DIY Fly Fishing NZ: A Moment

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intact bank on left

It’s mid to late afternoon. I’m hiking downstream back to my vehicle. I’ve been out all day in tough trout spotting conditions: heavy cloud and even worse, high wind. The combination is a deadly deterrent to seeing fish. With the grey ruffled surface I’ve only seen one trout. Unfortunately it saw me first and was fleeing the scene when it caught my eye. An impressive trout. That’s what’s in here. Good ones. Not many but some good ones. I know. I’ve fished this river intensely before. It’s small water, open terrain with nowhere for an angler to hide. I feel the odds have been against me today, in the present conditions. It doesn’t help I’m running low on energy, have flu-like symptoms and the past two nights have been feverish. As I walk downstream it suddenly gets calm. I mean totally still. It hasn’t been this way all day. I appreciate the silence. A long perfectly curved pool with the outside bend/ fully intact stretches out before me. By “intact” I mean it’s a heavily grassed bank, not broken or shingled/ eroded. Here are some examples:

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intact bank far left, I’m on sheep/angler trail

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intact left side bank and slight bubble line…all good except wind

In late season low water conditions intact banks can have some of the deepest water in a moderate sized river pool. They are also some of safest locations for trout to live, feed and hide as many such banks are undercut. When it’s hot and windy I sight-fish from a downstream position, when possible, as trout often hang tight and pick off terrestrial insects which fall or collect in the water along the bank. No such luck seeing much of this on this trip. And when it gets real calm or late day stillness settles in, an intact bank can be a good place to watch for a possible rise; a sign of feeding.

I decide with the sudden stillness to sit, re-fuel and watch the 40 yards of so of perfect bank water. I eat and study the slow outward bend flow with its faint bubble line. It feels good to sit and rest after walking all day. As if on cue, it happens. A solitary rise just slightly off of the bank. A minute later it surfaces again. Same spot. The first opportunity of the day. It’s feeding occasionally. It’s feeding subtly. I think it’s a smallish fish as it’s not displacing much water. But I’ve been fooled before by rises here in NZ. I’ve learned in my three adventures here that NZ trout are always bigger than they first appear.

I’ve seen just a few blue winged olives out with the inclement weather and tie one on and wade slowing and carefully from the shallow, intern side (opposite side) of the river.  My disturbance travels almost across stream but fortunately fades before reaching the rising fish. I almost blew-it. I almost communicated my presence. I cast to the fish perpendicularly. I’ve got a long leader. My line will be at least 12 ft from the trout. The size 18 olive passes over the spot. No response. I change flies and go with a size 14/ 16 black foam ant. Something more visible but not outrageous. It’s a simple pattern I’ve done well with when I’ve had my chances. On the first passing it catches the trout’s eye, its head appears and takes the ant while turning downstream. Surprising I remain calm, take a second (pause) and then slowly set the hook and am connected. It races up and down the pool then decides to run the riffle/rapid downstream to the next pool. I scramble and chase, get lucky and land it. A good one. It measures at the 6 lbs mark on my Mclean weigh net.

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Because of the continued stillness I decided to hurry to the next intact bank that I know is about one half mile downstream. With Adrenalin I have renewed energy.  By the time I get to the next location the wind has picked-up again and it starts to rain heavily. I hunker down hoping it will pass but it doesn’t. I’ve had one opportunity. I’ve taken one good fish today.

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The decision during the moment of calmness to sit and watch the long intact bank saved my day. I had two other days on the same challenging river where good fish were taken similarly.

All angling adventures usually get defined by one or two moments no matter how many days one fishes, how many opportunities exist or how many, or few, fish are caught. The moment of calmness which produced the above fine brown trout defined mine. The moment, just a single moment, made my trip…

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