Posts Tagged ‘Rainbow Trout’

SnapShots

April 19, 2013

SnapshotsHead

Fishermen I suspect see the calendar a little differently than most; it is Autumn here, well banging towards winter to be honest. The temperatures have dropped and I was up early which means that my feet are chill inside my slippers and it has taken an age for the skies to brighten.

I was contemplating the past year, for most the year starts in January but for me the year starts and ends in May. That is the last of the stream fishing for another season and at the same time the beginning of what one hopes will be some fine stillwater angling.

Come to think of it I was born in May and perhaps that was some sort of evolutionary mandate to allow me as much time as possible to grow before the opening of the season, much as sea birds give their chicks the time to learn to fly before the food source blooms, or Wildebeest time their breeding to coincide with the rains. You never know.

My life and my calendar are defined by fishing, I am not sure that I want it like that so much as that is just the way things are. I was born to fish and whilst I am interested in a lot of things, little or nothing grabs my attention quite in the same way as fly fishing does. So unremarkably the year is remembered in snapshots, moments in time, mostly related to fishing.

AlbumRainbows

The season has been kind, there have been more than a few days of angling, the early forays into the swollen and frigid waters, with some nice rainbows and of course a few tiddlers too. Mind you the tiddlers are inordinately pretty, with blue parr markings, reminiscent of inky finger stains on the flanks of the juvenile rainbows. There were a couple of wonderful browns, a fortunate happenstance courtesy of a damaged screen in a local trout farm a few years back. The browns have done better than anyone expected and packed on weight such that a 20” brown trout is, if not common at least within one’s sights.

AlbumBrowns

The rainbows have managed to breed well over the last few seasons too, plenty of fish to go around and all happily protected by catch and release regulations. They have provided sport for myself and clients alike, and I have been fortunate to be part of the capture of the very first fly caught trout with a number of anglers. There have been a few girls too who have ventured out and caught their first fish, little do they suspect that they may well end up as hooked as the fish were.

AlbumClients

There has been some travel, a trip to the UK to my old stomping grounds for a wedding, and of course a spot of fishing. My brother became betrothed for the first time and I fished a genuine English Chalk stream for the first time too. I met up with old friends, family and some new acquaintances who kindly helped me keep my line wet and fishing fever at bay.  I watched small children catch crabs from “Iron Bridge” which probably represents the geographical start of my love affair with fishing and wandered the West Country to try out some stillwaters and rivers that I had either never fished or only fished years before.

AlbumUKTrip

I walked country lanes and drank real ale in country pubs, thick granite walls, smoke stained wooden beams and roofs of local slate. There were hostelries with names like “The Fisherman’s Cot” and “The Trout Inn” and wondrous ales , my personal favourite being “Doombar” from the Sharps Brewery near Rock.

Memories of endless rain and gloriously verdant countryside, I suppose the two go hand in hand for obvious reasons.

Then there was the Wild Trout Associations festival in Rhodes, a lovely village set in the high country of the Eastern Cape, buckets of water or one should perhaps say “Miles of River” as the water was a bit low on some of the streams and a bucketful might have caused something of a flood. The fishing was however good and I was able to assist some anglers make the most of their trip. It has been a good year all round for the neophytes, with lots of coaching and guiding, some keen little kids and some older fly fishing beginners all getting into the swing of things and catching some trout. It is always a special pleasure to be able to help the newbies.

AlbumFriends

Now the season here is drawing to a close, I have fond memories of fishing on my own on Christmas Day and a trip out with my friend Mike on Good Friday, which was fun until the river turned to chocolate due to out-flow from one of the local trout farms.  Sometimes the opportunity to fish doesn’t present itself as often as one might like but all in all it has been good. The rivers will start to fill now, the night time temperatures are dropping such that the fish will turn their minds to breeding shortly. Just as that happens though the stillwater fishing will come into its own and there is the drift boat fishing to look forward to.

