Paul Arden | Monday, 28 March 2016
Last week Ashly and I had an adventure un to Thailand - just like six months ago, we carried the boat up on the truck roof and launched off a beach in order to visit some islands. We fished and Ashly was more successful than I in landing some type of green reef fish that I've never seen before. I only managed Garfish! We made new friends, ate spectacularly well, swam, snorkelled and had an outstanding time. Ashly now wants to learn diving so that will give us another excuse to make the trip in the future (not that we need any excuse to visit Thailand!).
I've been back almost a week now, have camouflaged the boat for close-quarter Gourami fishing action. and spray-painted the reflective parts on the inside of the boat that had been affecting my vision. The outboard motor had a service prior to Thailand and so everything is running smoothly. I even found time to have my truck's winch repaired, as well as the air conditioning. So it's been a time of busy maintenance but now it's time to fish the jungle again.
So... on to Streamer Fishing at the request of TZ, who uploaded a fly some three weeks ago. I was of course supposed to immediately follow up with some tactical fishing instruction, but the Gouarmi were eating Cicada and this took priority! Before I talk about the topic, let me narrow it down. My history of fly fishing was to begin on Stillwaters in the UK. We used streamers extensively (in the UK they we call them "lures" not streamers). You can find just about all I know about streamer/lure fishing in the Stillwater Section. What works in the UK applies in Tasmania and Montana very well, and many methods work well in NZ too, particularly in depths of water up less than 20ft. If you haven't read the section, and you are interested in Stillwater fishing, then I would thoroughly recommend reading it. It's actually the original booklet I wrote back in 1996 when I started teaching fly fishing on Ardleigh Reservoir.
So I'm not going to discuss streamer fishing on Stillwaters. What I will talk about is streamer fishing in rivers. But even then I need to narrow the topic because I'm not a great all-round river fly fisherman! I'm pretty good in Backcounty NZ, with 18 seasons experience, but lowland rivers, Chalkstreams and Spring Creeks I'm not in a position to teach. So I'm narrowing this subject matter down even further, to fishing medium sized rivers with turbulent water where fish are in the top 4 or 5 feet, for that is really what I know and do. Of course I do fish some streamers on other water types, particularly the Pliva and Ribnic in Bosnia, or Asp fishing on the Drava, lowland rivers such as the Mataura in New Zealand, the Madison or Yellowstone Rivers in Montana, but you'll find that there are many much more specialist anglers on these waters that I - it takes a very long time to master a particular water or type of water, somewhere in the region of 15-20 years of intensive fishing and I haven't put that sort of time into these waters yet.
The type of streamer fishing I like involves first reading the water. There are several key lies for fish on medium sized, turbulent waters, the first is at the eye of the pool, i.e. where the current drops into a pool and the seams it makes on either side. Fish can be on either side of the river. In extreme examples, there is an eye with water travelling back upriver on one side, and a cliff face on the other. Even then both sides can hold fish. The second key area to find fish is in the middle of a broken pool with rocks. The third is in the tail of the pool, particularly if the water shoots out over water approx 4 feet deep.
My approach is to fish downstream, studying the water where I think the fish is holding, casting a straight line leader, cast upstream of the area the fish is thought to lay, so that it will have time to sink to the required depth. I don't collapse this cast, because while the fly can sink quicker, you will miss takes on the drop - and you will get takes on the drop with streamers. If I have cast across a current, which is pretty normal, I will make an upstream mend. Then - this is the important past - as the fly reaches the fish, I will make a mend down and across the current. As the current picks up the line, it will cause the fly to speed up past the fish's nose. If that doesn't get a hit, I will make one strip and expect a hit immediately.
With streamer fishing, you never strike, you keep the rod pointed straight down this line, and strip strike (actually my strip set on streamers is more like a strip retrieve than a strike).
I almost always fish my fly out to the rod tip and I won't recast until I can see my fly. This means that I will finish the retrieve with very little (if any) flyline outside the rod tip. This is where Spey casting is really handy. Slip line on the Lift, make a big Circle C slipping line at the very end of the C, slip line initially as you bring the rod around the body to form the D-loop, make a Poke, reset the D-loop and make your shot (80 feet with a 9ft rod and a 6 weight line can be achieved this way, starting from 2ft of flyline out the tip). You will find this cast described in the Sexyloops APP in the Spey Casting module. Another great reason to invest in the APP!
Having made one cast, there is no point in repeating the same cast (unless you caught a fish - in which case repeat the same cast exactly - you never know!). It's then time to reevaluate the river, make a step downstream or indeed to the position best for making your next shot (it may be the same place!) and then repeat. You can cover a lot of water very quickly with Streamers. During the backend of the season you have a good chance of catching every fish in the river.
I have a number of flies I use. One is an olive woolly bugger variation, that is tied on a size 8 heavy wire hook. It has lead AND a Tungsten Bead. I use this on a leader of around 1.5 times the rod length. And the leader is usually about 10lbs. I'm sure that TZ's Mink Zonker would be perfect for this - I'd also lead the body for a more even keel). The other fly I use is a huge white and olive green double-bunny, tied upside down - i.e. white on top - so I can see the fly (and therefore follows), also heavily weighted. In fact the second pattern can be cast without a fly line it is so heavy! I find this fly very interesting, being so large you can use 20lb tippet, and throw with confidence under tree roots and into snags (it's quite amazing the fish you find in these places).
I'm sure that there is much more to discuss, but I think the key points are to fish to a point where you think there is a fish, make a straight line cast, always point the rod down the line, without slack, and to fish the fly right into the shallows or to your rod tip. Use the current to your advantage. You will often find that you need to be very stealthy to fish the eyes of pools from an upstream position - keep low, wear camouflage and walk softly or hover about the ground. If the big fly is spooking fish or just getting follows, then take it off; you're using the wrong method!
I do a very similar thing for night fishing by the way, only I use unweighted black streamers in shallow water, and either surface or just subsurface black streamers in the head, tails and slack water deep pools. If you want to catch the biggest brown trout in the river fish a big (4-6inch) black streamer in the deepest pools at 2.30am-3.30am mid-summer onwards. Use no lights!
This week on the Sexyloops Board, Mr Peter Hayes - author of Fly Fishing Outside the Box.