Progress was measured in short slow steps along the sand. Body and arm movements kept to an absolute minimum. Our Polaroid-screened eyes scanned an arc from the edge of the sand out to 90° across the water.
Then we froze as a shadow moved across the sand and hardened into a trout.
The trout was moving parallel to the shore not 2 metres (6') from the water's edge. Standing stock-still we watched as the trout darted forward and the surface boiled as it snatched its prey just ahead of us, along the beach.
The trout turned and meandered away along the beach, back in the direction from where she came. Quickly we moved up to the point where we had seen her turn, and my client cast out the fly and let it sink.
We waited, unmoving.
Then we saw the trout on its return journey. My client twitched the fly, and again, and then again. Still the trout advanced toward us. Now the fly was only four metres from the beach, and the fish swam under the line.
The fly was twitched again, and in the literal blink of an eye, the trout turned and raced back to the fly and in a swirling boil took the hook.
The six weight rod - for the sixth time this bright December morning - bent to its work as the fish bolted for deeper water and cover. The fight was a protracted affair but eventually a 3kg (6lb) fish was gently lifted from the water, quickly photographed and sent back on her way.
For the sixth time that morning my client shook his head in disbelief.
That morning we were fishing the shore of Lake Taupo, in the central North Island of New Zealand, less than 50 metres from a main highway. My client, an American and die-hard dry-fly fisherman, needed a great deal of persuasion to fish lake waters.
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He was particularly reticent having spent the prior week chasing wily browns in the crystal clear rivers and streams in the upper South Island. The idea of stalking and casting to trout in a lake seemed too far-fetched to be real. Add to this the fact that we were fishing at mid-morning on a very bright sunny day with not a breath of wind ruffling the water.
Was my client a happy chappy? I would not bet the family fortune against the idea.
The lure of the chase - the hunt - is what attracts many trout fishermen to the sport. Finding a trout hovering in its lie in a clear stream or river, and then casting to it, is the epitome of the anglers' art. Carefully and stealthily the angler moves along the bank, scanning the water for a shape, a shadow or a movement that will betray the presence of a fish, then he moves with infinite care into a casting position.
One false move and the fish will bolt. Then the cast, the wait, and sometimes a hook-up. It is all there - the stuff from eons back - etched deeply into our genes from our hunting forebears.
But confining the hunt and stalk to rivers and streams is to ignore the potential for sight fishing along lake edges.
In late Spring, through Summer and into Autumn, lake shores can provide the opportunity for truly wonderful fishing that satisfies all the elements of hunting and fishing.
As the sun begins to heat up the margins around lake edges, smelt, whitebait or cock-a-bullies move into the shallows to feed and spawn. In other lakes Dragonfly and Damsel nymphs move up from deeper water and across the shallows.
Trout follow the bait in, feeding voraciously. These trout usually betray their presence - initially at least - by the swirls and boils they make as they feed close to shore. This is the first and easiest part of the hunt, and should be conducted well back from the water and from as high above the water as possible.
Once the general area of activity has been established, it is good practice to pick out some easily identifiable 'markers' down at, or in, the water's edge to act as guides once you move into position along the beach.
Down on the beach, stealth is absolutely essential.
Move slowly and carefully keeping arm movements to a minimum.
Stay out of the water; any movement in the water by a fisherman will put fish down.
Scan the water in an arc starting right at the water's edge - literally - and sweeping out to a right angle from the beach. You should have your casting length of line held in coils ready to make a cast.
If a fish is spotted, stand absolutely still, and try and work out its movement pattern. Most of the fish feeding close inshore follow a fairly regimented pattern of covering the water in their area.
Once the fish has moved away, cast out and wait. When the fish reappears start twitching the fly back to shore.
I find that holding the rod right at the top of the grip allows you to pull the line with a gently wrist movement hidden by the forearm.
If the fish misses the fly leave it in the water. Leave it where it is until the fish turns back and away and try again on its next pass.
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There is however a time when this advice can be ignored and another tactic often works.
Sometimes an actively feeding fish will be slashing at a shoal of bait. Often a cast into the activity will result in a hook-up. But be careful the fly line should not hit the water anywhere close to the fish.
I usually use a small fly for smelt or cock-a-bully imitations. Something tied on a size ten or twelve hook. A couple of these flies are shown in the image.
For the smelt fly, run black thread from the eye down the shank to the bend, then back to the eye. Tie in a small clump of white marabou fibres. (Spinning the ends of the marabou between wet thumb and forefinger helps to make tying in easier.)
Lay on and tie in a short piece of peacock herl on either side of the marabou. Over the top of the marabou, tie in a couple of strands of Flashabou. Just behind the eye, tie in a tiny piece of red wool to form a 'throat'.
Whip finish heavily to make a pronounced head and varnish. That is it.
For the cock-a-bully, run black thread from the eye to the bend and back two thirds up the hook. Tie in a small strip of grey rabbit, or a small clump of grey marabou. Tie in two strands of Flashabou. By the tip tie in a black hackle and wind forward to the eye, tie in, cut off any surplus, and whip finish. Trim the hackle to form a solid ball.
For dragon or damsel flies I mostly use store bought imitations, but I buy a range of sizes. This is one case where size can matter. But if you have a Pheasant Tail Nymph about your person that will often do the trick.
Sometimes the trout can fool you.
What seem to be smelting trout are in fact not. On days when the wind is blowing strongly from the shore and there are trees nearby, try some dry flies - bug-type dry flies. Don't be afraid to give the bug an occasional tiny twitch or two.
Sight fishing to lake trout is an exciting and rewarding part of fly-fishing but for me it has some other advantages. This method of fishing works best on hot clear days, no early morning starts. Secondly it means moving without waders and not getting wet. What more can you ask!
For more information on the importance of smelt to the Taupo fishery and others in the central North Island of New Zealand.
* Why in a country that uses metrics for weights and measures do we call fish weights in pounds? Easy really, does 4.2kg sound as good as 10lb?
Article written by Tony Bishop
My first trout fishing book Fishing Smarter for Trout is now up on this site and
free to read. Includes regular updates and new stuff.
Reading the Water
Most fishermen have a few pet theories about what catches trout and what does not.
One of my theories, some call it an obsession, is that it is not what you fish with, but where you fish, that is the prime factor in determining fishing success or failure.
'Reading the water' to find trout is essential if you want to become a good or better angler.
Booby flies, deadly
One of the strangest looking but most productive flies you can use in still or very slow moving waters.
There are no prizes for guessing how the fly got its name, once you see the fly, and also no prizes for those who think that these flies are sometimes called "Dolly Parton’s".
The combination of its bobbing action as the foam beads of the head struggle to lift the fly, and the seductive wriggle of the marabou tail often proves irresistible to trout. But it is one of the most misunderstood flies being used in New Zealand and around the world today.