at 5:30 am!) to stock up on lunch supplies and we were knocking on the door of Rafting New Zealand’s base at 7:00 am. A very surprised Painika Boddington, co-owner of the company, appeared and informed us that 7:30 am was the usual start time. We said we were a tad excited and didn’t want to’ miss the boat’. She smirked as she made us all a wonderful round of flat whites.
Shortly afterwards Jimmy appeared and introduced himself to us as our rafting guide for the day. Before we knew it the efficient team at Rafting New Zealand had loaded up the raft and we were on our way.
Entry point was just below Poutu Intake and it didn’t take long for us all to man handle the raft down the track from the car park and into the water. Jimmy gave us an excellent heads up on the trip ahead and of course a succinct safety run down … import for BOF’s. So with the river running at 16 cumecs, some 14 km of river gorge containing around 50 something grade III ish rapids and corresponding pools we were off!
We were in an oar boat which meant Jimmy would do the heavy lifting … an oar boat is definitely the way to travel when the prime objective is fishing. I was designated “rod boy” which meant I sat behind Jimmy on the edge of the raft hanging onto 3 rods in one hand and piece of rope in the other … yup … there were times when it was like being a cowboy at a rodeo trying to ride a frisky animal! John and Murray were at the front of the raft and served as ballast under the excellent orders of Captain Jimmy … this prevented us tipping over and minimised getting stuck on rocks in shallow sections of the river.
We probably stopped and fished at between 10 – 12 pools on the journey. Jimmy who has worked for Rafting New Zealand for 4 years knew the river like the back of his hand … some 800 runs and counting. It was like he had a personal relationship with every rock, overhanging branch, water swirl, cliff etc etc. He gave us a brief run down on each rapid as we approached from its name and history through to the path he was going to take. This was kind of important for the “rod boy” as I needed to be able to quickly make adjustments to rod angles to ensure rod lifetime warranties would not have to be evoked! Jimmy has done a number of fishing trips and being a fisherman as well was quick to suggest pools to stop at … we enthusiastically took his advice
At the first pool we stopped at the bet was laid down … the BOF who catches the first fish of regulation size has to shout the first round of single malts. Despite being a bit overcast the cicadas were chirping madly so it was pretty obvious how we would rig up for the day. Well it didn’t take long for Murray to get his eye in with a couple of pocket rockets and then wham … a nice 2.5 pounder. The scene for some fierce competition had been set. In the next pool Murray struck again and John got on the board. I was starting to get a bit worried! In the 3rd pool I finally got on the board with a couple of larger pocket rockets that performed well.
The day continued with drifting through slow water looking up at amazing primeval gorge walls covered in beautiful native bush, exhilarating runs down rapids and fishing pools, side streams and riffles.
What was truly amazing was the ferocity of the strike. In one tiny spot on the downstream side of a large rock my cicada barely touched the water on my first cast before being engulfed by a solid 2.5 rainbow … stunning stuff.
I ended up with 6 for the day and I am pretty sure both John and Murray hit double figures.
We finally emerged from our adventure at Blue Pool at around 5:30 pm.
It was a magnificent day and one that I will remember for a very long time. A special thanks to Rafting New Zealand for donating this trip to TRM, thanks to TRM for drawing me out of the hat so I could enjoy the magic of this very special place and finally a big thanks to Jimmy, a great guide.
If anyone is contemplating a fishing raft trip the shooting the river with Rafting New Zealand and enjoying the fine hospitality of TRM just can’t be beaten.
This last photo is of are me running the Zambezi at the rear of an oar boat quite a few years ago. If I had been “rod boy” on this trip all rods would have been lost over board on the first rapid! The Zambezi rafting experience starts just below Victoria Falls and comprises 25 rapid of grade IV and V … not for the faint hearted …