Mindset might be everything, but I’m no shrink and I’m not going to pretend that the positive laws of attraction are going to get you more fish. But what is proven, is if you fish with confidence, you don’t second guess what you’re doing all the time and hence stick with the plan that will eventually yield results!

I have a few seasons (my wife might argue too many) of Winter Trout fishing in South Africa under my belt, so hopefully these cardinal basics will make your experience on the water more rewarding.
  1. Find the fish. As obvious as this might sound, to many anglers jump onto a water and start casting. Aside from the evident tell tale rises, you have to make an educated guess as to where the fish are. In the colder months, Trout will favour the shallows, either looking to go through their instinctual spawning behaviour or feed on the fringes. Spillways are a productive starting point, being easily accessible and generally have rock / shale, which the fish will mill around. Inlets will also have fish gravitate in this direction, looking for flowing water, but reeds / weeds often dictate that you need a float tube to work this area effectively. Dam walls, especially if they have a rocky layer on top, tend to have fish cruising up and down near the surface. It’s always better to cast to a sighted fish!

2. Work the top water first. Early morning is when the fish will be in the upper reaches of the water column, so tackle up with your floating line (I prefer the Airflo Superflo) and stay out of your float tube. Work those fringes, with short casts and a gentle presentation, the least amount of casting the better. A 12 foot leader is preferable. Your choice of retrieve is a little like roulette, in so far as static / slow or give them something to chase. I like to start very slow and let the fish find my fly and then only strip when I’m sure they aren’t buzzing your fly. Obviously, patterns in this respect vary greatly.

3. Patience will always be extolled as a virtue for fly fishers and I’m a big believer in keeping your fly in the water longer, as opposed to casting relentlessly. If you have to cast to a moving Trout, then make sure you lead it, any fly put on its’ head will invariably spook the fish. Patience is a relative term, so if you think you’re fishing slow, try fishing a little slower or try leaving your fly, but always keep in contact with your line. The finest anglers that I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with have more patience than I do.

4. Are they Feeding or Fornicating? This will dictate fly pattern, in so far as whether you are going to use a colourful set up,  to attract /  irritate the Trout or are you going to mimic a food source. Spawning fish are easy to spot chasing each other and will always gather around shallow, shale/ rocky substrate. Feeding fish will be largely found foraging around the weed beds and dam fringes, bare in mind that their food supply is predominantly made up of far smaller invertebrates at this time of year.

5. Time to Float tube. When the sun get’s high enough, (around 9am in Winter) then you can focus on some effective flow tubing. It has been called legalised trawling and although you might catch a lucky fish motoring around the dam, you’ll scare more Trout than you’ll catch. So, again find an area that you can work effectively, which will revolve around structure. Keep your movements to a minimum and make sure you cover this area with your fly before you disturb it with your tube (to a Trout we look like the QE2 bobbing around). Generally you’ll now be on an intermediate line, which is better than a sinking one, as you keep your fly in the water longer.

6. Induce the take. There’s no real textbook on retrievals or stripping your fly, your slow is another anglers medium, a pause can be any duration between retrieves and length of one’s strips vary greatly. But regardless of your retrieval, on a intermediate / sinking line I always induce the take or hang the fly. You never know what’s following your fly and all too often Trout will chase right up to the bank or your float tube fins. Get into the habit of simply lifting your rod when you’ve about 5 meters of fly line left in the water. This changes the direction of the fly from a horizontal motion to a vertical one, often resulting in the Trout committing right at the death. Do this on every retrieve, so it becomes ingrained in your style of fishing.

7. Fish where the fish are. Don’t move away from an area just because you caught a fish there. If there’s one fish there, there will be more, as it’s the habitat that holds fish. This is especially more evident in Winter, when they they tend to congregate. Hence work an area properly and methodically before moving off to find greener pastures.

Fishing still involves some luck and in the sage words of Gary Player, the more you play the luckier you’ll get.

Above all, remember not to take it too seriously, as this is your relaxation time,

and you although we all want to celebrate each catch you should always celebrate the moment!