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Doug's Diary

Doug Stevens, nzfishing.com's resident angler and writer, shares his travels, experiences and opinions about trout fishing in New Zealand in this regular blog.

Doug is also the spokesperson on environment and outdoor recreation for UnitedFuture.

If you wish to get more information or have an opinion about what has been written please send us an email to doug@nzfishing.com

For more background see About us.
You can also listen to radio interviews with Doug on Morning Report (15 March 2010) on Hooked on Fishing and on National Radio talking to Chris Laidlaw.

28 June 2010

As readers of my blog to date will know, we are waging a battle to ensure that we can pass on a fishing resource to our grandchildren that is at least as good as that we inherited. It is also my belief that the greatest conservationists and the people that take the greatest care of our environment are the outdoor recreationists. Few anglers, hunters, trampers, birdwatchers or kayakers wish to see the environment they love despoiled. Nor do they want to see access to our public resources eroded. To this end I urge all those who love our fishing and the wonderful egalatarian heritage of free access to the outdoors that we inherited from our farsighted forefathers to be vigilant and to be prepared to speak up if or when you find things are not as they should be.

For instance, let us know if you are denied access to any river or lake. In law these waters belong to all New Zealanders to enjoy. Tell us about instances where a waterway has been polluted through poor farming or industrial practises. Be aware of what others have planned for our waterways such as a dam and be prepared to speak up in favour of protecting our precious rivers. It is a fallacy to say that hydro power is a renewable resource: once a river is destroyed by a dam it is detroyed forever. It is not "renewable".

Please whoever you are and where-ever you are, do not let our iconic country be destroyed in the name of short term economic "progress". Our long term wealth lies in our beautiful landscapes, our unpolluted waters, our superb fishing and hunting and the fact that it is free for all to use. As the Inuit saying goes, "We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children".

The Windsor Cup

My apologies for the delay between reports - something called fishing got in the way. In particular my first foray into a competition known as the Windsor Cup, possibly New Zealand's longest running trout fishing competition. The rules for the competition are simple: You must be staying at Windsor Lodge and to win you have to catch the biggest fish on the Waitahanui River. Oh, and as there are people like "Grumpy" who have been entering for decades you need a good sense of humour!! I don't think I have ever met someone with a more inapt name as Grumpy. It is worth entering to meet him and have him entertain you.

All the competitors were hosted by Sandy and Rich from Windsor Lodge. I arrived on the Friday and the river looked so good I had to get out on it for an hour before dark. No luck the first day (but it was not a competition day anyway - the real competition started at 5 in the morning). Now I am a person who believes the 5 on my watch in the mornings can only stands for "25 past" and there was no way I was getting up that early. Other were much more keen with a good group setting out at 4 am to get upstream where word was that the best fishing was to be found.

I staggered onto the river an hour or two (three) later and found that the overnight rain (that continued to persist down all day) meant the river was much higher. I was hopeful that it would mean a fresh run of fish had entered the river. I fished all day but were those fish spooky. The ones I spotted (usually after they had spotted me) were rather shy and not tempted by my offerings.

I spent the day wandering right up to the limit pool, hooked and lost two fish, and then decided that it was not my day and headed back to the lodge. At the last pool I decided to give it one more try and first cast saw the indicator bob down and I landed a fish just under 2.5Lbs. Not a big fish but in very good condition. Having heard that others were not faring much better I decided to enter it. The fish that won was only 3.5lbs so it was not a day for great fishing. But mine was the prettiest fish!!! Pity there was no prize for beauty though.

The Windsor Cup is a real institution with 2010 being its 47th year. If anyone knows of a longer continuously running trout fishing competition please let me know.

16 June 2010
Please read this...

Over the past week since our newsletter wnt out we have had a huge number of emails of support. It is from poet, Snady Bain and I hope you take a moment to read and enjoy it.


dawn lifts the sun from the river
on the tide of the autumn equinox
to welcome the weight
of dew, and a soul footprint: ours

rods flick and bend, mending on
in swelling light, hushed companion
of the salmon lazing luminous and languid
trout nuzzling gentle on the rise

dancing reels click and spoon, ripple
water weeps from lines that gather on
the river, weeping
lest wilder schemes win

Sandy Bain

Saving our wild rivers

As many of you know I recently sent out a newsletter asking for people's thoughts on the threat that many of our wonderful wild rivers are facing from being dammed. If you would like to receive a newsletter please register with nzfishing.com). The response from around the world has been amazing and 100% in favour of saving our remaining wild rivers. We will be publishing some of the responses we receive over the next few days. The following is from Alan Griffin from the USA.

"I live in Roswell, New Mexico, USA, but I come to New Zealand to fish as often as I can, usually every year for at least a month, sometimes more. Even though I live 7000 miles away, I consider certain New Zealand rivers to be my "home rivers." I am always astounded and dismayed to read in the Fish & Game magazine that another river is possibly going to be dammed. Great rivers like the Wairau, Nevis, Mokihinui.

I understand the need for irrigation -- I was a farmer for 10 years. And I understand the need for electricity. But every other option should be considered before a great river is dammed. I'm still angry about Lake Dunstan! I know that New Zealand anglers get a bit fed up with so many tourist anglers on their rivers, but we do spend a lot of money in New Zealand, and other than the increased fishing pressure, we don't cause much harm.

I wish New Zealand would realize the value of wild rivers before it's too late. In the U.S. some dams are actually being removed. It sure would have been a lot better had they never been built. Thank you for taking note of my views on this issue."

If you would like your thoughts published please send them to doug@nzfishing.com

15 June 2010
The effect of damming a valley

Not wishing to walk across the mine fields that are variously called "climate change", "carbon footprints" and "renewable energy resources" etc I have a question that I wonder if anyone has an answer to.

As trees are regarded as a good thing to have lots of because they soak up the greenhouse gases that humans produce, what is the effect on the carbon equation when we take into account the loss of a valley of thousand year old trees when a valley like the Mohikinui is flooded? Has anyone looked at that side of the ledger?

We know during the building stages of a dam an inordinate amount of greenhouse gas emitting energy is used but that seems to be ignored because after it begins producing electricity propoenents will claim it does so with a limited "carbon footprint" (Sorry I have to use those awful terms).

But if the loss of literally tens of thousands of tons of trees and other vegetation is taken into account, what is the true "greenhouse" effect of a dam? If anyone can help me with this I would be grateful as I am wondering if this is ever thought of by those who propose the destruction of our environment. Please send your thoughts through to doug@nzfishing.com

13 June 2010
Nelson Mail prints opinion piece Recently I spoke to the Nelson Fishing Club and while there submitted an opinion piece to the Nelson Mail for publication. They did print the article and I have had great feedback about it. If you wish to see the article you can read it here.
12 June 2010
Tipping in New Zealand

I recently received the following question from an overseas visitor planning to fish in New Zealand.

"I tried to search the nzfishing.com site for the appropriate monetary guide tip for a full day of fishing but haven’t had any luck finding the info. Can you tell me how much it is or steer me in the right direction to find out?"

My reply was as follows:

In New Zealand tipping is not the norm. In fact most people do not expect to be tipped for service (they feel that they are paid to do a job and that is that).

As many guides however do take overseas clients from countries where tipping is the norm, they do get a "tip" at the end of the day; particularly if they have had excellent service. It really comes down to what you feel - it is not expected but I assume that most guides do not mind receiving a tip.

What are your views on tipping? I would be keen to hear your thoughts.

8 June 2010
Silver Flies now in Poland

Over the next few weeks we will be following the Silver Flies as they prepare to challenge the best anglers from around the world in the 30th Fly Fishing Championships. We will be getting regular updates which you can read on our site. You can also send your encouragment to them by sending an eamil of support. Just click on the link paul@rodandreel.co.nz and type in a message.

1 June 2010
The Silver Flies head to Poland

This Friday June 4th the Silver Flies head overseas to Poland to represent New Zealand in the 30th World FlyFishing Championships that start at the end of the month. The team of six have all been preparing and practising for this even for months and we at nzfishing.com wish them well. You will be able to follow their progress with regular updates on our website. Have a look at the competition page which has photos and video links as well as background information about the team.

If you wish to send the team messages of support there is a link there for you to do so. Having attended the 28th Championship as a helper when it was held in Rotorua in 2008 I know this is a big event and one that requires considerable skill to be successful. In 2008 the NZ team came second; lets hope they go one better this time.

27 May 2010
Help required in Christchurch

Fish & Game have joined forces with a number of groups to organise a gathering in Cathedral Square in Christchurch to express concerns on the way water is being managed in Canterbury. Helpers are needed to distribute 250,000 flyers to Canterbury households to advertise the event that will be held on June 13th at 3pm in Cathedral Square.

