God im a slack bastard, sorry sorry sorry.
What a great season all, just what Taupo needed to bring back the punters. We certainly lost a few die hard Taupo fisherman when we had those crappy seasons 10 years ago. If your new to the Taupo fishing scene you might not recall what happened to the fishery back then. So here is a recap of the past 11 years from my fishing perceptive regarding the Taupo fishery.
I have been fishing Taupo for 43 years now. I caught my first trout just above DeLators on the Waitahanui, using an old sinking line and a Yellow Rabbit. Like a heroin addict, I was hooked till death do us part. So when the opportunity arose, to run the Waitahanui Lodge, I jumped at the chance. I had been staying at this lodge since the beginning with my dad, who had introduced me to fly fishing. I had some of my best ever memories, associated with the Waitahanui Lodge.
Although I was successful as a wet liner and Rip fisherman, I had only just started using a floating line and Nymph set up ,in the five years before we came down. It certainly took more trout than wet lining and the fact you got to move around and were constantly casting, appealed to me. I took to Nymphing like a duck to water! In the first year of moving to the Waitahanui Lodge, I was on that river every single day, even if it was for a few hours in the afternoon. Hence I found out that the good old Nui ,quite often has a run of trout go through between 12 and 2 pm and that if you get into the lower section at that time, you can have a blast. In the first two months of running the lodge I was asked so many times to guide people, in the end it was silly not too and so my little guiding career started. My love of Glo bugs exploded and as the barbarian bastard that I was back then ,I used a small swivel, (illegal now), split shot and two size 12 Glo Bugs. This was my go to Winter rig and anyone who I guided back then used it. This rig took trout! I believed that many of those trout attacked that little swivel, thinking it was food and I noticed my Foul hooking rate was really high because of that. This was my main reason to stop using this rig.
The year of 2004 was a good season for Taupo. There were plenty of trout and they were in good condition.
2005 was pretty much the same, however that all changed from the start of summer 2006 on wards for the next 6 to 7 years.
I love Rip fishing. Any of you who have not given this style of trout fishing a go, honestly should. It is very relaxing and is a damn good way to practice the basics of casting. Being a trout fishing guide has one or too responsibilities in my opinion. It certainly isn’t all about the money for me. I love talking to people about the fishery and I like helping anglers to catch trout. It is one thing to talk the talk, put on fancy waders and look the part but if you are going to call yourself professional, then you actually do have to be able to fish. All of a sudden I had other anglers asking me to help them cast better. My casting although adequate was far from perfect, (or even decent). So I watched others and I practiced and critiqued myself with every cast. My two main faults were breaking my wrist, (therefore dropping the rod tip back to far) and timing in general. It is so important with casting to let the loop straighten before moving the rod again. otherwise you lose the load on the rod and your cast ends up around your ears. likewise by dropping my wrist I was losing load on the cast. In the summer of 2006, I got my shit together casting, using the rip. However to my horror what I started to see as a trend ,was the quality of the trout was abysmal. These fish were it shocking condition. They were thin, some of them representing Frost Fish from the ocean. Big heads, silver bodies and thin!! You can get a few “Kelts” or spawned out trout from the rivers, hanging around the rips, over summer. However this was pretty much every fish you hooked. I started mentioning in my reports, (back then almost every day) and more and more anglers stated seeing it.
What had happened in the winter of 2005 was that the lake didn’t “mix”. apparently this is something that happens over winter. The upper themo layer in the lake mixes with the lower layer and in the process Nitrogen is produced. Nitrogen feeds Zoo Plankton, Smelt eat Zoo Plankton and of course Trout eat Smelt. So in 2005 the very start of the food chain was broken. the end result is that the trout, (and there were shit loads of them) had very little to eat. Reports of the lack of smelt in the Western bays filtered back and some of those trout over there, were the thinnest in the lake.
