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Ah, the Mighty Tongariro – a river that holds a firm place in many anglers’ hearts. New Zealand’s most-fished river is the biggest of the tributaries flowing into Lake Taupō and has retained its reputation as New Zealand’s finest fishery for many years – though it does truly come into its own over the colder months.
If you’re new to fishing, this is a great place to start. It’s not uncommon to see wader-clad anglers mooching about Tūrangi’s town centre, so if you’ve got your gear sorted, simply follow them down to any of the numerous pools close to town or grab a guide and make the most of the local knowledge. (Speaking of local knowledge, the Turangi Bakery pies are to-die-for. You can work it off practicing your Tongariro Roll Cast).
This little gem just outside Taupō is best known for its picket fence of anglers standing in the river mouth, and by golly if you want to see trout in their natural habitat, there’s no better place. While it’s easy to spot trout just hanging out waiting for their next feed, we’re not going to beat around the bush here – the Waitahanui is hard to fish unless you’re a fish whisperer. But if you like casting at big, fat, beautiful fish then give the ‘Nui a crack.
Bonus: it’s also a nice walk upriver for those who aren’t so excited by all-things-piscatorial.
The lakebed? At roughly 120 feet deep? Well, this is where you want to be jigging. And we don’t mean performing highland flings, although you’ll feel like busting one out when you get a fish on your line with so little effort.
Jigging is arguably the simplest type of fishing you can do around these parts, but how easy are we talking here? Well, if you’ve ever wanted to go for a swim and catch a fish at the same time (and haven’t we all) then you’re in luck. Just pop your line off the boat into the depths until you feel the sinker hit the bottom, place your rod in a rod carrier and jump into the pristine waters of Lake Taupō to cool off. You can guarantee the moment you’re perfectly floating in a state of calm is the moment you look up and see the rod tip moving furiously. It’s the most exhilarating swim back to the boat you’ll ever do, and getting the fish on board is pretty foolproof – just reel it in, and hey presto, you’ve got yourself a shiny trout. Yum yum!
Well, it doesn’t have to be sunset, but it sure does help to have a romantic, whimsical view to frame your fishing when the fish aren’t biting. Although, to be fair, if you’re fishing in summer and you’ve got the basics sorted, you’d be unlucky if you didn’t get a fish at the end of your line during the warmer months.
River mouths are hot spots for trout over summer due to the simple fact that trout move around a bit. As the lake temperature rises, fish move towards the cooler temperature of the many tributaries feeding into Lake Taupō. As they move up, they often intercept a woolly bugger, grey ghost or boobie (we’re not joking) fly made to imitate smelt, which is like candy to trout and hard to resist. Put the fly in the right place, and you’ll soon feel the tug of a hungry trout.
Our main tip is to learn about the etiquette of fishing river mouths before you set out, which will not only help you to not get a hook in the face but will ensure you make friends with the regulars who will no doubt be happy to impart some tips if needed.
Got kids dying to catch a fish? Take them to Lake Kuratau. While there are some patches to fish from the shore, you’re best to take a boat, but you won’t need the boat to be big - kayaks will absolutely suffice.
Once you’re there, you are hands down guaranteed to get fish in this shallow lake that is essentially a flooded forest stoked with small rainbows and the odd, shy brown. These trout aren’t going to be the biggest fish in the world (although there’s a rumour a nine-pound brown trout came out of there one night…), but this small lake is stocked with enough trout to keep everyone happy.
If things don’t go to plan with the kiddos on Lake Kuratau, pop down to the Tongariro National Trout Centre just outside of Tūrangi. This place is fantastic, with a native freshwater aquarium, freshwater history museum, trout hatchery and a big old pond teeming with rainbow trout just waiting for kids aged 5 to 16 to catch.
While adults get a chance to kick back and watch from the sidelines, kids get the chance to learn the basics of fly fishing from an experienced angler and are guaranteed to catch a trout before having it filleted, and manuka smoked ready for dinner. It’s a tonne of fun, as well as being an educational experience for young ones (…and older ones too). Fishing here is offered during school holidays.
This one isn’t for beginners, but if you’re a seasoned angler or can tag along with someone who knows what they’re doing, then a day on Lake Otamangakau is an absolute must. This is the jewel in the crown of the Taupō Fishery when it comes to trophy fish. While you’re not likely to haul in dozens of trout, any fish you do get a chance to meet are likely to be whoppers. We tend to keep away from ‘The Big O’ when temperatures are at their summer peak, as the water gets a bit too tropical for fish to come to the surface if you’re going to catch and release. Try either side of the summer rush for the best fishing experience.
For budding fly fishers who want to practice their back cast, this is the perfect river to give your arms a workout. The Tauranga-Taupo flows from the Kaimanawa Range into Lake Taupō between Taupō and Tūrangi and is a versatile river where you can easily walk up nymphing and walk back down again wet lining (don’t worry if you don’t know what those techniques are).
You do have to do a little bit of walking between pools, but it’s well worth the stroll for an easy-to-fish river that delivers the goods. Grab a buddy who knows the river or a local guide and spend a whole day strolling along one of the more open-plan rivers in the Taupō Fishery.
Fishing guides in the Central North Island are some of the most passionate in the world. They are always ready to show visitors their favourite parts of the lakes and rivers in the Taupo region, and love sharing their fishing knowledge and stories.