The Mataura River, one of the most famous brown trout rivers in the world, flows through the Southland District of New Zealand. It's a broad meandering river, well known for it's prolific insect life and dramatic trout rises. It's hardly ever crystal clear, but it's consistently high fishing quality means that the place gets a bit of a hammering (well, by NZ standards).
And because of this, the fishing can be a bitch. NZ trout are not known for being selective feeders. Mataura trout are. Cool.
On one particular damp evening, however, the fish refused to rise. Apart, that is, from in one particular place on the other side of the river. A side that was impossible to fish due to the high bank and deep water.
This panoramic collage is slightly mysterious, not least because it contains six Pauls. We will get better at this :-)
The fish were rising to what we will fairly describe as the " Mataura Dun ".
Here follows a brief note regarding NZ: it is a new country and Latin is neither one of their strong points, nor mine. I believe that I am correct in saying that there are three different Mataura Duns. There may indeed be more. No-one knows for sure. They all boast olive bodies and iron blue wings and come in sizes 14-18 (I'll photograph one next trip). I do not know the Latin name, never having needed it, but I shall find out. This may be rather difficult. Being NZ, although these duns have been classified, I do not know anyone who remembers their names, or indeed anyone who ever knew them. BTW if you are in the market for having an insect named after you, then you'd be well advised to give the NZ backcountry a look. Apparently there are just heaps of nameless duns out there.
For a while, it looked as if the fish were safe and beyond reach. And they knew it. They exulted in the fact. There must have been five or six of them in a five yard stretch all trying to out-eat each other. It was a magnificent feast, and I had the sudden and uncontrollable urge to put a stop to it at once. The water looked dangerously deep. I tried launching my longest sexyloop out from high above the bank, but just couldn't quite make it. I tried wading out to the tops of my waders and repeated the performance. This didn't work either.
I wandered upriver and blasted a line across the current and fed out about 20 yards of backing. It was looking good until the whole lot got massively tangled in back eddy mess. Oh hell.
So I slowed down and studied the problem and tried to find a solution. The solution revealed itself by way of a cunning route up the centre of the river. This took the water to the very tops of my waders. From this position, perilously standing on tippy toes, I managed an awkward horizontal double haul and put the fly just upstream of the fish.
Instantly I had a take. Selective the Mataura fish may be, but not when they believe that are out of range. Obviously a good reason to learn to launch sexyloops and grow longer legs. I struck and hooked into what felt like a good fish for this stretch. The average weight being about two to two and a half pounds (this is New Zealand) and this one felt considerably bigger.
I was feeling both smug and elated until the fish zoomed past me, careered off downstream and launched headlong in to a mass of driftwood and branches. I chased after it of course, but too late! The fish had cleverly unhooked himself and hooked my fly into the biggest piece of tree it could find. I have never worked out how they do this, but I've always been vaguely impressed.
I returned to my spot. The fish were still rising, oblivious to the excitement that had just occurred; indeed they had raised the tempo and were now feeding with even more abandon. I cast across to the fish. Almost instantly my fly disappeared into the ring of another rise. The slurping sound of a dun rise, surely can only matched in aesthetics by the zipping sound of the strike. So I struck.
Once again the fish headed downstream, obviously intending to do the same dastardly deed to my fly. Fortunately this time I was ready for it and put on the brakes and steered the fish between the bridge supports. The most effective way to turn a fish is to whack the rod over and apply side strain.
After a short while I played him out in a quiet back eddy and slid him to the rivers edge, where I turned him free again :-)
I won't make mention of the other fish that I hooked. Since he also ran into the same log jam as the first one, and as this is the start of "the Flow", I want it to at least appear that I know what I'm doing.
Along the same lines, I'll quietly ignore the fact that the very next day I found some excellent fishing not sixty yards upstream, just around the corner and, truth be told, there was probably an equally dramatic rise happening up there as well, and had I bothered to look I would have discovered it.
We will be seeing more of the Mataura Dun.