The flyers can be picked up between 8:30am and 5pm on Saturday the 29th and Sunday the 30th of May at 311 Montreal Street (opposite the Christchurch Art Gallery). Read more...

25 May 2010
Why UnitedFuture?

Thanks to those of you who replied to my last post about outdoor recreation and politics. In particular I would like to reply to Mark who enquired as to why I was supporting UnitedFuture and not other parties such as the Greens.

A few years ago a party was set up by Zane and Stuart Mirfin in Nelson called the Outdoor Recreation party. They did this to try and get enough votes to pass the 5% threshold as required by our proportional electoral system, MMP. In fact they gained 1.4% of the party vote in their first try: a very credible effort but not enough to gain representation in parliament. After one more attempt at the following election they realised that they needed to affliate with an existing party that already had a presence in parliament if their policies were to ever gain traction. They were courted by all the main parties but chose to go with UnitedFuture as they felt this was the party closest to their ideals.

I believe this was a farsighted choice and one that can pay real dividends at the next election. As Peter Dunne has held the Ohariu seat for the past 26 years and will likely do so at the next election, the UnitedFuture party is not subject to meeting the 5% threshold to gain seats in parliament. (Under MMP if a party gains at least one electorate seat the total party vote they receive nationwide counts to the number of MPs they get into parliament). So if UnitedFuture gains just over 1.2% for example (and Peter Dunne holds his electorate seat) then there will be two UnitedFuture MPs elected; 2% ofthe party vote would bring in three UnitedFuture MPs and so on. So if those 1.4% that voted for Outdoor Recreation earlier transferred their vote to UnitedFuture at the next election they will add an extra 2 UnitedFuture seats to parliament.

Should United Future gain enough votes to take in five or six members to the next parliament they will form a sizeable block that will be able to negotiate some significant policies that will be of benefit to the outdoor recreation lobby.

This is why I am now standing for UnitedFuture. Because for the first time the Outdoor Recreation lobby is almost assured of gaining seats in parliament and having its voice heard when policies that affect our sport are being devised. A vote for Outdoor Recreation will no longer be wasted but will bring the results we need to reclaim our outdoor heritage for this and future generations.

24 May 2010
Outdoor recreation policies.

The past few days have been busy in an exciting new way. I have become a member of the Executive for the UnitedFuture party and will be helping them develop policies around the Outdoor Recreation areas. Having had years fishing around the country this is a great opportunity to be able to give soemthing back. And believe me, there is a lot of issues that need looking at.

Issues that need addressing include ensuring the public retain access to our public resources including waterways and the coastline. That waterways are kept clean and not seen as convenient drains for farming, towns and industry and that we protect our outdoor heritage for this and future generations.

Do look at the UnitedFuture policies on the outdoors and in particular at the policies that relate to freshwater recreational fishing. I would be keen to hear what you think about these. Do they go far enough? Do you see there needs to be some changes or would you be happy with what is proposed? I would value your input into this.

20 May 2010

Winter fishing

Just because the weather is colder and many rivers will now have closed, do not make the mistake of thinking fishing is over for the season. Did you know there are 136 waters that remain open all year in the North Island alone? And did you know that many of these fish best during the colder winter months? And I am not just refering to the rivers around Taupo.

The Kai Iwi lakes in Northland and many of the lakes around the Waikato and Rotorua for istance are better fished when the weather is colder. There are less competing waters sports on the water and the fish are often very close to the shoreline. Early afternoons on a warm winter day can also see some great hatches of mayflies on the waters and this will induce a feeding frenzy from the resident fish.

Recently I was driving through Mangaweka and stoped down a small side road to see if I could find a fish on the Rangitikei. I arrived at midday and saw no activity or sign of fish at all. But at 1.30 as the afternoon warmed up to about 14 degrees Centigade, fish started rising. And they continued all afternoon until near dark when they all disappeared as if a switch had been thrown. They were hard to tempt I must say and did not seem to be taking dry flies as all the ones I enticed including a 5.5lb brown jack were taking emergers fished just subsurface.

I will be writing more about winter fishing and where to go (you will be surprised at what waters are open near you) over the next few weeks. So put on warmer clothes and enjoy fishing throughout the winter - I guarantee you will be surprised by what you discover.

16 May 2010
Saving our wild rivers

Over the past two days I have been attending the Wild Rivers campaign as a NZFFA representative. This is a vital issue that affects all New Zealanders that will affect both this and future generations. If we allow our wild rivers such as the Mokihinui to be dammed, they are lost forever. New Zealand unique forests and landscapes have taken hundreds of thousands of years to become established yet will be killed forever by a single dam. At this meeting we saw archival footage of the Waikato when it was a magnificent free flowing river; now it is a series of still waters.

While it is too late to save the Waikato, if we speak up we can ensure that the remaining wild free flowing rivers are retained for this and future generations. We at nzfishing.com are in total support of this campaign and would love to hear your opinions. I will be writing more about it over the next few months as the Wild Rivers group steps up its action campaign to ensure NZ remains one of the few remaining unspoilt areas of the world where the outdoors is for everyone to enjoy - not just an economic resource.

13 May 2010
Back to the Rangitikei

With the long period of fine weather still on us, I decided to fish the wonderful Rangitikei one more time prior to preparing for my annual winter Taupo fishing season. I was very fortunate to be accompanied by John Coney, the owner of Morton Estate wines who provided not only excellent company but also superb wines from his vineyards.

Again we headed to Tarata Lodge and spent the day rafting and fishing down through what must be one of this countries most beautiful rivers. If you have not had this experience then I do suggest you make a promise to yourself that you will do so at some stage. Every angler deserves at least one time where they can fish this wonderful river.

Stephen picked us up at the very civilised hour of 8am and we were fishing a little over an hour later. The river was low and very clear and we could see big fish scuttle away from the raft as we drifted down the immensely deep pools. The weather was fine and cool and the fish were deep though Stephen told us to set our watches for 2pm - the trout would start to rise when the small hand was on the two and the big hand was on.... well you get the idea.

We fished the morning with limited success and so stopped for lunch about 1pm and then headed of downstream again. At 2pm we saw the swallows start to dart around the river and then immediately we saw the first rise. This was not a big splashy rise as we experienced the last time on the river but a slow slurp as a big mouth appeared out of the water and gently sucked in a large mayfly. Off came the nymphs and on went an adams and after a few tense moments we had the fish to shore- about a 3.5lb rainbow jack in superb condition.

For the rest of the afternoon the fish rose steadily. Often several fish fish were seen rising along a short stretch of water as the mayflies were rising thick and fast. But these fish were spooky and one bad cast could send them all deep and scurrying for cover. John caught the biggest fish of the day - one that took some taming as it headed for a rapid downstream. If it had gone over the rapid I think it would have been lost but eventually it was landed and released.

The only problem with this day was that being nearly the shortest day of the year and by 5.30 we were packing up on a clear cool evening. But what a day! Despite the cold it was again a day to carry me through the winter. So if you are looking for some great fishing remember the Rangitikei (and to make it even better take a bottle or three of Morton's wine to help lubricate the memories over one of Trudi's excellent dinners).

4 May 2010
A childrens fish-out day to beat all others

As readers of my diary will know I have been in negotiations with the army at Waiouru Military base to see if we could get them to allow fishing on the beautiful Lake Moawhango which lies just off the Desert Road between Waiouru and Turangi.

Major Hibbs has been most helpful with this request and has helped set up what we hope will be a kids fishing day to beat all others. This will be where kids, accompanied by an adult, will have the opportunity to fish almost virgin water with a very high chance of catching a good number of wild rainbow trout. The fish will not be big (average is slightly less than 1lb) but as the lake is hugely overstocked and virtually unfished, this is a true opportunity for young anglers to truly experience the thrill of angling in a beautiful setting.

The date set for the first of these days is Nov 20th 2010. All participants will need to register and there will be, for obvious safety reasons, very strict controls on where participants can fish. The New Zealand Fly Fishing team will be present to give instruction and lunch will be provided. Composite Developments will be supplying some gear and there will be a competition though the main aim is for youngsters to experience the thrill of the capture of a wild hard fighting fish.

I will be sending out more information about this in newsletters so if you are interested and have not as yet registered with us please do so now so we can keep you informed with updates. Numbers will need to be very strictly controlled and we will operate this unique event on a first in first served basis.

3 May 2010
The complete range of fishing skills

From Turangi I went north but could not resist a few hours fishing the Whanganui near the small township of Mahoe. This was near where the 2008 World Flying Fishing Championships were held. The river was in near perfect condition and although most fish appeared to be deep I was able to get a few to rise to a mayfly pattern during the warm part of the day. There were many small fish with a few around 5lbs with all in superb condition.

