Ok, lets get into it! A little shameless plug for a video I shot in NZ that shows it’s not always hard to spot fish but most of the time they’re a little bit trickier.
First of all you need a cap to cut out light from above but you knew that. And polaroids. An interesting thing to note is lens colour for your polaroids and where you are fishing. Browns are good for boosting riverbed contrast and blues are excellent in the open ocean. I’m going to focus on trout for the remainder of the article but a lot of points are equally applicable to the salt. There’s all sorts of nuances the optician will tell you about better than I can!
Spotting fish is always going to be easier when the sun is out to light up the riverbed, where there are high banks or trees to cut the glare and ideally get the sun behind you but watch those shadows casting across the water! My own key for sight fishing, especially for trout, is to not look for a fish as your mind will turn every shape and every shadow on the bottom into your fish and it will drive you mental. Instead look at everything but look for nothing and look out for the following clues:
1) Movement – your eyes are incredibly sensitive to movement, if the fish moves you’ll see it.
2) Trout love to sit off rocks either to the side or riding the pressure wave in front, they’re rarely directly in the turbulence behind it.
3) Look for big white rocks, there is an amazing link for whatever reason that you quite often find them with their heads on those big white rocks.
5) Look for fins, they’re quite a specific shape.
6) As are tails, look for wedges.
7) Look for shadows, it’s amazing how often you won’t see a fish but see it’s shadow cast underneath.
8) Quite often large browns appear to be green on top of their head, look for green heads.
9) Look for flashes of light as the sun reflects off the flanks of the fish.
10) Move quickly, don’t study every inch of the river in great detail, keep your eyes scanning.
Now we have an idea of what our eyes need to do there’s a few things we need to do with our bodies. Wear Camo! It’s a good idea to break up your outline. Take some sandpaper to your really expensive fly rod and rub that dam shiny varnish off it. You can see rod flashes from miles away. Try and keep a low profile and don’t expose your silhouette to the sky in a direct line from the fish, it’s a sure fire was to spook them. Try and move slowly too, just as I mentioned our eyes key in on movement, trout do too and you’ll send them back to their hiding hole quicker than you’d have thought possible.
So once you’ve crawled up the river and found a worthy trout (which of course will be over 10lbs because you’ve remembered at least a couple of the things above) you’ll need to decide how to approach it.
There’s a couple things will send that 10lb trout running, we’ve touched on a few above but there are another few cardinal sins to avoid.
1) Don’t line the fish! With fly line or flashy leader (and use some fullers earth or good ole mud)
2) Don’t drag a nymph past them
3) Don’t land the fly on their head (normally, it definitely can work sometimes!)
I was going to write about angles of approach as well but I might leave that for a bit more detail in a future week. Suffice to say that the best angle of approach is the one where the fish doesn’t see you and you can present the fly the way you want to. This will probably be from a downstream position in the fish’s blind spot but the best angle for drag free drifts is usually across from the fish. Just use some common sense and think about the cast and where you need to be.
All of the above is just my own thoughts and experience but of course the minute you take this into the real world you’ll find that none of my points actually hold true and that the fish sitting there in front of you will rewrite your own rule book.