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Some Differences Between Rainbows and Browns..

A recent experience fishing a lake with rainbows only (no browns) made me think about the differences between rainbows and browns. Their general behaviour – especially on lakes – is quite different. Most lakes I fish have a mix of browns and bows but I don’t usually target the rainbows. Not entirely because I prefer fishing for browns but because browns tend to occupy shallower water making them more of a sight fishing target. Even if sight fishing is not on the cards, brown trout tend to favour shallow water which is generally easier to read. Because of this, I enjoy fishing the shallow water more so rainbows are often a by-catch.

Yesterday I fished Manorburn Dam for the 2nd time recently. Manorburn has rainbows only so right away I found myself thinking differently and feeling a little on the backfoot. Sight fishing the edges or shallow flats (1 to 2 feet) wont work well because rainbows don’t generally cruise as tight or as shallow as as browns. Fishing around shallow structure (over 2 feet roughly) will work, maybe not quite as well as for browns but it’s a good start point anyway. I put on a heavy but small streamer on a floating line with a long leader to fish out into the deep and then retrieve in onto the shallow stuff. This worked well. The water in the lake, although quite clear, appears very black so finding structure was not always easy. Because of this I found myself loosing faith in certain areas and moving. I’m not really sure if this was right or wrong. More persistance may well have worked but I needed some sort of visual – deep rocks or weed beds etc. I could go on about my thinking but I can sum this up simply. In lakes, rainbows favour deeper water, so with the absence of browns, this is where I feel the focus of my fishing needs to be.

One of the interesting things about the fishing yesterday was the number of trout Guy and I picked up near the surface in deep, black water. Initially it came as a surprise because I thought we’d need to get a fly deep for the deep water to work. We were fishing from the boat so depending on the drift, one of us was often fishing over very deep water since the shorline drop-off was so steep. The black water was more productive then the water near the bank. We took a couple for the table and they were full of green beetles which explains this. Fish will move well off shore looking for terrestrials on the surface. It’s a pity we didn’t gut one there and then to get this clue. It would certainly have changed how we fished. There was nothing rising during the day but they must have still been on the prowl after eating them all morning, or maybe they were taking sunken beetles. Lesson learned for next time. While I’m on the topic, browns will also follow terrestrials out into deep water.

In rivers, the differences between rainbows and browns are much less. People talk about rainbows liking fast riffles but in my experience, you’ll catch a brown anywhere you’ll catch a rainbow. The main difference from what I’ve seen is that rainbows will not come into shallow backwaters or cruise the shallow edges of pools, whereas browns love this type of water – outside this, they’re very similar in a river – on the South Island anyway.

In other news, fishing has been really good. Very little guiding but doing an occasional day. They’ve both been great!! I’ve been checking out quite a bit of new water with varying results – typical of exploring – you take the good with the bad. The only way to find out is to fish it.

My nymphs are doing the business as always. They’re available here.

Feel free to get in touch about guiding in 2022-23 season. I imagine its going to be a busy one. If you’re in NZ, we have the rest of the season to ourselves so lets enjoy it! ronan@sexyloops.com or visit my website.

Tight Lines, Ronan..

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