Light Bulb Moments

Having spent two months in New Zealand this year doing some pretty gruelling and intense fishing the lessons came thick and fast. Every day spent with a fly rod in hand seemed to offer up a lesson or two of varying significance. I thought I'd share two which despite at first seeming so simple and obvious made the most telling improvement to my fishing success. I kicked myself for not having figured out on my own the second lesson in particular. It's almost embarrassing.

1. White rocks

Spotting fish in the South Island is essential. If you're no good at spotting fish then your chances of catching a memorable fish and enjoying yourself decline. Spotting a fish, casting to it and catching it is the ultimate fly fishing experience in my books. Simply put, seeing more fish means you catch more. And here's the lesson: for some curious reason brown trout love to hold in a feeding station with their snout just over or behind a white or pale rock. I reckon it may have something to do with illuminating the sub aquatic food items making their way down river to the trout, making them easier to see or contrast against the pale background. This little lesson was passed on to me by my fishing guide, Chris Dore. Since then it became my approach when scanning a new piece of water to first look for any white rocks scattered about and to study them hard. If you can use your peripheral vision to scan a Cadbury's Dairy Milk Tray for the white chocolate pieces as well as I can then you should find this easy. Try it and you will be surprised how often you will make out the shape of a trout in its vicinity!

This fish was spotted holding above a single white rock

2. Not shooting the line on the final cast

Now I have been casting a fly line for many years and this one never ever occurred to me. I would always let go of the line with my non-casting hand on the final forward thrust of my cast, shooting the line forward. I knew no other way to do it and I thought that was the whole point actually! Against a stiff downstream wind this can often be disastrous with the result being the tippet and fly ending in a mess of line somewhere near the end of the heavier fly line. It also makes the job of estimating casting distances that much harder, often ending up with a 'lined' and spooked fish or, the opposite and equally game-ending clanger of casting too short and dropping the fly on the fish's head. Blog reader and fishing companion Nick Moody provided this obvious lesson: gauge the casting distance with the penultimate false cast and do not release the line in your non-casting hand on the final cast. Instead, hold the line without letting go and the effect is to punch out the fly into the wind exactly where you want it. It is something so simple and having put it to use since, I can tell you it is very effective. Truth be told, I feel a little silly not having worked this one out by myself over the years.

Nick Moody casting to a fish

You may already know these two lessons. Perhaps you were smart enough to figure out one or both for yourself. If not, I hope you too might have the same 'light bulb' reaction if you put these lessons to the test.

I enjoy fishing by myself but every now and again it pays to fish with someone new - the results can often be illuminating.