A dreaded situation by all accounts, you can start to blame the moon, tides, wind direction or even some form of nautical superstition. Truth is fish are just really good at levelling anglers, they don’t care if you're a scholar, drop out, rich or poor. In these situations it’s not specifically what happens but more how you react, for starters don’t throw your rod on the deck and have a tanty, leave that to the kids.
Evaluate your downfall and break it apart:
- Was it a badly placed cast? Simple, practice lots in all conditions, the less favourable the better.
- Didn’t set the hook? Pay attention to the fish if you can see the eat, hit it when the mouth is shut and you should find a solid home. A strip set on any other bumps or knocks can turn into a fish pretty quickly.
- Gear failure, you’ve been warned in this article so there really is no excuse.
- Realize that sometimes shit happens and today was the fish’s day, not yours.
Fussy fish take on many different enigmas, from pressured fish to skittish behaviour you’ll see many traits on display at various times. It would seem the more time on the water observing these things the less you know. Last season I saw Kingfish spit size two flies out before they even touched their mouth, followed shortly by another one tail thumping a singled out Parore right on our bow until the poor fish was knocked senseless and subsequently eaten.
When fish are feeding on bigger protein rich snacks it seems there is a lot of downtime as they digest before they feel the need to hunt again. Throwing big flies can work but you try eating a burger when you’re already full. A smaller offering might just be that peanut you snack on between burgers.
If you feel fish have seen all the tricks offer them something totally out of the ordinary, feed them something that provokes curiosity. Try a popper to get their attention with a small fly suspended underneath, the natural fibres of marabou or similar wafting in the current can spark an enquiry.
Try not to hound the fish, approach with care so as not to alert them to your presence. Longer casts get better eats so once again practice that casting. If you can stack as many odds in your favour the game gets a little easier.
If the terrain allows it drop leader size as low as you dare, even more so in super calm skinny water. Also decrease rod weights to alleviate some of the surface bashing those heavier fly lines can create.
I once heard the term “fail fast” and it has stuck with me ever since. Quickly picking yourself back up and learning from these mistakes will see you fishing more efficiently next time around. Plus having a cry means your eyes are shut and you won’t see the next target approaching...
Lucas Allen is the legend behind King Tide Salt Fly, a guiding operation chasing kingfish on the flats of the Tauranga Harbour. Get in touch with him today if you like the idea of sightfishing to big, aggressive fish...