Posts Tagged ‘Low Water’

Going Micro

December 1, 2010

Things are still getting going with the season on the streams and there has been that (possibly) fortuitous influx of brownies, which are keeping many of our hopes alive because without the life long education that the stream born rainbows have received to be honest the brownies are still a little naïve.

So right now larger flies still work pretty much Ok and although you are likely to be getting refusals from some of the “bows” the brownies will frequently make an error of judgment. But summer is coming the late rains have added a flush to the system but pretty soon you are going to be reaching for that 7 or 8X tippet and the micro patterns.

Whilst it has taken a few years for their general acceptance it isn’t uncommon for one to find even neophyte anglers on the streams with tiny patterns and fine tippets, it has become accepted pretty much that small is often better when the going gets tough. Of course a quick glimpse at the size of the actual bugs on the river will confirm that much of what the trout eat is pretty tiny and it makes sense to copy that, at least the size if not the pattern. The fish have wised up to the idea that if something appears to be too good to be true then it probably is and I would have to say that most of the better fish that I have caught come on tiny dries or nymphs, particularly in lower water conditions.

So what patterns are likely to be effective and how can you best fish them?

My top producing micro patterns include:


The parachute micro caddis, these flies arrive in great numbers, last a long time on the water and definitely fall into the drink on a regular basis. In fact I am not sure that the hatch is that important, it is the residual caddis flies wandering about the rocks which provide a regular food source. They come in two primary colours, tan and black and you should carry patterns of both although the black one is a favourite.

Micro Spun Dun.


Spun duns manufactured out of deer hair can only be tied so small , after that they become problematic but a switch to using CDC or poly yarn as a wing will allow you to tied these flies down to minute sizes without much trouble or indeed expense. A favourite being the blue winged olives which can be readily manufactured with dun or gray poly yarn and olive thread bodies.

The Compar-ant.


Using similar methods to the spun dun techniques, this is a remarkably visible fly for a micro pattern and fish just love ants. Whilst falls of flying ants aren’t common they do produce superb fishing with almost every trout in the river “on the top”. Even when they are not about in numbers the fish will target them and you can frequently break the spell of a tricky fish by using an ant.

Sunk Patterns:

Fishing micro patterns sub surface is probably even more effective, if only because when reduced to micro tactics it is generally a result of  the water being low and clear and the fish  being particularly troublesome to tempt. The fishing of patterns sub surface not only sinks the leader or tippet but also often seems to tempt the trout more easily, they just seem more accepting of subsurface flies some how.

The brassie:


This is a giant amongst the micro flies and serves as my number one micro nymph pattern when the going is tough. I have switched to this fly after a refusal to a dry and ended up tempting the fish more times than I care to remember. It is simple to tie, sinks like a brick on fine tippet and is one of the few fast sinking nymphs that can be easily cast on the ultra-light tackle that we tend to use on the streams. I carry them in both tailed “mayfly nymph” versions and tailless “Midge” versions.

The drowned midge:


Another tiny pattern which could in fact represent any number of drowned bugs or emergers or stillborn flies. Tied with either a thread or wire body this pattern offers a bit more movement than the brassie and will frequently illicit a response when other flies fail.

Fishing micro flies:

For the dries I generally fish them alone on a fine 7  or 8X tippet, but if you are battling to see them then you can fish them in tandem behind another pattern that is a bit more visible. You will find that it is more difficult to get drag free drifts with two flies but it is better  than missing the take entirely and takes to microscopic dries are frequently pretty subtle so knowing exactly where the fly is can be a huge boon.

For the sunken patterns again I usually fish them with a dry fly indicator, a size 18 parachute will easily support these tiny subsurface flies, there is no need for a giant indicator pattern.

When targeting a visible fish one can forego the indicator dry but the trick then is to watch the fish and not the fly. If the fish makes a sudden turn to eat subsurface a strike will usually find your pattern firmly stuck in the scissors of the trout. No matter that you thought that the nymph was some way off, it is tricky if not impossible to actually guess exactly where the fly is under water and better to tighten on any distinct feeding movement of the fish.

Fishing Micro Patterns with a sighter dry fly.

You can click on the above diagram to see an enlarged version.

So as the water levels drop you will be faced with more sight fishing opportunities and at the same time probably more trouble getting the fish to eat bigger flies. Moving to the micro patterns is of course only one of a variety of options but it is definintely one that should be part of your armoury.

When the going gets tough, the tough go micro, at least some of the time.

Have fun out there.

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Brought to you by Inkwazi Flyfishing Cape Town's best fly fishing guiding service.

