The boat ramp on Waipapa is just up from the Waipapa Dam at the bottom of the Lake, with Lake Arapuni below that. The fact that there's no carpark at the boat ramp suggests it doesn't get much fishing pressure. From what we'd read, we could expect small rainbows and a chance at some 4kg browns.
One of the great things about fishing the Hydro Lakes is that usually you can't see any other people, a true sense of isolation. Waipapa is the most scenic of the Hydro Lakes, with large cliffs set amongst a mixture of native bush, redwoods and other pine trees—especially scenic once the dams go out of view.
We began by entering the Waipapa River that flows in near the boat ramp. There is a small entrance below a bridge, not much wider than the boat. This then opens out into a large forested lagoon. This time we had two boats – a larger fibreglass boat and a smaller tinny. The two guys in the Tinny (nicknamed the Dukes of Hazzard for their high speed, fish-spooking approaches to new fishing spots), were glad to see a floating platform in the middle of the lagoon and got a break from sitting on their metal bench seats.
We saw some large fish acting in a predatory way on the surface, making bow waves – the fish were here so that's always a good start. A few follows up to the boat and platform eventually led to a hook up of a small rainbow that later became a delicious lunch cooked on the boat. The fishing slowed a bit so we moved further up the river, hooking a few small rainbows on our way.
Not far up, we arrived at a waterfall where we tied up to the edge of the main flow, below the waterfall. I was able to nymph the run with a hare and copper and picked up a couple of small rainbows.
We also got out of the boat and waded up to the plunge pool below the waterfall and fished this with rabbit flies below ball sinkers on spinning rods. Joe really dialled in his technique here, with a couple of very good fish hooked before he managed to keep one on the hook long enough to get it in the net – a good condition 4lb rainbow!
We left the Waipapa River and headed further up the Lake, tying up the tinny and all jumping on the larger boat for speed. Not a huge Lake, it didn't take too long to reach the top of the Lake. The Maraetai Dam comes into view and resembles something out of Tomb Raider. Surrounded by bush, this impressive feat of engineering is cut into the rocky cliffs.
From the top of the Lake we drifted down with the current, fishing 360 degrees around the boat with flies and spinners on spinning rods. The summary of this session is that we had a lot of hook-ups with good healthy rainbows in the 3-5lb range (we know this as most of them jumped after being hooked) but most of them spat the hook, except for a respectable fish for Hadley that made it to the net.
This was deep water with a swift current, where we expected most of the fish to be on the edges but most of our hook-ups happened out in the middle of the Lake near the surface. On one drift though, we saw a large 6-8lb brown trout sitting on rocks at the very edge of the Lake, perfectly still. Of course, we proceeded to try and catch it but Joe unfortunately hooked the overhanging tree, as we drifted off down stream, still connected to the tree.