A month ago I introduced Aidan to the art of flyfishing and the joys of slapping down hoppers to hungry trout, intent on gorging themselves ahead of leaner times in winter. In hindsight, the fishing had been so good, it set an unrealistic benchmark for future trips. Despite warm weather and a number hoppers still jumping around in the grass, our second trip with another novice, John, was much tougher and more typical of autumn fishing. The change of seasons from summer can bring with it lower water levels, trout that are far more selective and spooky, and the need to be spot-on with presentation. Each fish stalked becomes a much harder puzzle to solve, although that does increase the satisfaction when you get it right! Unlike at hopper time, there are no longer many easy fish.
We started our day with a refresher on casting and then split up. I’d rigged John with a hopper, Aidan with a more delicate Klinkhammer; while I had a nymph under a Klinkhammer for the deeper sections. Having hooked up a couple of fish in the fast water near the cars before John and Aidan arrived, I hoped I’d get the boys onto fish pretty quickly. A couple of hours later, I realised my optimism had been misplaced. Even Aidan, who had fished well last time, was not getting many takes. Meanwhile, John was struggling.
After a few more tips, John started casting better, presenting his hopper pattern to reasonable water, albeit not close enough to the bank. Eventually, John did get a cast into the right spot and immediately a small trout struck at the hopper. Unfortunately, whilst the fish struck on a Friday, John didn’t react until Monday, and by then the quarry was safely back under the bank having a cup of tea! The river was fishing as if someone had been through a few hours earlier. Although I hadn’t actually seen any other anglers, where the river branched into two, I sent John around the more open, accessible anabranch, while I took the overgrown, smaller passage. Over the next half hour I had a delightful session, picking up several trout and missing others. The fishing was tight and lots of bow-and-arrow casting was required, but the reward for fishing tight water was eager trout, willing to take both the nymph and dry.
When I reunited with John and Aidan, we pushed upstream to a section of the river that has always been good to me. Almost immediately, Aidan caught a small rainbow. He also found a rising fish and had it refuse his fly twice, so after at least 10 casts, we subbed him out and allowed John to move in with his hopper to see if that made a difference. After half a dozen attempts, including some splashing of the leader on the water where the riser was holed up, I told the boys to move on and started scouting further upstream. Suddenly there was an excited shout from John and a splash from a very nice brown that had finally seen the hopper. John was on! Inexplicably though, in his excitement, John dropped the line and started to wind in using the reel! When he finally made contact with his fly, the fish was long gone.
All too soon the boys had to leave to get back to Melbourne, however I stayed on to fish the last few hours of light. On one lovely stretch I filmed a trout coming up every 30 seconds or so but despite the frequency of the rising I could not induce a take. My third fly change was to a Kossie Dun and as the fly drifted below me, I started to lift the line to recast. I’d turned to look upstream when the rainbow which had been causing me such angst, grabbed the fly, presumably having followed it down past me. After several impressive leaps, the ‘bow was in the net. Right on dark in a deeper pool, I cast to a riser about a dozen times before it finally sipped down my fly and I was attached to a solid brown. It was a lovely way to end a day when each fish caught had been earned, but for me it also marked the change of seasons.