Caitlan with her first taupo rainbow trout

Taupo & Tongariro River Fly Fishing Report & Review Winter 2023

Roy Bowers Fly fishing reports, General

Following on from the unusual weather last year, we’ve had more strange weather this past couple of months.  NIWA, our National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, talked about El Nino weather patterns and predicted at the start of May that “rainfall is most likely to be normal or above normal in the north and west of the North Island while normal rainfall is the most likely in the east of the North Island”. The Coromandel Peninsula a few hour’s drive north of Taupo has already received twice it’s annual rainfall in only half a year, whereas around Taupo we’ve had next to no rain.  You can see in the Tongariro River Flow chart below that we’ve not had a good flood for a couple of months.

Tongariro River flow for 3 months to 25 July 2023

Normally by now we have had a couple of good floods that have triggered literally thousands of spawning trout to head up the local rivers on their annual spawning runs. So far this year the DOC fish traps appear to have had about half the fish they had at the same time last year. The news is not all bad because we’ve still had some great fishing days with clients (that’s why you pay for a Taupo Fly Fishing Guide! ), and it does mean there is potentially some awesome fishing to come when we finally get some good rain. There were also greater numbers of fish washed into the lake in the heavy Spring floods last year and most of these will be coming back upstream, so we predict overall spawning numbers could be epic again this winter. It will be interesting to see if we get more fish running in August and September, or if it means that the spawning runs spread out longer into October and even into November.

The Hinemaia and Waitahanui usually see hordes of anglers in May as these rivers often get early spawning runs, but this winter they have been spasmodic with small pods of fish moving upstream fairly quickly. You might have success in a pool and return the next morning to find it empty again. Egg patterns have fished well as they often do in June and July and the new slushies have been hugely popular with trout and anglers – and disprove the theory that egg flies need to get smaller and smaller and more lifelike. The Waitahanui rip has fished well on a sinking line with an orange or lime Boobie, and this makes sense when you think that there are a lot of trout in the lake wanting to spawn and congregating near river mouths waiting for the barometer to drop and signal its go-time.

The Tauranga-Taupo has not fired yet as it normally does but will be amazing when we next get some decent rain. The carpark still has lots of cars most days and those anglers willing to walk and poke around are being rewarded with some nice rainbows on small naturals like Hare and Coppers and attractors like the C3 Gummers Carpet Caddis.

Caitlan with her first trout caught fly fishing on the Tongariro River, Taupo winter 2023

The Tongariro River is such a great fishery that it has still delivered even with trout just coming up in small runs usually overnight. The water at the moment is gin clear and low so requires more stealth as you approach pools. Over the last few weeks the speys have been slaying with darker smaller Rabbit flies and Woolly Buggers swung through the deeper pools and edges of faster runs, but now in the clear conditions the nymphing is back into its own. Small 14 or even 16 Caddis flies are working well due to the recent bloom in insect activity. In these clear conditions treat fly fishing the Tongariro like a backcountry river where you extend your leader and hunt through all the pools and backwaters to find fish – don’t just charge into a pool and lob your flies up into the head like you might have done on past occasions. A little more patience and more observation will reap some satisfying rewards. While there may not be so many fish running yet, the quality of them has been stunning and well worth the effort.

FAQ: Can I keep trout to eat?


Yes especially in winter it helps the health of the fishery to keep a trout now and then. If you are staying at a lodge ask if they will cook it for you, Tongariro Lodge Restaurant in Turangi is one where the chef will create a platter with your trout, and a number of places in Taupo will as well. If you want to get your fish smoked then Farmers Discount Meats in Taupo or Turangi Fish Smoking in Turangi will do it for you and they may even courier overseas for you.

Be safe if wading at the river mouths and take a walking pole on the Tongariro River as the rocks are very slippery since they haven’t had a good flood to clean them. As we continue to watch the forecast for some good rain we wish you all the best and tight lines until next time.