As I was quietly fishing a lovely run I had this feeling that I was being watched and turned to see a young lad holding a spinning rod standing behind me. His name was Ethan and we quickly struck up a friendship. He was soon joined by his mate, Scott and three of us moved upstream to a new spot where Ethan and Scott told me of a place where there "were heaps of fish". Their enthusiasm was very infectious as they took me to a great looking stretch of water; long channels, short stable pools and big boulders - perfect fish holding water!

I fished it for about 20 minutes but only touched one fish! I went over to my two spin fishing mates and asked what was so good about this water. In great excitement they told me how Peter Scott of the Silver Flies (NZ's National Fly Fishing team) had fished it the day before and caught 23 fish from this very same stretch of water. They were even able to point out many of the places where he had caught fish! I knew then why I was not having much luck.

I know Peter at Rod and Reel in Auckland and spoke to him later. Indeed he had fished the same place (and had had the same two companions accommpany him) as he prepared for next month's World Fly Fishing Championships in Poland. We at nzfishing.com will be following Peter and the team at the championships with regular updates and wish the Silver Flies good luck as they pit their skills against the best in the world.

And I would also like to say thanks to Ethan and Scott for their time with me on the river. It was great fishing with new anglers who reminded me so much of the passion and enthusiasm I had when I started out learning this great sport.

For those who are looking for a great place to fish, the Whanganui around Taumaranui would be hard to beat (this section closes at the end of June so there is still plenty of time). There is good accommodation at the Taumarunui Holiday Park which is right on the river or for a more remote experience at Go Bush Cabins. And for those that prefer some real home comfort at the end of the day, Fernleaf Farmstay, a beautiful restored homestead, is only a short drive away.

30 April 2010
The importance of etiquette

While I was in Turangi recently for the AGM of the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers, I took the opportunity to fish the Tongariro on the one free afternoon I had. The river was low and anglers quite scarce. I was staying at a friend's place and wandered down to fish the Major Jones pool. This is one of my favourite pools and one that I usually find myself sharing with a number of other anglers. When the pools are crowded, as these become during the winter spawning runs, it is important to obey the rules of angler etiquette to avoid conflict with other anglers.

This time I started as the only angler on the pool. As I was getting ready to fish from the tail of the pool another angler turned up and asked if he could come in behind me (we were both up-stream nymphing) and I said that was fine. After asking me however he suddenly decided that he would start fishing the middle section of the pool ahead of me! I was not impressed but as there were only two of us let it go. He left quite quickly anyway.

I fished once up the pool and had returned to the tail of the pool to move upstream again when I became aware of another angler joining me. This time it was completely different. Again I was asked if he could come in below me and I again I assented. He then carefully moved around me and went downstream and we fished happily up the pool together. As I prepared to leave the pool I went and thanked him for his courtesy (his name is George and I have since found he is a first-class cricketer so can only get to fish in the winter months). We have struck up a friendship and have since exchanged emails and plan to get together some time for some fishing over the next few months. So thanks George, it is appreciated when anglers understand the reason for following the rules as it makes for a much more pleasant fishing environment for all.

And the fishing? Well I landed only one fish of about 3.5lb and lost two others, both small.

26 April 2010
A letter and a reply

Over the past few days I have been away attending the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers (where I have been co-opted onto the executive) as well as getting in some late season fishing. Prior to leaving home I read with horror an article in the Dominion Post how the Manawatu Regional Council had "put to bed the scaremongering rampant amongst advocacy groups"and effectively sanctioned the Manawatu River as a convenient drain for farm effluent.

The reason given: Farmers say they cannot afford to run their farms in an environmentally sustainable way because the cost would cause them to "suffer a financial blow".

After I calmed down I sent of a letter to the Dominion Post expressing my dissappointment that the Horizons One Plan had been abandoned and the Manawatu Regional Council had caved in to the vested interests of the dairy industry. The letter was published last Wednesday and brought a response the next day from the Manawatu Council.

What has intrigued me about their reply was that they argue that the Manawatu is not the dirtiest river in the world but only that it is "the most unhealthy river in the country". A sad admission no matter how you look at it.

So farmers are able to continue to pollute this great water as they say they cannot afford to do anything else with the waste their farms produce. I am tempted to try and use the same reasoning when I next need to take the rubbish to the rubbish dump. If I say I cannot afford the fees can I just throw my rubbish onto the street?

I do hope that we in this country wake up to the fact that we have something very precious in our land and that we must not allow it to be squandered. Our rivers are the envy of the tens of thousands of anglers, both from within NZ and those that travel to our shores to fish. But we must not let this great resource, which on purely economic terms adds hundreds of millions of dollars from anglers to our economy, be destroyed by the few who see it is their right to use rivers as convenient drains.

16 April 2010

New Zealand fishing books

When ever I enter a second hand book shop I find I am irresistably drawn to the fishing section. I always hope to find a copy of a real gem hidden in the shelves such as Hamilton's "Trout Fishing and Sport in Maoriland". I did once find a copy but the owner seemed to be anticipating inflation by about 3 decades and had priced accordingly.

Now for anyone who wants to know what is available and the price / value of the hundreds of New Zealand books about trout and salmon fishing that have been written over the past century, there is help available. Pual Corliss has written two excellent books, one earlier book called "New Zealand Freshwater Fish and Fishing" which was followed recently with "More New Zealand Trout Books".

These two bibliographies are a book collectors dream as they alert you to what books are available and more importantly what they are worth. Written as a true labour of love they are only available direct from Paul and only 250 are available (each numbered and signed personally by Paul).

These information rich books are available for only $25 each and that includes postage within NZ (overseas buyers please enquire as to the cost of postage). To order contact Paul by email: pcorliss@paradise.net.nz

A truly international sport

A very enjoyable feature of running this website is the information we receive from all around the world. Like many of you I was really impressed by the research that showed that rainbow trout are (arguably) now the most widespread species to be introduced around the world (see my 24 March entry). That Nordic connection to the introduction of brown trout to New Zealand and that the salmon that originally came from California are soon to be "reintroduced" to their native waters where they had all but died out (see March 23 entry)

Now I see there is a place where each of us can test our skills at casting as the inaugral world fly casting championships are to be held in Norway in August this year. Are any kiwis prepared to enter this event? If so do let us know so we can follow your progress.

14 April 2010
Manawatu River backdown

It is with huge embarrassment (that I actually feel quite personally) when I have to write about how a river or lake has become degraded or polluted in some way. This website is read by several thousand people a week from over 180 countries and while the vast majority of our rivers remain pristine, it is very discouraging to read about terrible things happening to great rivers whether that be the damming of the Mokihinui River or the pollution of the Manawatu River. (See the recent news items about the Mokihinui dam and the Manawatu pollution).

I was therefore appalled to read in the news today about the backdown by the agency set up to protect the environment in the Manawatu region, including the Manawatu River. (See the news item about the backdown).

Please do not let this travesty happen without protest. In the article Garrick Murfitt, the Chair of Horizons Manawatu (the agency charged with protecting the environment in the region) is quoted as saying the Regional Council have "put to bed the scaremongering rampant amongst advocacy groups" and so the Manawatu River is now officially sanctioned as a convenient drain for farm effluent. The reason; farmers say they cannot afford to run their farms in an environmentally sustainable way as the cost would cause them to "suffer a financial blow".

Taking this argument to its logical extreme, does that mean to say that if I find that taking my garden waste to the dump to be a financial hardship, can I just leave it on the street? After all, a river like our roads is in fact a publically owned resource for all New Zealanders to use.

6 April 2010
An about turn on the Mokihinui River

A few weeks ago we reported that Gerry Brownlee (the Deputy Prime Minister) had declared at a meeting that the Mokihinui River was not going to be dammed. This decison was applauded by many as it was hoped that it signaled a change of direction within the Governments ranks as they a realised the importance to this and future generations of preserving our wild rivers.

Today however it has been announced that the Mokihinui, one of the great wilderness rivers of the South Island will be dammed with an 85 metre high dam creating a 14km lake. Not only will this be hugely detrimental to anglers but it will also destry one of the great kayaking and rafting waters.

As Peter Dunne of UnitedFuture said in his press release, "This decision is disappointing not only for the river, fishery and native forest that will be destroyed but by the sheer narrow-mindedness of it. Once a river is damned its natural character and the character of the land around it is changed permanently and can never be gotten back.Rivers are a finite resource.”

We invite you to have your say on this issue by writing to doug@nzfishing.com.

4 April 2010
Canterbury's threatened water

The threat to our water in many regions is hotting up. Fish and Game have written a letter about their concerns regarding the attack by the government on water conservation in the Canterbury region. This letter, signed by a large number of other parties, outlines the concerns that many are feeling. And this email to us from Greg Henderson shows that the concerns are not confined to Canterbury alone.

