“So I guess you’re not fishing much now it’s winter?” said Neil, as we chatted at a mutual friend’s 50th birthday last Saturday night. His was an honest mistake. Neil is only an occasional angler, and like many friends and acquaintances, he’s got used to me missing many social events because, as Jane explains in my absence, “He’s out fishing/ guiding.” That I was present at Tony’s birthday gathering was obviously because the fishing was no good when it’s cold (and it was admittedly a bitter night on Saturday – thank goodness for big outdoor heaters)!
“And the trout streams are closed right?” added Pete, joining in the conversation. I believe Pete fishes even less than Neil, but I had to admire his efforts to get his head around my unusual hobby/ occupation. Just then, the band burst into a suitably loud (and bloody good) version of The Angels ‘After the Rain’. So I was denied the opportunity to explain that actually, the fishing was currently excellent – not that it really mattered if Pete and Neil didn’t understand that.
I’d just come in from guiding James. One thing winter does offer is comparatively civilised daylight hours. You can be on the water until last light, and still turn up at parties and dinners like a normal person. James was primarily a stream fisher and only a novice lake fisher, yet he had landed six trout between 3 and 6 pounds and was suitably amazed at the quality of the winter action… adding as he was to a kilo brown he’d caught solo at Hepburn on a stick caddis a week earlier.
By nightfall, James was still coming to terms with the brilliant winter fishing he’d just enjoyed. “So I assume it must be even better in autumn and spring?” he asked. “No, not really,” I explained. “If we had cast to as many sighted smelters and midging trout as you have today, in any month of the year, I would be happy.” I paused to put his rod in the car, then added, “Of course, you’ve got to dress for winter or you’ll be miserable, but once you’re out there rugged up, it can be as good as it gets.”
I imagined James looked at me as if I had let slip a closely-guarded secret, but of course, winter flyfishing is no secret at all. Here at FlyStream, we’ve been celebrating it for years. Winter fishing isn’t some sort of barely viable option to tide diehards over until the streams reopen and it’s warm and pleasant again. On the contrary, it’s a time of year I look forward to as much as any.
Over the last fortnight, I’ve had thrilling fishing for trout crashing minnows at Wartook and Bullen Merri, feeding in inches of water at Fyans, and sipping over the weed-beds for hours at Tullaroop.
In the estuaries, I’ve fished the Hopkins in pouring rain, tensed like a fully-loaded back-cast for the pull of bream which were hitting my fly every second cast.
Fill-in fishing before it warms up again? I don’t think so.