taupo backcountry rainbow trout caught summer 2023

Taupo Fly Fishing Report & Review Autumn 2023

Roy Bowers General

Well it’s been the crappiest summer we’ve had here in Taupo in over a decade. It has been frustrating because the last couple of summers were great with some exceptional fishing, but due to closed borders we couldn’t share it with friends and clients from overseas.

If we wind back the clock, 2022 was an odd year for fly fishing in the Taupo district. From May onwards we had a series of major floods culminating in a huge one in August that took the river from 30 cumecs (cubic metres per second of water flow) to over 600 cumecs! This one-in-five-year flood  washed away a whole section of the lower Tongariro River known as ‘the braids’ which contained a good 20 or more spots to hook trout as they were coming up to spawn. So right through winter we had a few less days fishing because the rivers were in flood much more than normal, and wet-lining and using the double-handers became the go-to for a lot more anglers.

Then in September and October instead of the occasional Spring flood, we saw rivers running high for weeks on end. Normally trout would hug the bank or lie in behind boulders for a few days and wait for the water to recede, however when this goes on for weeks it appears that most of these fish get washed into the lake.  This is good and bad. It’s good in that those fish will spend all summer in the lake getting fat on smelt before returning to spawn, but it’s bad for summer fly fishing as there are much fewer resident fish up the Taupo rivers chomping on cicadas and dries. As a result, the summer fishing on the Tongariro was harder, so more people headed further afield to the backcountry rivers which were fishing well.

brown trout caught taupo backcountry fly fishing

Then in February we had floods closely followed by a terrible cyclone that destroyed many homes in the Hawkes Bay, and flattened 4000 hectares of pine forest around Lake Taupo. It was also upsetting to have to cancel days for clients who in some cases were on a once in a lifetime trip to New Zealand. Due to the cyclone fishing to the east was ruined, and the Tongariro had pine trees through it, so even more people were forced to fish further afield. This put pressure on our favourite backcountry fly fishing spots, and even resulted in people turning up on some of our favourite remote rivers and streams that were usually untouched. It’s a credit to our amazing guides that right through this time we were still able to get clients, both beginners and fishos, hooking into trout and landing some beautiful specimens.

The good news is that the weather is much more settled now and we are looking at some great Autumn fishing and an awesome winter season. A very fat nine pound rainbow was landed night fishing at one of the river mouths recently and reports from people jigging on the lake are of lots of trout in the three to six pound range and in super condition, and the Waitahanui and Tongariro Rivers have a good number of big early spawning brown trout too (some very big ones!). This time of year there are always a couple of trophy brown trout landed in the Hydro Pool on the Tongriro and you increase your chances if you want to swing a big Woolly Bugger or dark Rabbit through the Hydro or Major Jones at night.  Green and white caddis nymphs are fishing well at the moment and the C3 Gummers Carpet Caddis has been producing well both as a dropper or a point fly, but with the spawning runs not yet begun you need to move about and fish all likely water. The Waitahanui rip is also producing and fishes best in a westerly wind with rain on the horizon, smelt flies and orange and white Boobies are going well.

Backcountry rivers are still producing after all the recent fishing pressure and even over Easter we still had cicadas humming away in the trees. Dry-fly droppers through the tail of pools and rocky pockets can work well, and if there has been rain then blood worms and C3 101’s are good at eliciting a take. We still have clients heading out on backcountry adventures for the next month or so and this is still the best chance for consistent fishing until the winter spawning runs out of Lake Taupo begin.

new zealand north island brown trout

Genesis Energy has advised that maintenance is taking longer, so the Tongariro River flows will stay around 52 cumecs till the end of April, before going back to their normal level around 26 cumecs. This means anglers must be more careful when assessing and crossing pools and runs because they are likely to be much stronger than usual. It also means that from May onwards we will hopefully see some good runs of fish coming up when it rains later in the month, so stock up on your heavy bombs and Glo-Bugs, along with Red Rabbits and Green Woolly Buggers. Some Department of Conservation rangers have observed bigger trout running earlier in the season, so we are hoping to see some superb conditioned trout caught in May, June and July, and will share pics in our next quarterly update. Until then, tight lines, good luck and stay safe.