Lake Rotorua, New Zealand

David Holmes

Formerly known as "capmblade"
If you had read the "Saddest Fishing Report of All Time" then you might have been wondering what happened to me. Let me catch you up.

I closed out Act I of my life in Washington by saying goodbye to everyone, selling my house, giving away my Jaguar and moving to Colorado to be near my son. I took a new job (actually the greatest job, ever) as a Technical Marketing Manager with my company. It requires that I travel about 20-30% of the time. That's fine, it means that Act II is starting out with something of a World Tour.

I'm on one of those trips right now to Australia and New Zealand. Unlike previous trips to Tel Aviv or New York, I was able to get some fishing in on this trip. I had arranged customer engagements in Sydney and Melbourne (both beautiful, modern cities) and then a day of engagements in Auckland, New Zealand. I asked the sales guy in Melbourne "How long does it take to get to Auckland?" He replied "It's about 3 hours and 20 years back in time."

New Zealand is different from Australia. Okay, the language is kind of the same, but the people are more laid back and the sales guy was right in that you feel like you are stepping backward in time. In Sydney and Melbourne its all tailored suits and fancy, trendy fusion restaurants. In Auckland it's T-Shirts and flip-flops.

After finishing my business for the week, I rented a car and nervously drove the "wrong" side of the road down from Auckland for about 3 hours to Lake Rotorua, a large inland lake on the North Island with a beautiful geyser-based tourist town on the south side of the lake. Checked into a local resort motel - everything on that side of the lake smells sulfuric from all the geysers.

Lake Rotorua is in the crater of a volcano (hence the sulfuric geysers everywhere). As you probably know, Trout were unknown to this country before the European settlers brought them here. Trout have done very well in New Zealand. Lake Rotorua is lousy with rainbows and brown trout. Ten pound browns are common here, and everyone who fishes here locally catches one sooner or later, sometimes from shore.

Guide Ernest Skudder picked me up at 7 in the morning and minutes later we were launching into the lake. Throughout the day we trolled (or hauled, as they call it here) two flies on sinking lines on different parts of the lake. We caught a fish or two every hour, all rainbow trout ranging from 1-4 lbs. In the States I would say "ranging between 15-23 inches" but they never talk about fish in length here, its always pounds even though they are on the metric system. Ernie said fishing was slow, but at the end of 8 hours we had caught about a dozen and kept eight of them.

Kept them? In the States I'm a Catch and Release fisherman, but according to Ernie, we're encouraged to harvest them here to keep the population down. You see, on a busy day there might be 3 boats on this large lake (80 sq km) and there are so many, many trout. So we kept these and let an equal number free. Knowing this board, I anticipate getting some negative feedback about the "stringer" picture, but that's okay. I always secretly wanted an old-timey-style picture of me holding up a branch of big trout, now I have one :) Honestly though, if it had been up to me, we'd have put them all back, but whatever.

I kept two of these fish for myself, and Ernie gave the rest to some family and friends. I shook Ernie's hand, thanked him for a great day, and took my two fish over to the local Amazing Thai restaurant. I offered one to the chef as a gift and they cooked up the other one for me in a Panang Curry. He ended up lookin' (and tastin') pretty good I think.

The next day I went exploring to some other nearby lakes that Ernie had recommended I visit. The water was high and too calm for fishing, so I ended up going on a hike around one of them (Lake Okaru). It is summer-time here; hot and humid. Very different from the freezing, blizzard-like conditions of my new home in Colorado.

On that second day by myself, I only caught one small fish and lost one good one. I wished I had brought my little Trail Boat. Next time!

If you're a serious fly fisherman you may have imagined tromping through high mountain valleys in search of elusive ten pound browns in remote trout streams. From what I understand, that kind of fishing is at the south end of the South Island of New Zealand, and I was nowhere near there. However, getting to New Zealand was easier than I thought it would be, and I can tell this is someplace I'll be coming back to, maybe next year.

If I decide to visit Lake Rotorua, well, it has an "international airport" right next to the lake. Ernie says you that on Tuesdays and Saturdays you can take a 737 from Sydney directly to Lake Rotorua, and if you arrange it with him, he'll pick you up on shore, right next to the airport. How cool is that!

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
David, did not know you had relocated to CO. Do now know that I'm jealous of your start to Act II Globetrotting with a fly rod. Very envious. Can't wait to see you post more trip reports from places that I'll likley never get to fish. Where ya going next?


Not to be confused with freestoneangler
Great report David. Sorry to hear about Act I; I wish you all the best with Act II. But, if you do get back down to NZ from Oct-April, I'd fly directly from Sydney to Queenstown, not Rotorua. The South Island is heaven. I once spent a month on the North and 4.5 months on the South Island and if I had it to do again, I'd make a beeline due south as soon as I landed.

PS. I still fish the 4wt you left out on the front porch for me and I love it!


Indi "Ira" Jones
As a Stillwater guy the idea of a lake filled with hungry trout that get little pressure makes me salivate. Thanks for the report.

David Holmes

Formerly known as "capmblade"
@freestone - next time I visit, I promise to go to the South Island. I mean, if you've already traveled half-way around the world, why not go that extra little bit?

I'd forgotten about that 4wt, glad you are liking it!

I know exactly what you're talking about. In 2009 I spent a week there (three days in Rotorua) and a week in Australia, mostly around Sydney. I enjoyed them both, but I really loved NZ!

Fishing on that lake is awesome, but if you get the chance try some of the spring creek action just north of there around the Waiketo. I was there in July, their winter, and had booked a guide months earlier for a couple of the larger rivers. It rained hard for a week before I got there and all the rivers were blown way out. I could'nt reach the guide by phone, but assumed we would be "No Go." I went down to the hotel lobby anyway that morning and to my surprise he showed up ready to fish. We drove through some beautiful farm country (including where they filmed the Shire sceens for the Lord of the Rings) and spent the day sight fishing nice sized spring creeks that were clear and full of big rainbows.

NZ is much more laid back and easy going. I definetly plan to go back!
Nice report. As a Colorado native transplanted to the Northwest I am envious of all the trout water you have access to in Colorado. Would love to move back some day.