SOME FAMOUS NEW ZEALAND RIVERS
Not far away is one of the best trout rivers in New Zealand. The Ruakituri River is known by anglers far and wide as the home of some of the strongest, wildest trout in the whole country. The Ruakituri is an isolated river that rises in the remote Urewera National Park, draining the Huiarau Range and flowing for many kilometres through rugged bush before it tumbles 300 feet over the Waitangi Falls.
Above the falls, access is limited to those well-equipped trampers who are not only familiar with the terrain but also sufficient experience to cope with rapid changes in weather conditions. Below the falls, the river tumbles down terraces of bedrock, between steep, bush-flanked valley walls until fingers of farmland meet it at the top end of Papuni Station. The station is on Papuni Road, which is reached by turning right off Ruakituri Road, just before the Erepiti Gorge. The road through Papuni Station is open as long as you check in at Papuni Station homestead. From the road end, there is a track up to the Waitangi Falls but it is too far to fish above the falls for a day fisherman. Below the falls, the river is strewn with colossal boulders, brought down by the regular, flash floods the Ruakituri trout have to endure.
There is a huge variety of water, ranging from strenuous rapids, to deep, slow pools flanked by sentinel boulders, to riffly runs that just have to hold fish. It is no place for fine leaders and delicate techniques. Anything less than a 6 lb leader is pointless, as the violent Ruakituri trout make effective use of their angler-unfriendly environment. Brown and rainbow are found in equal proportion, dependent only on the type of water fished. The size of fish can be daunting. They average 4 lb and there are plenty of 10 lb fish in residence. Landing these monsters in the fast, bouldery water is never easy and tales of lost fish will dominate your evening story-telling - even more so than usual!
Emerging from the long gorge, the river takes on a different character as it meanders through farmlands to meet the Hangaroa at Te Reinga. Access is easy through the farms bordering the river. Along this section, you have a better chance of spotting your fish, but great stealth is required as there is not much cover. The river has lost its impetus and flows wider and slower. There is more weed growth in summer, which can to be annoying. Long leaders are essential and the increased angling pressure in the more-accessible lower reaches make the trout rather wary.
The Ruakituri then meets the Hangaroa River and their combined flow crashes down the Te Reinga Falls and join the Wairoa River at Frasertown. No matter what type of water you prefer to fish, the Ruakituri can offer it. You can fish dry, nymph or wet. You can fish big slow pools, fast turbulent water, pools of huge depth, riffly rocky runs, and swirly backwaters. You can fish in rugged Urewera bush, in deep shadowed gorges, or from farmland meadows - what river has more variety? And that has fish that commonly go over 10 lb? No, whatever criteria you use, the river has something for everyone.
The best stretches of water for the flyfisher are at the end of the Papuni Station farm road. The track to the Waitangi Falls starts from here and it pays to walk up an hour or so before starting fishing. There is some excellent water upstream from where the track leaves the river. At times you will have to get `down & dirty' and fish with heavy gear to reach the fish lying at the bottom of the pool that may be twenty feet deep.
Result of fishing a deep run
At other times, the fish will be out in the riffles and a medium-size beadhead nymph, fished down the riffles, will usually find a few feeding fish. Even in April there may be an evening rise and you can often score a big fish on a dry fly. It is only one of various techniques you will need to fish this river as the variety of the water and the size of the trout make this river unique in New Zealand. Add to that the beauty of your surroundings and you have found trout fishing heaven.
Further down the road, past the small township of Wairoa, can be found the lower reaches of the mighty Mohaka River. This river is perhaps the most consistently productive river in all of the North Island. It is a long river, rising in the Kaweka Mountains and flowing more than 80 miles through a mixture of bush and farmland to meet the sea at Mohaka, about 20 miles south of Wairoa. The numbers of trout vary greatly throughout the river as Mohaka trout tend to be very mobile. If you strike the area where they have taken up residence, you can expect to hook maybe five trout on a good day and they will average around 3 lb.
There are some misconceptions about the Mohaka. The first view most anglers get of this well known Hawkes Bay river is the fleeting glance down from the lofty heights from one of the road bridges. The first impression is `BIG' and it is.
But down at the river level, it looks a lot different. You would miss out on a lot of fish, and a lot of fun, if you fished this river using only big river techniques. This is because the brown trout will be usually found along the edges, in the shallow water while the rainbows will normally be in the riffles and runs. Although the riffles can look rather fast, especially out in the middle of the wide river, the flow is not as fast as it looks. There are rocks in the middle of the riffles and the fish lie behind them and are sheltered from the strong current.
But sometimes the river must be fished very differently. Especially when you encounter a huge pool with heavy rapids at the head, leading to a section where the strong flow has carved out a very deep pool, with fast water on the far side. It will appear that you would be better off fishing the pool with a spinner rather than a fly. But often you will spot a good fish holding ten feet deep at the edge of the main flow. Then it is time to dig out the fly box and scrounge around for a heavy nymph. Find something like a size 10 Halfback Bugeye and tie on a size 12 Hare'n'Copper to the bend of the heavy nymph. Chuck in the whole rig with a prudent, open-loop cast. The heavy rig will plonk into the fast water just below the rapids and sink quickly. Then you have to decide whether to watch the indicator or the fly - such is the clarity of New Zealand rivers. If you watch the trout, you may see the it take the nymph while the indicator twelve feet above had not begun to move. Another lesson - when you can see the fish, don't worry what the indicator is doing. By the time that moves, the fish may have spat out the fly.
Certainly it is not pleasant fishing when you fish with such a heavy rig but there are occasions on the Mohaka when you also have to get `down & dirty'. This is likely in the fall, especially if a cold southerly wind is blowing. In these conditions, the fish will be all lying deep in the pools and you had better fish heavy or go home empty-handed. If this does not appeal, then it is wise to fish the various tributaries of the Mohaka as in April, the fish are starting to run up these small waterways to spawn. Many of these streams are pathetic, thin trickles where they enter the main river. But walk up the stream a mile or so and you will find a gorge with delightful pools, runs and rapids.
One of these is the Makahu which you cross over on the way to Hot Springs up the Puketitri Road in back country Hawkes Bay. Where this stream enters the Mohaka, it is only a few inches deep, and spread out over ten feet of slimy rocks. It doesn't look like it could support anything larger than a tadpole. However venture up only a hundred yards and you are in a gorge containing maybe a dozen of the most awesome pools you would ever want to fish. And in most of them, early or late in the season, will be a trout of at least 4 lb and maybe as big as 7 lb. They are not easy to catch as trout from the big river tend to become rather spooky when they enter the confined spaces of the tributary. They just don't seem as relaxed as they do when they are swanning about deep in the pools of the big river. But if you persevere and fish slowly with care, they are catchable.
And hooking one of those 7 lb beauties, in such small water, is a real adrenaline rush. There will be no just standing on the bank while the trout swims up and down the pool - here you will be hanging onto a very irate fish bent on returning to the main river 500 yards away! The other Mohaka tributaries worth considering are the Mangatainoka, the Ripia, the Waipunga and the Te Hoe Rivers. But the most productive is definitely the Waipunga River. In that wild river, I have often hooked upward of twenty 2-5 lb trout in a day's fishing.
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