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LTWB Pt. 2

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Monday: Paul Arden
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Ronan's report


Sunday 3rd May, 2009

I'm filling in for Sean who is apparently Tinselling, whatever that is.

A month or so back I went for a fish in a big river. It was running at a nice level and just clearing from a bit coloured. I hadn't walked far when I came across a fish down deep, sitting just out of the main flow. It was a slightly different patch on the shingle bottom and not immediately obvious as a fish. I ran a small army of nymphs of various weights and persuasions past with only a few twitches in response.

I thought about moving on. I was a bit reticent to leave it as on these big rivers you usually have to cover a lot of ground to find fish. On the other hand I had given it a fair go. A faint cry came echoing from the deep South and a light bulb appeared above my head - "Launch the WOOLLLLY BUGGERRRR!!!!"

I selected a size 6 hot orange bead olive Woolly Bugger, the fly which did the business in the first part. I was a bit doubtful because this fish looked to be a decent sized NZ high country brown, not known for forgiveness. Still, you only live once. I chucked it above and to the inside and as the fly came past the fish absolutely nailed it. A tense battle ensued. I had hooked a few good fish in that river this season but didn't land them, one loss to a wind knot and others busting off on 6lb tippet. I got the fish to the net, but as I was bringing its head over the edge it gave a flip and left the fly hooked in the net, sans fish. I couldn't believe it. I should have played the fish out more, but in retrospect it was rather humane and noble of me to release it that way. A nice brown at a conservative 6lb was added to the records.

Further downriver I came across a promising long deep run that had a relatively stable bank with scrub growing along the top. I decided to walk to the bottom, keeping well back from the edge, and then work back up after lunch. Before I sat down I had a good look around the bottom of the run but didn't see anything.

Lunch finished I stood up and almost died. Four big browns had materialised right at my feet. I was absolutely gobsmacked. The fish saw me at the same time and two scarpered upstream. The remaining two became wary looking. I crouched and snuck downstream to prepare. I gave them 15 minutes to calm down and then began my approach.

I tried a cicada cast right upstream to the bottom two fish. One of them took off upstream a short distance. I went back down and waded out into the river so I could cast more at an angle and run nymphs under dries past them. Barely a flicker. I came back to the bank and crawled through the scrub to see what was happening. Three of the fish had parceled up the bottom half of the run and were being quite aggressive with each other. They ranged from almost black to silvery. I was able to get in a few shots at the top two fish from the bank and had some good looks, but no takes. It wasn't the easiest situation to cast in, a high unstable bank and scrub all along it.

Having run through my usual fly repertoire I decided to Launch the Woolly Bugger once more. I fished it across and down, not something I do much but it let me walk down the base of the bank and cover lots of water. I had a few casts to get an idea of how fast the fly was sinking in the current. The water was so clear it was easy to see the fly coming past, especially with the hot orange head.

It was a good chance to use some skills I've picked up over the last year. Spey casting, just as useful with a single handed rod, made it easy to pick the fly up and chuck it back across the current, even with a shoulder-high bank at my casting arm. To get the fly down in the fairly fast current I used some upstream mends as it landed and downstream ones, shaking out slack line, as it started to swing. This stopped the pull of the line lifting the fly from the bottom as much, until the end of the swing.

Casting-and-stepping down the run I spooked the top fish and was starting to get rather dispirited. I figured I must be getting down through where the fish were and wasn't confident with the method. A couple of cast-and-steps later the rod almost jumped out my hand. The fish pulled for the main current but I was able to keep turning it. Not a spectacular fight, more a slugging match to the bottom of the run, but I was very happy to get the silvery 7 lb brown jack into the net.

That's two more nice fish to the Woolly Bugger when all else has failed. A lot of people don't need convincing about its efficacy, but I've fished them quite a bit without success. I'm definitely starting to warm to them though!

Jo


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