A few weekends ago me and Nick spent an afternoon fishing a clear, low, pocket water creek. The Low gin clear water made the fish incredibly spooky. Spotting fish was pretty much impossible given the boulders and rocks that dotted the stream bed. It would be very easy to fish that little creek for an afternoon and not see any sign of or catch a fish, despite the stream being absolutely chocked full of trout. That is exactly what happened to us in our first half hour, we didn’t see any sign that the stream held a fish. It was only once we started to amp up the stealth that we started to catch fish.
The fact was, if you managed to approach a pool without spooking the fish in it, every pool was almost a guaranteed hit, especially if there was a bit of structure in it (rocks, logs etc). The fish that inhabit little streams like this one aren’t exactly picky when it comes to food. However, managing that feat was far easier said than done. The afternoon was spent crawling along on our bellies, throwing 40-50ft casts through very tight gaps in the canopy over numerous pockets and runs into bathtub sized pockets of water and generally trying to be as quite and unobtrusive as possible. Even then we stuffed up our fair share of pools, one step to far up the stream, standing a little high to get the cast or a less than ideal presentation could easily spook the little fish. It was technical and challenging fishing that rewarded crawling and difficult presentations.
Like most things fishing, there are trade offs with stealth. A good general rule when fishing a stream for trout is get in the best position as close as you can get to the trout without spooking it to make getting good presentations as easy as possible. If you can you want to avoid tricky mends and other technical feats of casting genius, to make getting a good drag free drift as simple as possible. Fact is though, there are times when you simply cant avoid technical presentations and this session was one of them. It was all casting tight into cover, throwing line of rocks in the stream to avoid drift and mending, often while lying on your belly. Technically challenging feats were the order of the day. Its time like that where you are thankful for all those hours you’ve spent practicing your casting and mending. Get some of that right and there were plenty of fish on offer and we had a great little afternoon, both landing 6 or 7 little browns up to a pound in about 2 hours. Sometimes stealth can pay healthy dividends.
More generally, there has been a lot of talk about what a tough trout season this has been in Victoria (and NSW from the few discussions I’ve had). Being only my second trout season, I really have very little to compare it to, so I’m definitely not the authority on this. What I will say though is that for me at least its been a far more successful season than last year. A lot of that comes down to the fact I can actually fly fish now. Last year was spent learning the ropes, learning to cast and mend competently (I’m still not much good, but I’m a lot better) and all that other stuff that makes catching fish that much easier. So with a more solid grounding in the sport, I’ve been able to catch fish on almost every outing (I can remember only one donut for the season which isn’t bad going), usually a fair few. That said, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows ( 😉 ), moving around has been fairly important in making each trip a successful one. This season I’ve been spending a lot of time fishing smaller, more structure rich sections of river. For whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of decent fish hanging in the smaller creeks, especially ones with loads of cover and safety. They aren’t always easy to fish, but there have been a lot of fish holding in them making it worth it. On the bigger rivers, again the fish seem to have mainly been close to structure. I haven’t done all that well out of “clear” bits of open river, the bits that are really easy to fish. Getting tight into structure and working those areas thoroughly has produced a lot of fish for me and thats really been what I’ve been concentrating on for most of the season, be it on the bigger rivers or tiny little tributaries. Interestingly I’ve spotted less trout this year than last, the experience detailed above is by no means an anomaly this season. There have been loads of sessions where I couldn’t see a trout for the life of me, but still ended up catching lots of them. The fish are there, they just don’t seem to be out in the open as much as last year, meaning confidence has played a part in having good sessions. I’m a firm believer that if you start a session expecting to blank, you vastly increase your chances of blanking. Why that is I have no idea and I’d be interested if anyone else has has the same kinds of experiences this year?
Anyway, till next time, good luck on the water 🙂