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Jack Kos – The best laid plans of mice and men…

…are worth sweet bugger all when the weather gods conspire to dump one hell of a storm on you. Andrew and myself headed to Nelson this past weekend with well-defined plans of exactly where we wanted to fish each day. Heading out of the Garden City (or does it deserve a new quake related name like the Shaky City?) the weather was dry and windy. As soon as we hit the pass the weather bomb unleashed upon us: there’s just something about driving through horizontal rain that dampens the mood.

Passing by our various river options each was higher and dirtier than the last, so we drove onwards towards Nelson. A brief deviation to a swollen Motueka River was met with the expected results. While we endeavoured to fish the rest of the weekend, the rain, wind and dirty rivers vastly hindered our enjoyment. I kind of gave up on fly-fishing and concentrated on improving my Snap T cast (Very versatile and energy efficient cast when your backcast is limited or you are blind nymphing all day).  As it happened the weekend was a bit of a write off as far as the fishing is concerned, but it got me thinking about the importance of adapting to suit the weather conditions. Due to the winter season restrictions and the fact that Andrew had family obligations in Nelson we weren’t able to implement a lot of these suggestions, but they might be very useful for some of you guys to consider before the season starts.

1.     Get to know your weather forecasts. By far and away my favourites are those offered at The rain radar will show you rain density and wind strength/direction (although this can initially be a bit confusing – read they key.)

2.     Get to know river flow data. Easiest way to do this is to follow the links on Riverworks Weather Info. This’ll direct you to the relevant regional councils websites. While river flows are not always precisely accurate or frequently updated, they can be hugely useful for getting an indication of where to fish.

3.     Be willing to change your plans. If you use the two tips above then you should have a good indication of what the weather and rivers are going to be like in the area you plan to fish. If it looks crap, then change your plans. New Zealand isn’t a big place, but you’ve got to be willing to drive if you want to beat the weather.

4.     If you do turn up to a river and it’s slightly high and dirty…don’t despair, just change your tactics. If you prefer fishing nymphs and dries then concentrate on fishing the edges of the heavier flow. Often trout, browns in particular, will move into the slower flowing edges and dart into the current to pick out food items. Fish flies that have a bit more colour in them than usual, a bit of flash, a hotspot or go to a larger size.

Here are a few of Andrew’s high water patterns.

My preferred technique for fishing a high river is streamers. Don’t feel that streamers have to be fished on a sinking line, they can be hugely effective fished down and across on a floating line. Again I would use a slightly bigger flashier fly than usual.

5.     Lakes are a great option if the weather is crap. My favourite lake fishing setup is a fast sinking line with a green woolly bugger styled booby fly retrieved in short fast strips. I’m far from an expert on lakes, but they often offer a respite from high dirty rivers.

6.     If a river is unfishable in its lower reaches then head up the river system. Sometimes tributaries of the main river system can be bringing in large amounts of sediment. Above these tributaries the main river can be perfectly fishable. It certainly isn’t always the case, but it can sometimes rescue an otherwise wasted day.

While this river was closed to fishing at the time we visited it, it would have been perfectly fishable despite the rivers lower down in the system being practically unfishable.

7.     Go fishing more often. The more you go fishing in as many different locations as you can, the more you’ll get to know which rivers can handle a bit of rain, which waterways are protected from particular winds and so on.  Some rivers actually fish a lot better after a fresh when slightly up, you’ve just got to get to know which.

Bad weather is a fact of life for New Zealand fly fishermen. We can’t avoid it, all we can do is learn to adapt to make the most of it. So what other tips have you guys got for adapting to the bad weather? Leave a comment and let me know.

2 responses

  1. Aaron

    Rapalas jack Rapalas….

    September 22, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    • Dirty… but yeah, would be very effective in high water.

      September 23, 2010 at 7:20 am

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