Crouching Tiger… Hidden Dragon… Sight fly fishing for Trout (Story & Photos by Brendan Turriff)

You are crouching tiger and you are trying desperately to be a hidden dragon. The only thing between you and the fish is eighty centimetres of elevation, a couple of metres distance and a few blades of grass. Seconds feel like minutes as you gently peel off enough fly line to cover the gap while the beads of sweat hover above your eyelids. The big brown trout has paused as if your subtle movement and poor choice of lame-arsed shirt has caused alarm. You stop, the fish stops and you stare at each other in silence as the hum of insects is suddenly over-shadowed by your beating heart. Seconds pass. The trout twitches its pectoral fins and races from the shallows leaving a bow-wave, a barrage of expletives and one deflated ego. The trout has won this time around!

Regardless of the target species, sight fishing for many is highly regarded as the pinnacle of angling with artificial methods. You’ll often hear a mate claiming “…and I got him on surface lure too” or “I saw it come and inhale the fly…” as if it adds an additional element of success, which it does! It is one thing to be casually stripping a fly and feel that sudden tug on the line but to watch the fish react to your offering quickly grabs your attention. The element of emotion is compounded furthermore when you watch a fish leave the comfort and security of the water to inspect your offering on the water’s surface.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but many Lure and Fly readers may not get to regularly fish for trout, so I will try to offer some options that work for me. I’ll focus mainly on the dry fly because that’s what stokes me most, and a warmer clime often means insect time!

As we head toward to warmer months, the sun gradually moves higher into the sky giving us longer days to sneak off for a fish, but it also makes for easier polaroiding. If you’re serious about your fishing, you need a pair of polarized sunglasses, period! These little babies open up a whole new world where glare on the water is a thing of the past and makes navigating the boat a lot safer in daylight. You can literally peer into the water and actively look for willing fish, enabling the hunter in you to materialize. I personally use a pair of Otis mineral glass lenses that have the best lenses I can find, and the glass help them to be scratch resistant and robust. Your polaroiding options are at their best when the sun is up high and at your back. Cloud in the distance can provide additional glare on the water and makes things harder but hey, when you fish in Tasmania – Not every day is a blue sky day! Even if the sun is not directly behind you, try tilting your head to both sides and see what happens.

Once you have your new eyes, it’s just a matter of finding the fish and catching them yeah….? Nah!! Most fish in the shallows are in there to feed and are often moving, so it pays to have everything ready to go as you can quickly miss an oppor-chancity. Fly is tied on, leader is out past the rod tip and you have a few metres in the hand and at the ready, sorted. Almost every fish I know of that frequents shallow water is very much aware of their lack of security and these fish can be very spooky. It probably goes without saying that it’s best to keep low when you see a fish, including your rod! Many rods have a glossy finish and blingy little guides and when the sun catches these, the fish see the movement and can bugger off real quickly so keep it down James Brown. Be sure to see what direction the fish is heading in, as you want you get a fly in front of it! Wait until the fish is swimming or looking away from you and then it’s time to rumble. You potentially want a couple of quick casts to get more line out but don’t sit there punching out two dozen false casts as the fish may detect and spook. In the ideal world, you want the fly to land just a little in front and to the side of the fish. Conditions may determine how far but essentially if it’s calm don’t go too close but if it’s rough, get in there and get noticed. The rougher the water, the less spooky the fish are, generally speaking.

Don’t be disheartened if this fish appears to have rejected your fly, sometimes they just can’t see it. I recall fishing with a mate that cast a dozen or so times to the right of a nice trout without any reaction. He eventually cast to the left and caught the fish, then noticed when he landed it that the fish had a bung right-eye! Be sure to experiment in a few spots until you get a reaction. While we are talking experimentation, try a few different flies including nymphs and wet flies until you find what is working for you on that day.

There’s a lot more to expand on but for now, just remember to stay stealthy, healthy and stoked. Hopefully you can keep a couple of these things in mind when you load the boat next or head out for a shore-bash. Sight fishing is epic and if your score the fish in the right mood, you’re in for a hell of a time. You can even sight fish before the sun is up and after it goes down – I’ve seen both bream and trout with their full backs out of the water and tails waving about furiously, but that’s a whole other story…

Brendan Turriff

Brendan is a seasoned fly fisherman from Tasmania.  He competes on the ABT Bream circuit and runs his own blog iheartthefly about his passion and obsession for the sport of fly fishing.

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