Bow and Arrow Cast for Big Fish in Small Streams

Bow and Arrow Cast for Big Fish in Small Streams

Tim Kempton | Sunday, 1 July 2018

It is amazing how many big fish live in small streams. These fish have to be stalked and hunted. There is no room for traditional overhead or roll casts. There is only one cast when fishing for trophy brown and rainbow trout in small, narrow, “heavy jungle” creeks in New Zealand…the bow and arrow cast. This is akin to hunting with a bow and arrow. Although this sounds daunting, this in fact is the easiest cast to learn, and with practice it is deadly accurate. I fished with a friend Miles Rushmer, the Big Trout, Small Stream Specialist of New Zealand.

Large browns and rainbows (6-18+lb) live in these small rivers, and you have to hunt them.  The gear is a 6wt rod, WF6 line, 8’ of 20 lb tippet, and almost full drag. The total line and leader outside the rod tip is about 12’.  You have to stalk with the rod tip forward…there is no room to turn the rod around.  This  requires absolute stealth and you have to keep movements to a minimum. The aim is to sight the fish, then stalk it from behind until you are about 18- 20’ behind the fish.  Fish can’t see directly behind them.  Aim the fly about 1’ in front of the fish so that you force the fish to make a quick decision.  The fly must land first before the line, as the fish is keyed into noise.  I was using a Cicada pattern.  If the fish does not take, let the fly drift to you and slowly pick it up off the water, reset and recast.  Keep arm movements to a minimum. Wear camo clothing.

The take by such a large fish is spectacular at such close quarters.  God Save the Queen…no matter how many times you hear this, so many fish are lost by striking too early.  Its amazing how long 1.5 seconds is. You see the jaws open, and then close as the fish turns. The bigger the fish, and deeper the water, the slower it all seems (and the faster your heart is beating), until they are hooked then all hell breaks loose.

These streams are small, and so immediately you hook one, it’s a matter of giving it every thing you have…its war!  There are fallen trees, blackberries, bushes, reeds, and everything imaginable to get snagged on.  The aim is to keep the fish at close quarters, hence the 20 lb tippet.   If it manages to swim into a snag, give it line and wait…and wait…and wait…and it will usually swim back out again. Despite the lousy weather we hooked 5 and took photos of two. This is the most adrenalin pumping trout experience I have ever endured.’s real heart in the mouth stuff.  These fish are not long, but the width and depth is enormous.   I hooked one 12 – 15 lb, but it won on a jump…thank you fish!

This is truly an amazing experience.  Expect to break rods.  I ended up with a  busted rod tip when the fish swan back under a branch…we landed it …that made rod no 32 according to Miles.  In Miles words… is total chaos fishing.