"Just a few words on Nick Smith' s machinations with Canterbury rivers and their administration. As I see it, John Key thinks irrigation on a big time basis is the way to prosperity. The way he wants to sell it to NZers is via the "water storage" theory. Only problem with that is that control over entire catchments will need to be handed over to farmers, with recreational interests coming last.

I see from today's Dominion Post that some Hawkes Bay spruikers are also lining up for free water, with big plans for irrigation in that region. It will just be the same story as in Canterbury ie overallocation, dubious conflicts of interest, and maladministration, I suspect".

If you wish to have your voice heard please write to me with your thoughts and concerns to doug@nzfishing.com

30 March 2010
Access to the Rangitaiki River

The issue about the closure of the Kaingaroa Forest area that has stopped access to many kilometres of fishing and hunting is outlined in the letter from Alan Collins from the Whakatane Trout Fishing Club. This festering problem needs urgent action or the access that has been available for many decades will be lost for ever.

I recently brought this issue to the attention of the Walking Access Commission with a request for them to take some urgent action as they are required to do under their terms of reference. Nearly a month has passed since that meeting and the presentation of my submission and as yet I have not had the courtesy of a reply let alone seen any evidence of action being taken.

A Nordic connection to the introduction of trout to New Zealand.

Many of you will have seen the news item about the American Winnemem Wintu tribe who came to New Zealand to "apologise to the chinook salmon". The salmon we catch in the South Island are the descendants of the fish that originally came from their tribal areas between 1901 and 1907. While they have flourished in our waters they have gone into steady decline in their native rivers in northern California. The Winnemem Wintu people wanted to say how sorry they were to the fish as they strongly felt that they had not properly protected them in their native habitat. Through the damming of the major salmon rivers, the annual spawning migtration had been disrupted and the fish stocks had gone into steady decline.

In relation to this debt we owe other cultures for the sport we now appreciate, I was recently sent an article from Rolf Steinar Bjørnstad, an avid Nordic angler who has fished around the world including 7 trips to fish New Zealand in the last 26 months. His article, "Trout ova introduction to New Zealand: a Nordic connection" gives a fascinating insight into how Norway played a vital role in the introduction of trout into New Zealand.

28 March 2010
A well-kept secret in the central North Island

What a lucky country we anglers inhabit! This weekend Bev and I headed to the Central Plateau for three day's rest and recreation. We decided to stay in one of the chalets at The River Lodge near Ohakune and that was the first great decision made for the weekend. The River Lodge, run by Gayle and Denton, sits as close to the Mangawhero River as is possible and this small river was a revelation in what a small stream can produce.

The first morning, after a leisurely breakfast I decided to fish the stretch alongside the lodge. On the first pool I quickly hooked and landed a large brown trout that would have tipped the scales at 2.5kg. Unfortunately I had left my camera in the chalet and so had no means to record this fish. But by a stoke of luck Denton was passing and we both agreed that 2.5kg or around 6lb would be a good estimate. I then walked slowly along the river frontage and hooked but lost two more fish of about 3lbs each. These were great fighters and what impressed me most was that they were all caught within 100 metres of our accommodation. Where else are you able to stay in great surroundings with Mount Ruapehu hovering in front of you and fish such magnificent water?

The next day Denton and I set out to explore some of the more remote corners of the Manganuioteao which is a short drive away. The river was a little discoloured from rain earlier in the week but did yield a good fat brown trout from under a willow.

Anyone looking for some great late season fishing would do well to check this area out. Not only are the two rivers mentioned above easy to access but there is also the spring fed Tokiahuru for those days when other rivers are dirty and the Lake Otamangakau and Rotoaira are a short drive away. This is a true anglers paradise and The River Lodge is probably the Central Plateau's best kept secret.

24 March 2010
How rainbow trout have overrun the world

Having just seen the story about the American Winnemem Wintu tribe who have come to New Zealand to "apologise to the chinook salmon" I was sent an article called "One Strange Fish Tale" by an American academic who writes that rainbow trout, originally only found along the Pacific Rim of the US "have been introduced to every state in the United States and to at least 80 different countries on every continent except Antarctica". He notes this is an expansion of range that took humans, corn, sheep, and dogs thousands of years to achieve.

This is a fascinating insight to how one of the mainstays of our freshwater fishing, the common rainbow trout, has spread around the globe in just over 130 years and the means (some rather dubious) by which this was achieved. I will be ordering a copy of the book "An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World". I have no doubt that it will be both amusing and enlightening.

23 March 2010
The debt we owe to many countries and cultures for our fishing

I was moved when I read the article and saw on the news the members of the Native American Winnemem Wintu tribe who had come to New Zealand to visit the Rakaia River to "apologise to the chinook salmon - known here as quinnat - on the banks of the Rakaia River through a ceremonial dance". These fish that now make up the bulk of the salmon catch in Canterbury are the direct descendants form the original salmon first brought to New Zealand between 1901 and 1907 from the rivers in their tribal area.

While the salmon have flourished in New Zealand they have declined steadily in their native Northern California homeland due to the damming of rivers which have cut of the seasonal salmon migratory and spawning runs. It is a timely reminder to us all that we need to take due care with the environment and work to avoid any drastic alterations such as that done on the McCloud and Sacramento rivers in the 1940s which has all but destroyed these once famous fishing rivers.

21 March 2010
The economics of fishing in New Zealand

When I was at Wairata Station recently I met up with an English angler, Simon, who was in the adjoining chalet and had fished the Waioeka and Opato rivers for many seasons. He travels to NZ each year and spends several weeks fishing the Waioeka river. He was great company and I really enjoyed being with an angler from another culture and being able to observe a very different style of fishing. (We in NZ seem to favour fast action rods like the CD XLS series while Simon preferred a much slower action rod. As a consequence our casting styles were really different).

Being with Simon also brought back to me what a wonderful country we have. A country where it is easy to take for granted that we can get in a car and in a short time be fishing on any number of rivers around New Zealand. Few people in New Zealand live more than an hour's drive from at least one good fishing water. But what we take for granted is a rare treat for anglers from other nations.

As David Haynes said on the TV3 programme "Privatisation by Stealth", when he lived in the UK and wanted to fish a reasonable quality river (the Itchen) it cost him NZ$27,000 to be able to fish every second tuesday on a 2km stretch along one bank of the one river for one season! No wonder it is cheaper to fly to New Zealand and experience the best fishing in the world. Let us keep it that way and ensure that the access to our lakes and rivers remains freely available for all licence holders.

20 March 2010
The access issue gains momentum

After the item on National Radio about the rising problem we face in accessing our lakes and rivers, TV3 has followed up with an excellent piece called Waterways - Privatisation by stealth where the problems facing access to rivers and lakes was given good exposure. The main person being interviewed was David Haynes who has recently contributed an article to nzfishing.com called "Access not all Areas".

We hope that the publicity that this media attention is giving the loss of access to much of our water will stir up more debate, particularly at the political level as it now appears that only a change to some of laws will ensure the egalitarian access we have enjoyed to our publically owned waters for over a century will continue. We must not see our country go the same way as places such as in Europe and the UK where the cost of fishing a river is prohibitive and out of the reach of most anglers. As David said on the TV3 programme, when he lived in England he had to pay the equivalent of NZ$27,000 to be able to fish 2 kms on one bank of a river every second Tuesday for one season. In other words it cost him the equivalent of over $2,000 for each day's fishing!

We are interested in your opinion and thoughts. Do read David's article and listen to the piece on National Radio and view the item on TV3 and let us know what you think. And please do tell us if you have had any issues accessing water in New Zealand. We are keeping a register of problem areas and already have found over 20 rivers where access is a problem (the list can be seen in the nzfishing.com submission to the Walking Access Commission on March 3rd).

19 March 2010
From the worst to the best

After the scare of the previous day and a timely reminder of how we need to treat all rivers with care and caution, I was a little apprehensive about the planned day's fishing. Stephen, owner and guide for Tarata Lodge, was taking Andrew and I for a rafting / fishing day down 14kms of largely inaccessible water on the the middle reaches of the Rangitikei River. There was no need to worry however as Stephen showed himself to be a master with his rafting skills and we were treated to one of the best days fishing I have ever had.

Leaving the lodge at 7.30 we drove upstream to the section where River Valley Adventures is located (another place where you can raft or hire kayaks or canoes from) and launched the raft. From there we drifted downstream (though I am sure watching the effort that Steve put in on the oars he would not appreciate the notion that we "drifted": for him it was really hard work). Steve skillfully maneuvered the large raft down through runs and rapids and rowed us along some deep pools in the most spectacular scenery imaginable. Huge cliffs looked down on us along both banks and we felt we were the only people left in the world - until we started on the inevitable "Deliverance" jokes.

