In the 1970’s, I was raised on a dairy farm
a few kms out of Tokoroa - a timber mill town in the
middle of New Zealand’s North Island. We were
resourceful kids making our own fun & excitement
from the materials and locations nearby. We shot rabbits,
built tree huts, helped on the farm with chores, built
rafts to navigate the local stream, and spent a lot
of time getting to really know ourselves inside.
the Pokai in my Welsford Truant
When I was maybe 12, a couple of mates and I decided
we’d take the ‘pup’ tent, a kerosene
cooker, fishing lines and sleeping bags on our bicycles,
ride 5 miles or so up the road to the Nicholson’s
farm and go cross country for a few miles to a nice
little spot on the banks of the Pokaiwhenua Stream.
After many stops on the way for no particular reason
at all, and after eating half the supplies we’d
brought along, we pitched the tent and laid out our
bags. We swam in the waterhole, had dinner of baked
beans with dessert of tinned peaches, and after night
fell talked and laughed ourselves senseless until
sleep finally overcame us.
We awoke to a misty morning and decided conditions
were perfect to catch a trout for breakfast. The fishing
rods were equipped with our favourite ‘lucky’
lures and each of us claimed a length of stream to
catch the monster that lurked beneath the fresh, fast
flowing water. As with most 12 year olds concentration
soon waned, Derek decided an eel would be easier to
catch so he baited a hook with bacon we had brought,
Colin decided he could forgo the thrill of fishing
to cut down a tree with his hunting knife. I persevered
with my copper ‘spoon’ lure, casting upstream
and down, and slowly retrieving in the hope of a strike.
Oh the hopefulness of youth!
The entry to
That elusive strike never happened. Colin never felled
the tree. Derek only caught a freshwater crayfish
(Crawlies we called them). I didn’t catch a
trout that trip. However, almost 40 years ago, we
had a really great time for a couple of nights, on
the banks of the “Pokai”.
Since building my 11’6” Welsford Truant
I have sought out as many fishing/boating spots as
I can. Some for sailing, some for sea fishing, lake
fishing, or river navigation. As it happens, the Pokaiwhenua
stream flows into the Waikato River at Lake Karapiro,
some 50km upstream from our home in Hamilton. I thought
my darling wife Gail and I could go for a look to
see what that end (about 50km from Tokoroa) of the
‘Pokai’ was like.
The one lane
bridge at Horahora Road
We launched TruantSea at the Horahora Water Ski club
on Lake Karapiro, amidst dozens of high-powered craft
dragging skiers, wake boarders, or inflatable donuts
at phenomenal velocities. The little 2hp Honda outboard
soon had TruantSea at hull speed of approx 4 knots,
for the 3 km (or so) run up the lake. The ‘Pokai’
enters the lakes Eastern shore with a wide stream
mouth with its banks covered in broad verdant rushes,
and it winds its way, only 2-3 metres deep, with very
little current evident for about 800mtrs up to the
one lane bridge at Horahora Road. Small fish and wading
birds are in abundance.
Upstream after the bridge, open land gives way to
native bush – right to streams edge and a river
gorge about 1km long develops. Steep sided banks develop
into cliffs and the vegetation clinging to each side
joins overhead – filtering most of the light.
Moss and lichens drip moisture and trickle down to
the water and the air cools. The only sound being
the putt, putt from Mr Honda’s little 4 stroke.
The stream narrows further to be only 3 metres or
less wide in parts and there are scrapes in the mudstone
banks where larger craft have touched.
In the middle
of the gorge
We saw a bird nest sited in a hollow of the bank
– just above flood mark – and two chicks
waiting for food from an absent parent. At night the
moist walls of the gorge are lit with glowworms (so
I’m told) and the stream gently pushes through
the confined space at only 2-3 knots. A Christian
camp/retreat on the other side of the lake apparently
brings Outdoor Education classes up the stream frequently
for study sessions. The gorge then opens out again
back into sunshine with farmland on one side and pine
clad cliffs rising 20-30 metres on the other. The
grass is right to waters edge. The stream banks are
intermittently lined with willow trees overhanging
the water and at some bends there are pools and eddies
with sandy bottoms. Ideal spots to tie up and picnic,
or toss a line into the stream. A sign says camping
prohibited – but who’s to know?
I caught a small rainbow trout at one such pool.
The fish interestedly followed the rapala lure for
2 or 3 draws, then struck and put up quite some fight
for a minute or two, before tiring and being reeled
in. It was only 15 cm long, so back into the stream
it quickly went to fight another day. A 12 year old
I would have kept it.
Almost at the
Gail caught sandflies. They weren’t prolific
here, but for some reason the poor woman is instant
bait. We continued upstream, frequently seeing the
bottom at only 2-3 foot deep. Truantsea’s shallow
draught makes navigating in places like these a breeze.
Around a few more bends the stream splits in two for
a short time and narrows, making it only just navigable.
However, that is only for a few hundred more metres
until the willows and other trees overgrow the banks
and clog the stream, making progress in anything other
than a canoe/kayak impossible.
I’m told that apart from a small waterfall
5 miles further upstream, it would be possible to
get up the ‘Pokai’ all the way to Tokoroa
– about 50km away. Perhaps someone in a Welsford
canoe could take a few days off, and try it?
The end of the
We stopped for another short time and had a quick
look around, then turned downstream again. Isn’t
it strange how the view changes from the opposite
direction? Still beautiful, still peaceful and scenic
– just different. We dawdled in the gorge, stopping
a few times to take in the serenity and natural beauty
of the place. Back out in the stream mouth fish were
jumping and wading birds were at work in the shallows.
After a quick run over to the opposite lake shore
at Finlay Park Christian camp for a look around we
turned back for Horahora Domain and the ski club.
After a 25-minute motor and after negotiating loads
of powerboats buzzing up and down the ski lanes, the
little motor ran out of petrol only 20 metres from
shore after 1½ hours running.
On the way back
So, there it was… the ‘other end’
of the Pokaiwhenua stream that had given me vivid
memories from over 35 years ago. And, there were still
fish in it. Gail and I enjoyed a good afternoons boating
– albeit at a sedate pace, and TruantSea had
brought us there and back on only 1 litre of petrol.
A bigger boat, with a deeper hull than our 11’6”
sailing dinghy would not have been able to negotiate
the frequent shallows of that stream.
Yet again, TruantSea has shown itself to be an extremely
versatile little vessel.