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Latest updates: April 1st 2018
From my archives:The Mentally Strong Bird Dog
Tracking the Great Masters
After a poorer snapper season last year, this summer has fished really well in Northland.
Aidan has very much been obsessing with his free diving and spear fishing but hasn't
lost his first love of fishing! He has also been out with his .22 air gun shooting possums
and rabbits. I don't know if it's age creeping up on me but I've been quite happy with the
freezer being added to, without me having lifted a finger. Finn and Hayley have also
been back in the water, both in salt water & fresh water. That leads me to the latest
expedition Aidan and I have had; trout fishing in Te Urewera back country.
Mataatua marae today
and circa 1907 above
Te Urewera is a rugged hill country in the heart of the North Island, land of the Tūhoe iwi (tribe), romanticised and
vilified and betrayed. Driving south-east from Rotorua through flat, fertile land of orchards and farms, this was once
Tūhoe land, until in the 1860s
they were forced by the Crown to retreat into the bush clad hills of Urewera. Soon after
the headhunted Maori leader and warrior Te Kooti went into hiding in Urewera. Government forces and other Maori
tribes used the scorched earth tactics, punishing the Tūhoe people for their alliance with Te Kooti. At Ruatahuna
Tūhoe honoured him by building the most ornate meeting house in the country of its time, built between 1874 - 1888.
Our good friend Derek Slatter has been going to the Ureweras for several years and has a well-established contact
with some of the locals. Now that his two sons Jack & Scott have become old enough to partake in the fairly advanced
tramp into remote bush area, he has enjoyed introducing them and some of their teenage mates to the back country.
I couldn't join them on last year's trip but Aidan did. This time as last time also with Derek's mate Mark and son Dylan.
This year we were also invited to stay our first night, after the long drive from Whangarei, in the historical Mataatua
marae. We arrived there on Thursday night and the following morning we did the four hour walk into the first hut. On
Saturday we walked another hour to the next hut, where we stayed two more nights. At midday on the Monday we were
then helicoptered back out. Derek, Mark and I back to Ruatahuna to collect the cars, while Aidan, Jack, Scott & Dylan
were picked up and flown to the helicopter base at Murupara.
The Whakatane River through Te Uruwera
Te Ureweras
Good mates Jack & Aidan
Being above average interested in cooking I brought a limited amount of ingredients to my back country kitchen. Aidan
was giving me hell about my backpack only containing food ingredients and that I was going to be negotiating rivers
carrying a little chili plant through the rapids. Not quite that bad but everyone was happy to dig into freshly cooked
trout in between the brought dry food. The average trout size caught on this trip was a bit smaller than the average
last year. A major flood after they were in last year made changes to the riverbeds and many fish would have been
washed further downstream. There were still fish to be caught though and we released several of them.
The four musketeers Aidan, Scott, Jack & Dylan
Cooking up the trout caught by Aidan & Dylan first day
Aidan cleaning a nice rainbow
Above with my first Urewera trout, the average size on this trip.
On the right with the biggest fish, approx 1.7 - 1.8 kg. Aidan
caught one slightly smaller which he released. I always enjoy the
trout fishing. It's something I've done a lot of back in Scandinavia
but on the Northland east coast salt water is predominant and
takes priority. So on this trip Aidan and I gave the deer hunting a
miss. At this time of the year you'll find the stags high up on the
ridge tops with their hinds, while younger, frustrated animals can
be found in the lower bush. We still saw deer every day we were
in the bush, both Reds and Rusa. Reds being the most common,
at one stage reaching pest like numbers which required
government led culling programs. Rusa being the least widely
distributed deer species in NZ, most of them found in Urewera.  
Derek shot a Red on last year's trip and Mark shot one on an
evening hunt on this trip. Mark pictured right with his son Dylan,
ready to carry it back to the hut.
Continue for more Te Urewera photos
Mastermind Derek Slatter