The Tongariro River is one of the North Islands most popular fly fishing rivers and for good reason! It provides anglers with an accessible all year round fly fishing experience in some of the best settings New Zealands’ North Island has to offer!
The Tongariro River is formed by the headwaters of the Waipakihi River and is also fed by the Whitikau, Poutu and Mangamawhitiwhiti streams that flow off the surrounding hill ranges and mountains such as Mount Ruapehu.
Many parts of the river are surrounded by pristine native bush with the Tongariro River Trail making the true left and true right bank accessible for most anglers. This native bush is also home to many species of New Zealand’s native birdlife. In recent years, the once endangered Whio (Blue Duck) have increased significantly in number due to local efforts now becoming a regular sight on the river. The surrounding native bush and wildlife make a tranquil setting for anglers.
Famous for its winter spawning runs which see thousands of rainbow and brown trout migrate upstream to their respective spawning grounds, often one of the tributaries mentioned above, presenting those who visit countless opportunities to catch top condition trout. Rainbows between 5 and 9lb are regularly caught with some even exceeding the 10lb mark.
Trophy brown trout are also caught each year in the Taupo Fishery and the Tongariro river makes for some epic battles with these beautiful trout. While there are resident brown trout in the river all year round, summer sees the start of the migration as many of these lake edge cruising browns seek cooler water and begin their journey to spawn in the upper reaches and tributaries. Good numbers of brown trout occupy the river between February and April though these specimen often prove to be smarter and harder to fool than the average rainbow trout, this can make for a great challenge for those willing to put in the effort.
Public Access Points
The small township of Turangi is located on the southern shore of Lake Taupo and is often the chosen ‘base’ for many visiting the Tongariro.
Access to the Lower Reaches of the river is best gained via a trip down Grace Road (Two minutes north of Turangi on SH1) and following the signs to the car parks.
Middle River access is scattered throughout the township of Turangi, a visit to some of the local tackle shops should provide an angler with enough intel to get started on the many local fishing spots within the township.
Upper River access is gained through forestry managed road five minutes south of Turangi along SH1 near the Poutu Stream bridge. A sign reading Blue Pool will point you in the direction of the river. You can park in any of the provided car parks all of which are within walking distance to some world class fly fishing.
The map below gives directions to Turangi, a great starting point for any Tongariro Angler.
Fly Fishing Methods
If you’re looking for a river where you can exercise all types of fly fishing the Tongariro River is it! Whether you’re a Spey enthusiast, a dry fly purist, a euro bro or a run of the mill indicator angler the ‘Tong’ has you covered!
Indicator nymphing is currently the most popular method of fly fishing on the Tongariro. The river features countless numbers of runs and pools that are well suited to the method. Anglers can go for the traditional indicator set-up or can use an adjustable New Zealand Strike Indicator. While the runs are often fast and/or deep it is easy to go for more weight than necessary, look to strike a balance between heavy enough to get down but not too heavy to cause drag. Popular nymphs on the Tongariro include Hare and Coppers, Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears and Caddis. The Glo Bug made its first appearance in New Zealand on the Tongariro River after being introduced by Louie “The Fish” DeNolfo in the 1970s and has remained a popular winter fly since.
The Tongariro has some great dry fly fishing in the warmer months during the day and night. If you see fish rising in early summer your best bet is a Mayfly, Stonefly or Caddis imitation. As the season progresses and the cicadas start buzzing large terrestrials can be a good option especially when sight fishing skinny water. Tempting edge browns in the warmer months with large terrestrials such as cicadas is some of the most exciting fishing to be had. It’s often worth having a lightly weighted nymph below your dry to entice those not quite willing to take off the surface!
Popular daytime dry flies include Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Blue Humpy and Cicadas.
Most nights in the summer months usually come with an evening rise, caddisflies are a great start at this time of night.
Euro Nymphing is an increasingly popular method on the Tongariro and can produce some spectacular fish. While euro nymphing is a successful method throughout the entire river, the middle to upper reaches are particularly well suited. A two fly set up using a surgeons knot is a great way to team your flies. You can use jig hook nymphs or regular nymphs, as long as your point fly has enough weight to get your flies on the bottom. We recommend 3-4 weight fly rods for the best results.
With the Tongariro being the largest Lake Taupo tributary with great numbers of brown and rainbow trout, it makes for some awesome Double Handed Spey fishing opportunities. Lots of the runs on the Tongariro are fast and/or deep meaning a fast sinking tip is often desirable, particularly in winter when the fish aren’t as willing to exert much energy in order to chase a potential meal. Feel free to be creative with your fly selection, when fishing streamers, anything goes! And be sure to use a stronger tippet than you would on your nymphing rig, the takes can be very aggressive!
On The Fly NZ encourages usually encourages catch and release however the Taupo Fishery is very well populated so anglers can take their limit (six trout) without damaging the fishery. The Taupo Region regulations can be found here from DOC.