TOP TIPS TO SPOT TROUT

Mike Davis with top tips on get­ting your eye on the prize

New Zealand Fishing World - - Features Contents - MIKE DAVIS Story and pho­tos by Mike Davis

In most sports, with a lit­tle work and tenac­ity the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple can reach a com­pe­tent level fairly quickly, and fly-fish­ing is no dif­fer­ent.

Af­ter a bit of prac­tice, most peo­ple can load a rod suf­fi­ciently to cast out to 20 me­tres, no prob­lems. They have the ba­sics of controlling a drag free drift to catch fish most times they’re out on the wa­ter. This means that when fish are out and feed­ing well they will have a good chance of suc­cess. But what hap­pens when they’re fol­low­ing some­one else up a river or fish­ing a piece of wa­ter that has had in­creased pres­sure? The an­swer is that only the best an­glers will still keep catching fish.

Once you reach the stan­dard where most fly fish­ers are the im­prove­ments are made in in­cre­men­tal gains. Th­ese sub­tle changes will make a big dif­fer­ence. Out­side of cast­ing abil­ity and line con­trol, the sin­gle big­gest area where peo­ple can im­prove is spot­ting fish.

Room for im­prove­ment

To be great at this you must first understand where and why fish hold in cer­tain ar­eas or lies of the river. You need understand how wa­ter tem­per­a­tures ef­fect the fish and where they’re sit­ting at dif­fer­ent times of the year. Most im­por­tantly you need to have the abil­ity to scan the river far enough ahead to spot fish early.

This means that most of your time ob­serv­ing the river for trout should be spent look­ing hard at the wa­ter with the high­est prob­a­bil­ity of hold­ing fish. Ar­eas known as prime lies, which meet all of a trout’s sur­vival needs will al­ways have fish close by. A prime lie has pro­tec­tion from strong cur­rents; ob­sta­cles that break the flow of mov­ing wa­ter like large boul­ders or sub­merged logs. Fish can of­ten be lo­cated in front of and be­hind th­ese ob­struc­tions in the calm pock­ets cre­ated by the break in the cur­rent seam.

Deep pools formed by the river me­an­der­ing and chang­ing di­rec­tion also gives pro­tec­tion from the strong cur­rents, the depth of a pool pro­vides pro­tec­tion from preda­tors and in turn sweeps food right to them so very lit­tle ef­fort is needed to ob­tain a meal.

Rocky bot­tom

In New Zealand, most of our free­stone rivers have a run, rif­fle, pool con­fig­u­ra­tion; th­ese are al­ways the most stable parts of a river sys­tem. Free­stone rivers are char­ac­terised by a riverbed that is made up of stones

and boul­ders. The healthy oxy­genated wa­ter will carry large in­sect pop­u­la­tions or nymphs. The riverbed struc­ture also dic­tates where fish are found, sec­tions of riverbed with a sandy or gravel bot­tom usu­ally sup­port lower num­bers of fish so th­ese ar­eas can be cov­ered quickly un­til the more favoured rocky riverbed is found.

Ex­pe­ri­enced an­glers look care­fully at the dif­fer­ent cur­rents cre­ated by the river and ob­serve the lit­tle things like sur­face dis­tur­bance, changes in riverbed and the dif­fer­ence in river coloura­tion. The darker ar­eas high­light­ing sub­tle changes in wa­ter depth may be po­ten­tial fish hold­ing ar­eas, es­pe­cially over the warmer sum­mer months.

Look ahead

When it comes to new­com­ers, it can be really hard for them to grasp the fact that ex­pe­ri­enced an­glers aren’t ac­tu­ally look­ing for the whole fish in the wa­ter.

While mov­ing up­stream scan­ning the riverbed when work­ing a run or rif­fle, the most im­por­tant thing you can work on is get­ting used to look­ing far enough ahead that you can pick up

With more time spent ob­serv­ing the scene in­stead of end­less cast­ing, the se­crets of the trout are re­vealed making the an­gler more suc­cess­ful

signs of fish early. By ob­serv­ing 2030 me­tres you are not walk­ing on top of them once they have been spot­ted there­fore spook­ing the fish eas­ily. Most new­com­ers con­cen­trate on the area just in front of their feet and are of­ten sur­prised at the num­ber of fish that bolt out from just in front of them.

This is of ut­most im­por­tance when spot­ting clear rivers es­pe­cially when brown trout are sit­ting in the shal­low edges. It is very rare to see a trout out feed­ing in the open in full view un­less you are fish­ing wa­ter that is sel­dom fished, so be­come ac­cus­tomed to look­ing for parts of fish or shapes that may be fish. Most of the time, es­pe­cially when look­ing at faster wa­ter, a smudge fac­ing up­stream is all that is seen.

Colour and light

Both brown and rain­bow trout are dif­fi­cult to spot for most novice an­glers and trout have that un­canny abil­ity to change colour with the riverbed struc­ture. Shapes that face up­stream in the wa­ter are usu­ally trout but if you’re un­sure, cast at it. If it is a fish you will usu­ally see some move­ment from it be­fore long.

