Following from the trophy challenge final and quite a bit of debriefing with fellow team mates and other competitors a whole bunch of interesting things have come up. First and foremost it seems to be about that level of confidence that does the trick and sometimes that has little to do with expertise. The argument though is that if you have a proper strategy and possibly a more technical approach than your fellow competitors then you should have better results.
Generally (given the time of year) winter patterns seem to be the best approach from the beginning of June through till the end of July, in fact improving the closer we get to July.
Your approach is a difficult choice and decision, with very little time available in each session the big question is always whether one should
tube or not. I reckon its fine to fish from the side if you know where the fish should be or are and that (fishing from the side) would only really play a part once the sun is up from say nine onwards. The brighter it is the better the winter patterns will work.
So back to the beginning, target fish at first light on the surface with a dry line. Possibly if the rise form is sub surface then a small white death or emerger, if they’re smashing and feeding more aggressively and breaking the surface something big and white and or a minnow /baitfish imitation should work. Most importantly the technique will work better the darker it is. Shallower water should produce better results, careful observation will help in identifying where they are moving. Keep a look out to for any visible sign of a hatch, you might find a large dry stripped on the surface will produce results even if you can’t match the hatch.
So, you’ve missed out with one or two guys having got a few fish and the suns up now. Bright sunny winters day, crystal clear water and you are struggling. Casting out two or three big naturals will often do the trick, especially when pulled along the bottom, a good idea would be to have the last fly lighter than the rest so it bumps over thin weed rather than being pulled through it. Most important here is to keep the fly as far away as possible from you at all times, remember that it is clean water and the suns up, fish should prefer watching the substrate. Generally 2 -3m of water would be the best zone to consider, it is said that deep water holds a reservoir of warmth in winter as the temperature on the sides declines rapidly following sunset. In any event, the water right at the bottom in excess of 4m is not pretty stuff full of detritus and rather smelly. The idea has changed somewhat from a few years back of fishing a small fly (real imitation) up front with a larger more aggressive pattern behind tied NZ rig. I prefer a slightly gawdy and bright pattern up front with a real imitation behind and far apart, possibly as much as 2m between each fly, with the most realistic pattern at the back. The greater the distance the better. The converse is true when fishing attractors up front with a real imitation closely behind. In fact the closer a small nymph behind an egg the better and here the smaller the better. No more than 50cm should do the trick.
Obviously the colours and types of streamers and bugs need to be changed, but more importantly is too try to find that 2 -3m of water, depth and fly action being more important. If they’re not feeding they’re not feeding, the difficult part is keeping the chin up when all those about you have caught theirs.
So the time has caught up with you, you’re heading for the end of the session towards midday and still no results. With an hour to go it’s time to get out of the tube. You’ve tried boobys, various coloured buggers, streamers and the rest to no avail. String up the floater, small attractor upfront and nymph behind. Walk slowly and quietly, concentrating on getting the sun behind you for better sighting of fish with your all important Polaroid’s. You’re in trouble if there is a big chop on the water by having reduced the visibility. Any shale and rock will form the best locations to scout and should provide the right spot for fish to try and spawn. Often fish will keep chasing each other around over weed, if there are fish rising relatively close to banks in the same position time and again, chances are that they are chasing each other around. Again observation is really important.
Gone are the days where a single fly on intermediate line would produce consistent results in a competition. Especially after each dam has been thrashed and paddled flat by the Spanish Armada of floating craft. What worked on the first day most probably won’t work the next day. If you’ve had ten casts and produced no fish then its time to change. Change in depth, technique or location. Mix it up wherever possible, there’s no point fishing two or three similarly weighted flies in the same level tied Nz style. They must be tied on droppers and be as far apart as possible and preferably of different sink rates, thereby moving at different heights. Years back it was quite important to try and fish a single pattern that had a sink rate either slower or faster than the line. I think the same still applies. Colours must be changed. Last year anything white worked well as well as flies with hot orange beads, we couldn’t or didn’t get many results this year on the same patterns. Every season is different and I dare to say that its not just about confidence. Another point is that fish generally speaking swim and patrol up and down the bank, not in and out, therefore by changing your angle of your presentation and fishing slightly closer rather than further out and deeper, then the better the coverage of your fly line.
Your’e on the bank and have finally seen some signs of life and they are pretty preoccupied with chasing each other around, walk slowly. take your time and approach them giving yourself the best cover, ie don’t walk straight down the steep bank toward them. Get below the bank to the left or right of them and get within a reasonable cast. Throw in front of them letting them swim onto it. Normally the fish wont just take the fly outright, don’t be disappointed wait for them to swim around again on their circuit. This time twitch the fly as they come onto it. They’re inquisitive things and it seems to rattle their brain when it doesn’t move the first time. Rarely will you get spawning fish if you continue to thrash the water even with different aggressive winter type patterns.
Probably the most important part of the day is where the guy who’s worth his salt can target those fish at last light. Here the rise form is critical and will indicate how to get one. Patterns may vary 9even from day to day) and will include fishing emergers just under the surface static as well as dries to stripping a bright streamer close to the surface. Nothing beats a 50cm plus fish taking a size 18 Griffiths gnat in six inches of water. It doesn’t matter about the approach as long as you don’t blank!