It’s the new fly fishing season in NZ and as much as we are all frothing, we are also likely to be wondering what to do with ourselves with so much gear now available, so many locations and so little time.
You've already learned some new casting skills thanks to our Lockdown Lessons and have been chipping away your pre season fly casting drills so now it's time to take it all to the water.
Sometimes it helps to break things down into digestible chunks to bring some focus to your plan, without the distractions of everything else around you.
With this in mind let's run down a few early season thoughts that should be the same year in, year out.
WHERE TO FLY FISH EARLY SEASON
With a relatively settled end of winter in most parts, most waters are coming down into stable flows. However it pays to consider that with larger catchments and still a lot of moisture about the fields, and snow in the hills, many of our larger, main stem rivers are likely to maintain colder water temperatures and above normal flows for a while to come.
For me, personally the tributaries are where it’s at early season, with plenty of trout making the most of their more preferable water levels, higher water temps and less daily fluctuations from the effects of snow melt.
Whereas larger waters may begin their day below 10 degrees, and get colder as snowmelt increases throughout the day, smaller tributaries may rise 3 or 4 degrees, stimulating both insect activity and trout feeding as the day goes on.
EARLY SEASON TROUT BEHAVIOUR
Just like us, when it’s cold trout don’t get up to much, seeking shelter and often requiring a lot of motivation to leave their couch. With decreased activity comes decreased appetite and to catch fish in cold water temps you really need to entice them.
As water temperatures rise above 10 degrees the river slowly comes to life. Increased nymphal movements bring trout to their feeding positions around the base of riffles and tail outs, wherever the food it most prolific. While the mornings may feel hard graft, lunchtime activity can certainly make a day on a small stream worthwhile.
So ease off those 4am alarms and think more gentleman’s hours. However, relatively inactive trout can still play ball if you have a few tricks up your sleeve.
TACTICS FOR OCTOBER & NOVEMBER FLY FISHING IN NZ
- In colder temperatures trout aren’t likely to move too far for food. You will do so much better if you get your flies down into their zone. Iron Maidens, Simons Uglies and Kyle's Stones from the Manic Fly Collection provide the weight and profile to get deep, fast. “Come Eat Me” flies in brighter colours or with exciting features such as rubber legs can grab the attention of sullen trout or steal attention away from naturals.
- Consider moving your flies either with a lift, or a sideways sweep of the rod tip if fish aren’t responding to your dead drift. And always trail your “Come Eat Me” with a size 14 or 16 natural. Much of the time you are simply pulling the trout’s attention to your smaller fly.
- Almost as important as your fly is the weight of your fly, and to this I carry a range from the unweighted Assassin nymph to the lightweight, but deadly Kyle’s Deletidium, and the Death Metal Pheasant Tail to the Copper Iron Maiden. Each imitate the mayfly, an important early season food source but in varying weights, and in different weight increments to cover most situations.
- Early season nymphs are generally a tad larger than those later in the summer as maturity is delayed due to the colder water temps of winter so whereas the size 14’s to 18’s of March and April are now replaced by the early season standard size 12’s and 14’s.
- Loon Tin Drops and Deep Soft Weight greatly assist both in getting these flies deep, and slowing their drift in fuller, early season flows, and with the addition of longer, lighter tippet you will have no issue getting into the zone.
- Streamers too are an early season essential, especially on those aforementioned colder days when fish just don’t want to move. If they don’t want to eat, make them attack, and a Mr Glister or Sex Dungeon fished on an aggressive floater, or an Airflo Streamer Max line can sure get some explosive grabs. Forget swinging these flies. Fire them upstream and across, and rip them back down into the trout’s territory - make your fly behave like competition coming onto his turf.
- Early season hatches can be short and sharp, but prolific with mayfly either pouring off within a short time span, or trickling off across the early afternoon. Regardless, it pays to keep parachutes, emergers and a good coloburiscus pattern close at hand and quick to attach. Practise those quick changes as that rising fish could be just the start of it, or the only one. And it is always worth keeping a good blowfly, or Indi Klink pattern in the fly patch.