AlbumStillwater2

A chance to drift a lake with the snowcapped Matroosberg as a backdrop, hopefully some larger trout and relaxed angling.

All these things are memories, snapshots of a season passed or almost passed at least. What the future holds who knows but fishing is going to be part of it, that’s for certain.

SignatureCompendium3

How Small a Trout?

November 12, 2012

How Small a Trout:

The title comes from a quotation courtesy of one of my favourite authors, John Gierach:

“Maybe your stature as a fisherman isn’t determined by how big a trout you can catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed”

It also happens to be the name of one of my favoured fly fishing blogs “How Small a Trout” at http://howsmallatrout.wordpress.com

But the point was brought home to me on a remarkable day this past weekend where I was able to actually push both ends of the size envelope within the same day, from a particularly large brown to a tiny and totally wild rainbow within hours and not more than a kilometre or two of one another.

I had received a most gracious invitation from Sharland to join her at Fizantekraal Lodge in the Du Toit’s Kloof mountains. The lodge is top notch, with exquisite views, five star cuisine, and of course in this instance most pleasant and entertaining company. The real attraction though, at least for those of us in possession of “The Fishing Gene” is that it boasts three small trout lakes and a section of pristine trout stream headwater. A tiny, distinctly bushed in and closely wooded top section of the Kraalstroom River.

The lake fishing isn’t really my thing, I would have to admit, the dams are too small and the surroundings just a tad too contrived to really sit well with someone who would far rather be on a river or a large expanse of water, bobbing in a boat perhaps or searching the shallows in the hope of finding feeding fish. However on previous visits I had already established a Modus Operandi which makes the fishing considerably more entertaining than might otherwise be the case and Sharland and I have pretty much perfected the technique.

The thing is with these small clear dams and large fish sight fishing is more than simply possible, it is virtually assured. The impoundments despite their small stature contain some really rather large and not entirely stupid fish. They have been stocked mostly in relatively small sizes and grown on without artificial subsidy of diet, they have equally grown more than a little wary of anglers and eschew pretty much any fly or lure that most people would consider standard fare for the lake angler. Woolly Buggers and such are frequently followed but ultimately ignored and the dams therefore provide a wonderful possibilities for experimentation.

Refusal

Even with 7X tippet and #18 dries, refusals prove all too common.

It was on a visit a year or two back when , returning from the stream and under strict instructions from my hostess “Not to be late for lunch” that I passed one of the dams carrying my #3wt stream outfit, rigged with 7X tippet and a tiny #18 dry fly. The story is told in full in a previous blog “Big Fish on fine tippets” . https://paracaddis.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/big-fish-on-fine-tippets/

In short having sighted a fish on my way back to the lodge I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a cast, knowing , or at least mostly knowing that you weren’t supposed to throw such tiny flies on such fine tippet at 2 to 3 kilo trout. It isn’t done; but of course I did it and landed a superb fish. In the following hours and on into the next day we repeated the trick over and over. The fish would be very tippet shy and entirely avoid any moving subsurface pattern but would take well presented tiny parachutes.. It was tremendous fun and afforded the chance to push the limits of what was possible.

In fact those experiments worked so well that on this trip I didn’t venture to include anything heavier than a three weight rod in my gear. I caught some great fish in similar size ranges and a number of “tiddlers” which had entered the lower dams from the river over time. In fact I rarely fished a nymph at all for the duration of my stay but in the late morning I was returning to the lodge again, feeling more than a little dehydrated as it had become really rather hot and I thought that I would enjoy a drink before a planned trip to fish the river in the afternoon.