But our eyes were really on the river and what it contained! It was not long before Steve drew into a stony beach and we were out with the rods and prospecting the water. Andrew was quickly into a couple of fish and I managed to get one to rise to a dry fly. What I was fascinated to learn was where the fish were to be found.

As soon as we stopped I headed to what I believed to be the most like water – a long gliding run with some deep sections that looked very fishy to me. Stephen told me not to bother with that water but to stick close to the shallow edges and even the slow backwater eddies. I followed his instructions (though not without some misgivings I might add) and found his advice sound. These fish seldom see anglers and so are not spooked and forced into deeper water. Consequently they are often in very shallow water and at times almost appear to be living on the bank. Stephen continually got us to cast to within an inch or two of the bank and it was here that we picked up the most as well as the biggest fish.

And what a day! A full 10 hours of fishing with an expert guide. Stephen has fished this water for decades and knows the pools and runs better than anyone else. Positioning the raft he will give precise instructions as to where the fly should land and if you got it as he instructed it was usually met with spectacular results – those Rangitikei fish sure can fight.

At the end of the day we had lost count of fish landed and lost (almost all on dry fly) and will never forget a day of superb fishing. I often say after a great day on the water that I will return. This time I truly mean it. For this was fishing as it is meant to be: the scenery, the fishing and Stephen's knowledge and humour providing all rthe ingredients of great memories.

18 March 2010
A timely lesson in safety

I have had some great fishing lately as the summer draws to a close. Andrew and I decided that we would like to fish the Rangitikei and so stayed a couple of nights at the superb Tarata Lodge in the mid section of the Rangitikei River.

The first night however was a very sobering experience for me. Steve, Tarata Fishaway owner and guide, drove us down the steep track to the river to fish the evening rise (the lodge sits on a cliff high above the river with the most specatular views). I wandered upstream and picked up two fish in one run. Looking further upstream I decided to cross the river at at a bend. Examining the potential crossing point I thought it should be OK. How wrong I was. Half way across I found the current was much stronger than anticipated and the water much deeper than it appeared. The crossing point I had chosen was above a very fast rapid that shot downstream for about 30 metres before hitting a cliff face and veering at right angles away downstream!!

I quickly realised that if I tried to turn around mid-current I would likely loose my footing so I continued on. But it was not a good move. In the middle section the water flowed between two rocks and the sudden increase in velocity caused me to lose my footing and over I went . Luckily (and that was all that it was: luck) I was able to grab at a few rocks and slow my progress downstream but I was still at the mercy of the river. I eventually was able to grab a rock and pull myself in a series of crab like moves to the side (the other side!!!).

This event really shook me up. I was soaking wet and now on the opposite bank and knew I had had a very lucky escape.

But now I had to cross back again. This was done by going much further upstream and crossing some deep water which at times was literally up to my neck.

I write about this because I hope that my stupidity (and that is what it was) will help others not do the same. There are now some rules that I will always follow:

  • If in doubt (and especially if you are on your own) do not risk it. If it looks dangerous and difficult, walk away
  • Carry a wading stick! The extra support from a good wading stick cannot be over-estimated and can save a tumble or even your life
  • Talk to your local club about safety courses on what to do in situations where you loose yor footing. Most clubs run these events and if they don't request that they do - it may save your life or that of others.

I have fished for many years and this was the by far the worst experience I have ever had on a river. I will also be attending a water safety course run by our club to ensure I know how to best survive any further tumbles (and as you will know this is my second fall when crossing a river in a fortnight).

But from the worst experience on the water to the best. The next day was one of the absolute best fishing............ but more about that tomorrow!

17 March 2010:

The Walking Access Commission fails to act on concerns

I mentioned in the last entry my disappointment with the Walking Access Commissions approach to the submission I made to them (and the fact that they claimed on National Radio that they had not received any submissions to date).

I had had a meeting with the Commission on March 3 and presented a paper outlining our concerns about the loss of access to rivers and lakes especially those in the Kaingaroa Forest area including the iconic and hugely important Rangitaiki River. The meeting lasted an hour and a half and though amicable I was surprised that the commission seemed to be reluctant to take action on the major issue I presented evidence about.

They said they would look at the points raised but also said that it was unlikely anything would happen this season! When you realise that one of their stated functions is to; "faciliatate resolution of disputes about walking access, including initiating negotiations about disputed issues, mediating disputes, and referring disputes to a court, tribunal, or other dispute resolution body" this was a sad reflection on their unwillingness to act on a very important area that has closed one of the North Island's fishing resources to the general public.

As yet I have had no communications from anyone within the Walking Access Commission about the information and substance of my submission. I find this very disappointing.

15 March 2010: Anglers say access to fishing spots is declining
Anglers say access to fishing spots is declining

In an item this morning on National Radio's Morning Report entitled Anglers say access to fishing spots is declining I was able to highlight the issue of anglers being denied access to rivers by landowners on National Radio's on National Radio's Morning Report. Listen to the report...

One thing I was very disappointed to hear was the spokesperson from the Walking Access Commission who said that they had not received any formal complaints about access being denied to anglers. This was blantantly untrue as I had made a 1.5 hour presentation on March 3rd 2010 to the committee where I also presented a seven page document outlining how access had become an issue on 21 rivers and lakes. This document also gave a very detailed description and history of the specific problems being experienced on the Rangitaiki River.

Rivers and lakes being privatised by stealth Read the article by David Haynes written for nzfishing.com on how our rivers and lakes are becoming privatised by stealth. Please email me with your thoughts and comments for publication to doug@nzfishing.com.
Support from the NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers

The following comment was posted on the Radio Network website which shows others are feeling the same way.

"The NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers congratulates Doug Stevens for highlighting ('Morning Report') a growing problem about which we have expressed concern for some years, namely 'fishing access being sold for pecuniary gain'. Sports fish such as trout are publicly owned in this country, and live in rivers that are also publicly owned. The fish are managed by Fish & Game NZ, a public body. It is an unfortunate truth that increasingly rural landowners are either charging for access or preventing admission to these public resources. It should be noted that it is illegal to sell or let the right to fish in any freshwater. It is one of the reasons that the Walking Access Commission was set up.

The sale of fishing and game-bird shooting rights are protected under the Wildlife Act (Sec 23) and the Conservation Law Reform Act (Sec 26ZN) in New Zealand and we are passionately against seeing any changes to these acts.

The NZFFA condemns this reinstatement of the archaic feudal system of private ownership of public resources. Our forebears were determined not to see this transplanted into New Zealand law. We wholeheartedly agree with their sentiments!"

It is important that we do not allow the egalitarian fishing access be lost and I would be very keen to hear your thoughts on this contentious issue that is possibly the biggest threat to our sport at the moment. So if you've been denied access or know of others who have been unable to access fishing waters, please let me know about it, and also advise whether or not the details can be shared or published. Email me at doug@nzfishing.com.

14 March 2010: Taking an unintentional drift dive
Enticing the fussiest of fish

After speaking with to the Tauranga Fishing club I was able to spend a couple of days on the superb and scenic Waioeka River. I stayed at Wairata Station in one of two delightful cottages -that are a short stroll from one of the best stretches of this marvellous water.

The first day was spent slowly walking upstream and fishing to the large, freely rising fish. In some pools and runs several large fish could be seen sipping gently on something as it drifted past them. Others were making crashing and splashy rises and all the fish seemed to actively be feeding. The first two I cast to nicely rose and took a small parachute adams and my confidence rose accordingly. Less than an hour on the water and two fish already landed. But as I moved upstream the fish suddenly seemed to become more selective. I could drift fly after fly over them to no avail. They hardly looked at them and let them pass overhead without any sign of caution. At times I would find one would take a hopper or a blowfly but most just ignored my offers.

One strange thing I noticed (and it was easy to watch what was happening in the crystal clear water) was that any nymph that I drifted past them would cause them to instantly spook and head for cover. Offerings had to be on or within the surface film.

That day I landed 5 fish and lost many more but what a day and the quiet chalet at the station was a welcome sight on my return. I will be returning to that river and wish to thank Bob and Mary Redpath for the wonderful help they gave me. It was great to find landowners that are so encouraging and supportive and will allow people to access the many kilometres of fishing on their land (Do ring them first to check howvever on 07 315 7761 to check it is OK as they are sometimes moving cattle near parts of the river and it is best to know when and where this is happening).

Keep your vest well secured when taking a drift dive!

The next day I decided to fish the main tributary of the Waioeka, the Opato. Again a wonderful stony clear water with a good population of freely rising fish. I found the Opato fish more obliging and landed several, again on a wild assortment of flies including hoppers, royal wulffs, adams and even one on a Daddy-Long-Legs.

