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Adventure fishing on Lake Taupo: kayak fishing

Two or three times a week, David Lehndorf heads out onto Lake Taupo in his kayak, seeking trout. Often, his casting and catching efforts follow the rhythm of the classical music he listens to while fishing. Take notes from David as he's sharing his fishing hot spots and tips so you can catch the big one on a kayak this summer! 

The 77-year-old ex-butcher is also a former Fish and Game and Department of Conservation ranger who also served as an honorary fishery officer. These days, he leads a group of nine adventurous older men who call themselves The Brotherhood of the Lancewoods, named for the river wading stick each member has been awarded by David. A few of the crew are boat owners but most prefer to fish from a kayak and they regularly venture onto the lake as a group, any time between Labour Weekend and Easter.

Fishing with opera

"I’ve always been a trout fisherman. I was whitebaiting at the age of eight when I saw a fish cross in front of me. The fish I was after was a mullet but I got a length of a spark plug, a hook and a worm and caught myself a brown trout.

I’ve lived on the river and had canoes or kayaks all my life. Fishing from a kayak is so quiet and peaceful. Most of the time I have my Walkman on, playing opera, so when I catch a fish it’s in time with the music.

I can paddle out and get two or three fish before breakfast. We like to go out first thing before the wind gets up, and if there are too many boats we’ll go somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be a kayak, either. A mate started out fishing on a paddleboard and he did alright."

So quiet and peaceful

 Powering your own vessel

"Most times, we launch from the shore so you don’t have to worry about finding a boat ramp. We can stop just about anywhere round the lake, walk half a dozen steps and just carry the kayak down. Sometimes, we’ll put our kayaks on a mate’s boat and head over to the western bays, where road access is harder, and fish the waterfall.

The key is to keep the line straight up and down. You’ll have three flies on a line and if it’s on an angle, the flies all wrap around it. It’s got to look natural out there. You have a rubber band on the end of the line, then the sinker, and you’re just moving through the water quietly. We paddle very, very quietly, like a slow, slow walk, with the rod in a holder in front of me, with the right tension on the line. The sinker is bouncing off the bottom, which can attract the fish. I don’t catch the fish, they catch themselves.

And you have the enjoyment and the fitness from powering your own vessel."

Powering my own vessel on Lake Taupo

A spot for each season.

"In a kayak, you’re right there on the water, close to the action and to nature. You can see the fish. You’re also seeing some gorgeous sunrises, watching the wildlife. On the shore, you see a lot of blue and white herons, kotuku. There are always ducks and black swans and shags. The ducks will hang around if you’re out there having a sandwich.

In February, if you’ve got green beetles about you’ll see the fish sitting on the surface, just feeding on them. It’s their ice cream. Most of the time their ice cream is smelt. So you look for shags because they’re diving for smelt and that’s where the fish’ll be.

There are different spots for different seasons.

At the moment, there’s going to be a southerly so we’ll go over to Jerusalem Bay because it’s sheltered. If it’s a south-easterly, we’ll go to Kinloch.

Sometimes, when I know water is moving through the power station at Tokaanu, at the Turangi end of the lake, we’ll head down there. It brings all the insects and debris with it and when the force of water hits the lake forms quite a big hole in the lake and the fish just sit in there."

Swapping fish for flies

"I’m always watching the cloud formations and watching the wind. If you can see a line coming over the lake, or white caps, you head off for some shelter. But we’re not usually far from shore, sometimes only 100 metres off some point where the trout are all chasing smelt. And we’ve all got life jackets on.

It’s really about comradeship. Once a year, we award prizes. The wally award might go to the guy who left his rod back in Taupo. The ashes are a big old Roman vase that all our wives hate. That goes to the guy who got the heaviest fish that day.

Most of the boys tie their own flies but my fingers are too hard so I smoke their fish and they tie the flies. I have four smokers, two are hot smokes and two cold smokers. One’s commercial, one’s made of beehives; I can get about 17 fish in that one. From yay to go, it takes three days. I use an old-fashioned brine, dry the fish out, put all my ingredients on them. I’m smoking 12 fish at the moment and there’s a cocky across the road who gets a lot of deer on his place so he gets fish and I’ve had a couple of deer delivered to me. It’s a bit of koha."

My mate, Farlie with a 7 lb rainbow in paradise

Three kayak fishing hot spots

1. Wharewaka Point. The smelt hang around the corner here so there are plenty of fish on that point. It’s a good learner’s spot because you’re only 200m from the shore.

2. At the Turangi end of the lake, fish the hole at Tokaanu Bay, also known as ‘ the tail race’

3. If the Tokaanu power station isn’t running and the hole isn’t working, head over to Waihi cliffs. It’s a good, sheltered spot in a southerly

Kayak fishing tips on Lake Taupo

1. Choose a stable craft - the wider the kayak, the better.

2. Find a good padded seat with a high backrest. You’ll be grateful for it an hour or two in.

3. A short, flexible rod that’s under 6ft is the easiest option to land fish from a kayak. If the rod’s too long, you can’t reach the trout with a net.

4. Opt for small  flies because they match the hatch. Try ginger micks and green orbits and any smelt pattern.      

5. Keep your leaders short. If they’re too long, they won’t move well and can tangle easily.

6. A 90gm pencil sinker is best. A barrel sinker will put too much drag on the line.

All you need for your next kayak fishing trip

  • Sports & outdoors

    Sporting Life Turangi

    Fishing outfitters to the world famous Tongariro River. Whether you’re walking, tramping, mountain biking, rafting, hunting, fishing, boating or just enjoying the great outdoors, Sporting Life is there to make it more enjoyable.

  • Kayaking

    Taupo Kayaking Adventures - Kayak Fishing Tours

    Come and fish beautiful Lake Taupo out of purpose built fishing kayaks. Fish for Rainbow trout and the odd Trophy Brown trout, while enjoying the serenity that only kayak fishing provides. Fishing is available all year round.

    $250 - $450
  • Sports & outdoors

    Taupo Rod & Tackle

    We specialize in all trout fishing equipment, fly fishing, spinning, trolling, harling and jigging. We have Taupō's best selection of flies and lures, and we know which ones are working!

  • Motels

    Turangi Bridge Motel

    Relax and unwind in our Lodge-style New Zealand accommodation. Turangi Bridge Motel offers warm and sunny units located on the banks of the Tongariro River. Onsite Restaurant and Bar.

    $139 - $220

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