Posts Tagged ‘daphnia’

Targeting Daphnia Feeders

September 21, 2009
This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris

The trouble with lakes is that they are big, if you are used to small virtually unnamed spate streams they are massively big actually and I am sure I am not the first angler who stood on the side of a large stillwater impoundment and wondered if there was a trout within rifle shot, never mind a moderate cast. My first forays into stillwater trouting were fraught with lack of confidence.

The sheer size is intimidating enough and then there is the issue of the depth, in the streams that I fished the depth wasn’t too much of a worry but now I was fishing in three dimensions, and without too much of a clue. It did strike me that the boat anglers had an advantage because obviously all the fish must be out in the middle right?, and there I was trapped fishing close to the bank, by both financial limitation and poor casting. Boat hire was pretty pricey and my rod was a penny horror of fiberglass construction. However I had one fortuitous advantage, I had come across and purchased a book by Brian Clarke called “In the pursuit of stillwater trout” and in it he stripped the process of targeting stillwater fish from the bank down to a handful of patterns and some pretty pragmatic ideas about where to find fish and what flies to use based on the imitation of natural patterns. The most obviously popular one being midge pupa, consumed by almost all stillwater trout in large number. So it was that I became an “imitative” fisherman, shirking all of those gaudy “lures” of rainbow hue and focusing on simple hare’s ears, midge and sedge (caddis) pupa and doing rather well at it. In fact that particular book is I believe out of print but it makes for great reading and is highly recommended if you can lay your hands on a copy. It also removed much of the complexity not least because Clarke advocated only even using floating lines for good reasons and so tackle set up was a breeze..

However down the years I became somewhat enamored with boat fishing, particularly drift boat fishing in what you might loosely regard as “loch style” and here simply imitative fishing isn’t quite the same. Whilst I still shun most of the purple and fluorescent pink creations of the over active piscatorial minds and view many of these patterns simply as “stock fish lures”, I have come to realize that sometimes simply fishing imitative nymphs isn’t the way to go. For the record where I fish these days the fish are stocked as fingerlings and by the time we are catching them they are fully acclimatized to their natural surrounds

Daphnia blooms can lead to large concentrations of feeding fish.

Daphnia blooms can lead to large concentrations of feeding fish.

Take for instance Daphnia feeders, sure Daphnia are real bugs and the trout eat them in massive numbers, but you can’t really imitate them. They are microscopic organisms and in stomach samples from trout they appear somewhat similar to the non descript gloop that used to served up as pudding in school dinning rooms all over the UK. Individual organisms almost indiscernible in the porridge like mass. They were less of an issue when fishing from the bank as most daphnia seem to inhabit deeper water, being apparently photophobic they should really be regarded more like plankton than anything else and the trout feed on them rather like whales feed on krill, simply swimming through the mass with mouths agape.

Individual daphnia are tiny, but in clouds they provide a significant food source to fish.

Individual daphnia are tiny, but in clouds they provide a significant food source to fish.

Out in a boat, and particularly at certain times of the year this planktonic mass becomes a significant food source, perhaps even the most significant and so it has been of late on our local stillwaters down here in the Cape. Winter sees a slowing down of insect hatches and the fish seem to have moved away from the edges of the dams, obviously there simply isn’t a whole lot of food there in the shallows right at the moment and the attraction of the swarms of daphnia out in the middle have lured the fish away.

Concentrations of Daphnia have a distinct orange colour.

Concentrations of Daphnia have a distinct orange colour.

As I mentioned I have shunned bright flies and lures for years, believing them to be unnecessary and frequently unproductive, and that would still hold true for the most part but daphnia feeders seem to be something of an exception. You can’t imitate their food source so what to do? It has been widely accepted for years that orange seems to be a particularly good colour to use for daphnia feeding trout, apparently in sufficient mass these microscopic bugs have a somewhat orange colouration, I am not sure that I can see that in stomach samples but in an aquarium the colour is pretty distinct, see the image above,  for whatever reason orange does seem to do the business much of the time.

So, on the last three trips out in the boat we have found through trial and error that the most effective thing to do is to simply drift in relatively deep water, searching different depths with various lines and covering water until we hit the fish. It sounds hit and miss and perhaps it is to a degree but the point is that once you find them you find them in concentration and from then on you can systematically take fish after fish by simply repeating the drift over the productive area.