However I was also struck by the perils of a warm summer. That evening on my return to Wairata Station I decided to fish one more section at the memorial just above the confluence with the Waioeka. Walking down to the river I saw that I needed to cross and with the confidence born of idiocy, strode into a rather fast run. One rock however was not as stable as I had hoped acusing me to take a rather undignified glide down a small rapid into the pool below.

Getting out I was met by two very attractive young women who had thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle (though maybe not the language) and continued with the taking of a number of photos of me. The weather was warm and so I did not mind the unplanned swim very much. What I did mind however was the loss of a rather expensive buck knife, a reel and a box of flies! I had stupidly not fastened one pocket on the side of my vest and I only discovered my loss later that evening. From now on I ensure all pockets are well zipped, velcroed, domed and buttoned before crossing any rivers. A timely lesson that was to stand me in good stead as I will explain later!

13 March 2010: Well educated fish in a park
Proving good fishing can be found near big cities

Having a couple of hours to spare while driving to Tauranga to speak to the club there I decided on a whim to visit the small but picturesque Lake McClaren and check it out. This very attractive lake actually lies within a park and as it was a warm day there were many other water users though no other anglers. I drove around several little lanes that wound up and down through the park and inspected likely places to cast a line (I did not really relish the prospect of having too many onlookers) and finally came to the section at the far end which was obviously much less visited.

The water looked inviting with channels through weedbeds visible below the surface. As there was no surface activitry I decided to firstly try a nymph and when that failed went to a small woolly bugger (with the same lack of response). Walking further to the inlet where a small stream feeds into the lake I noticed that the water was much shallower and I suddenly realised I was looking at a good fish feeding along a sandy ridge in quite shallow water. But, as I have noticed on many other occasions, as soon as I moved the rod an inch to prepare to cast, the fish shot for cover. It seemed to let me stand and observe it for sometime but appeared to recognise my dastardly intent when the rod moved.

I walked a few more metres and into some trees and from the cover they provided saw two more feeding fish. I had to walk through the trees and onto some swampy land to get to an area open enough to cast. And again, as soon as I moved into the open the fish disappeared. It would appear that these are well educated fish .

Still, it was good to see fish like these in a lake so close to a city. As I had to get to Tauranga I was not able to explore further but would like to go back to this lake in winter when I think the fish will be much less disturbed by other water sports and park users. I also see this as a great place to take a younger angler to learn to cast and fish.

My next fishing experience however found me looking for fish in a much more disturbing manner.....

11 March 2010: The best laid plans of mice and anglers
Access issues continue to be a growing concern.

Over the past few days when I have been away from any keyboard and computer screen I have had the chance to experience some truly great and some not so great moments on the water. I will be describing these over the next few days.

But before fishing was buiness and I met with Rob Pitketheley from Eastern Region Fish and Game to talk about the access issues that are facing those wishing to get to the superb fishing on the Rangitaiki within the Kaingaroa Forest area. I found that although Timberlands is allowing very limited access to the river (walking only and no overnight camping allowed) and so most of the river remains out of reach for anglers, Rob is making progress. We have to thank Rob and his team for so tirelessly working on this important issue. It has been a great example of diplomacy and patience as he tries to ensure that the river and associated waters such as the Flaxy Lakes and Wheao River and Canal are open for all to use again.

We are pleased to report also that the access to our waters and lakes is gaining some media attention and I have been interviewed by National Radio on the issue and believe that this report will go to air tomorrow (12 March) on Morning Report between 7 am and 9am. TV3 is also making a programme about access issues and hopefully this will go to air in the next few weeks.

Some great fishing to begin with

And then there was some astonishing fishing. While in Rotorua meeting Rob I thought it would be rude not to fish somewhere around the region that evening and decided to fish the Awahou River mouth on Lake Rotorua. Rob had told me this section of the lake was really firing with people reporting phenonmenal catches (Auckland guide Neil Hirtzel caught over 60 fish up to 5lbs in around 4 -5 hours one day recently and catch rates of over 80 fish were doing the rounds. While I was there a Welshman seemed to be hauling in a fish every third cast making me glad that we could at least still beat them in rugby).

This stream mouth is not to be fished by the claustrophobic however! I was there with at least 35 other anglers all lined up to fish the cool current where the Awahou spring creek entered Lake Rotorua. From my perspective almost everyone was catching fish......except me!! For about two hours all around me pulled in fish after fish while I laboured in vain with a sinking heart and rising frustration. I had two touches in that time.

With quiet desparation I changed fly after fly and then the fish took pity on me and relented and over the next three hours until just after dark it was all on. I have no idea what caused the sudden change in fortunes as the flies I found worked (a green woolly bugger and a small black nymph had been tried earlier with no success).

Many of the fish were not in the condition I expect of the rainbows in Rotorua but there were some very good fish amongst those landed including one that shot around my startled neighbour's legs at high speed trailing my line with it (the fish and I parted company when the hook straightened). In all I estimate I landed about 20 fish with many more lost. It was a great evening and a foretaste of some wonderful fishing to come.

19 Feb 2010: Let me know where you've been denied access
Reports of growing loss of access

In talking to anglers at fishing clubs this week, it has become clear that loss of access to rivers and lakes is a big concern with reports of places where permission to cross land is now being denied or granted to only a few. How frequently this is happening is probably under-estimated, as most us only know if it has happened to us or to a mate

If we can pool this information, the extent of the problem can be seen and communicated. So if you've been denied access, please let me know about it, and also advise whether or not the details can be shared or published. Email me at doug@nzfishing.com.

18 Feb 2010: Issues that face our sport
Identifying the issues

This week sees me travelling in the East Coast region of the North Island talking to fishing clubs in Tauranga and Whakatane about the issues that face our sport.

The issues of which most if us are well aware include loss of access to rivers and lakes, the damage done to publically owned waters through land mismanagement and the ongoing destruction of our rivers for electricity production and water storage.

Plus there are the new threats arising, such as Federated Farmers keen desire to set up trout farming operations, and proposals to allow some of our most iconic and pristine environments such as the Mackenzie Basin become used for intensive dairying.

15 Feb 2010: Further threats to Canterbury rivers
Hidden challenges to our fisheries

Hidden amongst the recent attention grabbing announcements of tax changes, the Prime Minister's opening statement to parliament included a series of statements that will have a much longer lasting and more profound effect on New Zealand. John Key stated that the government would be "looking at regulations that may be preventing natural resources being used most productively" and …."where the current regulations are stifling all prospects of growth".

In particular he mentioned the removal of "particular regulatory roadblocks to water storage and irrigation in Canterbury" and that "this will be in addition to the work already being carried out .... on progressing water storage infrastructure throughout the country". This means that many rivers that already experience low flows during the summer months could be further reduced to allow water extraction to occur for irrigation and that many rivers around the country, such as the Hurunui in Canterbury, will be dammed for water storage.

12 Feb 2010: The need for a political solution
Getting political

I am keen to make anglers, hunters and others more aware of the issues and threats (and potential solutions) to fishing and hunting in New Zealand. As a result, I have taken on the role of spokesperson on environment and outdoor recreation for UnitedFuture (the political party with whom the Outdoor Recreation party merged).

Some UnitedFuture policies relevant to anglers are that:

  • Access to New Zealand’s freshwater fisheries is a basic right that should be accorded to every New Zealander. The exclusion of the average New Zealander from specific fisheries through the denial of access is unacceptable
  • The commercialisation of trout species and other freshwater species will remain illegal in order to preserve our freshwater fisheries for recreation and tourism
  • All New Zealanders have a common right to access unpolluted freshwater fisheries and waterways for recreational use.

You can see UnitedFuture policies on the outdoors on the UnitedFuture website. Let me know what you think by sending an email to doug@nzfishing.com

9 Feb 2010: Politicians raise cause for concern
National Party cheers speedier consent process for dams

It has been a few days since I have been out fishing and most of my time has been spent on the website lately. I will be heading north for a couple of weeks visiting and fishing around the Bay of Plenty starting Sunday and so feel that a little work in between is OK.

Today I did something very different and went down to watch the opening of parliament and to listen to the Prime Ministers speech. Much had been previously reported but I was very disturbed to hear about how the government sees water as a resource and will be looking at ways to speed up the process so that dams can be built (particularly in Canterbury - much to the cheers of the National Party members) to make more use of the "water resource". There was no mention of the cost of this to the many members of the public that will loose a valuable fishing resource and those like guides and lodge owners whose income depends on it.