On the way back there was a sense of De ja vu when there appeared in the shallowest section of the dam a very large fish which boiled at something on the surface. I unhooked the dry on its gossamer tippet, trying to stay hidden behind a large grass tuft I flipped the dry out onto the surface not a few feet from the bank and waited. The trout appeared from behind the grass, a massive brownie, spots showing clearly in the sunshine and a simply huge head, with a seriously kyped jaw, broke the surface and engulfed the fly. It was a heart stopping moment, the mouth was so large that I could easily imagine pulling the fly right out of it and hooking nothing but thin air. Really, it seemed impossible to hook up, as though one had tossed the fly into a fire bucket and was hoping to catch up on the sides. I delayed the strike, lifting firmly but not overly quickly and the next moment there was solid resistance and a huge thrashing of foam on the surface as the trout felt the prick of the hook.

To start with it seemed the huge fish had failed to notice that it was actually attached to the line, he would shake his head from time to time but mostly just moseyed along a few feet out, hardly bothering to take more evasive action. I applied all the pressure I dared, pretty well as much pressure as I could with a #2 weight rod anyway and provoked a considerably more violent reaction, letting line whizz off the reel on occasion and trusting that in the end I would tire the fish sufficiently to land him.  After much delicate toing and froing, alternatively taking in and then rapidly giving back line I netted the fish. It is incredible what can be done on fine tippet if one has a sufficiently forgiving (soft actioned) rod and equally soft hands, ready to give line when necessary. Quite possibly the biggest brown trout I have ever caught, the kudos of the moment ameliorated slightly by the artificial surrounds but equally enhanced by the ultrafine gear that was being used. (#2wt Sage ZXL, 18′ leader to 7X Stroft copolymer tippet)

Brown Trout (mouth size inset), the weight and length estimates only

I removed the hook that was set well back in the giant fish’s throat, actually managing to fit my entire fist into his mouth in the process, a simply massive mouth for a freshwater fish, took a few quick pictures and put him back into the water. Unfortunately he got away from me a bit early before I was happy he was well set and proceeded to dive into a weedbed where I could see him laying, ostrich like,  head in the weeds and not looking entirely OK. He was too far out to reach with the net so stripping myself of my vest, glasses and such I dove into the dam after the fish, hoping to get him back in the net or provoke him into swimming away and driving some more oxygen through his gills. He shot off and appeared to recover fully. Soaking wet I returned, probably a little late for lunch.

Brown Trout Fizantekraal

This fish had been stocked years back as a 350gm baby

In the afternoon I headed up the Kraalstroom, the first section is impossibly bushy and Lilliputian, you wouldn’t swing a mouse no matter his proverbial adversary but as I walked the odd pocket opened up. Each time there was a pocket in the rocks there would be a beautiful wild rainbow trout of between six and eight inches sitting right in the tail-out. The difficulty wasn’t so much fooling the fish as getting the fly into the water.

I contrived numerous casts, variations of switch. roll, flick and goodness knows what else in the tight brush. Casts which may not appear in Gary Borger’s “Presentation” and would probably be righteously excluded from a book with such a title, but I hit the water often enough and each time I did I hooked a gorgeously marked baby trout. Flushed cheeks and classical metallic blue finger shaped parr markings.

Gorgeous little fish, naïve as girls at the school dance and pretty in much the same way too. All dressed up with nowhere to go in the tiny stream. On one occasion, and probably as much through luck as judgement I managed to flick a cast under an overhanging tree, get the leader to settle just before tangling an overhanging bush and as the fly drifted into the shade of entangled herbage a slight flash indicated the take and I hooked into a twelve incher. A monster really from this water and a most satisfying challenge to even get near, I was ecstatic with that result, the fish as deserving of praise and joy as the massive brown of the morning. One fish no more than twelve inches long demanding a dreadfully contrived and somewhat fortuitous cast , the other a leviathan, known of but never or rarely previously hooked in a small dam and landed on the finest of tippets.

Kralstroom Rainbow

Beautifully coloured baby bow from the Kraalstroom.

