Run of a lifetime
  |  First Published: March 2011

Few fish respond as positively to weather conditions as trout.

When there’s plenty of rain they feed well, whereas drought sees them in virtual hibernation. With three good seasons pushing endless water down virtually all New England streams, the flyfishing prospects for autumn have hardly ever looked better.

I’ve fished these high country waters for 36 years and I cannot recall such a run of quality fish as there are at present.

The high altitude is the key. Cool to cold nights and warm days tend to keep water temperature at the ideal 16-20º degrees which will see trout gulping down their tucker. With regular stream rises and ample depth to keep them comfortable trout will feed virtually all day long to grow strong and fit.

Both rainbows and browns are present in New England streams. However in recent years there has been a notable change: browns are starting to dominate some waters that were once the exclusive domain of their red striped cousins.

The upshot is that one will need to be just that bit more wary around brown trout waters as these fish will spook at the slightest streamside movement. In fact, last trip I saw a shadow from a passing bird put three good fish right off their feeding and they did not resume for a very long time.

Tread lightly

A skillful approach is everything with trout. Clumsy footfalls on the bank or a sudden movement from the angler or flash from a rod, can and will put trout down. There’s a lot to be said for fishing with fine tackle and making long casts. With the angler well and truly out of the picture, the fish sees only the end of the leader and the fly, nothing more.

A five or six weight rod mated to a reel set up with some backing and a floating line of corresponding weight is ideal with a bit of thought in the leader’s length and breaking strain paying dividends so far as ease of use is concerned.

My idea of a New England leader – where bush and overgrowing streamside foliage is definitely par for the course – is that it should equal the rod’s length. A leader this size is certainly easier to manage under trying conditions than a much longer one and will avoid issues with the fly line to leader connection knot slipping past the tip runner when the fish is coming to the net.

The last thing any angler wants is an obstructing knot somewhere around the lower half of the rod when a fish suddenly decides the landing net doesn’t look like a good place to be and then takes off jumping.

Breaking strain of the final tip section of the leader is a balancing act. Too thick in diameter and break-offs are reduced but the fish won’t take the fly as the leader looks like a hawser. Going the other way will certainly increase acceptance of the fly but will see break-offs possible.

The angler’s skill level should influence tippet strength. I rely on 1.8kg tippet and lose the odd fish around snags. That said, an upgrade to 2kg will still see most fish willing to have a taste of the offering but will ensure they stay connected.

I love the manner in which a dry fly floats onto the water when attached to an ultra light tippet – it’s one of the delights in flyfishing for these finicky and somewhat challenging fish.

Gearing Up

New England streams are going to boast their share of bogs these days so unless you are happy to have cold muddy feet all day I’d recommend a pair of thigh waders. Snow Bee waders are excellent value for money and will be quite comfortable so long as you try them on in the shop with a pair of thick socks on.

In the backpack there should be a raincoat and at least one jacket in case it suddenly turns cold, as it does of a late afternoon. Take your own water too, as the chance of a tummy upset from drinking local water is possible.

A landing net is virtually indispensable. Few fish jump around, slither, make good photos near impossible, as will trout. Landing one without a net is work for experts around bogs, snags, and the like where you cannot easily get into the water with the fish in order to grab his tail.

The other really important matter is to first ask a landowner prior to entering on any land to fish. You will also need to purchase a fishing license (online) for New South Wales waters.

Flies for the job

Autumn is a fifty/fifty proposition regarding fish activity: there’s equal chances of finding fish rising, as there is to finding ones not rising, so we’ll look at dry flies first.

Cool weather leads to day time dun hatches, small black crickets chirping happily and a few black beetles still about. Flies such as the Adams, Dad’s Favourite, Greenwells Glory, or the reliable all rounder Royal Wullf (all in size 16 or 14) are quite reliable when duns are hatching, with the black beetle useful when prospecting likely lies such as back waters, pool’s heads, side areas off main current or under overhanging foliage. Some Gink will ensure your dry fly floats and Mucilin will keep the leader and fly line up top as well.

Wet flies that work are Woolly Buggers, Red and Black Matukas, Black Matukas, all in size 8 or brown nymphs, black nymphs in size 12, 14. The first group of wet flies should be worked back quite erratically in small strips and stops with the nymphs worked more gently as these fellows do not naturally move quickly.

If wet fly fishing with a formerly floating leader simply give it a rub down with some mud and it will sink quickly as the wet fly.

Composite Development ICT trout rod trialled

I recently field tested a Composite Development four piece fly rod at Ebor and was very impressed with its performance.

Designated as an ICT (Intuitive Casting Taper) the six weight rod had a crisp yet powerful feel about it, very light weight, a standard of finish that is simply deluxe all round and it came in a handy carry case with a spare tip. That latter attribute really appealed to me: to have a spare tip on stand by virtually ensures that a trip will not be ruined from an accidental tip breakage.

I found the ICT four piece six weight delivered dry flies very gently yet had ample power to subdue strong fish around the 55cm mark. The only difficulty experienced was that Denise liked it so much she virtually took it off me and used it herself, leaving me with her old rod. Nice one!

Note that should the rod require more serious repair Composite Development (of New Zealand) offer a five year unconditional warranty to have the rod repaired at a cost of a mere $50, on return to them. Retail price is far from exorbitant unlike some imports and should please the enquirer.

The rods are distributed by E.J Todd and Son Imports and should be available at fly stores that handle quality tackle.

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