As water cascades over rocks and boulders, dozens of little, almost separate pools lay before you. They vary in size. Some are no bigger than a kitchen sink, some bathtub sized, some the size of a blow up swimming pool. Each one if different. Water cascades into some, forming a mini water fall at the head of the pool. In others it flies down a small chute that connects it to the pool above. In yet others, the water comes in from below a boulder, the surface of the pool almost still. Each one of these pseudo- independent pockets of water presents as a unique challenge. Each is different, each is unique. This is a big part of what makes fishing pocket waters so much fun.
There are other reasons. Often you just know that a fish will be holding in a certain piece of water, meaning fishing pocket waters can simplify the whole fishing experience. There is no need to spend time finding the fish. The likely holding spots are often obvious at first glance, the job of finding them easy. What you are left with is fly choice, the stalk and the presentation. Get those right and it will result in a fish. Guaranteed ;).
Fly choice is simple. Dries are generally the go on many of Australia’s pocket waters (especially in late Spring, Summer and early Autumn). I personally like small flies, size 16-18, adams and the like. Big flies work, but given that each of these fish will be acutely aware of any insects falling in the little pocket of water it calls home, there is no need for big flies that attract attention. The fish in pocket waters are an attentive and captive audience. They notice anything that lands in their territory, no matter how small. This is why I like small flies. They will catch the bold fish that would have hit a size 8 cicada fly (fishing big flies in these tiny streams can be incredible fun on its day), as well as the shrinking violets that may have otherwise spooked when your big foam and rubber pattern hit the water.
This brings me to the next challenge of fishing pocket waters. Stalking. When waters are low like they are over summer and into early Autumn, the fish can be incredibly spooky. They are not just acutely aware of what falls in their little pools, but also acutely aware of what is going on around them. This includes you. Stealth is paramount. Get low, use cover, get in position, make a good presentation and you will be successful. As I said before, you often know a fish will be in a certain pocket and you know that if you get your stalk and presentation right, you will catch it. That makes it sound a lot easier than it is. In reality, doing that can be quite the feat. You will often find yourself crawling along on your belly trying to get a decent shot at a piece of water and despite taking all the care and every precaution imaginable, still spook the fish.
This brings me to one of the pure joys of fishing pocket water, going above and beyond trying to convert as many of the pockets you know hold fish as you possible can. If you fail. Thats all on you. You weren’t stealthy enough. You presentation dragged. The fish saw your leader. Because if you had got it right, the fish would have eaten.
To me, that is what fishing pocket waters is all about. Solving the multitude of different individual puzzles (pockets) that present themselves to you as you creep upstream. To be successful you need to have your wits about you. Every presentation has to be pre planned and executed competently. Often you will need to make quite long, technical casts over rocks and logs to land your fly in the right part of the pocket. Getting the right drift is often challenging due to tricky currents and slack waters caused by the water flowing around, under and between rocks. And you have to get all that right on the first cast. A second cast often spooks the fish.
When fishing pocket water, most of your success is determined before you even cast as you sum up the situation, how close you can get, how well you can stalk the water and how well you have planned and executed your presentation. Get those right and you will catch a fish “every” cast. Of course, that won’t happen. You will spook fish, you will drop fish, you will muck up casts. And thats the joy of pocket water. It gives you the chance to solve a multitude of technical mini problems in the course of just a few hours. You will be greatly rewarded when you get it right. When you get it wrong, there will be another pocket 10 meters upstream in which you can try again. Hopefully, this time you get it right.