And so it began - three extremely happy people sitting in the departure lounge at
Changi International Airport in Singapore waiting to board the plane to Auckland,
My brother-in-law Alan had just flown in from Northern Ireland to join Jayne and I for
THE trip. Alan wasn't quite sure what time zone he was in after the trip to Singapore,
and surely didn't know when we jumped another 5 hours to Kiwi time (about 17 hours
AHEAD of Eastern Standard Time). We had planned a trip for sixteen days and figured
that would be enough time to have a good look at New Zealand's North Island (the
warmer of the two main islands) and fish as many of the rivers, lakes and streams
as we could.
The 9-hour flight from Singapore to Auckland (Auckland is the largest population centre
in NZ) was uneventful, except for some turbulence that had Jayne in
a white-knuckle worry and me downing half a dozen whiskeys – after which, I was bullet proof.
We arrived in New Zealand at about 11 a.m. on the first of March and were met at
the airport by the campervan company and taken to the depot where we picked up
the six-berth vehicle. We checked out our new home on wheels, stowed the gear
(way too much), did the necessary paperwork and then we were off. Our plan was
to head down to Lake Taupo for our first shot at catching a Kiwi trout and then go
with the flow, wherever life would lead us.
We just about made it to Lake Taupo (near the Waikato River) before jet lag and general
tiredness set in. Jayne busied herself with the fridge and food while Alan and I went to have
a look at the river. We took along our fly rods and caught-and-released a couple of 16-inch
rainbows before retreating to the van for dinner and a drink.
I had been to New Zealand a couple of times with work, but neither Jayne nor Alan had
ever been there and I wanted Jayne to absolutely love the place as this, as far as I am
concerned, is the most beautiful place on Earth.
I was up bright and early on the 2nd and, with the snoring coming from both other bunks,
it was unlikely that I was going to get any more sleep. So, I took my Loomis 6-weight
and went for a fish. A couple of hours later I'd caught a few small rainbows and it was
time to get the others up and on our way again.
On the way down to Taupo the only audible sounds in the campervan were a lot of
ooohing and aaahing over the scenery. Taupo itself is a wonderful little town and is
situated right on the lake. The surrounding countryside is truly breathtaking. We stopped
off, bought odds and sods, stopped in at every fishing and tackle shop and then were
on to the Whaithanui Stream and the Tongariro River.
There are about 17 streams and rivers running into Lake Taupo and they all have good
stocks of rainbow and brown trout. All the fish in the lake seem to come in one size,
about 6 pounds. There are considerably bigger fish around but I have never caught one.
We didn't do too well at the Waitahanui, with Alan getting the only fish; again a rainbow
and on a dry fly! We didn't stay long, as we wanted to be at the Tongariro before dark
so we could get a line wet there. The Tongariro is a big river with good pools and runs
offering superb fishing – usually. There had been no rain for three weeks and, according
to the locals, all the fish were waiting at the mouth ready to run up as soon as there was
The Kiwis use big flies in this area on the North Island: primarily 8's, 6's and even 4's. The
Rabbit Fly; the Wooly Bugger, Hamil's Killer, the Scotch Poacher and the Red Setter are
without doubt the local favourites.
We had heard about a stream that runs into the Waikato somewhere north of Taupo and
decided to see if we could find it. Lots of driving, map reading, head scratching and
swearing eventually put us where we wanted to be. Jayne, Alan and I had never seen
anything like it!! Literally, there were hundreds of trout hanging in the stream, feeding,
jumping, spooking and generally having the time of their lives. There was a concerted rush
to pull on waders and fishing jackets, and it was about this time that we discovered that
Alan, the most easy going of men, would walk straight over the top of anyone who might
be in the way when he was going to fish.
We had a problem! There was no room for the back cast and the legging style waders
we had with us were too shallow (or looking at it the other way, the bloody stream was
too deep). All of those enticing fish and we couldn't get at them! Depression and despair
set in. Rubber boats, float tubes and chain saws were all given thought. However, all was
not lost - our saviors arrived in the form of a couple of local lads.
One of these lads stripped off his clothes as far as his Calvin Klein's (when he noticed
Jayne) and leapt into the stream armed with his rod. Making a bow wave that a destroyer
would envy he commenced stripping line off and casting like the line had to be there in a
hurry. None of that delicate presentation bollox for these lads! He immediately hooked
into a nice fish and immediately got our undivided attention. The thoughts began: how
cold could that water really be?
As he walked back to the bank towing yet another nice fish he uttered the now famous
words "Come on Aussie, harden up!" Now, I am an Australian and as such have serious
problems with any Kiwi that may think I'm too chicken to get in the water, no matter
what the temperature! With Australian pride in mind and very little in the way of clothing,
in I went. Actually, it wasn't too bad, especially after numbness had set in. After a couple
of false casts (just to show that I at least could keep the line out of the water), whammo,
I was into the first of many fish.
We stayed the night there, had far too many drinks with the local lads and generally
mended a few Aussie / Kiwi fences that, when you have two sports-mad nations that
both think they are "The Best," need mending every once in a while. With the Kiwis
holding the America's Cup and the Aussies holding everything else (that matters)
there tends to be a little friction.
Leaving the dulcet tones of two of the world's best snorers behind me the next morning,
I went down to the stream again at dawn, stripped off and had, without a doubt, the best
time of my life. I caught fish after fish and landed the biggest and prettiest brownie I had
ever caught - beautiful golden-brown in color with darker spots all over. Far too beautiful
to kill, he joined the rest back in the stream.
Jayne came down to the bank yawning, with rod in hand, shorts and a T-shirt and promptly
caught her first trout, released it and kept on catching and releasing. Watching her cast,
retrieve and catch again was marvelous, especially as I knew she was the one who was
The holiday went on like this for another two weeks. We put hundreds of miles under that
van, fishing and catching everywhere we went, always having a great time.
The people in New Zealand are hospitable. The country is beautiful. The beer is plentiful.
And the fish are willing. Neither Jayne, Alan nor I will ever forget our trout trip to New
Zealand. Not that we will have to – as we'll all be back!
Not long now and we can start planning the trip to the South Island – even more rugged,
with more streams and more fish! ~ Mike Humphries