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Close Quarter Fishing

As a small child I learned the art of invisibility. This is good for flyfishing.

New Zealand is not like the San Juan where fish will feed around your feet and may even find you attractive. And it's not like European rivers where Czech nymphing curiously works. Fish that become accustomed to people don't spook for half a day and more. In fact some of them don't spook at all and will swim around your ankles eating shrimp. Which is kind of weird. Of course they're often difficult to catch and so we call the fishing “technical”.

Imagine this: you've spent an hour or more – hang on, four hours – looking for fish, walking upstream and finally you see one – let's call him six pounds – and he's on the fin. You move in low and deliver the perfect cast. The flies drift drag free towards the fish, the fish looks, refuses and bolts never to be seen again. Maybe you were using Dave's Dead Caddis.

Anyway this is the level of spookiness we're often up against.

However, even with such spooky fish you still want to get in close. The closer you can get to the fish, the more control you have over the flies, the less currents with which you have to contend, the less room you'll need for your backcast and, importantly, you'll have a close view of the fish which should give you a better strike rate.

I started wearing camo four years ago, before that I wore green. Camo puts me closer by around ten feet. I particularly noticed the difference when WJ sent me their teal chest pack which I wore for the Instructor DVD. This chest pack spooked dozens of fish before I camouflaged it with permanent markers.

Glossy rods? Now that's just dumb. I have nothing good to say about them. The reason that many rods are finished in gloss is that this is what the majority of anglers want, especially in America. What on earth are they thinking? I can see rod flash from over half a mile away, how the hell are you going to catch close quarter fish wielding a lightning bolt? There is nothing more crass in flyfishing. Apart from wearing waistcoats of course. Waistcoats one colour? Gonna spook fish (and look like a dick).

So anyway, now that we've got the complete stealth package, what are the techniques for catching fish up close?

If you are close to a fish, you must come in low. If you're appearing in this guy's window you need to be as low as possible and preferably with trees behind you. It's much more difficult to get close to a fish out in the open. And you really must try to come in from behind if that's at all possible. Sure, in America downstream fishing works great, long drag free drifts, superior presentation, but there's no way that's going to work on spooky fish, not unless your nose is touching the ground.

By coming in close you have reduced the amount of time before the fish makes you. It is almost certain that you will only get one shot. But that shot is so good that it's worth the risk. If that first shot doesn't work, I will throw one more. And if that doesn't work I pull out and change flies. But by this time the fish has normally spooked.

With such short casts – we're talking one to three rod lengths it is imperative that (a) you don't false cast and (b) as much as practical, you throw off the side. Even a matt rod will spook fish if the fish sees it. Most casts are simple, quick flicks. I normally fish a leader of around 18 to 20 feet. With a tapered leader and a well-timed flick it's quite possible to just cast the leader. Of course if you're going to do this you'll need a smooth connection with the flyline – a two and a half turn needle knot is best. Braided loops are a complete waste of time and money. Whoever invented them should be shot.

If you're in close an easy way to get flyline out through the rings is, with the flies down stream, pull the rod tip smartly through the water and against the current, this will pull the line end through. You can Tension Cast from this position, if you're so inclined.

Close quarter fishing allows you to fish in a jungle. If you suspect that a fish is laying the other side of some grasses, don't look, just parachute cast over them. If you suspect the fish is laying up beneath trees, go in close and flick the flies upstream. With native beech trees it sometimes works to climb them and dangle down the flies. Basically you're living in another world. One world closer to the fish. Short cast, short cast, short cast.

Being so close to the fish remember to keep your hands as still as possible, and try to keep them low while casting. No sudden movements.

And you have to keep quiet; this means gentle footfalls, quiet wading and absolutely no studs. Try imagining you are walking on air.

I'm growing a beard for Stealth by the way and I may dye it green.


the cloak of invisibility...

Essential Bush Skills

The start of any flytying good flytying sequence involves squirting The Light of Apgai on your polyprops
Both alarm and curiousity set in when the polyprops start melting
Putting the lid back on the jar to stop *that* happening again
The flytying proper is underway
Notice the composure, that's true class that is
A difficult bit, you can tell that from the vacant expression
Essential bush skills: the third hand
Notice my hat here, it's quite daring
Snip, snip
I'm not quite sure what I'm doing here, but it's cool
Trimming an oversize hackle that appears to have become trapped in the whip finnish manoevre
Delicate precision work, the hallmark of any good flytyer
A sexy catch...

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