Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Final Instalment

OK it's time to bring the series of posts about common faults and mistakes made whilst river fishing to a close. I hope you've enjoyed it, that you've learnt something, and more to the point, you will be able to put it to good use from now on. This time I'm going to describe a more general fault and one that summarises to some degree a lot of the faults I've listed in this series...

Fishing the wrong water – At the end of a typical day’s guiding/instructing with an inexperienced river angler they often make two observations. Firstly they are surprised that we fished water so fast. They didn’t think fish would be in such fast water and they didn’t think it possible to fish there. Their second observation is that they are surprised how close we caught fish, often right under the rod tip.
So why do we concentrate more on fishing fast water? With river fishing experience one learns to read the type of water where fish are more likely to lie. This is usually towards the head of the pool, with good flow, and a depth from ankle to mid thigh. There are many reasons for this such as; good oxygen levels; the broken water surface providing cover from above; this is the area of the river that has the highest count of invertebrates; the fast flowing water is a conveyor bringing constant food to the fish; and so on. It should also be noted that the water at the river bed is moving much slower than at the surface, so what looks like very fast water to us, is in actual fact not that fast near the bottom. This point is proved very well when fishing correctly weighted Czech Nymphs, notice how much slower they travel than the surface water without hanging up on the bottom. Fishing these areas of fast water is relatively easy with wading, short casts, good technique/s and line control. Takes are actually more obvious in fast water.
And how is it possible to catch fish so close? Without wanting to sound arrogant it’s easy, or at least easier than fishing slower water where trout and grayling have time to inspect your offerings. Fish lying in such fast, broken water, at the head of a pool, or in fast pocket water, feel comfortable. It might be that they just don’t see you in all the water commotion; they might see your legs and boots but not know what they represent (i.e. an angler trying to catch it); or it might be they see you but aren’t afraid, thinking they are invisible to you (like a deer lying motionless in the undergrowth, or a pheasant in long grass). This later explanation is my favourite - if a trout or grayling can pick out your tiny nymphs and dry flies in all that water commotion I'm sure they can see you! But of course we don’t need to see the fish – we read the water which tells us where the fish should be and present our flies into every likely spot. A fish lying in fast water doesn’t have time to inspect your fly too closely or it will be gone, a snap decision has to be made; now you can see that actually, fishing faster water is easier than fishing slow water once you know how.
All too often I see anglers ‘stood on the fish’, in other words they are wading in the very water where their fly should be. Or they walk right past the ‘good’ water at the head of the pool and fish towards the tail because they can see fish rising there. I know it’s tempting to go for rising fish but why miss out on the best sport for the sake of a little more effort? Anglers will often spend long periods fishing slow glides, for frustrating fish, that refuse a multitude of offerings. These fish are often small, but they have a knack of discerning that your artificial is…artificial. It is understandable that a stillwater angler new to river fishing will want to fish the slower sections. That is what they know and they are in their comfort zone. With a little professional guiding, anglers new to river fishing, and those who have fished traditionally for years, might just find that whole new areas are opened up to them.

Here's a few images to highlighting fishing in fast water. All can be expanded by clicking on them:
Too fast to fish?
Too fast to fish? Not with the correct techniques!

Too fast to fish?
Too fast for fish? Not by the look of the bend in the rod!

Too close to fish?
Too close to fish? No way, there'll be fish right under the
rod tip!
Too close to fish and too fast to fish?
Too close to fish and too fast to fish? No, this is a prime
area for trout and grayling to sit comfortably!