This blog was brought to you by Inkwazi Fly Fishing in conjunction with STEALTH FLY ROD AND REEL.

There is is, a quick low down on fishing tiny flies, it takes some getting used to, faith has a lot to do with it but time has taught me that the trouble it takes to get used to fishing small can pay handsome dividends come the low waters of summer.

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The Dog Days of Summer.

February 23, 2010

The Dog Days can be tough but also rewarding.

The Dog Days of Summer.

Right now we are in the dog days of summer, low water, tricky trout, bright sunshine and blue skies, none of which is conducive to the best in stream fly fishing. Add to that the fact that yours truly dislocated the shoulder in his casting arm and options become severely limited.

Sure I have been out on the water guiding clients and they have had to work particularly hard for their fish, the only good thing about it is that the trout you get you earned and you can be as proud of your 12” beauty in Feb as you were with the 19” fish that inhaled your fly when the water was up.

One can try to get on the water earlier, stay a bit later and tread a tad more carefully but truth be told things are tough out there. Tough enough that I just declined taking a complete novice on a guided trip, he wasn’t prepared to walk far and the prospects of quality near roadside and therefore lower altitude are severely limited. Probably would put the poor guy off fishing for life if that was to be the first encounter.

Its not that things can’t be entertaining out there, it is easy to spot the fish, or at least the ones that are out on the current but it is also easy for them to see you which sort of “ups the ante”. Months of catch and release fishing have raised the awareness of the fish, the flat water has improved their ability to see you as well as the shadow of your tippet and the pockets, where one might have had a better chance of sneaking up on a fish or two, have all but been vacated. I am not sure if the fish move out for fear of getting stranded or simply because of the temperature but at some point late in the season they always seem to disappear. Pity I love pocket water fishing, it is the only place where circumstances offer some edge to the angler, all things being equal.

I know that even back in the UK when rivers rarely drop as low or get as warm as those here the rivers are usually regarded as tricky in the late summer, August offering little respite during the day but perhaps a caddis hatch in the late evening. Our hatches seem to wane drastically in the heat of summer so the fish aren’t even fixated on food floating down the current when you are trying to get into position.

Spooking fish becomes the norm, if you can raise one out of five that you see without scaring them into flight you are doing well.

Still I reckon that when you get right down to it, it is still worth fishing, not on the lower beats, there a captured fish is likely to be a dead one if you are not very careful, the oxygen levels in the warm water put the stress of capture too close to the fatality line for me to feel comfortable fishing in those waters. But the headwaters or tail-waters still offer sport. You will catch a lot less but possibly learn a whole lot more in these conditions.. it isn’t for everyone but it still beats a day in the office.

Some worthwhile tips however may assist you in your endeavours:

Under these conditions doing everything you can to reduce your visibility and the clean, rapid and delicate presentation of your fly is important. That means almost all presentations are now with 7X tippet and possibly 8X, the leaders are degreased with virtually every presentation to a visible fish, it doesn’t work that well but it is better than not trying.

Leaders need to be long and fine, fish are spooking before the leader even touches the water on occasion, you can never improve the presentation enough to fool all of them under these conditions.

Frequently a well placed tiny brassie nymph can do the trick where a dry fly won’t, and fishing without an indicator can make for some exciting guess work as to whether you had a take or not.

Matting down rods to remove that high gloss finish that looks so good in the shop and is such a liability on the stream is to me an essential in high summer. Perhaps in high water during the early season it is less important, or maybe you just can’t see the fish that you are frightening to death. Right now a glossy rod is a big mistake in my book and it will make a difference.

Removing your watch and any associated “bling” from flashy forceps to shiny fishing reels will aid your approach, if you really like to have the watch on your arm then at least turn it around or put some sink paste on the face to take off the glare. Sanding down your Breitling Navitimer may be going a bit far so easier just to put it in a pocket.  My friend Albe made me a super little plastic box to keep my used patterns in but I have had to put it inside the vest as no amount of sanding seems to have removed its reflective qualities entirely.

Careful wading is equally essential, you can still get quite close to fish if you stay in the shade along the bankside and don’t bang the rocks together. Careful wading however conversely means not using a wading staff, the bump bump bump of a pole on the rocks will see fish scatter well before you get within casting range.

And finally if all else fails, lower your expectations, you aren’t going to fool as many fish and most likely not the bigger ones at this time of year. Fish slowly , enjoy the hunt and don’t expect to be walloping them by the dozens. Plus it wouldn’t hurt if you spent a minute or two praying for some rain.

As my mate Greg commented, “Bring on the winter rains, I need to at least get my knees wet when I fish”.