Just in case you think that I'm deceiving you with regards to my saltwater abilities, in order say, to make The Panel look good, I'll give you a brief rundown of my experiences. I will not understate my achievements either in some absurd British manner. There are not many achievements and I'll endeavour to make the most out of them here. Who knows how long it will be before I catch another fish?
Eight years ago I caught my first saltwater fish on fly. It was a 7-inch parrotfish, taken on a Cove Pheasant Tail nymph whilst jigging in Milford Sound, NZ. I also caught some blue cod of approx the same length. It may have been a first.
One year later, I did the coastal loop of Australia. This loop took six months and resulted in two fish. I was more interested in a girl on that trip, but the two fish were significant; although both small and highly poisonous, these fish, unlike in NZ, were caught on conventional flytackle.
My adventure into the world of swoffing had begun in earnest. OK here we go: in Australia and now New Zealand, where I spend much of my time escaping the dreaded British winter, saltwater flyfishing is called "swoffing". When in Rome
Following Australia my travels took me to the Keys. As everyone will tell you, including Tom of course, the Keys are a saltwater paradise. However at this time I was completely broke and, armed only with a six weight, the Keys were not of huge success in terms of fish caught. Fortunately I do not judge success in this way.
Flyfishing, for me, is not about catching fish, it's about the process of fishing; a flowing series of moments, each one of which only matters for that particular instant, being both significant and insignificant at the same time. Flyfishing teaches you to live in the "now". It's really just a scaled down version of life. Unlike in life, however, it's just you and the fish.
And in this particular case, it was just me.
Since then I have caught a few fish out of the salt. We are talking about a dozen. Considering the amount of time, energy and enthusiasm I have given to this it is surprisingly few. Two of these fish, however, really made an impression.
The first was quite soon into my Queensland swoffing attempts and was a trevally of about 6 lbs. This fish tore off over 100 yards of line and put up the most amazing fight I have had to date. I really thought that something awful had happened like the hooking of a dolphin and I was astounded to say the least, when I saw a relatively small fish swimming around my feet. This fish was caught in the Noosa estuary and took a shrimp pattern on a slime line (clear intermediate).
The second fish was a largish flathead. I guestimate in the region of six to eight pounds but I only saw it for an instant; in turning to grab my Ketchum Release the fish took the opportunity to bury itself in sand and it refused from then on to budge. Fortunately the Ketchum did its job and my fly was recovered. This fish fell to the same tactic as above.
It's not much to go on, is it?
I'm going to take this from the beginning. One of my main difficulties when presented with something as big as the ocean, is where the hell does one start? What features should I be searching for? I know that this is potentially a huge question and one that this section will no doubt over time reveal.
At the time of writing this I am based in Invercargill at the bottom of New Zealand. Close by is a harbour. There seems to be rather a lot of currents, rocks, the odd sandy beach, some of it has waves and is more exposed than other parts. I'm not sure what fish are around. I assume Kahawai these have an excellent reputation.
I intend to go down here this week - maybe even tonight. My question to The Panel is this:
"How would YOU tackle a completely unknown venue? Pick one fly, one flyline density and one location to make that first searching cast" :-)