The Tongariro is one of the most famous fly fishing rivers in the world, enjoyed by Zane Grey, The Queen Mother, and thousands of anglers from around the world. Many think of the Tongariro River as a winter fishery with the huge runs of spawning Rainbow Trout that tempt anglers from May into October. There are also large resident Brown Trout to be caught in summer and early runs of Browns from March through May.
As an overseas visitor you may be lucky enough to be staying in Turangi or Taupo for a week or more to fish, however in many cases you may be touring New Zealand with a partner or friends and only have a day or two to fish while passing through. The information and tips below are there to help you plan and make the most of your time fishing the Tongariro. As your visit approaches it pays to also start reading the local Taupo Fishing Reports.
Accommodation: If you plan to fish on your own, then your best bet is to stay in Turangi. There are many fishing lodges, motels and other accommodation such as bookabach available. If you are coming through in June-September check ahead as between skiers and anglers town can be busy. Also check in case of school holidays. If you are staying in Taupo or around the lake then you’ll either need a fishing guide to collect you and take you fishing, or your own rental car or campervan. Taupo is a vibrant place to stay but check ahead as summer can be busy and also during major events such as Ironman NZ and the Round The Lake Cycle Challenge.
Fishing Gear: We generally advise clients not to bring their own fly fishing gear because NZ has tough bio-security at our airports and borders. As an island nation relying on agriculture NZ is very serious about stopping the introduction of foreign pests. Boots and waders in particular, but even trout flies can cause problems. If you are bringing your favourite flies or rod, make sure they are absolutely clean and spotless. If not you can hire all the gear you need, and buy local flies from fishing shops in Taupo and Turangi and around NZ. Most fly fishing guides in Turangi and Taupo will provide all the gear you need as part of their fee. You should bring a hat and polaroids and a waterproof jacket.
Fishing Licences: The Taupo region has its own licence administered by DOC (the Department of Conservation). You need one to fish the Tongariro and other local rivers (or Lake Taupo), and pleading ignorance is no excuse. The licence is easy to buy online and is only about $20 NZD a day. Most anglers buy it on their phone.
Getting Around The River: If you have a rental car or camper you can fish dozens of spots easily. Fishing maps can be obtained from local sports shops and the guys in the shop will gladly give you advice on where to go and fish for the day. The carparks for fishing pools are well sign-posted but if possible don’t leave valuables in your vehicle. For those who stay in Turangi and don’t have a vehicle you can still fish a lot of water, depending on your level of fitness. Start your day walking down to the Bridge Pool below Bridge Fishing Lodge, and then spend the rest of the day walking up through the popular town pools including Judges, Major Jones, Breakfast and the Hydro pool.
How and When To Fish: As noted, there is great year-round fishing, so if you are coming through at any time of the year there is fishing to enjoy. If you are planning a trip around the fishing, then depending on what you want June-September can be the best times for winter fishing, while January-March can be best for sight-fishing to big Browns.
Regardless of season you’ll need an 8-9 weight rod and expect to be wading up to your knees, and deeper if you are confident and experienced. In summer the main technique is nymphing with a large Cicada dry-fly and a small natural dropper. Often the town pools and lower river hold big trout this time of year and it’s a thrilling way to fish. The best time is during long hot days when you can hear the chorus of Cicadas in the trees. In winter downstream wet-lining and upstream nymphing are both popular. Often if there’s been rain and the river is coloured then the wetlines and skagits come out with large flies like rabbits and woolly buggers. If it’s a bit clearer then nymphing with heavy bombs, egg patterns and hair and coppers can work well targeting the heads and tails of pools. The best time is after a good rain when fresh fish have entered the river. Some anglers like to wait in one trusted spot and catch trout as they move through a pool, while others prefer walking pools and finding where the fish are holding.
As with any fishing, there are external factors such as the weather, your patience and skill, and the time you have available, that can all impact your success. But if it just comes down to the fishery itself, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable place to fish than the Tongariro River.
The best way to make the most of your time is to start with a local Tongariro Fly Fishing Guide. If you have just a day, then you’ll have the best chance of action, and if you have a week then start it for a day or two with a guide then continue on your own with all you’ve learnt.
We hope this guide has been helpful and that you enjoy fishing the mighty Tongariro.
We fish a wide range of rivers, lakes and streams in the Taupo region and further afield. With local Taupo fly fishing guide techniques and others from the US and Europe we give you more opportunities to catch stunning Rainbow and Brown Trout.