The 2006 winter Season was one of the worst I have encountered in my years of fishing Taupo. I remember one particular day taking a client into the Tauranga Taupo in perfect conditions. The rain had pushed it up from about .35 to just over 1 and on the second day it became fishable, with that lovely deep green color it has. The trout were in there, in their thousands. We would have landed 40 fish for the day and not one of them was worth eating. They were all thin silver eels.
A very trusted friend of mine Brendan Mathews at the time was the first to come up with the explanation of the lake not mixing. He is the author of Volcanic Trout and is a pretty smart chap. It made sense to me.
I was worried that we were going to have a massive fish die off as these trout were barely alive, they would have really struggled that year.
2007 was almost the same as the year before. There were plenty of trout but the condition was horrible. However it wasn’t until 2008 that the numbers dropped off, dramatically. There must have been a pretty decent die off of trout in the lake because 2008 was a hideous year for numbers. If the weather had been quiet for a few days then guiding on any of the Taupo river was hard and horrible. By this stage I had walked up both sides, (as far as you can go) on every river in Taupo. It meant that I knew what was in the river and 2008 was a poor year for quality and numbers.
2009,2010,2011,2012,2013 were all about the same. The quality had improved a wee bit but we were seeing way too many small trout in the system, trying to breed. The numbers were not constant either. Yes there might be a run go through but then there were long spells where nothing entered in numbers. May, June and July were hard months on the Taupo rivers. August picked up an everyone forgot the months before hand. I think it was 2013 that the Tongariro was almost completely empty above the bridge all season until August. I was hitting the Tongariro hard back then as it was my least favorite river. I struggled a bit on the Tongariro and it took a few years to find my feet. However when you look down into a piece of water that should be holding trout and they aren’t there, you don’t need to be catching them to see a problem.
I noticed an improvement on quality in 2014, especially at the start of the season. Some excellent early spawners came out of all the rivers. This can be a great time to catch that trophy fish for all you big fish hunters. They get in early and stamp their territory. Numbers were up as well.
2015 was the best year we had since I moved here, at that stage. we all know it was a great year….. out of the blue. For me however it really needed to be followed by 2016 being as good if not better. For me 2016 was a shocker. I spent a lot of time on the Waitahanui and to be totally honest the Waitahanui had the worst year I have ever known it to have. Weeks went by without runs going through, (not even small runs). I was skunked more times on the Nui last year than all the years added together before that. Yes yes yes the Hinemaiaia fired and if you needed fish that was the river to hit. The TT however didn’t really fire, it had some good days but the trout did not hold at all and shot through super fast. The Tongariro was the same until August and then it bloody took off, (and everybody forgot how hard it had been). I wasn’t really impressed with 2016. If you had a good season, you probably hit the Hine hard
2017. whew thank fark for that, a really good winter season. Right from the start all the rivers have had decent numbers going through and the quality is excellent. these guys are in here to spawn and I have not needed to use anything but my Glo Bugs. It is probably the best season I have seen in my time fishing Taupo. Is it going to carry on? well….. We know that the lake not mixing is bloody bad news… and well that can happen at any stage. That is nature and we can’t control that. However I am sure that there is a cycle and hopefully we are heading into the good years. That leads me to this years major change to the Taupo License and in my opinion if it is a good idea.
I have been asked a few times now what I think of DOC putting up the number allowed to be taken home.
This is my answer.
I see why they have done it. By dropping the legal limit they are trying to take out of the system those small fish, (that are sweet to eat). Small fish breed small fish, (just look at the size of the Roe). They are worried we are going to have an explosion of trout and not enough food to sustain them. As Matt from Taupo Rod and Tackle said, “they are preempting a situation of too many trout not enough food”. I have to agree that thinking ahead is a great idea. The worst that could happen is that we have fewer fish to catch but much bigger due to the increase in available food in the lake. I get it. My only concerns are that the Hinemaiaia is going to really take a hit with 6 fish per angler and that maybe DOC should have waited at least one more year to see if the fishery has bounced back, rather than saying two good years out of Ten warrant a doubling of the limit.