Following the old TRM reports on the Duchess Pool, discussing the rich history of the names of the Tongariro River Pools, we should have anticipated the next inquiry – to explain the whereabouts and name of the Sly Grog Pool.
TRM are preparing tourist information panels to advise bikers/walkers/anglers along the Tongariro River Trail of the history of the Tongariro River Pools. The initial research is being donated from sales of the Tongariro Skulduggery book only available from TRM reception. We hope to qualify for funding assistance from the Turangi Community Boards. Our request is for $6,000, being half the cost of preparing and installing 17 signs along the trail, to be considered by the Community Board next week.
On all other tourist bike trails around NZ, the information panels describing the trees and birds and any local history are an important part of the wider experience. The Tongariro River Trail is probably the oldest purpose-designed anglers access trail in NZ, originally developed about one hundred years ago. Tourists cannot appreciate the wealth of local trout fishing history unless information signs are installed to elaborate and inform and instruct along the river trail.
The difficulty with the Sly Grog Pool is that if a tourist information noticeboard was erected next to the pool then that would be a give-away to the steep access track which is not widely known. So you will understand the reason for the sneaky plan is to position it on the other side of the river, on the TLB (True Left Bank looking downriver) where more tourists will read it as they walk along the bank beside the Trout Centre. The Sly Grog Pool can only be viewed from the TLB but the access track will remain very difficult to locate…
Once again, to avoid repetition, we referred to previous fishing reports, aka blogs, from TRM’s library:
Access to Sly Grog Pool explained…?
Sly Grog Pool
Continuing updating the Tongariro River Pools – That is Sly Grog Pool gravel beach peeping out between the mature Birch trees in the left centre below the confluence of the flows joining below the island. The Birch Pool is in the foreground with the Trout Centre gardens and tourist walkways on right.
Image above looking up river from the “Sly Grog” Pool to the island below the Silly Pool. On the opposite bank is the beach below the Trout Centre.
The Sly Grog Pool is one of the most difficult for anglers to locate the access. The steep entrance track is usually walked past as it is well disguised and hard to identify, as indicated in the images below taken this week. Some anglers will be relieved at the difficulty as it is a ‘go to’ spot when all other pools are crowded at peak time on a weekend.
For several years it was one of the most reliable and least visited pools on the river. i.e. On three consecutive weekly visits there in 2016 I hooked up on my first cast. (Small bead head pheasant tail nymph) Then on my fourth attempt for a PB the wind ruined the cast. It took me three casts that day. It was that good. But more recently, particularly since last January 700+ cumec flood, the flow has changed the lie and I do not think it is anywhere near as reliable.
But it still should be one of the ‘bucket list’ pools for every Tongariro River angler. So the following images might assist (or confuse?) to locate the access track to the pool.
Obviously the best way to get there is by bike. Then if someone has beaten you it is no effort to return to the next pool up river (Silly Pool) or down river (Cattle Rustlers Pool) instead.
Following a special request from an inmate who had tried to find it several times, the entrance was identified with an arrow – see image below. He still missed it.
The other images of the track down are difficult to identify and might also discourage some less fit and sprightly fishing folk in waders? It is not as steep or difficult as Silly Pool but getting back up can be a struggle lugging six trout.
The last previous report should fill in some of the gaps. A few seasons ago it was possible to wade up the TRB through the Birch Pool. The flow has changed since then so it may be too tricky or should only be attempted in high summer conditions, when the river is low (26-26 cumecs) and clear and when wet wading is possible. That should discourage most anglers from trying this approach…. This includes a repeat of the 2006 report…
(It is sad about the apparent loss of bird life up and down the river. In the past 10-12 seasons the magic musical melodies from the spring chorus were an outstanding feature of the Tongariro River Trail. They added so much to the 100% pure (?) river atmosphere. Now, apart from a couple of quail on the track, the occasional Tui snorting in Kowhai trees and a Magpie squawking in the paddocks, the silence is deafening all along the river tracks… I wonder why? Perhaps I’m going deaf…)
Where is the Sly Grog Pool?
Another request from TRM inmates – to explain how to access the Sly Grog Pool?.
