Fly Fishing New Zealand

Proper Fishing Season 1 October to 30 April by Gary Busch

Proper Fishing Season 1 October to 30 April – Last Day Brown Trout Lessons by Gary Busch

This beautiful 5 1/2 lb brown trout was returned to the ice-cold water. 1 October to 30 April is the “proper” fishing season, and other fishing through the winter is a bonus. Winter is the time to score brownie points around home, tie flies and check maps in anticipation for 1 October.

Proper fishing season starts on 1 October and runs to 30 April. How fast the past seven months have gone by. Tomorrow will bring the final day of the “proper” fishing season. As I packed the gear into the Suzuki for the following day’s fishing, I had thoughts of the opportunities missed and some of the highlights of the past season. A chance to fish the Karamea and Crow Rivers was a definite highlight, a big fish lost in the Hurunui was not. Still, I had tomorrow’s fishing to look forward to and the weather looked spot on. There is undoubtedly good winter fishing available, but for me, 1 October to 30 April is the “proper” fishing season, and other fishing through the winter is a bonus. Winter is the time to score brownie points around home, tie flies and check maps in anticipation for 1 October.

The alarm sounded at 5.30 am, and I called to collect my father, who is a spritely 70 years young, and who was accompanying me to see what this fly fishing is all about and headed for the hills.

We arrived at the river around 8.15 am, with the sun just rising above the foothills, and the morning sky promised a warm day ahead. Tackled up, we walked to the river, which was clear with just a slight greenish tinge which hindered views to the bottom on the deeper holes. The river looked as though it was clearing after a recent southerly cold snap.

One of the problems fishing this time of year is the angle of the sun, and I could see my shadow was going to hinder spotting until the sun rose higher in the sky. Trying to spot fish in the first pool was not the right option. One step too many and a nice fish of around 6lb glided out into the current after seeing my shadow’s movement. Lesson number one – when will I leam to fish blind on these occasions with a nymph and indicator just in case a fish is in the high profitability water? Such is the attraction of sight fishing, I sometimes miss the obverse hazards.

On the next bend, a fish lay in front of a large rock outcrop in about 2m of water. The Hare and Copper variation looked to pitch in a little short, as again with the sun’s angle the fish was hard to pinpoint from a casting position. A quick check confirmed the fish was still on the feed and next cast the indicator stopped with that feeling of solid resistance. The brown dived under the rock outcrop overhang, forcing me to wade in the icy water to uncomfortable depths. Strained out of the hidey-hole, the brown was soon netted and released, a nice 3 1/2 pounder.

Thoughts of the first fish scared soon evaporated as we moved on. Two pools above from a high bank I could see a fish feeding deep at the back of the pool. With my father as a spotter, I eased into the water well behind the fish. Again unsighted from my casting position, I pitched the nymph in. Commentary from the spotter went something like, ”he’s seen something, he’s swimming back towards you, he’s shot out into the deep water.” Obviously, my nymph had pitched in just short and the brown had followed it downstream, then spied me. Lesson number two – the importance of getting the fly “above” the fish was brought home to me, not for the first time this season. On again and the temperature had become quite pleasant.

The next ripply section looked promising from a distance, and a nice fish was soon spotted. The brown then rose to take a surface morsel. The nymph was soon replaced with a size 14 Black Spider dry, a fly I have found very successful in the Canterbury high country. Again, unsighted from my casting position, I placed the fly hopefully in the right spot. The fly drifted half a metre when the surface was broken by the brownie coming downstream about to engulf the fly. I swear I could see a lovely set of gill rakers as he closed on the dry. Not happy striking in this situation with the fish facing

me, I paused longer than usual. Tightening the line, I felt that magical moment when the weight comes on the rod and a trout dived to mid-stream. The brown drifted downstream and was strained near my bank.

The black judas could be seen clearly, just in the very front of the brown’s jaw and holding by very little. I had passed the landing net to my father, but the slight bank and my fish manoeuvring skills had combined to only send my blood pressure rising, as I could see the hook soon pulling out. A polite request was made to ”pass the bl—dy net to me”. (It’s amazing what parents have to put up with). The brown was duly netted, dropping the scales on the landing net to 5lb. A beautiful silver coloured brown was released to the river.

Back upstream to where I’d hooked the fish, I looked upstream in even shallower water under the ripple where another shape could be seen. I’m never this lucky I thought, as the shape moved to take a nymph. Out goes the Black Spider, bobbing along in the ripple. An open-jaw engulfs the fly and a beautiful brown leaves the water in a run across the river. Again we headed downstream, landing this fish in the same spot as the one before. What a lovely marked 5 1/2 lb brown! Photographed, he’s returned to the ice-cold water. I was hoping the day would never end, and I’m sure my father was thinking this fly fishing is easy stuff.

We pressed on, and I was lucky enough to land two more beautiful fish on a nymph, as the fish seemed happy to collect anything that passed by in the slightly coloured water. With the sun higher in the sky, spotting had been easy and my casting had improved, getting the nymph above the fish and allowing for solid hook-ups. It was 2 o’clock when we walked back to the car. I had landed 5 beautiful fish, we’d enjoyed some father/son chats between the fish, and I think my father could see the pleasure and excitement I had received from the hours spent by the river. He’d enjoyed the scenery, the exercise from the walk, and felt some of the excitement as he had watched one of the browns rise in the water and engulf the fly.

Pity, it’s closing-day, but two lessons were learnt and next season is only 153 days or 3,672 hours away.

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