On Friday I am meeting again with Peter Dunne from United Future who has developed sound outdoor recreation policies. The outdoor recreation wing of UnitedFuture needs to be revitalised and given a new life. I have looked at all the political parties policies and believe that UnitedFuture has the best policies that will protect our rivers, lakes and forests. (This came as a surprise. I thought the Green Party would have the most appeal but they seem anti fishing and hunting and even seem to want trout and salmon removed from some waters).

Maybe we need to get political. After all, the politicians seem intent on moving in on our recreational pursuits.

4 Feb 2010: Fishing a forgotten land
The Kaiwhakauka Stream

The last day of this trip and Anna and are taken by Wendy from the Blue Duck Lodge to look at a very remote water the Kaiwhakauka Stream that enters the Whanganui a few hundred metres below the Retaruke confluence. While the lower reaches of the Retaruke are quite tannin stained and discoloured due to the effects of the farmland the river flows over, the Kaiwhakauka remains pristine even after heavy rain because it flows through native bush.

What is more it is one of those small streams that calls out to be fished. But beware, although you can see it from the track (easily walked to from the Blue Duck) it requires some scambling to get to. The stream is a series of pools and rapids and although it does not hold many fish those that are there are feisty and acrobatic. This is one water where you will not meet another angler.

There are two ways of getting to the Kaiwhakauka. One by scambling down a steep bank (and remember what goes down at some stage has to go up again) or taking a kayak or boat to the mouth and walking upstream. There are plenety of kayaks for hire at the Blue Duck Lodge and if you are lucky and / or plan ahead you could even get taken in by jet boat.

This is a country steeped in forgotten history. The government at the turn of last century tried to open up the whole area for farming giving returning soldiers from WW1 parcels of land to develop. The steep country and poor soils meant that even the best efforts of these pioneers were doomed to failure and now you can see the remains of old houses and shacks that were abandoned over the years. The hills are now reverting to native bush and the bird life is returning. And through it all, the fish have remained as always with few anglers to disturb them.

Anyone is looking for an adventure away from the crowds with the chance to explore almost virgin water, I can thoroughly recommend this idyllic valley. But if you do venture in here remember that Wendy came for a few days and is still there. It seems to have that effect on people.

3 Feb 2010: Anna and an eel compete for dinner
Fishing the Retaruke

The one thing we can say about trout fishing is that the best fishing is usually found in the most isolated places. Driving from the Waiouru area to the Blue Duck Lodge on the Retaruke brought this truism very much to mind. This is really the backcountry - huge bush clad hills and wonderful bird-life including kiwis!

The Blue Duck Lodge and its sister accommodation, the Whio Lodge, are a long way from any shopping malls or cinemas. To get there is a 45 km drive down a side road (much of it gravel) but on arrival you realise why the effort was worth it. This is truly beautiful New Zealand. And the drive should be done slowly with a few stops to appreciate this wild and mostly untamed (and as the past failed settlers will attest, untameable) country. The lodge is not far from the ill-fated "bridge to nowhere".

Blue Duck Lodge

Blue Duck Lodge / Whio Lodge

Dan, the owner of the Blue Duck Lodge and his manager Wendy, are into conservation in a big way and will show you with huge enthusiasm how they are restoring the bush and wildlife into something we all can be proud of. And the lodge itself is a fantastic place to stay - quiet and very clean.

Anna and I fished the first evening at the confluence of the Retaruke and the Whanganui. The river was still high and rather silt laden in these lower reaches and although a couple of fish could be seen rising they were not to be tempted.

So next morning we headed to the Retaruke headwaters. It is quite a drive back up the road but the fishing was great. Both brown and rainbow trout to about 2kg in weight. The water always looks slightly stained but in fact is clear and is a delightful series of runs, rapids and very deep pools. And Anna at last achieved her ambition - she cast to and landed a very good fish. The only problem was that as she was playing it an eel decided her catch looked like its dinner and took a huge bite out of its stomach. When the fish was netted we saw that it was too damanged to return so (without much reluctance) we decided to keep it. Over a campfire by the river we cooked it for a wonderful meal that evening. What a day - though after nearly 10 hours walking and fishing we did enjoy the comfort of the Blue Duck Lodge on our return.


2 Feb 2010: A spring creek saves the day
The Tokiahuru a real find

Having been unable to fish Lake Moawhango Anna and I needed to find a new place for her to practice her casting on some fish. Unfortunately the rain the night before had meant that most rivers in the area where we were heading would be unfishable. It was then I remembered the spring creeks near Ohakune and so we headed down the Whanganui Road to see what the Tokiahuru was like.

At the first bridge we came to we found a very friendly farmer fixing a fence who gave the usual 'go for your life" response to our request to fish on his property. He even suggested we park near the old school which we did. The river was a little high and dirty but still very fishable.

On her second cast Anna landed a small brown trout - and oh boy was she pleased with herself. We then meandered upstream and fished a number of pools and runs generally touching or landing at least one fish in each. The Tokiahuru is a delightful water, swift and cold with plenty of bankside vegetation. The trout (a mixture of rainbow and brown) seem to be between 1 - 2 kg and pretty feisty. In many places the trees completely covered both banks and met in the middle of the stream and while this made fishing these sections impossible it obviously provided good cover for the fish.

We realised how lucky we were when we arrived at the Retaruke later that evening and found it flowing high and brown. The Tokiahuru had saved the day by providing a superb afternoon's fishing. And the Retaruke is a fast clearing river so tomorrow should be great!

1 Feb 2010: The safest trout in New Zealand?
Lake Moawhango update

I think I have found the safest spot in New Zealand for trout to live out their days undisturbed by man, bird or beast. And that is the Moawhango River as it leaves the tailrace of Lake Moawhango.

This small river is directly in the path of the firing range for the military to test their shooting prowess and while that may not sound safe, the fact that the recruits are firing over the river at targets on the surrounding hills means that the worst a trout can endure is the noise and vibrations from the heavy explosives. I for one would not like the idea of fishing this most attractive small stream as shells howled overhead.

Last Friday Major Hibbs took my daughter Anna and I onto the Waiouru military base to see Lake Moawhango and to give a first hand look at why it was probably not the best place to let itinerant anglers wander around. While the lake itself is seldom part of the maneuvers and target practise, there are plenty of hills around that are. And lets face it, not every recruit is a good shot. While there we watched as some military personnel blasted away at targets near the lake. These seemed loud enough but I was assured that the shells they would fire a few hours later were several hundred times more powerful. I did not wait to see these fired.

Children's fishing day

What I did discuss with Major Hibbs was the possibility that we set up a "Take a Kid" fishing day(s) at the lake when there was no firing practise happening. This would need to be very tightly controlled as the area allowable and safe to be in is around the southern shore by the dam. Everyone coming in must stay in a defined area and no-one can wander around as there are unexploded shells outside the area.

But as some sections of the lake are safe and clear of any danger this is a wonderful venue to learn to fish for feisty wild trout. The fish are extra-ordinarily plentiful with catches of around 10 per hour the norm (but a 1lb fish is a good fish and there are very few that reach anywhere near a kilo).

DoC and Fish and Game are keen to assist set up this day's fishing event and the army will no doubt turn it on for the youngsters. What we can promise is a day that the kids will remember for the rest of their fishing days.

We hope to set up the first Take a Kid Fishing day on the lake early next season (mid to late November was discussed) and so keep an eye on the nzfishing.com website for more information.

24 January 2010: The threat of trout farming
Trout farming

With the weather still being foul I am unable to get out on the water today (never mind, I am going for 6 days fishing with my daughter Anna next week and that includes a day on the Lake Moawhango no less, courtesy of the Waiouru Military camp).

One issue that needs to be carefully monitored is the threat being posed at present by Federated Farmers in their drive to make trout farming legal. We have been alerting readers to this issue through our In the News pages and the thoughts of many anglers from both here in New Zealand and abroad are summed up by this comment by Will Thomas:

"Hi Doug,
I am a retired airline pilot and life long Trout Fly Fisher. I have fished New Zealand many times during my life long quest for Trout. Without a bit of exaggeration I believe NZ is the best Trout fishing on earth and I have fished in many parts of the world.
After reading the articles about fish farming, I would like to say, PLEASE don't destroy what you have by allowing this industry - like you I am appalled that the fishing may be made legal to farm."

The Federated Farmers do not understand the issues and the cost to our sport, tourism industry and operators, and our reputation as the "anglers eldorado" if trout farming were to be made legal. One consultant claimed that, "the fish.. (would be) ... fed a natural red pigment, the same given to salmon, turning the meat a deep red contrasting with the white meat of wild trout" and went on to state that "You rarely find a wild trout in the same condition as a farm trout. Why would you want to eat a wild trout when you've could have a farm trout?" See the full article and others on In the News

Is this what we want? Trout with dyed flesh? Sections of our lakes and rivers (which are all publically owned) given over to "commercial trout herders"?

