Too much hatch

All of us have ‘our’ streams; the ones that we fish most often, we cherish, we hide from acquaintances, but we share with friends. After reading this post by Hamish, I was keen to get back out to my favourite stream to see if I could emulate at least half the success he and Perrin had on that evidently magic day.

Hearing about it from Hamish was almost as good as being there, because it was his first time fishing a stream I originally took for granted, but have since realised is something truly special. Perrin had been there a few times, but hadn’t had much luck. He’d seen a few good fish and missed a few, but might have doubted my stories of 4lb browns being the average fish….until a few weeks ago.

Rache and I were woken up early by Molly, aka Canis annoyingus, and decided to get up, grab a coffee and hit the stream early. We were on the water by about 7.30am, and on leaving the car, were greeted with a good fish rising just metres upstream from the bridge. I really wanted Rache to get a fish, so urged her to have a few casts, but she wasn’t getting the necessary distance and I decided to have a crack.

Rachie stalking a rising brown
Rachie stalking a rising brown

Unfortunately, I eventually spooked this fish with one too many wayward casts, but soon noticed another one…no, two, rising a little further upstream. It wasn’t obvious what they were feeding on, but we tied on some classic dries and crept along the bank. I had landed an Adams on the stream and was watching the fish rising near Rachie, and my lack of attention resulted in me missing my first take. I waited for the fish to resume its beat, and made another presentation a few metres ahead of the direction it was headed. After a few seconds, I saw a good fish rise up slowly and inhale my fly off the surface. I struck firmly and was on.

Flyfishing porn
Look at the food! A taste of things to come…

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It was a good fish. There is something special about catching a big brown on a dry in still water. The memory of seeing the fish materialise from the depths, the white of the mouth and red flare of the gills, the small, sharp teeth and beady eyes of the fish; it gets burned into your mind, and you can replay it again and again. I think Hamish has said it a bit more eloquently in this post about ‘moments‘, but that was definitely one of them.

A typical brownie from my favourite stream
A typical brownie from my favourite stream

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We continued upstream a bit further and the temperature started to increase, as evidenced by a few of the local snakes that seemed intent on placing themselves right under my feet. There was still the odd rise, but the insects had dropped off a bit and it was clear that there would eventually be a hiatus during the hotter hours of the day. Nonetheless, I found another two fish rising where the water was funneling a nice bubble line and the remnants of the morning hatch into a deep pool, and started casting little dries. I must have made about 20 presentations and tried 5 different flies before getting the take, and a nice 3 pounder – small for this stream – came to hand. Rache had gone for a snooze in the grass, so I didn’t get the ‘man holds fish’ shot, which is fine by me. Letting a fish go without it leaving the water is a satisfying thing, and something I need to do more.

Fish look better in the water anyway!
Fish look better in the water anyway!
I saw this cool little guy not long after I got my second fish.
I saw this cool little guy not long after I got my second fish. I wonder if some of the bigger fish in there are frog feeders…

I found Rachel upstream, lying in the grass and looking at the sky, and told her about the fish, which seemed to pique her interest and enthusiasm (she likes ‘catching‘, and not necessarily fishing). A little further upstream was the perfect spot for her to try, a little riffle and rapid running into a deeper pool. I tied her on a big dry and stood back to watch. A few wayward casts ensued, but shortly after a good one found the rapid. Rache turned around to acknowledge my encouraging call of ‘great cast!’ and all of a sudden she had a nice little brownie on the line. I was hooting and wooting like an idiot, and I think she was pretty pleased too: her first fish on fly, and it happened to be a nice little brownie on the dry. Not a bad start!

Rachie stalking the rapid
Rachie stalking the rapid
Fish on!
Fish on!
The smile says it all
The smile says it all

The fishing dropped off a bit after then, and Rache convinced me that a swim would be a good idea. The water was icy cold, but once you got your head under it was absolutely beautiful. It seemed odd to be swimming in one of my favourite pools, and I was imagining the trout swimming around us and wondering what the hell was going on. I lasted about 10 minutes in the water before the hypothermia set in, and was content to jump out feeling super refreshed and ready for a few more hours fishing. Unfortunately, a wife who prefers catching over fishing, combined with a distinct lack of evidence of fish, left me clutching at straws trying to think of reasons to stay.

We headed off around 10.30 – so not a bad effort for a couple of hours, but I certainly wasn’t satisfied, and started to think of strategies to get back there for the seemingly inevitable evening rise. We went and did some nice things for a couple of hours, before the sun started to drop and I found myself back on the road to the river. On arriving, I decided to have a crack with some beautiful articulated streamers that Hamish had inadvertently left in my fishing bag, and in the first pool, while not expecting it, had a follow from a monster hook-jawed brown, which I estimated to be around 6lb. Unfortunately he’d seen me, and despite a few more casts, was never to be seen again.

I continued upstream, hoping for a rise, but persisting with the streamers. I spooked a small fish of around 20cm. I have this problem of focusing on deeper pools and neglecting the ‘little fish’ habitat. It is slowly becoming clear to me that this particular stream has more than ‘just’ trophies, and they seem to be growing quickly on the abundant food.

Eventually what I had hoped for started to happen. Mayflies, spinners, dragonflies, midges, moths, mosqitoes, bees, blowflies; you name it, they started to hatch. The fish started rising. The sky was filled with bugs. It was a hatch of biblical proportions. As the sun drifted behind some clouds, the sea mist started to materialise and the temperature plummeted, and the hatch stopped. And the bugs died. They died in such great numbers that the surface of the water was covered in food. There were fish rising left, right and centre, but no matter what I threw at them, there was just too much food for them to take an interest in the 20 or 30 different flies that I tried. Apparently, Hamish and Perrin figured this out – by using unweighted woolly buggers as ‘dries’. I didn’t twig to this, and basically sat back and watched the spectacle. Too much hatch.

Too much hatch
Too much hatch

Nonetheless, it’s exciting to be on your favourite stream and to witness one of nature’s spectacles. As a fly angler it is one of the coolest things you could hope for. The biomass of the bugs is certainly something to behold, and it’s interesting to think of that biomass getting transferred into the bellies of the trout that live there. I know that next time I go there, that fat six pounder will be a seven pounder…

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Lee

flickandflyjournal.com

Hamish Webb, Dan Firth, Graham Fifield and Lee Georgeson have been fishing the south-east Australian region since 1987. Since then they’ve become avid sportfishermen who are constantly looking for new ways to challenge themselves. They are all scientists and conservationists who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem in which they live. They promote understanding and appreciation of the complex socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding fish, fishing and fisheries, while never losing sight of the various motivations that keep them coming back. In English, that means they love all things fishing and have a damn good time on the water, and that’s all that really counts in the end!

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