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Very Famous Fisherman's Dirty Little Secret

I recently wrote an article on Fishing Cheats, with a follow-up, and it sure added to my email burden. Most were incredulous at the lengths some fishermen will go to, to massage their egos.

There were a good number of stories of cheats, swindlers, and con-artists of the angling persuasion, that people had encountered over the years. But one comment on the fishing cheats blog-entry asked if the cheat with the small rod (fly-rod that is), was a famous fly fisherman. Actually, I don't know and he was not, but it did lead me down the memory path on some of my experiences with 'famous fishermen'.

It was over 35 years ago and a very famous fly fisherman(VFFF), flew into Auckland with a couple of cameramen and assorted other bodies, and we decamped for Taupo in the Central North Island of New Zealand, to fish the Tongariro River.

The Tongariro is a big river with lots of water running down through relatively deep, swiftly moving pools. The usual fishing method here is big rods flinging very heavy nymphs, or heavily weighted leaders with a Glo-Bug on the end. Otherwise a big rod flinging heavy shooting-heads and biggish streamers. Steelheaders will know what I am on about.

At the first pool VFFF setup a 6wt rig with a lightly-weighted nymph, on the end of a 20' or more leader. I suggested he might need some extra weight, but I was firmly told it was not needed as the long leader would allow the fly to get to the bottom.

I decided to silently watch, and sulk.

Now there was no doubt VFFF's casting ability was impeccable and impressive, and backed up all he taught in his numerous books and videos. He belted out long, long casts, just pulling back slightly at the end of the cast to tuck the nymph under the end of the fly-line, so the nymph started to sink immediately. But after covering the pool in 10 or 12 casts, it was evidently time to move as "there are no fish in this pool".

Whether there were fish in the pool or not was a moot point, as his nymph was nowhere near the bottom, where the fish were. Not once did the line stall or dart to indicate bottom contact. This scene was played out through another 5 pools when it was deemed to be lunch time, back where we started.

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While VFFF and his crew munched through sandwiches big enough to choke a good sized Python, I rigged up my 6wt, with a 12' leader. I tied on a very heavy nymph, with a little gold-bead something hanging about 3 feetfoot below from the hook bend.

I put on my hard-hat and flak jacket and chucked this out, (it would be nonsense to call it a cast), and watched as the indicator at first moved freely and then started to 'bobble' as it contacted the bottom. The bobbling was quickly interrupted by a dive, and I was tight to a Rainbow, which when landed went to about 4.5 pounds.

A few more 'casts' went uninterrupted, till another Rainbow of about 5.5lb gobbled the nymph, and was duly landed and released. I caught and released another fish, bigger than both the previous fish, before VFFF decided that perhaps there were fish in the pool, and commenced to fish again, but still using his previous method, with the same result, a light kiss on the cheek of sweet Fanny Adams.

I suggested to VFFF that he might want to try some heavy artillery, but he would not countenance such 'barbaric' tactics. Each to his own is my motto, so I suggested moving to the tail of the pool, but was told "there will be no fish there at this time of day."

By now I was moving from mild irritation to full on hostilities, and loosening my usual steely grip on my fee, I quietly but firmly told him he knew even less than Fanny Adam's sister Felicity Adams about fishing this river, and it was way past time he stopped talking and started listening if he wanted to catch fish.
To my astonishment he did.

Down at the tail of the pool, in much shallower water he caught three or four fish around the 3 to 4lb. mark.  The next day we fished smaller water, and VFFF's skills produced a number of fish. That was that for fishing the North Island, we packed up and drove to the airport, for their trip to the South Island. And that was that.

But it wasn't that, or that. It was the other.

About 5 months later, a pile of new videos arrived at my tackle shop, including one featuring VFFF in little ol' New Zealand. Of course I played it immediately.

Early into the video, the Tongariro segment was featured. VFFF went into some detail about how he was able to show Kiwi fishermen (me specifically) that lightly-weighted nymphs on long leaders could perform better than heavy lead even in big water. VFFF was shown tossing elegant casts into the middle distance. There were shots of fish being struck, fish jumping, and so on in the deeper pool.

Finally there were shots of fish being released - mostly my fish, without me of course, except the occasional glimpse of my arm or hand, but you would have to have been there to know that.

Did I expose this piece of naughtiness? No, but I did write to VFFF and let him know I had seen the video - and I suppose introduced just a little bit of doubt nagging away in the deep, dark and dank recesses of his mind.

I was not surprised when some years later VFFF returned to our shores, and I was not included on his guides list - seems no other guide on the first trip was hired for the second either. Perplexing indeed Dr. Watson!

VFFF seemed to have forgotten that New Zealand is a very small country, where everybody knows everybody, and the names and addresses of half the sheep!

Soft Hackle bead Head Fly

Article written by Tony Bishop


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