Its that time of year in NZ when things begin to change dramatically, the leaves transform into a symphony of colour and the trout join in, showing of their spectacular vibrancy in preparation for spawning.
I have spent the last week in the North Island, visiting family and fishing my old local streams as well as spending a couple of days chasing big trout in small streams around Rotorua. These small spring creeks that feed into Lake Rotorua are as captivating as they are frustrating, most of the time you do not have room to swing a cat, not to mention a fly rod. Hooking a fish is the easy part but managing to guide them to the net may be your biggest achievement of the day.
Although I have fished these streams before, on day one I was not prepared for what I was about to see. I found a suitable access point and scrambled down the slippery bank littered with acorns to find a tiny stream, no more than 2m wide and covered in fallen trees and debris. I peered through the buses to see a brown trout, no less than 8lb, just swaying back and forth in the current. With literally nowhere to cast I decided to head downstream a few pools and make my way up in the river, however the next pool I came across took my breath away. No more than 1.5m wide and 1m deep, this pool was holding 10+ fish around or over the 10lb mark. I dropped an offering from where I was hiding on the cliff above and after a few attempts with no interest I decided to move back upstream. As I stood to walk away the ground rumbled and the pool erupted into whitewater as the monsters realised my presence and shot off downstream. In awe, I carried on upstream and finally managed to hook into a large brown, but as I said, the hooking proved to be the easy part when the large jack galloped off upstream, my delicate 4wt no chance of reigning it in.
My second day I wanted to tackle another water so I caught up with Miles Rushmer, a local guide in the area, famous for chasing trophy fish and featured in the Gin Clear movie Leviathan. Luckily he had a new piece of water to explore so the anticipation was right up there and it did not disappoint. We were on another tiny spring creek and this time although their hadn’t been much rain in a while there was still a large amount of fish holding in shallow water and more than happy to devour an egg pattern. Miles got was the first to get into a big boy after one broke away from the school at the bottom of a small pool to take his fly. We then carried on upstream, exploring a few gorge sections, peering into the crystal clear water surrounded by native bush but found that not as many fish had made it up this far yet so we returned to the start and nailed a double, I managed a large brown and Miles a large rainbow, at the same time!
I have seen a bit of banter online over the past few weeks about the ethics or morality of fishing to those on their spawning run and my opinion is this; If the stream is legally opened for fishing it is as fair as any other time of the season. The seasons are set at particular times to reflect the sustainability and pressure on the fishery, some may finish late and start late, others the opposite, however it is important to understand that there is always a period where fish are left to do their thing and this ensures a majority of them spawn effectively. I think the only thing that should be concerning is the allowance of taking spawning fish, especially those large spawners and I think a maximum size limit needs to be considered, similar to that operating on trophy fisheries where no fish over a certain size (say 40cm) can be dispatched. Spawning runs are an important part of an angling season and as long as the seasons are managed correctly, there should be no issue.
The next couple of months provide some of the best spawn run fishing you will ever see in NZ and it is a good possibility you will come across many large browns, however being able to catch them is a different story. If your looking for a guide to help you out, Miles can access some spectacular water through private land so you will have the place to yourself and I know first hand that Miles knows how to catch these beasts!
Now is a perfect time for you to get out and explore the lake fed waterways, wherever you are in the country (provided their open), just keep in mind that rain is the key, getting in after a good fresh will increase your chances considerably and you never know, you may just come across that fish of a lifetime.
If you have any questions or just want to have a chat, feel free to message me below.