I’ve fished a few evening rises lately on the streams, and in the typical never-stop-learning way of flyfishing, all have been timely reminders of what works – and what doesn’t. As we move into the February/ March period that can provide some of my favourite evening rise fishing, here are a few thoughts fresh in my mind.
Evening rise action is hardly ever spread evenly along a given stretch of river. In one extreme case a couple of weeks ago on the Macquarie River in Tasmania, there were half a dozen good trout rising beautifully along one bubble-line on one 50 metre stretch of one bank, yet there was hardly another trout to be seen for a few hundred metres above or below. I can’t begin to guess what made that particular piece of water special, but I do know that I see this phenomenon often enough on every stream I fish. Some evenings, you just have to cover a lot of ground looking and listening hard, because two virtually identical runs, pools, riffles, backwaters or whatever, can simultaneously be alive and dead.
Avoid the wind
Often, maybe even mostly, the wind dies out on evening – one of many likely reasons why insects regularly choose this time to emerge or otherwise take to the wing in huge numbers. However, sometimes the wind just won’t give up, and that’s when it’s time to seek shelter. A decent willow jutting out into the stream, a heavily forested bank or even a steep hillside, can all help to blunt the breeze. Lately, these sheltered pockets have given me remarkable patches of rising fish, when the rest of the river is blown out, so to speak.
Find what visibility you can
While it’s invaluable to use your ears as well as your eyes when locating rises, it’s the latter that are the most help for actually catching evening risers. The simplest trick is to position yourself so you’re looking into the western sky: the reflected afterglow can provide enough light to see rises (and sometimes even your fly) long after the rest of the river is draped in black. Where it can get a bit more complex, is when looking in to dark water (against a scrubby bank or rock-face for example) can reveal the flashes of white/ silver that rises make, and possibly highlight the bright masts/ wings of suitably-made flies.
If in doubt…
Speaking of visibility, if you’re not sure you saw a rise, have a cast anyway. And if you’re not sure that was a rise to your fly, strike anyway. You’ll be surprised how often your hunch was right.
Don’t leave too early
Look, I understand completely that for all sorts of reasons such as having dinner at a civilised hour, long drives home, and a general dislike of blunted senses in low light, the evening rise isn’t for everyone. But if you are going to fish evening at all, then regard true sunset (you can find sunset time on any smartphone) as the likely start of the action, not the end. And as for the conclusion, I often say that you can only walk away from an evening river with a clear conscience once the first stars are visible overhead… and sometimes even that’s too soon.
If you’re leaving the river before sunset and wondering why you never see an evening rise, you’ve just answered your own question. It’s not the late afternoon rise, it’s the evening rise. Inevitable (and welcome!) exceptions aside, the hour or two pre sunset can often be a bit of a ‘nothing’ time on a stream – no longer bright enough for polaroiding or warm enough to have the terrestrials hyperactive, but not yet sufficiently dim for the big hatches and falls.
Make the most of it
Evening rises on the streams won’t last forever. Sometime during autumn, they’ll begin to fade – first at high elevation, then later on the lowland streams, until they’re just a flaky five minute footnote to end the day. But before then, we’ve got at least a couple of months of evening stream action to look forward to. So pack a decent pre-rise snack, check the torch batteries for changing flies and the walk back to the car, and enjoy!