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by Garry Castles

Hair!My favourite way of fishing is polaroiding – no question. It's relaxing, always interesting and filled with anticipation. I not only get the thrill of pitting my skills against a fish, but also the expectation of sighting and stalking the fish. It's a bit like sex really, but not really. Approached correctly, it's a very satisfying form of sport.

Polaroiding can be practiced on any lake, small or large, whether the lake has shallow or deep margins, or with different degrees of water clarity. Both New Zealand and Tasmania have many lakes and backwaters that lend themselves perfectly to polaroiding.

The ideal lake has clear water, shallow beachy type margins and firm, light coloured bottoms for ease of wading. However idyllic that seems, it is rarely encountered, bit like sex really, but not really – sorry.


Essentials are comfortable Polaroids with quality lens, which have sides blackened out to stop incoming light, a wide brim hat, which stays on in a big wind and sunscreen, 30+ that doesn't irritate your eyes.

Accessories can be a small backpack, with water and maybe snack if I expect to be out all day. In Winter I wear Gore-Tex waders and in summer shorts, thermals and diving boots. I always only use one fly - whether fishing wet or dry. I always check to see what sinking rate a wet fly has if I'm using a wet nymph, caddis or snail pattern, etc. I find this essential for 2 reasons. Firstly so I can judge the distance I have to present the fly in front of the oncoming fish - so it can sink to the same level as the fish is feeding - and secondly so I can determine if the fish has seen my fly - by the fish either lifting or dropping to the level the fly is under the water - thus making it easier to determine the take.

At all times I hold the fly in one hand, with enough of the leader and fly line out of the end of the rod to effect a short fast and accurate cast. This is critical to success as the fish is often sighted only 1-2 metres away. Long casts are not a problem as the fish is sighted much earlier, hence more time for the presentation.


I use a 6 weight, 2.7mtr fly rod with my own 1.8 section of twisted leader, then 300mm at .25, then 450mm of .20 then 600mm of tippet usually between .15 to .17. In strong winds I shorten the leader considerably. Flies of any manner or description can be used. Both wets and dries are successful. If anything, flies used are generally smaller, maybe because when polaroiding the light conditions are much brighter.

Aaron polaroiding Lake Benmore


Good localities in lakes are shallow, wadable edges, drop offs, river mouths, under overhanging willows around lake margins and in N.Z. canals and wind lanes which have drifted onto shore. Also the middle of lakes, or open water, when it's sunny or windy. For the latter style a boat is needed. With willows around lake margins I find it is better to wade out into lake and look back into the shade of the willows, instead of trying to cast from the shore.

In big winds and cloudless days I often polaroid from a boat, drifting with the wind, no drogue and constantly looking into the back of waves for surface feeding trout. Local knowledge is imperative for this style, so you'll know that both the sun and wind direction is behind you. It's no good with the wind direction behind you and the boat is drifting into the sun; you'll have no vision into the water.


Polaroiding Dead LakeThe most essential factor with polaroiding trout is to be fully prepared when a fish comes into view. Initially walk into the water, turn yourself 360 degrees and then work out the best direction of view or sight into the water, usually the sun is behind you. Wherever possible this is the direction in which you should polaroid, regardless of wind direction.

Always move slowly and confidently, knowing you're going to see fish. Scan as far ahead as possible to give yourself more time for presentation. Having said that, most fish are sighted very close, so I can't emphasise how important it is to have the fly in one hand and fly line out the tip of the rod, ready for a short, quick, accurate cast. Experience will show that wind from behind or in your face is better for sighting fish that crosswinds. Strong winds from behind or in your face, stand the water up in waves, creating a better light refractory angle, making fish easier to see.

I always use only one fly when polaroiding and I very seldom cast at all unless I have sighted a fish. If casting about while walking and polaroiding it lessons the amount of concentration needed to sight a fish. To me polaroiding is total concentrating on sighting the fish, hence the confidence factor. Every time I go polaroiding I know I am going to see fish, catching them is another matter. Bit like sex really, but not really, sorry again.

Different Takes

Probably the most exciting aspect of polaroiding apart from finding the fish is the behaviour of the fish once the fly has been presented. SO along comes a Trout, just cruising (I can relate to that), and lo and behold there is a perfectly presented fly. Food he thinks! Cruises over and ever so subtely eats the fly, a gentle lift by the angler and all hell breaks loose. The fish soon released, will study the next fly he comes across more intently, he becomes more cunning, thus more of a challenge.

All takes differ as I remember the very slow full inspection deliberate take. I sometimes feel as if time has been suspended until he finally opens his mouth and swallows the fly, and then hook up, what a buzz. Bit like sex really, but not really, sorry again. Takes can be fast or slow, slashing or a quiet sip. Sometimes there can be an initial refusal of the fly, then turn and come back for another look, and then maybe decide to eat the fly.

In very windy conditions Trout will often sit behind the fly and drift with it to determine if the fly is drifting naturally. Often this can cover a metre or so in distance. Heart in the mouth stuff. Try striking slow and gentle in that scenario. Very difficult. Best of luck.

Often a trout will drown a dry fly and then turn and move up and take it sunken. It pays to watch the fly very closely if possible on every take. If fishing wet and you can't see the fly, more often than not, I watch the fish first for a change of direction, change of speed, wink of the white mouth, or when I think the fish has passed through the immediate area where the fly is, I gently lift, probing to see if the fish has taken, if not the slow movement of the fly doesn't spook the fish and often another presentation to the same fish is possible.

Watching the fish's reactions before and during the take and observing how individual each take can be is truly fascinating for me.


I think the most important tip I can offer is that you must be prepared and fish with confidence. Casting should be quick and accurate. You can tickle flies, both wets and dries to attract the Trout's attention. Polaroiding can be done in pairs, especially on high banks, one above and spotting and the other below and fishing. Polaroiding can be effective at any time of the season, in any weather, given a clear sky. In marginal weather or visibility I polaroid areas where I know there is very shallow water. It's amazing how many fish habit in shallow water – very shallow. Also even on full cloud cover days fish can be polaroided from high banks, especially in the crystal clear waters of rivers and lakes in N.Z.

Happy polaroiding!

Tight lines,

Hair and Lionel singing the night away

"Hair" is one of my regular NZ companions; we hang out, camp and fish together. A Tassie from the top of the world, I don't think there's much that Garry hasn't done. Hair says he grew his beard for polaroiding. I believe him.


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