Trying to Fish in Taupo

Fishing on a beautiful day in Lake Taupo, New ZealandI’ve only been fishing once in my life. It was during an extended stay on the island of Ko Lipe. A few of us had rented a boat to explore the nearby national park and islands. For lunch, our Thai captain went out to catch fish. I was one of the few who went with him, each of us allowed a chance to catch something.

Fishing in Thailand is done the old-fashioned way: a hook attached to a line thrown in the water. Very simple. Our lunch bit while I was holding the line. I had caught a nice lunch for everyone, but in the process managed to slice my finger open. A bittersweet victory.

Trout fishing in Taupo, I had a completely different experience. Instead of line fishing in an open long boat, we went fishing with a modern sonar-equipped boat, a surly but hilarious captain, and very high-tech fishing rods. It was a completely different world.

Launching out into the lake after lunch, we went in search of trout. We were a venerable United Nations of fishermen hailing from all over the world looking to kill an afternoon as well as some fish. Our hunt didn’t go too well, though. In fact, it didn’t go at all. After our captain used some high-tech equipment and weights to drop the lines 120 feet below the surface, we cruised around waiting for our first bite, each of us picking a line to use. Then we waited longer. And longer. Eventually, getting bored and grabbing a few beers, we went to the top deck and took in the view.

Lake Taupo on a dreary day in New ZealandAnd what a view it was. Taupo is my favorite place in New Zealand. The area is absolutely stunning. The town is situated on the biggest lake in the country, and from here you can see Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings) and Mount Tongariro (the site of the greatest one-day hike in the country). Nearby you have hot springs and the amazing Huka Falls, where the water is extremely blue—it’s like looking at an iceberg. I loved Taupo and loved even more sitting out on the lake cruising around, taking in the sun, watching the other boats, and marveling at the mountains in the distance.

We had rented the boat for two hours, and the more time passed, the less it seemed like we would catch anything. Our captain was getting more aggravated, cursing about how he hated going back empty. He tried to placate us with a few more beers, and as we were listening to him rant about the local culture, we saw it: a pull on one of the lines. Then another pull. We had two fish.

And one of those fish was mine. It was time to catch the second fish in my life. Except, I had no idea what to do. I’d never used a reel before.

“How do I reel it in?” I asked.

“No silly questions!” the captain yelled. “You reel it in by turning the wheel!” he said, pointing angrily at the rod.

So there I was reeling in my trout. It didn’t put up much of a fight, and pretty soon I had it. My friend also reeled in his fish, and soon we had a mighty feast. Driving back into port, our captain was all smiles and happy we had caught something, even if they weren’t the biggest trout out there. It was an exciting day on the lake, the sun was shining, and the air was crisp. Despite the surliness of our captain, he was hilarious and made good conversation. I wish I could remember his name so I could recommend him to you.

Yes, I loved Taupo.

Nomadic Matt holding a fish he caught in Lake Taupo, NZ

For more information, visit my guide to New Zealand travel.

  1. I’ve only gone fishing once too – if you don’t count the fishing for sunfish in the pond in my backyard when I was little. It was deep sea fishing on the Vineyard and I loved it. It must have been so cool to go in such a beautiful place! Fishing is definitely something I want to keep integrating into my travel plans in the future.

    • NomadicMatt

      I found fishing to be a bit boring. Too much sitting around. I enjoyed hanging out in the lake more than the actual fishing.

  2. Andy

    …and now i´ve got taupo on my places-to-see list for my rtw trip, starting in january! 😉

    nice pictures. but you really should start uploading larger images. 250x188px ist just way too small for my eyes. 😉

  3. Taupo is great – I will always remember going to the hot pools at Turangi as a kid, in winter, where the air temperature was around 0 degrees celcius and the water temp around 40

  4. Tino

    It’s funny how well you did with the low-tech stuff vs. the high tech equipment. It just goes to show how sometimes all of these so called improvements we think we are making can’t beat out intuition and tradition.

  5. Matt – Great story. I lived in Taupo until only recently. It is not only a fantastic place to visit, but it is an amazing town to live in. I think the lake has magical powers that can make even the most unhappy person laugh. I also spent a lot of time doing the Huka Falls run at least once a week. The water levels changed so much week to week it was almost as though it was a new experience everytime I visited. I was also able to find some fantastic hidden spots where the view of the falls was even better than where most of the tourists stop.

    Keep up the great work!

  6. Ellen

    I live in Taupo now. If you are still about, give me a shout via email and we’ll have you over. Merry Christmas too from an American expat.

  7. Rob

    I’m a landlubber. However, I grew up next to the Gulf of Mexico. My father operated a shrimp boat. My family & I ate fresh fish, regularly. We fished from the Texas City Dike, Galveston piers, Clear Creek, freshwater lakes further north. I wasn’t as gifted at fishing like my dad. But, I fished when he fished. Nevertheless, once I let the nest, I stopping fishing. But those memories of living close to the water, baiting trout lines, crabbing, etc. are still strongly with me. I can still smell the salt air of Eagle Point in San Leon, Texas. So, thanks for your story; it brought back good memories. :)

  8. You make me laugh, talking about that captain – he’s so surly he must be worth a recommendation. Did you really forget to note down his name? At least you got the fish!

  9. Hey matt! Way to go! I never got a chance to do much on Lake Taupo when I was in New Zealand. I did however do the Taupo Hot Springs, they were amazing. Met some cool people in there. People love talking to the guy with a bottle of Gin. They know he means business. haha. The following day I did the Taupo Bungee, best cure for a hangover out there. Looks like you had a blast! Fishing’s not really my game either, but I like the idea of socializing on a boat with some beers. Nice change to socializing in a hostel, or cafe, or bar, etc. How’d the fish taste btw?

  10. Hi Matt,

    Fishing is really fun. I saw just a few posts about Dubai, last time you discussed Dubai was the interview with Lara Dunston. You don’t like the Dubai’s weather or hate travelling here? :(

    If you ever plan to visit UAE, please email me. As a blogger I’d love to meet you.

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