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Picture standing rod-in-hand alongside a crystal-clear river, breathing in crisp clean air, surrounded by a landscape framed by volcanos and mountain ranges. The scenery of the Taupo District is awe-inspiring from any aspect, but if you’re into fishing, you get an even better insight into what makes this place absolutely magic.
Since the introduction of brown and rainbow trout to Lake Taupo’s vast, crystal-clear waters from the late 1800s, the region has become renowned as an angler’s paradise, with Turangi as the gold standard for trout fishing in New Zealand and around the world. New Zealand’s largest lake is full of clean, cold water and abundant food sources for trout, which produces a large number of well-conditioned fish.
But fishing in the Taupo region isn’t just about fishing in Lake Taupo. From pristine backcountry angling on the region's many tributary rivers, to spring smelting action along the river mouths and beaches, excellent dry fly fishing through summer, and annual migration runs up the lake tributaries and lake trolling throughout the year – there’s something here for everyone who wants to get their hands onto a brown or rainbow trout.
The fishery we have right here on our back door is incredibly versatile, and there are numerous options for anglers who want to explore its waterways ahead of the popular winter season - from sight fishing for monster browns in spring-fed creeks, to leisurely jigging for sparkling rainbows on Lake Taupo.
While the the odd trout will tip the scales over 5kgs, most anglers should expect to catch fish around three to five pounds (1.3kg to 2.2kg), although there certainly are bigger-than-average fish up for grabs for those anglers who know how to catch them.
So, if you haven’t fished in the Taupo region before, there’s never been a better time to start. Pick up a license and a map of the fishery and make the most of this world-renowned fly-fishing destination.
Guided Fly Fishing for Brown and Rainbow Trout in the stunning Lake Taupo Region. Chris Jolly Outdoors' specialist fly fishing guides have the local knowledge and expertise to ensure both novice and experienced angers have the trip of a lifetime.
Fish Taupo aboard Stratus with Marty. Stratus is designed for fishing and cruising in comfort. All quality gear supplied. Go with the local professional who owns the boat and has your interest at heart. Price is for the whole boat, not per person.
Before you hit the water, you’ll need a fishing license. The Taupo Fishery is the only fishery in Aotearoa not managed by Fish and Game, so head to the Department of Conservation website or ask at any tackle shop to get your hands on the license that best suits how long you’ll be fishing for.
If you’re not quite sure where to start, get in touch with one of our talented local guides. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or have never picked up a rod before, fly fishing guides will be able to design the perfect day on the water. They can tailor-make an experience suiting your ability and the time you have available, as well as including all the tackle you need and often a hearty lunch to keep the energy levels up. Going with a fishing guide means you get the best use of your time, as you’ll be in the hands of someone who knows the river like the back of their hand. They’ll get you to the best pools and fishing quicker, which means you’ll cut out research trying to figure out where to go – better to use that time on the river!
The friendly staff in numerous tackle shops dotted around the district are also always happy to help suggest the best spot to hit the water. You’ll find a range of stores in both Taupo and Turangi, where you’ll not only be able to stock up on flies, lures and gear, but will be able to get the best advice on where the fish are currently biting.
Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for tips too – everyone has their very own take on their perfect spot to give a try, and you might pick up a few clues on where you’re likely to have some luck.
Junior anglers will enjoy visiting the Tongariro National Trout Centre and hatchery at Turangi where there is a native freshwater aquarium, freshwater history museum, trout hatchery and a big old pond teeming with rainbow trout. Kids aged 5 to 16 can try their luck in the fishing pond each school holiday period too while adults get a chance to relax in the peaceful surrounding and watch from the side-lines, kids get the chance to learn the basics of fly fishing from an experienced angler. They’re guaranteed to catch a trout, before having it filleted and manuka smoked ready for lunch or dinner.
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While the Taupo Fishery is one of the only places in New Zealand that can be fished year-round, winter limits come into place on some rivers to allow trout the space to spawn. However, most water is open 365 days a year, meaning there’s always somewhere to put a line in.
The winter months are the busiest time for fly fishing local rivers, due to trout’s natural migratory habit of heading up rivers to spawn. This means fish numbers in rivers during the colder months are at their highest, making it easier for anglers to intercept one on its journey away from Lake Taupo.
While the winter months are when the Taupo Fishery come alive, getting on the water in other months can be just as productive, and equally as exciting.
With the peak of summer temperatures comes some fantastic river mouth fishing. Whether during the day or as the sun goes down, there are always plenty of fish moving around at casting length from most river or stream mouths as they flow into Lake Taupo.
Late summer is the perfect time for targeting brown trout on most rivers around the fishery, with many able to be cast at by sight. The Waitahanui is the brown trout aficionados’ paradise, but you will find a fair number of rainbows on most other rivers when the cicadas are chirping.
Most winter limits come into effect at the end of May or June, so autumn is a great time to get in and get your fly-fishing fix before the inevitable rush of anglers to the rivers when the winter runs start. As we start to come into autumn, trout are beginning to think about spawning, but with Lake Taupo still at an elevated temperature from the summer months, many fish are generally holding in the lake in amazing eating condition. This means jigging is a good option if you’re keen for a relaxing day on the boat. One of the best parts about jigging is it’s not dependent on light or temperature changes throughout the day, so there’s no need to get up early, and you can bring the whole family along – even those less experienced.
