Junior trout anglers learn the ropes from one of Tarawera's best video

MARK TAYLOR / STUFF

Great family fun on the opening of the Trout Fishing Season on Lake Tarawera

The reel whirs, the rod buckles and excitement erupts on Lake Tarawera as the first trout of a new season is hooked.

It doesn't take long - just minutes since we ran the harling lines into the water, took our seats again and said: "Right, we're set."

Te Tai, my nine-year-old son, is first to the rod.

Joel Taylor, 12, left, and Te Tai Wipani Clendon-Smallman, 9, check out the fry at the Ngongotahā Trout Hatchery, Rotorua.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Joel Taylor, 12, left, and Te Tai Wipani Clendon-Smallman, 9, check out the fry at the Ngongotahā Trout Hatchery, Rotorua.

He's been buzzing with excitement since we left Hamilton on a Saturday afternoon with Stuff cameraman Mark Taylor and his drone-piloting son Joel Taylor, 12, at the invitation of Fish & Game New Zealand.

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Joel has never fished before, he says, but Te Tai caught his first trout two years ago at Lake Rotorua - a 2kg whopper he hasn't forgotten.

Brook char, tiger trout, rainbows and browns on display at the Ngongotaha Trout Hatchery.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Brook char, tiger trout, rainbows and browns on display at the Ngongotaha Trout Hatchery.

The boys are in for a treat this weekend.

Lake Rotorua comes into view as we near the end of our drive on State Highway 5. Our first stop is the Ngongotahā trout hatchery, where Fish & Game NZ communications adviser Grant Dyson waits.

It's a chance for the boys to look at the trout life cycle. The hatchery room is filled with thousands of juvenile trout.

Hundreds of anglers ready to go for the opening of the Trout Fishing Season at Lake Tarawera.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Hundreds of anglers ready to go for the opening of the Trout Fishing Season at Lake Tarawera.

Fish are trapped at the Te Wairoa stream at Lake Tarawera. Eggs and milt (fish sperm) are milked from the fish, mixed in a container to fertilise and reared in hatchery ponds.

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An aquarium at one end of the room has a selection of fish on display - the common rainbow and brown trout, an albino trout, brook char and tiger trout.

Brook char is an introduced species while the tiger trout is a hybrid of a brown trout and brook char and is a rare catch.

Te Tai Wipani Clendon-Smallman, 9, takes in the view near The Landing at Lake Tarawera.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Te Tai Wipani Clendon-Smallman, 9, takes in the view near The Landing at Lake Tarawera.

Three trout have made it up a creek that feeds the Ngongotahā Stream and are in the hatchery room drain, which runs the length of the floor.

They have a steady supply of dropped fish food and are content with their surroundings.

Te Tai can't resist.

Harling lines out the back of  Lindsay Lyons' boat on Lake Tarawera.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Harling lines out the back of Lindsay Lyons' boat on Lake Tarawera.

He dips his hand into the cold rush of water overflowing from the fish tanks.

The drain trout, obscured under a wooden floor board, are submerged but their tails are visible.

Te Tai touches one. It reacts and, in a flurry and a splash, spins 180-degrees and takes off to hide under the next floor board a few metres away.

Water boils as trout in the display pool of the Ngongotahā Trout Hatchery fight for fish food.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Water boils as trout in the display pool of the Ngongotahā Trout Hatchery fight for fish food.

Outside, at the bottom of the hatchery ramp, a duck and her three ducklings huddle on the path next to a round display pool about 6 metres in diameter.

Mother duck is cautious. Three ducklings used to be four until one was taken by the enormous trout in the display pool.

The boys are fascinated.

The boys landed six from six trout in a great day on Lake Tarawera.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

The boys landed six from six trout in a great day on Lake Tarawera.

"Do they eat ducks?" Te Tai asks.

"All the time - and they'll give the big ones a crack, too, I reckon."

Each year, 80,000 hatchery trout are trucked to lakes around Rotorua and liberated - feeding a $40 million industry. Another 20,000 are trucked to other lakes around the North Island.

