Turangi: Lure of the lodge

By Kerri Jackson

After mixed fortunes fishing, Kerri Jackson decides River Birches luxury lodge is a better catch.

River Birches luxury lodge commands pride of place by the river. Photo / Supplied
River Birches luxury lodge commands pride of place by the river. Photo / Supplied

Fly fishing is like surfing. I am married to a fly fisherman. I am also married to a surfer (they are the same person, I hasten to add) and as the plus-one of such a sportsman it becomes apparent both involve a great deal of driving from place to place to test conditions, trying to find a spot nobody else knows about, then milling about for a very long time waiting for something to happen, all the while convinced conditions are perfect wherever you are not.

Fly fishing, however, does involve far less risk of shark interaction so I have relented and agreed to give it a try in the world-class waters of the Tongariro River where it meanders through Turangi. I am doing this under the tutelage of guide Bryce Curle, who kits me out in fetching armpit-high waders before leading me into the rushing waters of the Tongariro for a trout baptism.

After a lesson in casting, which Curle makes look impossibly easy, I am out there doing it myself, quickly discovering it is impossibly hard. Where his line shimmers out like a ribbon, elegantly soaring into the water, mine flops like month-old asparagus.

But, miracle of miracles, I almost immediately catch a trout - admittedly with Curle doing most of the leg-work while I flail the rod in a panic. But a fish is landed, admired and released. Job done.

It is ridiculously exhilarating. But after that, no matter what part of the river we try, and Curle's immeasurable patience in trying to tweak my appalling casting, the trout are coming nowhere near my oddly jerking fly.

No matter. By now my casting arm is knackered and I am happy to retreat to the nearby calm sanctuary of River Birches luxury lodge.

While the husband continues to torment the trout of the Tongariro I pad around the lodge's new self-contained cottage like a contented cat, armed with food, a good book and a wine or two, moving only to follow the sun around the arch of the deck.

Around me quail, fantails and tui express their irritation at my presence in their manicured, secluded garden, occasionally shouting from the middle of the pond or dive-bombing me from the tree-lined perimeter.

I am interrupted only once and that is by local naturopath Noleen who's come to massage the life back into my casting arm - as well as the rest of me.

The stylish, modern cedar-clad cottage at River Birches is the latest addition to this luxury hideaway, located almost on the banks of the Tongariro.

The cottage has three bedrooms and is a perfect option for families or small groups who want the benefits of boutique, luxury accommodation while being a little more self-sufficient and secluded from other guests.

A fully equipped kitchen allows you to cook your own meals (service options are also available) and there is also a laundry.

The cottage sits on its own, but right next to the main lodge, which has three luxuriously appointed, and each slightly different, guest suites. There is also a small gym, living area and library. It all manages to feel very spacious yet gorgeously intimate and very relaxed. And it's all surrounded by tree-filled beautifully maintained gardens that give the whole place a wonderful sense of seclusion.

If I never catch another trout I will be happy enough.

But if I never return to River Birches I will be very sad indeed.

IF YOU GO

River Birches is located on the edge of Turangi, perfectly positioned for fly-fishers, skiers and snowboarders hitting the slopes of Ruapehu, or trampers tackling the Tongariro Crossing. It's about a 30-minute drive from Taupo.

Suites at the lodge range from $395 to $615 a night, or you can book the whole lodge from $1330 a night. The self-contained cottage costs from $360 a night for one person up to $970 for the entire cottage.

* River Birches' food is fabulous, but if you want to sample the local food scene, start at Licorice Cafe in nearby Motuoapa.

* Contact fishing guide Bryce Curle at bcurle@xtra.co.nz or (07) 386 6813.

- NZ Herald

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