The big difference to salmon farming of course is that salmon are mostly farmed at sea in cages; trout would be farmed in our publically owned rivers and lakes. And once trout became legal to sell, the black market for our fish would be huge as the authorities would not be able to distinguish between a farmed and wild fish and so poaching would be a threat to our fragile fisheries. Trout farming must never be allowed to happen in New Zealand.

Let us know what you think about this issue by sending an email to doug@nzfishing.com

23 January 2010: Access issues
Lake Moawhango update

I have been in contact by email and phone with the authorities at the Waiouru Miltary Camp and have been contacted by a number of others such as the Taupo Dept of Conservation (who are in charge of the fishing and hunting in the area) about the issue of accessing the fishing on Lake Moawhango. Many people have expressed concern that this lake is out-of-bounds for anglers and are hoping that the lake can be opened up for access.

I have learned however that the lake itself does have some issues as a fishery. Being a man-made lake when the Moawhango River was dammed to provide water for the Tongariro Hydro scheme, it is subject to huge water level fluctuations (up to 17 metres!) and so does not provide good habitat for fish growth. In fact it is filled with huge (and I mean huge) numbers of small fish of around 25 - 30cms in length. Apparently a 1lb fish is an excellent size from this water. It is also used at times for firing practice by the military - not the times I would want to be out chasing small fish!

That said, when the miltary are not shooting across it, it is an ideal water for young people to learn to fish on as catch rates are astoundingly high. Apparently DoC ran a Take a Kid fishing day there a few years ago and 10 fish per young angler per hour of fishing was easily achieved even by novice anglers. I am visiting Waiouru next week and will keep you posted. But having talked with the military and DoC, my thoughts are at present to see if a compromise can be reached where we have the lake open for certain times of the year where clubs and others can take kids to the lake for a superb day's fishing. There is nothing like catching your first fish to be hooked for life. If you have any ideas or comments please send an email to doug@nzfishing.com

Rangitaiki River access

Also of concern is the issue that has simmered over the past few months regarding the removal of access rights by the new owners to that section of the Rangitaiki River that runs through the Kaingaroa Forest and includes some of the best fishing on this fabulous river including the Wheao Canal and Flaxy Lakes.

There is a brief summary of the history and the situation to date and we are in contact with Eastern Fish and Game and others to ensure we keep informed as to what is happening. This is a very serious issue and we are keen to see that it is resolved as soon as possible and the rights of anglers to access the fishing on the Rangitaiki is quickly restored. Again please send us comments and thoughts to doug@nzfishing.com

19 January 2010: Fishing the Rangitikei
The Rangitikei

Anyone in the lower North Island looking for a great river to spend a few hours (days / weeks or even months) would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful river than the Rangitikei. The upper Rangitikei headwaters are renown for their huge fish in crystal clear water (and many anglers flying targeting the wary double figure trophies the water is famous for) and so we decided to stay in the middle section.

These middle reaches are easier to access (though not that easy) and have fantastic runs and pools with a great head of fish in wonderful water. To make matters even better is the scenery - it was not by chance that some of Lord of the Rings and the River Queen films were shot here. The backdrop to your fishing is spectacular (though I must admit my attention was firmly on the river).

Andrew and I had dropped in to visit Stephen and Trudi at Tarata Fishaway and were able to spend the afternoon on the water. While I cannot say we caught a heap of fish (three each) we did see others and lose a few. We enjoyed it so much our two families have booked in for a weekend later in January at Tarata (we were lucky that there had been a cancellation) and will then get Stephen to take us down river by raft (a Tarata speciality). This way we will be able to fish some of the more remote sections (and Stephen having lived and run a lodge in the area for years really knows where the fish are). By then I hope the cicadas will be out so I will let you know how it goes.

15 January 2010: Keeping our access open to rivers and lakes
Lake Moawhango I rang the Waiouru Camp again today about fishing Lake Moawhango but the person I need to speak to is still on leave and will not be available until later next week. I will continue to pursue this issue and wish to thank those that have been in touch with me about the issue of access to the lake. It is good to know others feel the same way I do about it.
Retaining access to our fishing

On the subject of access I received this heartfelt plea from Graham Hughes at Central South Island Fish and Game today

Close the bloody gate!
I have recently received a call from a frustrated farmer at Lake Ohau who reports that he and his neighbour are about to lock gates because of the number of gates left open by anglers during the recent holiday period. Anglers and hunters have always been well received in the Lake Ohau area and will continue to be, provided this simple task is adhered to. Follow the golden rule, close and securely fasten any gate you open.”

11 January 2010: Lake Moawhango update
Gaining access to lake Moawhango

Today I rang and spoke to the Executive Assistant to the Commandant at the Waiouru Military Camp and asked for permission to fish on Lake Moawhango that lies close to State Highway 1. (There are good roads leading to and around much of this man made lake). I have heard that this is a superb fishery yet it is closed to the public (though I understand that military personnel are able to, and regularly do, fish this water). I received a cool and cautious reply and was asked to send in an email making my request. I have sent an email asking for permission and asking for any reasons why it cannot be given.

I am yet to receive a reply and will keep you updated on this issue as I know that I am not the only person that is frustrated that such a wonderful fishery is being kept away from the public. And as I said in the first email, I do not think that the excuse that there may be live explosive around carries much weight as it appears that the defence force personnel can and do fish this lake regularly.

I am keen to hear other people's opinion on this matter.

7 January 2010: Central Plateau wanderings
Lahar Lake a real find

I was lucky with the weather recently when Andrew and I headed north to the Central Plateau to fish some waters we had not been to before. We stayed at the budget Snowy Waters Lodge and were extremely well looked after by the host Sandy Waters. For those looking for cheap, clean, comfortable accommodation to explore the rivers and lakes around Raetihi I can thoroughly recommend Snowy Waters as a great base. It is presently a work in progress but has all you want. It is very quiet and best of all is at a great price.

Snowy Waters

One area we wanted to fish was Lahar Lake. This remote lake (you will not find it on any map) is man-made, being created in 2000. It is spring fed and quite deep in parts. Most fish are stocked rainbows and these grow to impressive sizes. I am ashamed to admit that I lost the first eight fish I hooked as they seemed to know instinctively where any snag in the vicinity was located. Having two flies on a leader was a disaster and it wasn't until I tied only one fly on and upgraded to 8lb leaders that I was able to tame these beasts. This lake is like a small Otamangakau - small water, huge fish. They seem to average around 4lb plus and as they have an abundance of food are plump, fit and feisty. Watching big fish leap out of the water to attack a dragonfly was great to see.

Anyone wishing to know how to access this water should contact me. It was found by chance and is a real find. It is not easy to access as it is at the back of a hunting block and permission from the land-owner is absolutely necessary. And if you go do stock up on blood worm imitations - these were the lethal fly that the trout loved. I only had a few and these are now all firmly embedded in some submerged tree trunks.

Access to Lake Moawhango denied

We were also hoping to fish Lake Moawhango which is on defence force land. Initial enquiries were positive. We were told by a friendly member of the army that all we needed a special permit but when we approached the range controller it was a different story. We were told in the bluntest terms that there was "no way that we were going to fish their lake as we were not members of the defence force". The reasons were not given but it appears that this beautiful lake is seen as the private domain of the army in the area.

We will be investigating this further as we at nzfishing.com are absolutely opposed to private fisheries being established in this country. And the argument that there may be unexploded bombs in the area and so it is not safe does not wash!! If there are bombs lying around I think someone should go and pick them up - they could also hurt army personnel as well as any intinerant angler that goes into the area.



Taumarunui Holiday Park

Go Bush Wilderness Adventures

Go Bush Cabin

Fernleaf Farmstay

Fernleaf Farmstay

The Rangitikei

Tarata Fishaway

Tarata Fishaway

The anticipation: Stephen puts John onto a fish

Hook up


The Manganuioteao

The Waioeka

Simon with a Waioeka trout

A river of contrasts

Wairata Station

The Rangitikei

The Rangitikei as seen from Tarata Lodge

Andrew's first Rangitikei fish

Stephen guiding


The rapids where I took an unwelcome swim

Tarata Fishaway

Tarata Fishaway

The Kaiwhakauka

And yes, those hills are as steep as they look

The Retaruke

The upper Retaruke

A quiet pool on the middle Retaruke

Anna with the fish the eel wanted

Tokiahuru Stream

Anna fishing the Tokiahuru

Lake Moawhango

Anna at the Moawhango dam

Major Hibbs and Anna with danger sign

Lahar Lake

Photos by Andrew Peacocke

Rangitikei River

Photos by Andrew Peacocke

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