Date: 23 February 2021
By Peter Wilton, DOC Taupō Fishery Ranger, and James Barnett, Taupō Fishery Community Ranger.
As a DOC Taupō Fishery Ranger I am very mindful of how anglers see me and how my actions can influence perception of how we manage the Taupō fishery. My principal role involves interviewing anglers and gathering survey data, which is used along with data from other scientific studies, to inform fishery management decisions.
I believe the first few moments when you meet an angler on the riverbank are critical. They must be positive, friendly, and professional. As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”.
After a very busy winter season where I interviewed nearly 550 anglers on the Tongariro River, I am pleased to report that the reception from all but a very few was friendly. Winter 2020 was one of the best trout spawning seasons we’ve seen in the Taupo Fishing District for decades, which meant anglers were catching plenty of trout and in an upbeat mood. This certainly helped start many conversations on a positive note.
I am an angler myself, so if I were to compare the way I approach anglers to the way I approach fishing, I’d say, “Don't just wade straight in, observe the scene first, then approach with caution. Good presentation is key. If the situation requires it, adjust the line and always remain positive. Watch the indications carefully and expect results!”
Most anglers respond positively if treated with consideration and respect. Continuing with the fishing analogy, some offer more of a challenge than others, but a considered approach can often positively influence the outcome. It’s great when you walk away from an angler with both of you smiling, having shared a story and a few tips - all while remaining professional in your work.
I recall one situation a year ago where I met a couple on the upper Tongariro River. They were on honeymoon having travelled to NZ from their home in Mexico City. They wanted to give fly-fishing a go and this was their second day on the river. While happy, they were yet to catch a trout. I offered some advice, re-rigged their lines and selected a small green caddis nymph from their sparsely filled fly box. On a wave of fresh optimism, the young man waded into the river and cast his fly. He turned to me and asked, where should I cast next? Strike, I shouted as his indicator dipped!
That five-pound prime Tongariro rainbow trout will remain a lasting memory for the honeymooning couple and a memory I'll always savour while wearing a DOC trout fishery uniform.
Finally, I’d like to thank all the anglers I approached this winter - meeting each of you was a privilege. ‘Tight lines’ and I hope to see you again on the river next season.