Daphnia probably represent the only significant food source out in the depths and if you find fish in such waters there is a real chance that this is what they are feeding on. To date our most productive fly has been an orange booby, without flash or complex construction and although we fish three flies and have taken fish on all manner of patterns, including nymphs and imitative designs the orange has out fished them over and over. In fact it isn’t rare to find that having fished all day the only fly to have taken anything was that bright orange booby.

It still grates that this works, I would love to be able to be twitching midge pupa, or swimming dragonfly nymphs  in the shallows but when the fish are focused on these daphnia swarms there is little for it but to go out after them.

An important note though, if you are at the wrong depth you will frequently catch nothing, a point made clear only the other day when I was nine fish to nil up on my boat partner until he changed lines, then we were matching each other fish for fish from then on.

So drift as much as you can, change lines from intermediate through to Di 5 or even faster sinking for that matter, and once you locate the fish simply turn around and repeat the drift every time it goes quite.

If you have never done this type of thing before it takes some faith, out there in the middle it seems highly unlikely that you are going to find anything and for long periods you won’t, but if you can locate those pods of fish and the clouds of daphnia that they are consuming they you are in for a high ol’ time.

On the last trip we landed more than 20 fish in a morning session, despite the fact that several hours of that time was spent drifting without result. It is, to repeat the lessons from an earlier article, very much a case of “first find the fish”, but it can prove deadly effective if you have the faith and patience for it.

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First Find the Fish.

August 11, 2009

Cape Piscatorial Society Newsletter

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Lakensvlei Dam

Lakensvlei Dam

Would you believe that despite the onslaught of cold fronts I have actually managed some fishing this past week. Thanks both to Paddy Coleman a client and friend who wanted to fish Lakensvlei, and to Ian Lourens who kindly allowed me to once again use his boat.

We headed out of Cape Town late on Monday evening and had a very pleasant stay overnight at the Ceres Inn before heading out just after breakfast to hit the water. We had considered the option of foregoing the pleasures of a cooked breakfast and hitting the water at first light, but really come the frigid dawn the idea lost it’s appeal and we only pushed the boat out at around nine.

There was a slight breeze blowing down the dam and slightly towards Bob’s house which seemed pretty pleasant for drift boating.

You may recall that my last trip up there suggested that the fish were feeding in deeper water on daphnia and perhaps the odd crab and given that for Paddy it was his first attempt at drift boating I thought we would aim for a long drift down the middle so as to “settle into” the process if you will.

Now the international teams, who have a great deal more expertise at drift boat fishing than any of us South Africans will tell you first find the fish, then worry about the depth and finally the fly. This piece of advice has always stuck with me and I take it to mean that in a boat the first thing that you want to do is cover water.

There was a time when I would never have fished out in the middle but it has worked for me before, and with word from the locals that they had also been taking fish in deeper water, and given that there can’t be much to eat out there in the middle other than daphnia I put on a select of flies including a hot orange Booby on the top dropper. Orange is a traditional attractor colour for daphnia feeders, but this first drift was really supposed to be a matter of getting into the swing of things.

We hadn’t drifted thirty yards when I hit the first fish, a superb silvery rainbow and within two casts I hooked up his brother. Then another two casts and I was into fish again, it seemed like we had really cracked the code but the last fish had badly tangled the leader in the net and by the time I had it sorted we had drifted out of the action.

Aiming to repeat the drift we rowed back and started again but the notoriously fickle wind at the dam had us blowing much faster and in a different direction this time and we missed the fish. No matter what we did we couldn’t repeat the drift over what I was sure was a serious concentration of fish and we remained fishless for several hours despite working hard at finding them again.

We picked up a gorgeous brownie up in the inlet arm but that seemed to be a once off event and we found no more fish. Eventually the wind abated and swung back again and we could drift more in the region where we had contacted fish in the morning. Paddy had a similar experience to mine on one drift and after hours of trying he took two fish in two casts. I picked up one more and that was about it for the day. Eight fish in total, all taken on sinking lines and every single one of them took the orange booby.

So it turned out that we had found the depth and the fly , we had even found the fish, it was just tricky to stay on them with the variable winds.

All in all an interesting  day , although we worked really hard at it, success coming in fits and starts depending almost entirely it would seem on whether we could get the boat over that pod of fish. We didn’t kill any, so I can’t confirm that they were on daphnia. Perhaps it is better that I don’t know, nicer to imagine that one is right than to risk finding out the opposite.

Wherever you are fishing next, I hope that you will “find the fish”..