I have to say that I enjoyed catching them both, each represented different challenges, each had their own beauty, each was a fish and each was caught by a fly angler. My fishing gene obviously doesn’t discriminate, this is an equal opportunity adventure and any fish can join in. As to the title quotation, none of those fish during the course of the day had me feeling the slightest bit disappointed, I was feeling blessed to have received a most kind invitation to fish and revelled in the diversity of it all. Special thanks to my host Sharland Urquhart and to Ryan for providing information on the stream. Ryan informed me later that the brown, estimated at 3Kg on capture had been stocked years back at a miniscule 350 grams..   You can find more information on the lodge at http://www.fizantakraal.co.za/

As with all the posts on “The Fishing Gene”, you are welcome and encouraged to leave comments. Thanks to the regular readers “The Fishing Gene” blog recently passed the 30,000 views mark and hopefully will continue to grow in popularity.

Information on the style of tying the parachute patterns used can be downloaded for FREE from Smashwords in the book “Who Packed Your Parachute” on the link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/17437

Other books available from the author: Click on the image to find out more:

Farewell to a season

May 23, 2010

My final day on the streams for a season, a mixed bag and a lot of hard work but some good fishing and a memorable day.

Farewell to a season.

This was to be the last chance for the season, the rivers hereabouts close in a week’s time and various commitments, work, a Nature Conservation course and the possible arrival of another cold front meant that I had one last chance at getting in some river time.

The streams had settled back from their flood conditions just in time to offer some last hope, and I had already missed out on a trip with Peter earlier in the week. We had planned to get out for an afternoon; it is a long drive for a few hours fishing but needs must as the clock was ticking. Plans had been made and I was all ready to go when some inconsiderate decided to take the chance to smash my car window and when I should have been happily driving to a rendezvous with Peter and some fish I was busying myself trying to get a new drivers side front window. Worse still Peter apparently “hammered e’m” and took some twenty five fish so I was doubly annoyed about the glass, more so than the stolen GPS that went with it.

I managed to sneak away for a few hours the following afternoon and ventured out on my own. For some reason the fishing wasn’t as “on” as when Pete was there the day before, I took a few fish but it wasn’t spectacular and I worked hard at it for maybe half a dozen trout before the fading light and the poor visibility of casting into the setting sun put paid to the trip.

Mind you I rarely fish well under such circumstances the mad dash drive up the freeway, the hurried tackling up and the rush in the hope of getting into some fish before the light fails isn’t the best way to set about something which always seems to work a lot better when one is relaxed.

I still had one booking left, here we book the water on a beat system, which works well and means that not only don’t the fish get constantly harassed but that you can arrive late in the day and still have water to yourself. The idea had been that I may have been fishing a competition trial but that fell through so I had the water to myself and one last chance at it.

To be honest though I didn’t awaken filled with enthusiasm, it was a late and rather boozy night the evening before, the local rugby team having made it to the finals of the Super 14 and that was cause for celebration, maybe a little too much celebration for an early start to a fishing day. So when I finally raised my weary head from the pillow, made some coffee and packed the gear the sun was well up.

The weather forecast was good with balmy “berg winds” but that also meant a strong likelihood of an impending cold front, a dropping barometer and blustery breezes into ones face on the river, and so it was when I arrived.

I was fishing one of the lowest beats on the streams we fish, “The Molenaars” section. This is for us big water, not so much the volume but one of the few sections where the river widens, it traditionally holds less fish but some of the best sized ones around and they seem to always be in particularly good condition. The idea being to finish the season with something of a “bang”.

The Molenaars Beat, slightly bigger water and usually the home of some large trout.

I think that some sort of celestial power was trying to keep me from the water, not only had I had to deal with the window incident only days previous but now on the way out through the Huguenot tunnel , a long passage of some four and a half kilometers through the mountain it became obvious that there was a problem with the car’s headlights  and I couldn’t get them to dip properly. More time wasted as I did running repairs at the road side and finally, FINALLY, I was rigged up and ready to go.