River mouths or ‘rips’ 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 Taupo.
Try the Waitahanui, Hinemaiaia, Tauranga-Taupo, Kuratau or Waihaha river mouths, or the smaller Omori, Whareroa, Waipehi or Mapara streams for some guaranteed trout fishing excitement without having to travel too far.
If river fly fishing is more your thing, there are no less than 12 tributaries flowing into Lake Taupo that can be fly fished.
Fishing for trout in the Taupo District can be as easy or challenging as you want it to be, and many anglers will opt to try a few different locations over the course of a day’s fishing.
Arguably the jewel in our fishery’s crown is the mighty Tongariro River. Rising in Tongariro National Park and flowing north through Turangi, entering Lake Taupo on its southern shores, the Tongariro can be accessed from a number of locations along its lower and middle reaches. With three-quarters of a million rainbow and brown trout spawning in the Tongariro River every year, the chances of reeling in a decent fish are pretty high.
While the Tongariro is one of our more famous rivers, and one that holds a place in most local anglers’ hearts, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to finding other water to explore. The Waitahanui sits more at the challenging end of the list of rivers to fish with a fly, and being close to Taupo is a popular one with locals. The Hinemaiaia is generally productive and has a number of easily-accessed pools for anyone who has the basics of fly fishing sorted. Likewise, the Tauranga-Taupo River is popular with those that enjoy wet lining (and those that don’t mind a bit of a walk from the car park) and makes for a nice day trip with a good chance of catching a decent rainbow.
While most of the Taupo fishery could be described as front country fishing experiences, there are a number of back country fly fishing options for those who are already confident with rod in hand, or those ready to step up to something a bit more challenging.
Local helicopter operators offer a range of heli fishing experiences, but it pays to book in advance as space on choppers can fill up quickly. Rivers such as the beautiful upper Ngaruroro offer some fantastic dry fly action, with the remote upper Rangitikei, Waipunga and Mohaka rivers producing trophy trout during the summer months.
If you’re after something a little bit different, try raft fishing with Tongariro River Rafting. Under the expert guidance of local legend Garth Oakden, you’ll travel into wilderness sections of the river only accessible by raft or kayak. These trips are limited to only a couple of people per raft, so this is an incredible option for those who want whole sections of the Tongariro River to themselves ahead of winter limits coming into play ahead of the spawning season.
If fly fishing isn’t your thing, lake fishing from a vessel in Lake Taupo is hugely popular, and a great way to get the whole family excited about catching trout. There are numerous guides and charters available for trips out on the great lake, and many will tailor a trip to suit the time you have available, number of people and what kind of experience you’re looking for.
If you know someone with a smaller boat, (or have one of your own) why not visit Lake Kuratau or Lake Otamanakau – both only a short drive from Lake Taupo - for a completely different fishing experience. These lakes are both part of hydroelectric power schemes, so feature shallow depths and a lot of lake weed – perfect habitat for trout! They can both be fished using a range of methods, but spinning is popular on both. You’ll often catch the somewhat unusual sight of an avid fly fisher delicately placing their line from a boat at both these lakes, so don’t be afraid to ask for tips from these seasoned anglers who will know the best technique for the season.
Depending on your budget, there are countless accommodation options to really make the most of your Taupo fishing trip.
As the self-proclaimed trout fishing capital of the world, Turangi has its fair share of fishing lodges and accommodation for anglers. The Tongariro Lodge sits right on the Tongariro river, as does Creel Lodge Motel, both of which offer an authentic fishing lodge experience. The Tongariro Junction Motel sits in a quaint setting between the township and the river, and its owners not only know a thing or two about fishing, but also how to spin a good yarn. For a 5-star option consider River Birches, award winning accommodation nestled within a peaceful garden-scape next to the Tongariro River.
For those anglers wanting a true backcountry experience, luxury wilderness lodge Poronui is only 40 minutes from Taupo and offers guiding on the property, with their guides also able to offer backcountry guiding further afield. Or you can always consider the iconic Huka Lodge, one of New Zealand’s premier luxury lodges on the banks of the pristine upper reaches of the Waikato River.
For more of a kiwi bach experience close to Taupo, try Waitahanui Lodge. It’s right on the water’s edge near the famous river of the same name, yet is only minutes from the bright lights of Taupo.
While you can’t buy or sell trout in New Zealand, many of our local restaurants are happy to cook your catch – just contact them in advance to ensure your chef is able to turn your day’s catch into a tasty feast. Many fishing charters on Lake Taupo will prepare your fish onboard, with some even equipped with cooking facilities so you can be eating your catch while marveling at the beauty of Lake Taupo from your charter boat.
Given fishing is such a big part of what makes the Taupo region great, you won’t be surprised by the number of restaurants and bars proudly displaying a taxidermy trout. The Crafty Trout on Tongariro Street takes things to the next level. Not only do they have a range of tasty beers brewed on the premises, but is a quirky trout fishing haven with walls covered in all things fishy.
Likewise, a number of fishing lodges are scatted around the district, many of which decorated with the avid angler in mind. With accommodation catering for all tastes and budgets, you’ll find the perfect spot to relax after a hard day’s fishing.
If you're not local to the Taupo region, it can be hard to know where to best fishing spots are. So, to help you on your way, we’ve compiled our top fishing spots.