Friday, January 3, 2014

Not quite off the beaten track

Considering it's reputation for big trout, I'd never fished Lake Arapuni. It's one of the large hydro electricity producers on the Waikato River, and is home to rainbow and brown trout along with the usual assortment of coarse fish. So with a bit of exploration in mind, TT and I set off with boat in tow and headed to Arohena, the site of the southernmost boat ramp (excluding the crime ridden Waipapa landing). Given that we'd never been there before so not knowing what to expect, and having negotiated a bit of gravel we were stunned when we arrived at a beautiful DOC camp ground, well patronised by families in large tents. Boat trailers were everywhere; clearly its a very popular and pleasant spot.

We drove through the camp, dumped The Booger into the lake and set off.

The lake is stunning, surrounded by pine forest and a bit of native and the bottom features are interesting. Water qual not so great looking though, the water was a bit murky but I expect that the turbines at Waipapa chew up quite a bit of aquatic weed and spew it out.

As we travelled we marked streams entering the lake for attention later. We passed a few trollers on the way south.

As we got closer to the headwaters below Waipapa, the banks closed in somewhat. What a stunning lake. No sign of fish movement though. Finally we hit the mouth of the Mangawhio Stream, which leads up to a magnificent waterfall. We carefully negotiated the stream before tying off and fishing the stream up to the falls.

Only a short stretch, but devoid of fish. (We would find out why later).

Soon the sound of the waterfall came through the bush.

It was simply stunning, a great wild place. We fished the waterfall pool for half an hour without feeling that confident, then headed back downstream, jumped in the boat and continued south to the Waipapa dam.

While TT rigged to fish large weighted nymphs through the current edge, I dragged a smelt pattern through the rough water. No sign of fish, so we moved around to the spillway and fished that. Nada.

Heading back downstream, we arrived at the first stream entering the lake. A crystal clear chuckling brook, emptying into the murk of the lake - it looked a chance for sure. As we drifted by we worked the inflow and finally TT hit a fish. On the board at last, a fat little rainbow soon graced the deck.

A bit of a grip 'n grin session before the fish went back.

We stopped at the the next stream mouth and I searched it with the smelt fly - just missing a fish as it slashed at the fly when I lifted it to cast... damn. We fished over the lip for no joy, then carried on.

At the mouth

By now a decent breeze was pushing against the current, aborting our attempts to drift past cover and fish back into it. By the time we reached an area called The Sticks, we began to see late afternoon fish movement, most probably smelting, but given the time of day (approaching 5pm) we called it and headed back down to the campground.

While I went to fetch the truck, TT got into a conversation with some kids swimming nearby. It turned out that his family and others had fished the same areas as us each day so the chances of finding undisturbed fish were remote... plus there'd been a jet boat derby churning up the lake for a couple days previously.

I'll take those excuses as the reason for me not getting a touch all day!

This place deserves some attention out of holiday time for sure.

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