Techy Thursday - Loch Style Fishing Part 2, On The Water
Having your loch style gear organised, it’s time to get out on the water and start fishing! As with all styles of fly fishing, anglers who are apt at reading the conditions will be able to fine tune their loch style technique, to best suit the state of day. They key considerations when fishing from a drifting boat are water depth, wind direction, wind speed, bottom structure and external features like shoreline shape and structures (like trees / rocks / surface food) which may attract and hold fish.
Wind creates currents on still waters, which like in rivers moves and concentrates food. It also dislodges subsurface food such as snails, scud, nymphs and stick caddis for fish to feed on. The best wind directions are winds which run parallel to the shore, and an on shore wind. Ideal conditions would be enough speed to create a nice ‘top’ on the water (5 – 15 knots). Foam lines created by wind are another hot spot which can be found on any still water. The foam traps concentrations of food, thus attracting feeding fish. When given the chance, you should always place your flies in the foam!
As a general rule, the wind speed (and size of the waves created by it) should impact on the size of the flies being fished and the speed that they are retrieved. In light conditions (no wind and bright are the toughest by far), I like to fish smaller flies (size #16 - #12 for dries and #14 -#12s for wets) and use slow retrieves such as a figure eight style. In Clear waters like Tasmania’s Great Lake, trout respond very well to inert presentations when fishing with dry flies. On occasions when no fish can be seen to target, I don’t actively retrieve my flies on this water, but do like to give them a ‘twitch’ every few seconds to create a fish attracting disturbance.
On days when the wind blows hard, trout often become more aggressive. Big waves mean big flies and faster retrievals for both wet and dries. Dry flies fished actively along a foam line can be deadly (particularly in hatch driven fisheries such as Tasmania’s Mayfly lakes) and sizes #8 - #10 work well. Dry flies should be pulled to create a visible wake across the water, and in big waves constant retrievals work very well! Wets should be fished aggressively in these conditions and sizes #10 - #6 are my favourites. A Roly Poly style retrieval and fast strips are the norm and good anglers always take advantage of the wind a wave to actively ‘dibble’ and ‘hang’ flies before lifting out of the water. One last consideration when fishing from a drifting boat in big winds, don’t forget the need to compensate for the speed of the boat drifting onto yours flies; so don’t be afraid to pull fast!
Wet fly success! A Little Pine Lagoon resident caught on the top dropper while ‘hanging’ flies.
Leader set up for loch style fishing is relatively simple. Typically I run a leader of around 15 to 18 foot in length, but can stretch this out to 20 feet when required. The normal set up I like to use for both wet and dry fly loch style rig is 5 to 8 foot of tapered leader, then 10 feet of level tippet with three flies spaced five feet apart. I like to tie my droppers using a surgeons knot, but then importantly add a half hitch on the bottom tag (makes it stand out at a right angle) and attach the fly to this end (don’t be tempted to tie off the top tag as you will get lots of line breaks).
Fly choice will depend a lot on the water being fished, but there are a few general rules I like to follow as a good starting point. A great advantage of fishing multiple flies is that you can mix up the colours, sizes and style of flies all on one cast. Generally when fishing wets, the ‘point fly’ (the one the furthest away from the rod tip), should be heaviest (often the largest) of the flies. Patterns which feature movement such as the Bitch Slap Shrek, Woolly Bugger and Muz's Fuzzle Bugger are all good larger style flies I like to use. These are my ‘go to’ patterns on rough days, or early and late season in Tasmania. The weighted point fly can swim quite deeply and using lightly weighted, or unweighted dropper flies allows you to fish at variable depths during the one retrieve. By either slowing or speeding up your retrieval rate you can have a lot of variation on the depth the flies will swim.
Dropper flies can be the same size as the point (I usually like to use smaller flies), but to make casting easier generally should be lighter. The middle dropper is prime position to place an attractor or brighter pattern, while the top dropper is where your favourite ‘dibbling’ fly (bob fly) should be placed. Patterns like the Claret Dabber, Fiona and Lethal Weapon are personal favourite ‘bob flies’ I like to use. Living in Tasmania, many of the local lakes feature prolific hatches of Mayfly. When wet fly fishing before the hatch gets going, the ‘dibbling’ and ‘hanging’ techniques work very well as it imitates an emerging Mayfly well.
On days with light winds and if you have to fish wets, smaller patterns (and lighter tippet) will usually prove more successful. Flies like weighted nymphs (with lead in body or tied with a bead), bead head stick caddis and damsel fly patterns work well on point. During Mayfly time on my local waters when fishing wets, a set up I like to fish is a brown or claret bead head nymph on point, a standard nymph in the middle and claret dabbler on the top dropper (and fish them slowly).
Bright and calm can be tough. This Rainbow was caught on a weighted nymph fish deep and slow over weed beds early in the season.
Dry fly fishing loch style fishing is a very effective method, with the added advantage of being more visual than stripping teams of wets. Tasmanian trout are enthusiastic risers and respond very well to the dry fly method, so whenever the conditions suit I like to fish dries. In past years I was involved with competition fly fishing, having placed second for two consecutive years in the Tasmanian Fly Fishing Championships, the following year I was keen to fish with dry fly only. Conditions during the event suited the dry fly method very well, I fished loch style dry fly for all the lake sessions and was lucky to win the competition catching all my fish on the dry.
I like to fish four pound tippet when fishing dry flies loch style and while many style of flies will work, I like to use patterns that sit low in the water. Flies that sit low in the water create a bigger ‘footprint’ and are therefore easier for fish to see. They also create more disturbance when pulled so are more effective at attracting fish from the wake created. Flies which utilise buoyant materials such as seals fur and possum tail are excellent for loch style dries as they float consistently with little or no hackle, and can catch multiple fish before needing to be changed.