I was introduced to trout fishing by my father in the 1950’s on the rivers near New Plymouth where I was born and raised.
(Photo on right of Wanganui River below the confluence with Whakapapa River and below is the old railway line access from Kakahi to the Whakapapa River))
That cabin named Whaka Lodge by the owners still stands today, some sixty years on, on the banks of the Whakapapa.
This interest as a young lad waned as the attraction and appeal of other sports developed in my teenage years, but in the mid 1970’s, when I was a resident in Hamilton, I was invited on a number of weekends to visit Turangi and once again explore the magic of the trout and the fly rod.
In those days two families came down, the children were certainly pre schoolers, we stayed at the Creel Lodge (T.R.M. was always fully booked!!!), and from memory paid about $15 a night for family accommodation.
Our visits from Hamilton to Turangi became more regular and in the late 1970’s I started a wonderful annual tradition of 10 days in Turangi in the middle of winter fishing with my mates.
We rented baches from acquaintances and as a result of renting the Herekiekie Street bach of Ashley Heydon from Taranaki, we purchased the next door bach from a Palmerston North family in 1982. The boy’s annual fishing trips continued for some 20+ years but were generously supplemented by numerous family holidays both summer and winter.
I have now fished the Tongariro River for close on 40 years and every one of those 40 years has contained indelible memories of fish caught, fish lost, great camaraderie, outstanding fishery, declining fishery, recovering fishery. The beauty of the river and its wild life inhabitants, the changing seasons, some enormous floods (February 1999 and February 2004 come to mind), and the joys of relearning the river after it had been rearranged by these floods.
In my early days the standout pools for us were the Boulder, the Breakaway (or Harry’s Rock as it was often known), the Never Fail, the Megan’s and the Reed. Being so much younger and more competitive in those days 90% of our fishing was with the nymph, a technique shown to me by Garry Kemsley one morning at the Never Fail Pool in about 1978. It became my pool of choice because from my experience it lived up to its name 52 weeks of the year.
The Boulder was another pool that held wonderful memories. We went there for years, the best of those years which were before the road around the prison was opened in 1982. We would park the car on State Highway 1 by the Poutu Stream, walk into the Boulder with a pack on our back,always corned beef sandwiches, a thermos of hot tomato soup a good slab of chocolate and a beer or two for lunchtime.
We would be there at 6a.m. and arrive back at the car 12 hours later more often than not carrying at least six fish. It was a wonderful pool, forever producing fish and on many occasions held up to 9 rods.
On other occasions, particularly during mid week you and your mates had the pool to yourselves and a wonderful day of sport was had by all.
(Photo of Blue Pool above on right, Bob Jones crossing Vera’s Pool below right))
“An interesting and amusing memory was a very productive mid week day back in 1982 with Bob (now Sir Bob) and Anne Jones.
The next day the three of us ventured to the Boulder Pool. These were the days before the road was opened and we parked on State Highway 1.
On the walk in I noticed that the Breakaway Pool (or Harry’s Rock) was unoccupied so I said to the Jones that I would have a fish there before joining them at the Boulder. I did so and some hour or so later as I pushed through the undergrowth I heard – “How many have you got???!!!”
My response to Bob was that I had landed three fish which I had killed and buried to be collected on the walk out later in the day. My response was immediately met with a joyous – “I am two ahead of you”, which indicated to me that an active and competitive day lay ahead!!!
We had a most enjoyable and productive day with Bob wet lining (which was the only way he fished in those days) and me nymphing. I took my time and spent plenty of time on the bank but the introduced competition required me to respond every time Bob landed a fish, which he did on numerous occasions.
The Boulder Pool was fishing on that particular day like it could 30 odd years ago and a long cast with a nymph to land behind the huge boulder, that the pool got its name from, guaranteed a fish every time.
In the end Bob had to concede defeat which he did with the amusing comment – “Anne I have been fishing for 30 bloody years and I have been facing the wrong way (!!!).”
“As mentioned earlier the 10 day mid winter fishing trips were legendary and most of these were spent in the company of my good friend from New Plymouth, Bruce Hutchings.
In about 1978 we were in the midst of one of these annual trips when the persistent rain for several hours even tested the keenest of young fisherman.
In mid afternoon we decided to call it a day but thought that before we returned to our accommodation in Kuratau we would drop in for a thirst quencher at the local Turangi hotel.
The way that we were dressed, and the fact that we were drenched, necessitated the public bar where we were made most welcome to a table with some locals.
Another local joined us an hour or so later and was simply introduced as Keith.
As keen sports followers we knew exactly who it was and some hours later when the effects of our thirst quenchers had well and truly taken effort my mate said to Keith – “I remember when Alistair Scown whacked you in a Taranaki/Otago match.
As I said this is the late 1970’s when the media of NZ was still searching for Keith Murdoch who had never been found after he left the All Black tour of Great Britain in 1972.”
I continued to nymph fish as my predominant form for many years but I have returned to wet lining in the last 10 years – as my family say I am showing my age, but nymphing has never offered the exhilarating experience of the fisherman nearly having the rod pulled from his hand by the aggressive take of a fit strong 6lb rainbow hitting a wet fly.
I have owned the holiday home in Herekiekie Street now since its purchase in 1982 but we pulled down the original black bach in 1997 and built a new more comfortable family holiday place which still stands today.
I say still stands because on the night of 29th February 2004 there was some real doubt – the property was inundated when the river burst its banks around the area of the Tongariro Lodge, but 9 months later it was rebuilt, reoccupied and the wonderful memories continued (almost) uninterrupted.
(The photo below on right is the boys in the rain at the Cattle Rustlers, circa 2005. Me on the left, Bruce Hutchings in the middle and John Paul from Auckland on the right. Of interest but not in the story is the fact that we were all mates at New Plymouth Boys High School in the early and mid 1960’s so it goes to show the camaraderie of fishing!!!)
My years on the Tongariro and particularly in Herekiekie Street has given me the opportunity to meet, socialize with, and fish with many characters. They included Reg Crane and Ray Legg who both owned No.1 Herekiekie Street at different times, street guardian Les Wilson, and well known Wellington businessmen Max Downes and Donald Budge. My fishing mates include Chris Young from Taupo, John Paul from Auckland both who are now Herekiekie Street holiday home owners, and Bruce Hutchings from New Plymouth.
I could go on and on about the 40 years but I think the fact that I still go back, still fish, still catch the odd one, and am now enthusiastically joined by the third generation of our family spells volumes for the area and the river. It is part of my soul and I am a lucky man.”
(The above comments on Bob Jones are a reminder that in terms of publicity, (good or bad?) he has arguably achieved as much for the Tongariro as all the other inmates combined. As such, he deserves his own TRM report… As SWMBO asked, how could we not include him? TRM had not contacted him as he has never stayed here but there is more than enough published about him instead. Watch this space…)