A couple of years back my wife and I began planning my 40th birthday party. The plan was to have the party in New Zealand, one of my very favorite fishing destinations. We’d do a week of beaching, sightseeing, and maybe a little fishing on the North Island then travel South to Cedar Lodge on the South Island. Cedar would be the highlight as it specializes in helicoptering anglers into the beautiful back country rivers of Aspiring National park and the remote West Coast of the South Island.
The following is a rough photo journal and itinerary discussing activities and fishing experiences we had on this trip. New Zealand is one of the most travel friendly countries in the world. Friendly hosts, great guide books, information centers in every town, and an economy in many areas based solely on tourism make it wonderfully easy to get around with or without an itinerary.
Day 1 Arrive Aukland and get out of town. Now that is just our preference Aukland is a wonderful city with tons to do and if you are into sailing or have an opportunity to saltwater fish North of Aukland then by all means. We chose to stay at Waihi Beach a quaint beach side town on the Coromandel Peninsula where our friends Jeff and Edna from Eugene spend their Kiwi summers/Eugene Winters.
Day 2 Rested and relaxed find a beach and take in some sun. In Eugene it’s just a little bit cooler November through March. We take an easy forest walk up to some ancient Kauri Trees. There are so many awesome walks in New Zealand. They vary in length and difficulty but virtually without exception they are beautiful. Our day out includes taking note of a few local streams on the Coromandel Peninsula. There aren’t to many but John Kent’s North Island Fishing Guide does a good job detailing some of the viable options. The question was: Are any rivers/streams in shape? A cyclone had just been through the North Island and most of the rivers were out of shape. Our first hint to the disastrous weather conditions we were facing. Things weren’t getting any better down the road.
Day 3 Fish a local river about 30 minutes out of Waihi stay in Waihi again. Numerous accommodations exist including the very nice Waihi Beach Holiday park with many options ranging from tent sites to self contained cabins.
Day 4 Walk the Homunga Orakawa Track all the way to Waihi Township. This gorgeous walk is 2.5-3.5 hours depending upon your pace. It offers ocean views and an up close look at coast rock formations and native forests of the Coromandel. That evening we drive to Hot Water Beach, check out the last of the tidal shift at the beach and check into Hot Water Beach Holiday park.
Day 5 Head towards Whitianga and grab a tour with Glass Bottom Boat Tours and take in the scenic coast line including Shakespeare Rock, Cathedral Cove and Orua Cave. We did a short snorkel on this tour which made the whole trip in my opinion. Off to Hot Water Beach to hit the low tide. At low tide grab a shovel and dig you own hot pool. An underground river of hot water streaming up from a subterranean volcano is the source. It’s really cool. Not to mention it’s the only place I’ve ever been where you have 300 people in their swimsuits and 150 of those are snapping photos. Back to the Holiday park a Hot Water Beach for accommodation.
Day 6 Something for the kids, we drive to WaterWorks a fun water park utilizing “quirky Kiwi ingenuity”. Can’t get enough of the sun so we drive around the Coromandel Coast line near Thames and head back to Wahi beach for a bit more sun and sand.
Of course the North Island offers an incredible number of fly fishing opportunities. Especially around the Taupo Region and East coast of the central North Island. In our case the weather had really dropped a bomb on most of the rivers, and they were out of shape. Streams that flow out of lakes would have been the call we just decided to minimize the driving for our week long stint up north.
Day 7 Up early for a drive to Aukland our North Island tour is over and we are flying to Christchurch. After arriving in Christchurch we check into the Copthorne Commodore Hotel near the Airport we are picking up one of our angling guests the next morning and the weather is a blistering 95 degrees, the hottest day ever for that day on much of the South Island. So after being racked by rain we get a super hot day, accentuating any runoff. The next day’s weather is back to overcast and rain, a pattern is developing.
Day 8 Drive South to Geraldine for Super Bowl Sunday. I head to the pub of which there are a couple very good ones. They game is on and Shauna and Judy go check into our B+B Stonebridge just out of town. Whenever I get to the South Island I shift my beverage selection to Speights Brew. So a few Speights, ribs, fish and chips, an excellent game and the kids having full run of an empty new Zealand pub (nobody down here cares about American football) makes the day. Weather update: it’s been pissing down rain all across the South Island raising and in some cases wrecking rivers all over. That Sunday would turn out to be our true demise in terms of rainfall. I am writing this 10 days later and many rivers are coming right but rocks have rolled and fish have been pushed down into larger bodies of water we hope. We take a drive to check out a few streams nearby most are out of sorts. I like the Opihi and Opuha near Geraldine especially in early season.
Day 9 Stop and fish the Opuha River. The Opuha is a nice size river and is most likely best before Christmas. We see a few fish but catch nothing of note. Nice to get out on some clear water. We drive to Twizel that afternoon where we have rented a sweet Holiday House, check out Holidayhouses.co.nz there are a million, and this is a nice way to go on the inexpensive side with two couples or more. Dinner at Shawty’s our favorite restaurant in Twizel.
Day 10 Fish the Twizel River. The Twizel is another one that is probably best before Christmas but as it turns out it’s the only one in shape today so it’s a great call in February. We catch a surprising number of Rainbows and have a very enjoyable shortened day. Next stop Wanaka down the road 2 hours from Twizel and without a doubt my favorite town in NZ. Again we have rented a house, this one is called South Creek. South Creek is a fantastic house for larger groups ours has know grown to 12 not all anlgers mind you.
Day 11,12,13,14. We meet Dick Frasier owner of Cedar Lodge. We are excited to get fishing despite the windy, wet weather that has been lashing the South Island. Dick is obviously nervous, he told the last group into the lodge that there was nothing he do for them, rivers were out, weather was awful. It was the first time in 30 years that he had lost a three day stint of anglers in the lodge. We get our instructions regarding who is going where and when, and the Cedar schedule begins. Everyday we traveled via helicopter to new water. Dick did everything he could to get folks into fish and the guides Scotty, Deon and Paul were outstanding. Unfortunately we just didn’t have much to work with in terms of weather and water conditions. Despite the weather our experience at Cedar Lodge was fantastic. Dick Frasier is a great host and his wife and daughter Robin and Juliet are outstanding in the kitchen. Cedar’s pilot/guide Deon was solid as a rock in the chopper and both Paul and Scotty are true professionals when it comes to guiding anglers into fish. We are already planning our next trip to Cedar Lodge, it is truly a unique experience. If you have interest in going to Cedar in 2012 let us know we still have a few spots available.
The good news is 2011 was the worst post Christmas weather any local we spoke to can ever remember. Can it get worse for 2012? Or will the newly formed, freshened rivers of the South Island benefit from the Summer scouring?
We used five and six weight rods. I took some new gear down to give it a test run. The Loomis NRX 5wt was an excellent performer, as was the Winston B3X 6 weight and a surprisingly nice stick was the Hardy Sintrix 5. Lines were the new Scientific Angler Textured GPX, and reels the Nautilus FWX. Fortunately I had the new Simms Paclite Jacket which worked great. I would have rather left it in the bag all trip which was the plan when we booked a trip in high Summer.
A few more days to go, hopefully a few more grabs.–CD