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Over recent years Rotorua has built up quite a reputation of producing trophy sized rainbow and brown trout. Overseas angler’s itineraries to New Zealand regularly skip the North Island in favour of the often over-crowded and heavily pressured South Island fisheries. This is somewhat disappointing as the combination of the Rotorua and Taupo region put trout fishing on the map in New Zealand. This article will summarise how to target trophy rainbow and brown trout on the fly rod in the Rotorua District and include the seasonality, tactics, and the places to fish for these large fish.
Central to the Brown trout fishery in the region is Lake Rotorua and its major Tributaries. In particular the Ngongotaha, Utuhina and Waiteti Streams.Trophy brown trout can be targeted most of the year in this fishery however the peak period is from November to May. Both lake and stream fishing for these fish is achievable, however an understanding of matching particular locations with the time of season and conditions drive the quality of fishing, of most importance being the water temperature and wind direction for the lakes, seasonality and rainfall for the streams and rivers. This is where a local fishing guide comes in handy.
The lake edges and stream mouths are a great place to target big trout, both day and night. The most popular way to target the brown trout is after dark. Floating lines, black flies that imitate small bait fish with a very slow retrieve is a proven method. This very effective technique is possibly the best method to catch a trophy trout in and around the Rotorua District. If there’s no big brown trout around, no doubt there will be a few rainbow trout around to keep you occupied.
An under-utilised technique is to target these stream mouth trout in the day light, best times when the sun is at its highest axis in the day, say 12pm to 4pm in the summer months. With no shortage of cruising fish in the shallows spooking a trout is not a huge deal, just move onto the next fish. Although numerous in numbers, these big fish are very wary in the shallow water in the calm conditions that suit this technique. Best patterns include, baitfish imitations, small nymphs and muddler styled flies. Typically the best time to fish these locations is from Late November until late February.
The numbers and quality of fish that are found in the stream systems throughout the Rotorua region are known worldwide for the quality of angling and size of the fish that utilise these streams for spawning. Spawning runs begin in late November, and continue through to the closing of the season, usually coinciding with periods of rain. These small streams regularly produce trout well over 10lb. These fish don’t get big without seeing a few offerings from fisherman. Typically you get one cast at these large fish before they vacate the scene.
The tight confines and numerous snags that dominate these intimate creeks dictate the type of tackle used, specifically the strength of the tippet. It is not uncommon for fisherman to use up to 20lb Fluorocarbon. Not only is Fluorocarbon a lot cheaper than in the past, it is stronger, more subtle and a better strength / line diameter ratio. Nymph fishing techniques dominate the river scene however dry flies can be successful, especially when the cicadas are around. Another way to target these big fish is to locate them in the day and come back after dark and wet line the pool with a black fly.
Lake Tarawera, Rotoiti and Okataina are known as the 'big 3', the best rainbow trout fisheries in the region in regards to quality and size of rainbow trout. Places to target are small stream mouths and the many Fish and Game liberation points. These three lakes are dependent on yearly liberations from Fish and Game. These released trout grow rapidly on these lakes, making the most of the plentiful supply of high quality protein including freshwater crayfish, smelt and cockabullies. In recent years Rotoiti and Okataina have taken over Tarawera as the premier locations to target trophy rainbow trout in the region and have well surpassed Taupo’s big fish reputation.
April through to August is the peak season for the fly fishing of this fishery. Once again peaks in trout activity are driven by the weather, wet weather in particular. Fish are caught in the daylight; however it is after dark when it comes alive. The most successful technique used is the combination of a floating line and a wet fly usually something either black or luminous. Another popular technique is a booby fly on a short trace attached to a fast sinking fly line, using both luminous and non-luminous patterns.
Check out Rotorua Trout Guide webpage to book your trip targeting these massive trout that call the Rotorua District home. Make sure you spend a few days in Rotorua to relax, have a spa and check out a few of the other fantastic attractions Rotorua has to offer.