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Fishing the Tongariro - A History of Our Greatest Trout River by Grant Henderson

Fishing the Tongariro is filled with fascinating facts about the introduction of trout into the Taupo region, the characters who fished the Tongariro in the early years and how they fished, the famous pools and big flood events that mark this river as one of New Zealand’s most famous trout fisheries.

There is a surprising depth to this book, although it reads somewhat like a series of cameos on different topics. This is perhaps due to Henderson having drawn upon a wide range of materials, including that provided by the well-known Taupo angler and prolific writer, the late John Parsons.

From the early days before the Tongariro power scheme restricted the river’s flow, access was limited, and opportunities to fish were dominated by the powerful river and the surrounding wilderness. The book tells the story of how early New Zealand resisted the practice of private fishing waters common in the United Kingdom and how gradually this led to the access licence holders enjoy today.

There are plenty of personalities in this book. Major Rhys Jones was an early angler who gained renown fishing “with the fly” when many used spin tackle, a legend that lent his name to Major Jones Pool, even today one of the rivers’ best-known stretches. The book tells of Joe Frost, one of the earliest fishing guides, the numerous visits by Zange Grey and a royal visit. These early fishers took vast numbers of trout from the river, usually measured in tonnes per season. It describes how the lure of Tongariro trout helped develop the region’s fledgling tourist industry and the arduous and basic nature of this early experience.

There are also the stories of the famous pools, such as the mighty Dreadnought and the great floods that washed them away and created new ones in their wake.

I am a keen angler and frequent visitor to the Tongariro, and I found the stories and photos fascinating. I would have liked more on some of the well-known pools we fish today and how they got their names, but perhaps those stories are lost to history. For the fly-fisher or those curious about the early years of the Taupo region and its embryonic tourism, there is plenty here to keep you interested.

Reviewer: Andrew White

Bateman Books


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