Feeding Behaviour

dibbling the Waiau - the shorts are all wrong hereFish are driven by the same basic instincts that drive us all: the need to conserve energy (laziness), the urge to eat food (hunger), the requirement to feel safe (motivated by fear) and the desire to have a wild, chaotic and energetic sex life (out for a good time).

Sensibly, fish (unlike humans) restrict their sexual activities to a brief exciting winter frenzy enabling them to lead simple, blameless and uncomplicated lives for the rest of the year. They have one other need (which by and large we don't share with them by the way) and that is the requirement to stay wet at all times.

Knowing these facts, we have a good solid foundation upon which we can start our search for the elusive trout. But before we do so I'd like to talk about their feeding habits since trout have different phases of feeding and this has an effect on whereabouts we will find them and how easy they may be to catch (or not) once found.

The first phase of feeding is the " I'm not interested; I'm fast asleep right now so bugger off" .

waders carefully selected to blend with the rocks - the shirt isn't rightThese fish can be rather difficult to catch since you first have to wake them up and the first thing a trout normally does when rudely awoken is to bolt into the nearest weedbed. This writer however, has managed to catch such fish by waking them up first. It's a rare and surprising event but sometimes if you wake a fish up by dropping the fly on his head he'll eat it (and then bolt into the nearest weedbed).

Incidentally we get a lot of this in NZ with the large browns. Interestingly these fish often lie in very shallow water, sometimes so shallow that it fails to completely cover their backs. Since the angler is the only real predator in this environment, the shallow water is actually one of the safest places to sleep. Of course if we to replace our normal fishing rod with the considerably more exciting spear we would be able to catch these fish, but this is not very good for conservation practices.

The next phase is " I'm awake, looking, but there's no hatch " .

perfect choice in stealth wearThese fish are catchable. They tend to be lying rather deeper, which enables them to both feel safe as well as having a larger view of the water surface. They are opportunist feeders and although they are harder to spot (since they are conserving their energy and not moving about very much) as well as being harder to stalk (since they are lying deep and on the lookout for anything moving about - which includes you BTW), a well presented fly coupled with stealth should catch these fish.

Phase three (let's start numbering them) is " There's a lot of food here and I'm hungry" .

These fish are easy to see since they are active (movement is always a dead give-away). They are also quite easy to approach since they're more interested in eating and less interested in you. Often they will be higher in the water and therefore their field of vision will be smaller. It can be that they are catholic in their diet and will eat anything that is unfortunate enough to come along (which fairs well for you of course) or it can be that they are selective (not so good). The first cast often lets you know whether the Gods are smiling or not.

Phase four is " I'm an out of control vacuum cleaner sporting fins".

Jim gets it all wrongNow we have a fish that has stopped thinking and has decided that it's Christmas, Easter and his Birthday all rolled into one exciting feast; he's never seen so much tasty insect around and he's famished.

These fish are also damned hard to catch.

They tend to lock on to some extremely small insect that you can't see (or if you can then you probably don't have one in your box) and try as you might to catch them, interest them, induce the take or just plain spook them; they are having none of it. Often they're feeding just under the surface, moving about in a fairly wild and erratic manner and so you are never really sure whether they have seen your fly and refused it or if they were busy eating another (real) insect instead. Of course it's madness and to really put the edge on things you know that any minute you're going to find the right fly and the hatch will cease completely.

Get it right of course and you've just crossed the line and entered the state of flyfishing ecstacy, which of course is why we do it (I think) :-)

Next week we continue the Search and get specific…


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