NEW FLY FISHING SEASON, NEW FLIES
Challenge yourself to try three new patterns this October. It is that simple. If it looks like food and behaves like food, it will get eaten. If it looks nothing like food, or behaves differently, they will usually eat it too.
Just read the fish, their positioning, behaviour and choose accordingly. With over five hundred patterns in the 2021 Manic Fly Catalogue stock up on your usuals by all means, but choose three totally different patterns that you may not think will work.
If it’s in our range, I guarantee it will. If they can see it, they can eat it.
MAYBE TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME NEW FLY FISHING GEAR
PRIMAL ROD CO
New to the stable this year is an extended offering from Primal. It’s no use driving too fast if you run out of gas and we apply this approach to the quality of our rods.
In addition to the highly popular range of Primal Raw, and Zone premium fly rods we now have a series of lower priced, but high hitting rods for the single or double handed fly fisher, as well as those euro-curious anglers considering a specialist euro nymphing set up but not wanting to sacrifice quality for cost.
The Primal Bold punches well above its sales tag of $349.00 with offerings from small stream 7’9 3wts through to backcountry, and stillwater applicable 10’ 6wts.
The Primal Contact is a $249.00 high modulus euro nymph rod designed to break fish, not the bank. A smooth, responsive tip with plenty of power below, this is the perfect rod to get the hang of, well, hanging flies beneath the rod tip.
And why buy a new rod without a new line?
AIRFLO SUPERFLO FLY LINES
For 2021 Airflo has three new premium tapers, all in its 100% PVC free, Superflo range, with no silly fan-dangled names to confuse you.
The SuperFlo Power Taper is simply the smooth casting beast to turn over whatever you want, no matter the conditions, or the requirements. Its front loaded taper loads modern fast action rods to a T, while its extended rear taper doesn’t leave you lacking when shooting or mending at distance.
The SuperFlo Universal Taper is the Jack of all trades that does them all, pretty darn well. This is the grab and go for most situation. Add a haul and turn over the big stuff, or lengthen out the leader for a little more presentation.
The SuperFlo Tactical Taper is a line I cannot wait to fish a full season on the Mataura, and other presentation style fisheries. With its longer, finer front taper it’s the perfect tool for turning over long, light leaders with small, technical dries and nymphs but will not lack on those spookier days in the backcountry, chucking big fish flies.
NEW SEASON GEAR PREPARATION CHECK LIST
- You wouldn’t undertake a road trip on bald tyres so why start the season with a dirty line? First and foremost, check your line for nicks, knocks and general wear. Airflo’s proprietary polyurethane fly lines, unlike PVC lines, wont dry out and crack so it is only long term wear and tear you need to look for. Soak your line in warm, soapy water before pulling it through a clean, dry rag to clean, then recondition it with a lick of Loon Line Speed. If on the fence, buy a new one.
- Checking your Gore-Tex waders for leaks is as simple as turning them inside out and spraying them with isopropyl alcohol. Any pin prick holes will show as black. Decide whether they are worth mending and if so, simply dab a touch of Aquaseal on the larger black dots. Not all will need to be mended such is the wicking prowess of Gore-Tex. Smaller leaks aren’t an issue but rips and tears are, thankfully these can be easily repaired by Manic and is part of the reason why it’s such a good investment to buy Simms Gore-Tex waders.
- Check your boots for wear and tear and consider replacing the laces if they look worn.
- How are your tippet and floatant levels? Ensure you have a full, dry desiccant such as Loon Top Ride to rejuvenate wet flies, a good gel floatant such as Loon Aquel to initially treat and waterproof new flies and indicators, and Loon Fly Dip for treating indicators and larger flies.
- And finally, are your nippers still sharp, and do you know where your forceps are?
Check out this invaluable article from last season where we lined up a crack team of fly fishing legends to also chime in with some tips and advice on how they approach October 1st.
Stay prepared to make the most of your time on the water this season.