Recently Chris Dore had a random message from Kevin, who had been doing it tough on the famous Mataura River in the deep south. In true Chris style, Kevin went away armed with more info than M16. The following has been reproduced with permission from Kev.
Kevin here mate - happy New Year and all the rest.
I was wondering if I could pick your brain for just a second mate - relates to Mataura and I know this is on your doorstep.
Just recently fished a section.
Saw a lot of fish, but also spooked a good few with the shadowy conditions on the water.
Chris, what I'm yanking my hair out over is the number of fish I did see and presented well to and was rejected.
The water was crystal clear, I had enough weight to make sure I did get down to feeding fish (nymphing), and laid out long leaders so they didn't know I was there.
Threw different sized caddis at them - this what was mostly under the rocks.
Free swimming, net building and cased - patterns all rejected.
Tried the PTN in various sizes and even tried going unweighted to see if this would work....NADA! Very few sporadic rising fish, so no hatch to speak of.
I always remembered you saying to fish emerger patterns and I tried this too as well as blowflies and ADAMS.
Long story short - got an ass whipping but did get a fish on a caddis through a deep pool blind fished - go figure.
A lot of the fish I left undisturbed still feeding which really gave me the zigs
Just be very interesting to get your perspective if you have a bit of time to reply.
I usually hate leaving feeding fish, but these things had me beaten.
Love to catch up and have a beer with you one day.
"Hey mate, thanks for reaching out.
Its a fun fishery but check this: lets say we throw 10 casts at a fish. 7 may look drag free and good to us. 3 may actually be drag free. Of those three our flies become one (or two) of maybe a dozen food items within the trouts foraging area at the time. Our flies are small and dark, so are the naturals. Are our flies getting deep enough? Did he see them? If so was he ready to move to them? You'll be amazed how much weight you sometimes need, even in shallower water: ever seen a fish lift up and take your beadhead in the film? Point made.
I fish size 16 and 18 nymphs. SPARSE 16 & 18's. I prefer the natural movement of un / lightly weighted patterns but you often need to get a little deeper. Trailing an unweighted pattern behind a weighted fly will allow for depth, and a natural movement of the lighter pattern in the drift. Double tungsten is a no brainer if I need to get down in the flow, even in shallows. Tungsten putty works well too in getting tiny nymphs down, and its hard to go past Loon Deep Soft Weight here.
Something to make your fly stand out from the naturals helps: I always fish nymphs in tandem, as a team. Maybe a size 14 or 16 (this will be the heavily weighted, but slim pattern in needed), and often sporting a coloured hotspot to grab attention. A red, blue or subtle lime green collar behind the bead or tag beneath the tail, even a coloured wing case or coloured bead helps. The addition of a soft hackle or other 'buggy' material adds movement and suggests life, valuable in many situations. If they notice it, its a simple 'yes or no' deal. If no, theres a wee 18 natural a foot or two behind.
In general, heres a simple Sequence one could follow when things are tough:
1. Go natural with your fly selection.
2. Switch up your presentation. Throw a reach, or introduce more slack for a better drift.
3. Go bright / blingy in your fly selection.
4. Get aggressive in your drop and drift. Let them see the drop, or move the nymph to get a response.
There are a lot of currents to deal with and the fish have a lot of food in the drift at any given time. Get Your fly noticed!
Another tip: sometimes dragging your fly across the flow will grab their attention too. You may spook a few, but you may also hit a few when otherwise you may have blanked.
Hope this helps"
Professional Fly Fishing Guide and FFF Certified Casting Instructor