An ode to sight-fishing…
As I slowly made my way up the creek carefully scanning the water ahead for any signs of its inhabitants, I noticed a few ripples coming from behind a snag on my side of the creek… I stopped and watched… Every 30 seconds or so, a few ripples would appear from behind the snag. A trout was rising behind the logs… So it was time to stalk… I used the available cover, a tree, a tussock, a small depression in ground and then finally the snag to sneak up to the fish… I poked my head over… There he was, a big brown, 50 or so cms long, sitting just below the surface hard up against the bank surveying the floating twigs and insects going past his head… When something took his fancy, he would lazily poke his head up, mouth open and have a bite to eat. I was so close, my head was literally a meter of so from the fish, yet I remained unseen. I watched in awe for a few minutes before deciding to present a fly… I crept back, readied my fly rod and then carefully dapped my fly… The first drift went 4 or 5 inches to the right of the fish. He looked interested, but he wasn’t moving, a turn of the head, a few seconds investigation and then back to looking straight ahead… Maybe I should have changed fly- he had rejected my offering after all. But instead I decided to have one more pass. I recast and something alerted the fish to my presence, the line, a shadow, something… He didn’t appear to worried, he just turned slowly and let the current drift him back under the snag, not to be seen again… The creek in question is very heavily fished, he had likely seen thousands of anglers in his time… To get that big, he had to be smart and this time he well and truly outsmarted me… And there is a nutshell, is the appeal of sight-fishing- the approach, watching your quarry, the stalk, the presentation. When it all comes together, there is nothing better. Half an hour before this I had spotted a trout rising consistently in another pool. I presented four different flies to the fish. It would come and investigate them, then turn and head back to eating real insects. The fourth fly however took its fancy, instead of turning after investigating it, it lazily sipped my offering off the surface and I was grinning ear to ear… Those moments are balanced by the frustration of spooking and missing fish, but in a way, those missed fish are part of the appeal. Put a foot wrong, act rashly and its all over and you are slowly making your way up the creek looking for your next hit.
Since I started fly fishing a little bit over a year ago, it has been sight-fishing that has really grabbed me and has taken up an ever increasing amount of my fishing time. Be it for mullet, carp or trout, I just cant resist spotting and stalking my target. Its not like I didn’t sight-fish before, but I would rarely walk past a pool or likely bit of structure without having a flick. Fly fishing has changed that, I’ll often just cast to fish I can see- often this means walking for half an hour before even having a cast, scanning and searching for an appropriate target. Carp fishing I will often only cast at 1 in 5 fish I actually see. After numerous failures, you learn to read the fishes body language… This goes for all sight-fishing, but with carp its especially important .. How they are behaving impacts the fly you use, how best to approach a fish or for that matter whether to even approach the fish and present a fly to it at all… If a fish isn’t in the mood and is likely to spook, why risk spooking the other fish in the pool. Sight-fishing also involves watching and waiting- patience and deliberateness become keys to success… Watching trout rise in a pool to try and get a handle on what they are feeding on and their movements within the pool, then waiting for the ideal moment to present a fly to them, waiting for a carp to cruise to a place where you can safely present a fly without letting them know of your presence. Its been a pretty big attitude readjustment from simply walking along trowing a lure at every piece of likely structure and every good lie without much thought- especially for someone as excitable as myself.
To be honest, I often catch less fish sight-fishing than I would blind casting to each of those likely spots. So why persist? As dad would say “don’t you want to catch fish, why make things harder for yourself”?. Well, its a little hard to explain, but when a plan comes together, when everything works, the feeling is almost unbeatable and I think thats what gets you hooked. Nothing is quite like sight-fishing 🙂
Thanks for reading