This is always a difficult one to explain…
The best way to identify the Sly Grog Pool is to start with the Birch Pool…
(Images on right were to illustrate the track down to the beach but it is hardly discernible? Some TRM inmates will be pleased about that…)
Birch Pool update from August 2006.
It has hardly changed. From the National Trout Centre anglers car park the anglers access track leads across the Waihukahuka (Hatchery) Stream to paths along side the river.
Alternatively, if crossing the stream looks difficult, easier access is through the Trout Centre public car park via the kids fishing pool to DoC’s River Walk.
Below the Silly Pool the river splits in two with the main channel flowing down the TRB. These channels join again to form the Upper Birch Pool providing a splendid attractive natural deep pool.
Then the tail out spreads over a wide shallow boulder bank to an enticing deep blue pool under the TRB forming the Lower Birch Pool – located above Barlow’s Reach. To fish the lower pool anglers need to wade over the shallow riffles. Wading poles may be needed.
The Upper Birch Pool is a big spectacularly beautiful picture book pool – also ideal for nymphing from the TLB bank beside the River Walk or by wading across the bypass to the point of the island which is favoured for wet lining.
But look out for the pool across on the TRB which cannot be reached casting from the Hatchery bank – opposite the notice board… That is your destination BUT first have a look along the shallow edges of the upper Birch Pool TLB.
This is where kids often end up with half a container of salmon fish food after feeding trout in the kids pond and in the hatchery stream. The food inevitably ends up thrown in the river where the trout are usually waiting.
We have just had John Sanguinetti from Melbourne call in. He was so excited after he counted about 8-10 big trout waiting in the shallows below where the seat is. He left them for me as he thought they would not be allowed to fish in the grounds of the trout centre.
But back to the main thread – I hope we will not lose too many guests by giving away this secret access to the Sly Grog pool. Possibly you may never have heard of it – maybe that is why it is a secret? This name was allocated on the 1928 river pools map.
From the Upper Birches have a squint across river at the delightfully positioned small beach below the Upper Birch Pool.
This is how you get there. Back track to the anglers car park in the trout centre. Locate the walking track heading down river. Follow this for five minutes to where it emerges on the old 4WD track, turn right to the river bank and follow hewn steps down to emerge below Cattle Rustlers.
This is a wonderful holding pool being a compulsory rest for spawning trout to savour all the arousing aromas spewing from the hatchery stream. If you quietly move along the shelf to the right keep ‘polaroiding’ – you will usually find in the depths stressed out spooked trout pushed over this side by pressure from anglers casting from the beach opposite. From where you emerged on the river bank, turn left and wade down river. Cast ahead as you cross.
On our guest’s report on Cattle Rustlers he claims you could be wading through the best lie. This waist deep crossing is one of the slower safer main river crossings being the widening tail out of Cattle Rustlers Pool on sandy river bed. Once across the TRB continue up the steps to the walking track – between Koura Street swing bridge and Red Hut – and head back up river for about 400 metres.
Then – this is the tricky part – locate the faint track towards the river. This leads down to the little beach above the infamous Sly Grog pool.
Often the track entrance is blocked by branches. That is not accidental. Only TRM inmates are allowed on this track. OK? Replace them when you leave. TRM inmates ride bikes up there but always leave their bikes parked – securely chained to a tree – where the track isn’t. They don’t want to make it too easy for others.
Here you can safely wade out to cast directly into the feed line below the Upper Birch Pool. A truly delightful spot – particularly on cold afternoons when the sun will help thaw the spirit. But don’t tell anyone else about it…
The intriguing pool name has its genesis in Barbara Coopers’ 1975 booklet – Pools of the Tongariro – where the Sly Grog Pool is shown on Morilleau’s survey, located immediately above the hatchery stream and below the Birch Pool on the TRB. As that is now referred to as Barlow’s Reach, the Sly Grog Pool name has been allocated to the next beach upriver on the TLB. Clear as mud?
Its proximity to the anglers camp is perhaps significant… The hatchery was established in 1928 and an anglers camp was built there – back then anglers needing to quench their thirst after a big day wading the river but had to get around the “Prohibition Laws”. So a ‘still’ was conveniently located across from the anglers camp with access by boat… hence the ‘sly grog’ name.