It’s funny. The chase of big fish is sometimes a little like the Wizard of Oz: they look impressive but when Toto pulls back the curtain and you can see how it has all come together, it’s not as impressive as it might seem. This scene was shot the spring after a heavy mouse event hit the south Island. During those mouse-event years, the fish put on serious weight. Trouble is they rarely rise, rather, wait for the night-time mice to arrive and spend their days feeding on nymphs if they so are enticed. Because they are protein-packed they can swim and surf like dolphins in heavier current – many surf the leading pillows of boulders or the eddies of faster seams. Big, fat, mouse-fed fish hang out deeper, rarely rise, and are difficult to spook if you know what you are doing. And many eventually eat a deep nymph.
If you hear of a mouse year event and can’t get there that year, don’t despair, the next season’s trout will still be fat. Those fish will retain body fat for a good year afterward in many cases. But they know that food is in shorter supply and many act quite similarly to this one, hanging out in the soft margins of rivers and streams. So often in the year after the 3 mouse events we’ve now fished we’ve run into exactly this: big, fat, lazy fish literally doing nothing on the margins of a river, especially during cold fronts when insect & terrestrials are slow. They get in a bit of a comatose funk. They’ll feed but it’s a game of casting long leaders with heavy nymphs in hopes of catching a look down deep… just because that fish doesn’t take the first cast and drift, don’t let that dissuade you: quite often it might be the 20th or 50th cast and drift that finally entices the fish to turn its head and suck in your deep running nymph. Because these fish are often difficult to spook you can cast away – and that’s exactly what Amelia does here.
We do share that it is exciting to catch a big fish and this moment was really neat because of the whole package of that specific day (man it was cold and howling!). But at the same time it’s tough to fish these rivers day in and out because the hope of something ‘interesting’ happening wanes: when you know that it most likely won’t rise; when you know that it likely won’t spook; when you know that you have to flip and roll your casts over and over and drift heavy nymphs off the bottom; and you are specifically going after big fish done the exact same way on an “erase-rewind” script; well, you find other mouse-free waters to fish once you’ve had your fill of mousers. 🙂 Some folks love big fish and this is obviously a great time to find exactly that. We love aspects of it but find ourselves longing for swaying, happy, freely feeding trout. While we focus on being positive and sharing the enjoyment of fly fishing for trout, at the same time we do want to be realistic and point out a few realities. We honestly have a yeah-nah feel toward mouse-over fish because many are exactly like this video shares. It’s predictable, and predictable on repeat has a saturation limit… while some are going to rail on us for being almost neutral to big trout, others will get what we’re saying. It’s kind of like fishing for big northern pike on top water: a few days a year fishing to them is really fun, invigorating, exciting… and enough.
Note the transition in what Amelia casts in this scene: dry with small dropper; dry to heavy dropper; double naked/doubley weighted nymphs. We haven’t shown the other 20 or so casts in this sequence! 🙂