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 🙂
6 thoughts on “The importance of stealth- Melbourne trip report with musings.”
I blank whenever I take an esky with me. It’s like I get too cock sure and the fish want to subtly tell me to pull my head in…
True. Fish are bastards like that 🙂
Aren’t there crocs in those streams you fish?
Haha. Not near Melbourne. Crocs only inhabit the top half of Australia.
Its simple .. if you expect to blank .. your casting and presentation just become a thoughtless activity , that is repeated over and over without a real goal .. but when your expecting or are catching fish.. every cast -mend ect become an act of complete concentration .. think of how much more careful and purposeful your approach and cast is to a fish you have spotted .. Im in a similar boat to you in terms of experience so my goal this season has been to treat every cast like its going to have a trophy fish on the end of it .. iv caught far more than i did last season
Exactly! Its amazing the difference attitude can make to your chances of success. I think last season was simply about building confidence, as much as building a general level of competence. Both have paid off in spades this year.
There is a pretty steep learning curve when you start fly fishing. If you were once a spin fisherman (as I was), at least at first there is always the temptation to go back to what you know and feel confident with. I’ve thoroughly broken the back of that one. Recently been trying to catch a few cod with the other boys at the blog. Them with spin gear and me with the fly rod. Last year I probably would have thought I was at a disadvantage and would have been tempted to join them. This year, I have absolutely no desire to put the fly rod down, I’m confident I can fish as effectively with it, even on a new target species. So far I haven’t managed to land one, but I’ve had one throw the hooks and missed another, so hopefully my first cod on fly isn’t far away 🙂