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Freshwater fishing

Freshwater fishing methods

Other fishing

The winter season by month


The Tongariro on a cold winter morning

Photo from Ken McWilliams

Fishing during the winter months differs from the warmer summer as the insect life is much less prolific causing trout to look to different food sources. They will more likely to be found in the deeper pools.

Trout during the winter months are much less selective feeders and more opportunistic in their feeding habits. Of interest to them will be nymphs washed from rocks, freshwater crayfish (koura), snails and any small fish such as bullies, smelt, whitebait or even juvenile trout.

During spawning times a lot of fish ova or eggs can be washed downstream from the spawning beds and these are a firm favourite of the larger fish.


In May, fish are in top condition in readiness for spawning. Male trout especially, get more aggressive and territorial as they prepare to defend their spawning areas from smaller fish. Anglers can take advantage of this by using lures which provoke an attack response. Red seems to be a colour that trout, particularly rainbow trout, will go for. So your lures should incorporate red in some way. Other good colours are black and green. Yellow is good when the water is discoloured.

With good hatches of deleatidium mayflies occurring on calm clear days, most standard dryfly and emerger patterns in sizes 16 and 14 will work. Nymphing is still a good bet.


Good hatches generally taper off with the shorter days, but on high barometer with bright sun there can still be good fishing days, it is definitely worth trying your luck. From 11 am to 3 pm is the best time. Young fish will eagerly take a large dry fly such as an Adams or Royal Wulff, emerger patterns or a beadhead nymphs swung across and down the current. Otherwise spinners and sunk lures will often induce a response.

On many rivers an egg pattern can be effective as the spawning runs will be in full swing.


Water temperatures are at their coldest in July and so fishing is relatively slow. Anglers need to fish deep, slower water with deeply sunk nymphs, lures or spinners. Fish at optimum times, such as mid afternoon on sunny days with a rising barometer.

Fish activity starts to increase towards the end of July as days lengthen and water temperatures increase. Spawning fish start to drop back downstream to their usual lies and begin to feed in order to pick up condition again. Some fish will move to tidal waters where they can gorge on the smelt, whitebait and torrent fish moving into the rivers in spring.

Rations are few and far between at this time of year so trout forage far and wide for food and theoretically are therefore become eager to take artificial lures.


Photo of Waikaremoana by Igor


In many areas around the country (though not Taupo) the spawning is over and the fish will mostly have dropped back down in the rivers and into the lakes. They are hungry and with the insect life at its lowest they are much less selective in their feeding habits.

Many fish will move down into tidal areas where their is a better food supply. At this time the whitebait and smelt become one of the major food sources and so lures that imitate these small fish are good options. Fish will also be found close the lake edge cruising for food.


From September (which marks the beginning of Spring), the temperatures begin to rise steadily. Frosts can be severe but these cold nights are usually followed by clear still days. The fish begin to respond to the changes and become more active. There will often be a large number of poor conditioned fish that have just spawned and are moving back downstream to “mend” or put on weight and condition. These fish can be aggressive feeders but due to their poor condition (they are often referred to as “spent” fish) are poor fighters.

While trout actively chase whitebait in the rivers as a good source of food, resident lake trout, particularly in the central North Island will actively feed on the small introduced smelt. These small fish congregate around the lake edges and shallows to spawn around this time and hungry trout move in to take advantage of these excellent food source. Similar flies as those used to imitate whitebait and smelt are very effective when trout are chasing these small fish.

Winter fishing

Photo by Cook Family




Bradley Smokers

Bradley Smokers



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