Flooded rivers and heavy rain, what now? (Part 1)

Updated: Aug 6

After a dry start to the Taupo winter season with low rivers and few fish, we have all been wishing for loads of rain to kick start the season. That's great until Murphy decides that the rain should come smack bang in the middle of your much-anticipated and long-awaited fishing trip.


Pawel and I had arrived in the wider area on Friday to fish some alternative water with the pending weather bomb threatening to wipe out our weekend's fishing overnight. As predicted we woke up to some good rain in Turangi on Saturday and a looming heavy rain and wind warning in place. What now, do we pack up and go home again? Not necessarily.


Safety first.


Whatever you decide to do in this sort of situation the first thing to keep in mind is safety. Heavy rain in the Taupo region generally means rising and eventually flooding rivers. Some rivers are even prone to flash flooding. So the first thing to consider is safety. If in doubt stay out.


Check the river levels. Check the forecast.


We are lucky in New Zealand that the majority of our rivers are actively monitored and we have a pretty much live feed to their flow rates. Keep an eye on these to see what river levels are doing. Alongside this, you need to keep a constant eye on the weather forecast.


Tongariro River Level: https://www.genesisenergy.co.nz/about/generation/rivers-lakes-and-rainfall/tongariro-at-turangi-river-flow


Tauranga-Taupo River Level: https://waikatoregion.govt.nz/environment/envirohub/environmental-maps-and-data/station/42456/WL?dt=Level


Local knowledge.


There is no substitute for local knowledge. Unless you have prior experience of what the river levels and flow mean they really don't mean much. So if you are unfamiliar with these get local knowledge. This includes what are safe flows and how the rivers behave during heavy rain e.g. which rivers are prone to flash floods or rise quickly and which stay safe and fishable longest.


Even though we had reasonable experience in the region we gained valuable insights from our friend Brian Wilson (guide and owner of Guiding and Fishing Turangi Ltd. in 8 Wiremu Street). He suggested that the Tongariro and Hinemaiaia would be our best choices but the Hinemaiaia offered more shelter from the wind. So that is where we went.


Hooked up on the Hinemaiaia river
Hooked up on the Hinemaiaia river

As we crossed the SH1 bridge in the gloom we could see at least one brave soul fishing the Tongariro bridge pool and the river flow still looked good. We fished the Hinemaiaia river for the morning and landed some good fish between us. It rained most of the time but the Hinemaiaia was clear with normal flows up to when we left around lunchtime as the river became too busy and the fishing went a bit quiet.


The Tongariro was already colored and a bit high but still very fishable. The blustery wind saw us change over to our two-handed trout spey rods to swing some flies. The decision was clear that we would not even consider crossing and we would be keeping to a stretch we knew well with an easy exit.


Estimated 5.5lb rainbow trout hen on the swing in a rising Tongariro river
Estimated 5.5lb rainbow trout hen on the swing in a rising Tongariro river

Know when to stop.


After three takes I finally hooked and landed a stunning rainbow trout. A hen of around 5.5lbs in great condition. After landing and releasing the fish we noticed things starting to change more rapidly. The green still somewhat clear water started turning brown and debris and pumice started appearing. While the excitement of just landing a great fish was still fresh in my mind it was time to pack up. We made our exit while it was still early afternoon.


The Tongariro went to 424 cumecs that night, that highest for some time.


Watch the short video below to see how our day went.


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