Tips for the Tongariro

Tips for the Tongariro – Denis Shaw


An opportunity to purchase airfares to Auckland for approx $400 (including taxes) & a deal with EZY Car rentals to hire a camper for $39 per day unlimited kilometres made me decide to head over the ditch. The camper was ideal for one angler, if you were sharing with a second person a larger camper for $49 per day (toilet & shower) would be better suited (these rates are off season, between mid May & mid Sep

I made a dash from the airport to Rotorua just in time to purchase a fishing licence, as I wanted to investigate a few spots at Lake Rotoiti, mainly the Delta area & Ohau Channel. I fished the channel that night, only managing to catch a 50 cm smelt I had jagged on my lumo fly.  Camped that night where the channel connects to Lake Rotorua & started fishing before sunrise, with some guidance from a couple of locals they had me wading to chest depth & cast to the edge of a current line were I picked up a small Rainbow, then with lots of shouting

from the bank to cast to a cruising brown possibly around 10 lb. The fish took my smelt fly & powered down stream, the guys later told me I should have been using 12-15 lb leader to have any chance, as there are often big fish around.

Heading south to Lake Taupo I purchased my second fishing licence ($35.00 for the week) & stopped at the Waitahanui River to watch 10 anglers fishing the delta rip, they call this picket fence fishing. Next stop further south was the Himemaiaia River not a big river, quite tight to fish. On arrival an angler had a 6lb rainbow & another angler had landed & released 3, they were using float lines with indicator & nymphs. I didn’t have a float line set up so fished the delta rip with 3 others for no success. It was suggested I go to Tauranga-Taupo River to camp the night in a car park (toilet) at the delta. I fished to almost midnight (had to come in for pee) in chest deep, with 4 Maori anglers, no fish were caught, with the full moon you could see the bottom 6 feet away. Fishing the morning before sunrise there was plenty of activity, used a sink tip, weighted nymph with a booby dropper.

Moving on to the Tongariro River I had instructions to go to Boulder Pool, which would be less crowded (it’s in the upper section) & a good location to start. I joined in being the 8th angler, you go to the bottom of the pool & work your way upstream On the opposite bank 3 fish were landed where the main channel entered the pool. I finally had my turn at the top of the pool and hooked up soon after, the rainbow took the unweighted nymph dropper. I then decided to return to Tauranga-Taupo for another night session as it had clouded over hopefully covering the moon. Four am & after no fish that night I decided to head back the 25 km. to the upper section of the Tongariro to Blue pool (carpark-toilet camped 2 nights) & fished my way down stream to Big Bend pool, the river funnelled down a narrow chute so decided this was the ideal fish holding spot, I saw other anglers walk away, planned to use a nymph (I had made dumbbell eyes out of 3/16 tungsten beads with lead thorax). I had a 12ft, 8lb straight fluroflex leader to the nymph (bomb) & 1ft dropper to a heavy weighted glow bug (egg pattern). The first 2 fish powered downstream & it was bye, bye -I landed 4 after deciding a lot of side pressure was needed to stop these fish in the current. The rapid before Cliff Pool produced a fish on an olive woolly bugger on a dropper & another fish was lost as it came to my feet at high speed before doing a right angle turn. I just didn’t have time to manage the line (bye, bye again!)

After rain that night I decided to try a lower section pool, hoping fish had started moving into the river. Bridge pool was crowded for the 5am start time, so decided on Bain Pool further down stream, having no luck & only the odd fish caught at Bridge Pool decided on going to Major Jones Pool to reccy for a night fish as the night before I couldn’t see what I was doing. Chatting with an angler at the top of the pool his father was fishing the bottom end & I was admiring his Dad’s beautiful casting, standing thigh deep in water he hooked up& backed out to dry land, he stumbled & fell but still managed to play the fish while lying on his side. The son said that’s my Dad he’s 92 after landing the fish he said “Dad I think it’s time for a cup of tea”. “OK Son” only walking up the bank he said “Son I think I want to fish over there”. Dave’s his name & he’s fished the Tongariro for 75 yrs. Fished Big Bend & Boulder Pool that afternoon, then back to Major Jones for a night fish. Went to bed depressed, no fish for the day & lost a brand new Forty Plus sink line that night while wet lining.

5am at Big bend there were already anglers there, with my extra long leaders & heavy flies, everything was going wrong the guy in front cut off my flies when I tangled with him, when it became light & could see, the weight glow bug landed 4 fish, so the other anglers were then impressed. Heavy rain caused the river to dirty, should have started wet lining with Woolly Bugger only wanted to save my spare sink line for Rotorua. I was told that afternoon by the Fishing Warden, after he checked my license, that instead of releasing my fish I should have taken them to the smoke- house they vacuum seal with certification so you can clear Aust Customs. ($10 per fish) There are masses of accommodation in Turangi spent the night at Judges Pool Motel for $65 for the night (thought it was time for a bath)

My last fish in the Tongariro was at Boulder Reach, cautiously wet lining as the river was quite dirty with rain during night & snow on the peaks. No luck! So decided to do the tourist thing & visit the hatchery (very worthwhile, great display on fly gear from the past, admission a donation.)  Arriving back at Rotorua, Ohau Channel was flowing at a high level with strong westerlies. I was told to fish the streams on the western side of Lake Rotorua or Lake Tarawera 20 min drive east of Rotorua.  Fished till midnight at Wairoa Stream at Tarawera landing 4 rainbows & 2 more from the beach in the morning.

All up in 5 days fishing I landed 16, put in long hours to achieve this. The fish hadn’t entered the Tongariro in any numbers. Last year the best month was August, then September. Luck needed to get right timing as seasons are getting later. If anyone is planning a trip you can hire waders for $20 per day at Turangi Sporting-Life, you may need to book as on busy weekends they may not be available.

Just tell the locals you’re a saltwater flyfisher & you will be inundated with information. The bedding in the camper was adequate for last week of May, but would take a down sleeping bag in mid winter.  Used my 9# Loop with SA steelhead floater & 8# sage TCR for wet lining. Saw two anglers using Spey rods, would like to give it a go, so easy to cover so much more water.

I plan to return next year for an August fish!!!



Denis looks cold!                                                                          Nice fish though!





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