Te Tai Wipani Clendon-Smallman, 9, and Joel Taylor, 12, catch some whoppers on opening day of the trout fishing season ...
MARK TAYLOR Stuff NZ

Te Tai Wipani Clendon-Smallman, 9, and Joel Taylor, 12, catch some whoppers on opening day of the trout fishing season at Lake Tarawera.

"The hatchery is the linchpin for this whole lakes area because Lake Tarawera and these lakes here are volcanic lakes and because they are volcanic, there is a lot of pumice," says Lindsay Lyons, chairman of Fish & Game NZ and our Sunday fishing guide, explaining that pumice makes for poor breeding grounds for trout.

"You'd still have wild fish, but nowhere near the fish we have now."

Opening day is the highlight of the fishing calendar, he says.

Our catch on opening day at Lake Tarawera.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Our catch on opening day at Lake Tarawera.

For three months, during the winter fishing closure, the lake has been still.

That changes on October 1.

Hundreds of anglers are ready to go at the Saturday celebrations at The Landing at Lake Tarawera. Boats fill the beachfront.

Tarawera trout straight out of the portable smoker at the lakeside.
MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

Tarawera trout straight out of the portable smoker at the lakeside.

Te Tai's excitement has reached fever pitch.

He can't sleep and every hour, it seems, he asks if it's time to go fishing. For his trouble, he gets a grumpy reply: "Wait for the alarm, son."

Sunday morning at 4.30, Te Tai dives out of bed, gets dressed, grabs a bread roll for breakfast and is ready to go. I make him cereal and try to get him to eat.

Mark is at his door and Joel is getting ready. The drive to the lake from Rotorua takes about 30 minutes. 

Boat ramp car parks are full of empty trailers. Lyons is waiting at the Stoney Point boat ramp with his chocolate labrador, Bree.

We're told there is no one better than Lyons to put us on to trout. He's fished Lake Tarawera his whole life and spent 34 years as a fishing guide. His grandfather had a bach on the lake.

Clients include former US President Jimmy Carter and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. But today, it's Joel and Te Tai.

Fish & Game has been at the forefront of the water-quality issue, he says. It was asking the hard questions when no one else was.

"Some of the rivers we have in New Zealand now, trout don't live in them because the water has got that dirty and polluted," Lyons says.

"You used to have rivers and streams you could see 25 feet [7 metres] into the water. We've got to protect it and Fish & Game are right at the forefront."

We putter out to the 5-knot limit and Lyons opens up the motor to roar across to the white cliffs at Mourā Bay and we get about setting the rods.

Reels are screaming. Bree leaps about the back of the boat and props herself next to the outboard motor, motioning toward the water.

Lyons coaches Te Tai as Te Tai plays the trout towards the boat - a nice fish to start the day.

Lyons gives the boys a lesson in identifying hatchery fish - a fin is snipped off - and explains how it feels vibrations through the water with lateral lines running down the length of its body.

The hook and fly are checked for damage and lines go back in the water to trail behind the boat. While spooling line from the reel, a second fish bites.

It's Joel's turn.

"Wind it in," says Lyons after he cuts the motor.

There is no fight in the fish and Joel is uncertain.

"It might not know it's got a hook in its mouth. It will wake up soon," Lyons says.

Sure enough, the fish takes off.

"When it pulls, let it go," Lyons says.

Joel takes Lyons' instruction. Back and forth they go. The fish takes line, Joel wins some back until, eventually, he lands his first fish.

He's elated and it's a beauty.

Six fish are hooked and six fish are landed - and licked by Bree - in the space of 1 hour and 30 minutes, including a 2.9kg fish for Te Tai. Job done.

It's 10am. The weather is closing in and we're back at the boat ramp.

The fish are measured and weighed by Fish & Game NZ workers and we fire up the smoker for a quick bite before Joel and Te Tai climb into the back of the SUV.

Bellies full, the boys are exhausted and quickly fall asleep.

"You've got to keep young guys interested," Lyons said. "You've got to catch fish for them because this generation of kids is about instant gratification.

"Fishing, on a day like today, you have to get out there and do the yards and have patience. That's something kids don't have today and that's patience."

 - Stuff

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