The wind was howling downstream and for the first hour I didn’t so much as sniff a fish, see a rise or anything else of note. I became convinced that the barometer was dropping and that it was going to be a struggle, but this was the last day and I had to persevere. I added a nymph to the rig and fished both dry and dropper studiously in all the likely looking spots to no avail. Then eventually there was a boil just as I lifted off a fast pocket and a second presentation produced the first fish of the day. A gorgeous brownie. This is something new; these streams haven’t ever contained brown trout until this season. I am still not sure from whence they came, rumour has it that they were escapees from a trout farm, but they would have had to have lost a lot of fish, reports of brown trout being caught have increased and increased over the past few months. Still there is something wonderfully seductive about the take of a dry fly by a brown trout. They don’t seem so much to rise to the fly as simply appear beneath it and then make a languid roll or simply inhale the pattern with hardly a blip on the surface. I managed to steel myself not to strike to rapidly, a fatal error on browns and he was on and in the net in short order.

A brown trout, a new addtion to these waters.

If they have one lack for all their gorgeous colouration and delicate rise forms they don’t fight like the rainbows do. Generally here they make little tumbles and you know almost instantly that it is a brown, even if you didn’t pick that up from the rise form.

I pressed on the wind shifting 180° in the space of one cast and making presentation difficult, the wind will almost never make it impossible for me to fish, but it does make it difficult and sometimes impossible to fish well and I really wanted to fish well on my final day of the season.

The next fish was one of the smallest rainbows I have taken this year, and all the more remarkable as this is generally big trout water, but it is encouraging to see them, it means that the stream is healthy and there are more fish coming on. These rivers are unstocked catch and release water, completely self sustaining wild, and by now pretty educated fish.

The wind settled down a bit and I saw a rise, a cast to cover that and another brownie, what is it that they seem to be coming up when I can’t find a rainbow?

The next three fish were all browns and despite the lack of rises I never got a take on the nymph, when they wanted to eat they wanted the dry and that was fine by me, I love to see a trout take a dry fly and all the more a brownie. It is slow motion, heart stoppingly beautiful, the defining moment if you are a dyed in the wool dry fly man, the fight doesn’t count for as much as watching that take.

Then I started to take rainbows, one after the other in some cases, the odd brownie mixed in but a couple of the bows were in tremendous nick, up to 18 inches and fat enough to look good coming out of a dam.

The day and with it the season was however drawing to a close, the light was failing and the river turning silver in the setting sun, tricky to read the water and spot good holding lies never mind see the fly. I kept on in the hope of one more final fish for the year, it is a fatal flaw the moment one decides “this will be the last” things either dry up or go wrong. I dropped two fish out of successive pockets due to the dry having tangled in the wind and I was pulling it backwards out of their mouths. One super rainbow in the 18” range tangled itself in the dropper during a prolonged battle and the line snapped trying to land the fish tail first in a strong flow. Then a brilliant drift over a fast current lane into slow water under the trees, with a reach mend and lots of additional mending to get the drift right. A fish came out from the shadows, inhaled the fly and was on, a fitting final fish for the season I was thinking but he came off the hook. The takes dried up and I kept on in the hope of one more, just one more. A small rainbow of about twelve inches was the final fish of the season, not a grand finish I suppose but compared to the way things looking in the morning I hadn’t done badly and was well pleased with the way I had fished.

The browns seemed far more active than the bows for most of the day.

Sometimes perseverance is the only answer and at some point in the day the fish certainly woke up a bit and by then I had got my eye in and was getting good drifts. It was a rewarding day; I probably landed fifteen or so fish maybe a few more. A fitting end and time for me to concentrate on tying some flies, fishing stillwaters and maybe taking things a little easy for a while. The fish are I am sure more pleased to see the end. It means freedom to eat without worry and no harassment from anglers for three months or so. Plus the chance to have sex and I suppose one can’t sneeze at that. September seems a long way off but there are things to be done and the fish deserve a rest. Actually the fishing guides deserve a rest too for that matter.

This post sponsored by Inkwazi Fly Fishing Safaris, Cape Town's only dedicated fly fishing guiding service.