Some brown­ies can al­most be a sil­ver colour in very clear moun­tain rivers, while in other wa­ter­ways they take on a very olive coloura­tion. When it comes to look­ing into pools es­pe­cially long slow mov­ing pools, at first glance noth­ing is seen. By tak­ing a lit­tle time to sit down and care­fully study the wa­ter for a few min­utes shapes can of­ten ap­pear out of nowhere to sud­denly be­come fish. By po­si­tion­ing your­self with a high back­drop of bush or river­bank you will of­ten re­duce glare on the far side of the river and will al­low your­self to see clearly into the wa­ter.

Hav­ing the sun high in the mid­day sky is an­other ad­van­tage when spot­ting trout on rivers, be­cause when the sun is sit­ting low on the hori­zon such as a bright morn­ing or in the late af­ter­noon, ex­cess glare can make spot­ting trout very dif­fi­cult. For the same rea­son, spot­ting fish in au­tumn is much harder than in the mid­dle of sum­mer with the ex­ces­sive wa­ter glare.

Pa­tience is a virtue

In faster sec­tions of river when try­ing to spot fish, the fast river cur­rents turn the riverbed into mass of blurs, the wa­ter and boul­ders all en­twine to make spot­ting very dif­fi­cult. When look­ing into fast wa­ter one has to slow down and af­ter a lit­tle time a win­dow, an area of smooth wa­ter that is not bro­ken up by the fast cur­rents, will open up al­low­ing you to see right through to the bed.

The pa­tient an­gler that waits for the win­dow will soon see shapes and ob­jects in the river that they would have by-passed if they were mov­ing quickly. Of­ten th­ese turn out to be fish. The other ad­van­tage the an­gler has when fish­ing in fast wa­ter is that they can some­times get very close to the fish with­out it know­ing by us­ing the wa­ter and cur­rent speed to their ad­van­tage.

Know your an­gle

One of the great­est ad­van­tages an an­gler can have when look­ing into the wa­ter is to ex­am­ine the river from a high an­gle. By get­ting high above the wa­ter­line the whole riverbed can of­ten be seen very clearly. When view­ing the river from an el­e­vated po­si­tion be sure to have veg­e­ta­tion of some sort con­ceal your where­abouts. Sit down into the bank if fish­ing along farm­land so not to be sil­hou­et­ted by the sun's light, as the fish will see you clearly if you are high­lighted by the sky­line.

The most suc­cess­ful method for spot­ting and stalk­ing fish is to have a friend on high ground. At wa­ter level, glare pre­vents the an­gler from see­ing the fish but the mate who is spot­ting from a high point can give clear in­struc­tions to where the fish

are lo­cated and then guide the an­gler on where to cast their of­fer­ings.

Es­sen­tial kit

An item ev­ery an­gler should carry to aid in spot­ting fish is a pair of Po­laroid glasses and a peaked or wide brimmed hat. One with­out the other is al­most use­less but used to­gether they are in­valu­able.

Po­laroid sun­glasses are a must for good spot­ting as well as be­ing a safety de­vice for stray hooks in the wind. If glasses are worn with­out the aid of a hat too much light is let in through the sides of the glasses for full ef­fec­tive­ness. The shad­ing hat elim­i­nates ex­cess sun­light and glare from hit­ting the glasses. If the un­der­side of the peak is a dark colour even more glare is elim­i­nated.

In fresh­wa­ter, am­ber and cop­per coloured lenses will help the most, with the cop­per lenses ideal as an all-round fish­ing glass and the am­ber great in low light con­di­tions. Po­laroid glasses come in ei­ther poly­car­bon­ate or glass lenses, the poly­car­bon­ates are cheaper than glass in price and lighter in weight but they have a ten­dency to scratch very eas­ily if not taken care of. While the glass lenses are heav­ier they are also clearer or sharper to look through and do not scratch as eas­ily.

The man­u­fac­tures also have the abil­ity to make them pho­tochro­matic, this al­lows the glass to change shade sub­tly with dif­fer­ing light con­di­tions. Pho­tochro­matic glasses darken up slightly in very bright con­di­tions and lighten a shade in low light.

All in the tim­ing

The best time for clear spot­ting is when con­di­tions are calm and the sun is high in the sky, but as with most recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties Mur­phy of­ten comes to visit once you fi­nally get the chance to get out and cast a few flies.

Over­cast and windy con­di­tions can make spot­ting trout more dif­fi­cult when walk­ing the river­bank but the pa­tient an­gler is usu­ally re­warded. With more time spent ob­serv­ing the scene in­stead of end­less cast­ing, the se­crets of the trout are re­vealed making the an­gler more suc­cess­ful.

Re­mem­ber, that ninety-nine per­cent of the time the whole fish will not be seen and it may only be a smudge in the wa­ter, a fin or some un­usual move­ment that trig­gers your at­ten­tion. The golden rule is if in doubt give it a shot; it may just be a fish.

A prime Jack rain­bow sight fished by the au­thor.

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