The Catch

Trout fish­ers are al­ways talk­ing about ‘read­ing the wa­ter’ – ob­serv­ing its sur­face to in­ter­pret what might be hap­pen­ing be­low so they can guess where fish might or might not be hold­ing.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY JOHN EICHELSHEIM

Read­ing the wa­ter

Read­ing the wa­ter is a vi­tal part of river craft, es­pe­cially for the fly-fisher who, to be suc­cess­ful, must fac­tor in how the river flow af­fects the way his flies be­have on or un­der the wa­ter. To a lesser de­gree it’s im­por­tant for lake fish­ers as well.

But what about sea fish­ers? We’ve be­come in­creas­ingly re­liant on elec­tron­ics to map out un­der­wa­ter fea­tures and do our fish find­ing for us, but the abil­ity to ‘read the wa­ter’ can still be ex­tremely use­ful. You can tell an awful lot about tidal flow, wa­ter depth, un­der­wa­ter struc­ture and the pres­ence of fish from the sea sur­face.

In­di­ca­tors of un­der­wa­ter struc­ture and depth can in­clude vari­a­tions in wa­ter colour, ‘dis­turbed’ wa­ter – swirling currents, over-falls and up­wellings – or ar­eas where the sea state is dif­fer­ent. Shal­low sand and reef flats may be in­di­cated by wa­ter that is calmer, by rip­ples and swirls, es­pe­cially over rocky bars and reef flats where there is plenty of tidal flow, and by vari­a­tions in wa­ter colour where the wa­ter is clear.

Iden­ti­fy­ing struc­ture is im­por­tant: struc­ture pro­vides fish with shel­ter, cover from which to am­bush prey and an

abun­dance of food. Sub­merged veg­e­ta­tion, rock and reef can be in­di­cated by dark patches in the wa­ter, even when the sea floor it­self is not vis­i­ble from the sur­face.

Know­ing where the kelp beds and rocky out­crops lie is very help­ful, whether lure fish­ing or us­ing nat­u­ral bait. Feed­ing stray-lined baits back over a patch of bar­ren sand is less likely to prove suc­cess­ful than drift­ing baits back to an area of rock and kelp for­est.

When so-called ‘wash fish­ing’ – cast­ing soft plas­tics close to rock faces, cliffs and into the white wa­ter where ocean meets land – read­ing wa­ter move­ment as the swells col­lide with the coast can save a lot of lost tackle.

Wa­ter that lifts or swirls in­di­cates the pres­ence of sub­merged rock, reef or maybe a man­made struc­ture. Such fea­tures can be great places to fish around, but if you want to avoid get­ting snagged you need to un­der­stand where the struc­ture lies so that you don’t land the lure right on top of it.

The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween cur­rent/tidal flow and struc­ture de­ter­mines where fish gather to feed and where

ABOVE Fish mov­ing and feed­ing just un­der the sur­face cre­ate ‘ner­vous’ wa­ter.

LEFT White­wa­ter al­ways in­di­cates struc­ture above and some­times also be­low the sur­face.BE­LOW LEFT Big game fish such as mar­lin like to feed where warm ocean currents in­ter­face with rich coastal wa­ter.

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