|Georgina Swan plays a Whanganui rainbow as Ken Drummond |
moves in to net
Words: MIKE GEE Photos: MIKE GEE and GEORGINA SWAN Video: GEORGINA SWAN
It was Easter 2013 and a long localised drought - it hadn't rained heavily for a month - meant the local trout sitting in Lake Taupo waiting for a signal from the Gods to begin their annual spawning run were going nowhere fast and getting fatter by the day, and the Taupo region rivers and streams were down in height but no less enticing.
The Tongariro was getting slimed by an obnoxious green weed which coated the boulders under foot and made wading some sections of the river a somewhat slippery affair. The Whanganui, however, was less affected, but still a little treacherous in parts.
Some 70km from Turangi, the Whanganui River is as broad as the sward through which it forages relentlessly; a flyfisher's dream of endless runs, ripples, pools and drop-offs. If a river could be custom-built for trout then the Whanganui would be it.
Unlike the heavy-hitter further upstream carving its way through forests and farmland alike, here it finds home amid pastures and small towns alike. When it comes to one of the latter then access is usually is easy.
We spent two days on a stretch of river no more than 800 metres long with our friend and guide, Ken Drummond, who we introduced in part one of this tale. Between us, Georgina and I caught 41 fish - including some rainbows up to 5lbs and plenty of little nippers at the other end of the scale - and dropped or lost another 12 big ones.
But we get ahead of ourselves. Let's go back a couple of days. When in Turangi we stay at the Sportsman's Lodge. It's on the edge of town, literally next to the river and has everything the do-it-yourself fisher person needs. And it's well-priced.
|Fighting a Tongariro rainbow|
This duo had splendid stories to tell, of fish hooked and landed, and as many lost, including a couple of monsters that strung them up around rocks and snags after ensuring they removed plenty of line, as well.
|Ready for the girls ... a coloured-up rainbow trout|
A couple of missed chances broke up the run of things but in general it was reasonably quiet. Lunch beckoned so we retired to town by 2.15pm and indulged in a particular vice that lies in wait at Turangi bakery - its fried chicken. Chicken, bakery, odd - yes! But sensational. After that we topped up on flies at Sporting Life, tried to get as much information as we could out of Jared Goedhart, and decided to aim for the evening rise which on the Tongariro really is an evening rise.
On our previous visit in December 2012 we had called it quits about 7.15pm, fishless and uncertain what all the fuss was about. Jared explained it only takes place from dusk to dark - 30 minutes maximum. As usual he was right; as dusk dropped its gentle cloak the fish began to pop. Lots of little tykes, hopping and flipping and flopping, occasionally getting the themselves hooked. Georgina and I both had one, before we pulled stumps due to bad light. However, we did stop for a final unfurl of the line just under the highway bridge where the lights come into play. I had one solid hit and missed and then the 9pm chill forced a final retreat.
Next day dawned a little uninspired and drizzly and Ken was on the doorstep at 8am bristling with his usual energy and bonhomie. A quick stop at Creel Tackle Shop for licences and we were winding our way out of Turangi. Ken chattered away, setting the scene for potentially a day of big rainbows, small fry and a few browns tossed in for good measure.
|That's Mike in the distance - 20m closer|
where he got his double header
|A nice 4lb rainbow|
|Lovely fish, Georgina|
In the tried and true Ken Drummond way she then applied pressure. This, from the rainbow's perspective, was not a good idea. I was about 30 metres away from her when the water about 15 metres and to my right erupted. A torpedo shot skyward, levelled out about six feet in the air, where it seemingly hung for a good few seconds, before plummeting back in with a resounding splash. I have never seen a trout in real life that fat. Eight pounds minimum, probably 10, it resembled a shiny glistening barrel. It was some fish.
The arm wrestle continued for a few more minutes but finally it rid itself of that infernal hook and disappeared up the Whanganui. I'd already stopped walking up to them. I knew when it lifted off that nothing was going to halt that rainbow. Ken suggested Georgina fish to the top of the pool, she dissented, so he called lunch break immediately.
Back on dry land, Georgina was still recovering from the battle and the sheer brute strength the rainbow displayed. "I just couldn't stop it," she said. Ken in his normal laconic way, said, "Well that was a big one, hey."
To this day there is picture frozen in my mind of that thumping trout suspended in mid-air parallel to the water. And all of us gawping at it.
So there we were at lunch. Mike 12, Georgina 4. An unlikely score line.
|Georgina plays the first of the afternoon|
|Add a five-pounder to the list|
The object of his admiration proceeded to further demonstrate her striking ability by nailing a third fish within four casts of its predecessor being set free. This one decided that while pure muscle was all well and good, speed was a lethal weapon. So it turned, ignored Georgina's firm rod right and back position and hurtled off downstream taking line with it. She simply couldn't stop it. So Ken took off, net in hand, after it. George followed, maintaining pressure and winding as much as she could. I followed the pair.
|We started 150m away ...|
Talk about anti-climax. Truly a Whanganui rainbow on steroids.
|But it was just a little guy|
I had a few more casts but we were spent. I had caught 14 fish, Georgina 7 - although the last four she caught combined would have easily outweighed all of mine put together and then some.
The next day began full of drizzle drifting aimlessly down the green streets of Turangi, sloppy low clouds hung on the hill tops and the sky was immaculate in its even grey sheen. By the time we reached the Whanganui we had passed through four different mini-climate areas and were welcomed by milky sunshine. We had only worked half the water the previous day and Ken had some splendid runs and pools left. By lunch Georgina had 11 of the cut-throats under her belt and I had added six. Neither of us had anything larger but the river had changed with some heavy rain overnight lifting the level and flow rate. Still, we weren't complaining.
Over lunch we decided to return to the run and pool that had been so generous the previous day. I hooked but lost four good fish in the first 30 minutes, driving Ken to slight insanity, before landing a two-and-half pounder. The strength each displayed was unnerving.
|Mike plays out a two-and-a half pounder in the Whanganui|