Upon flying into thriving Tauranga on the North-East coast of New Zealand's North Island, the undeniable geographical feature of the town and the reason for its existence, is the harbour. A massive expanse of clear water flats that well travelled fly fishers from around the globe would salivate over with anticipation. Reaching for my Air New Zealand serviette I realised I was personally going to spend the next 10 days on that magnetic water.
The port itself sits on the South-Eastern end of the natural harbour close to one of two outlets making the harbour a very large bay protected by the equally as long and stunning Matakana Island. The significance of this natural harbour to us is the tide and the flats that are 1-4ft deep on high tide. Low tide can still be knee high and in some places sometimes only the artery type channels remain. These channels on low tide can be where it is all at.
The white sand beaches lining the flats and the water remaining gin clear is as close as New Zealand gets to a sub-tropical paradise. The average summer air temperature range is 19-24C.
Many overseas travel agents call Tauranga sub-tropical, but fortunately and to their ignorance it doesn't quite meet the negative criteria to the delight of anglers and non-anglers alike as storms and swell have little to no effect here.
From those locals whom we met, there is a wealth of good people in Tauranga, an openness and acceptance especially amongst the local fishermen, letting people try something new and applauding the effort. The people have a very fresh outlook and it was a privilege to witness on a city scale.
We were often greeted by locals and tourists alike, asking what the fly rods were for, often starting conversations with the joke that gets old even on first utter "you won't find any trout in there" but still a friendly and 'happy to help' nature with local information and hearsay where nothing is too much to share.
I suppose what I'm trying to say, is that Tauranga harbour, idyllic flats lined with Pohutukawa trees turning red for Christmas, a comfortable sea breeze complimented by 22C heat, a depth of culture, wineries, good local produce driven restaurants and hotels, beautiful beach backdrops, drop dead sea front houses, an up to date fashion driven shopping precinct and good people with a smile on their face and ‘can be’ bothered to say hello and have a chat. Yes… again, I suppose what I'm trying to say is I wish I could bottle the formula they have here. Oh, and by the way the salt water and fresh water fly fishing is profoundly extraordinary, did I forget to mention that?
A quote from Castabroad:
“There is something about Tauranga that has everything, but just that giant bit more. I have desperately tried not to compare this location to that of all the other fabulous fly fisheries across the globe. No disrespect, few other places can beat this... it's all here in the fishery but with a top notch airport to get you here, a range of accommodation across a range of budgets, a fishery not overly affected by adverse conditions, politics or environment, there's no creepy crawly slithery things out to get you, so many things to do for non-fishing partners or even for a break from the water if required, and if one species isn't responding, turn to some of the best trout streams on the globe, or the most underrated sports-fish the Kahawai aka. the Australian Salmon, or maybe the Trevally, or the Snapper… All with the same experienced guide and within an hour between salt water flats and fresh spring creeks – Take your pick!The key factor here is you are not marooned on a distant island with nothing but fishing. This fishery seems to have popped its head up as an add-on for the locale, and now that we have experienced it, it’s proven to be the shiniest jewel on the crown.”
For more detail on the region, to make a booking with Clark or check possible itineraries here, enquire with Castabroad New Zealand – www.castabroad.com
Part 3 is all about the salt water flats fishing. Keep checking back because now it gets really exciting!