Being a fly fishing guide in the Nelson region is a tough gig. We have very smart trout in crystal clear water. Often we have clients who’s ability is not up to the standard required to fool the cunning browns in our rivers.
At the end of a long season I was given a short notice booking through Owen River lodge. It was a two day job guiding a young couple from Australia who had never cast a fly rod. Phil and Sally were great value and had me laughing right off the bat. They had no illusions as to their ability and were very receptive to instruction. On the first morning we headed to a large river with a good head of small trout. We spent most of the morning casting on the grass bank. They showed a lot of promise so we entered the water and began a short session on line management. As good progress had been made we spent the afternoon stalking trout and putting their new found skills into practice.
Of course as it always happens once a visible fish enters the equation the cast and line retrieve goes out of the window.
As a result seven fish ate a fly that afternoon but all strikes except one were missed. One fish did manage to remain attached to the line for 30 seconds or so until the hook pulled.
The next day dawned fine and was also Phil’s birthday. He was ready to go when I turned up. We returned to the river we had fished the day before but this time we were further upstream. Straight away we found a likely looking run. There simply had to be fish somewhere. I spotted a movement and soon after the shape of a chunky trout came into full view. Phil put a cast up just to the right of the shape and was rewarded with a take. I called “strike”…. no reaction from Phil?
We looked at each other and then the fish jumped next to Phil’s leg. I commanded him to strip line in as I believed he had hooked the fish. Sure enough once he had tightened the line he had resistance. The little fish flipped and darted all over the run as Phil tried hard to not get tangled up in the loose line. I pulled off a stunning piece of net work and Phil had just landed his first fish on the fly.
Phil had relaxed a lot when I spotted the next fish. This time it was a good one. It was easy to see as it was sitting on sand. This made it tricky because Phil’s nerves had returned. However Phil put a sensational first up cast over the fish. It took and Phil struck confidently. After a tidy effort fighting the fish the brown pulled the net scales down to 4.5lbs.
This was a great effort and a testament to all his practice and ability to retain information and then put it into practice.
The next fish I found was sitting deep and also looked a good fish. It took several fly changes to get the pattern and depth right. Finally the fish showed some interest in the fly and moved towards it but turned at the last second. I encouraged Phil to put the next cast a few feet further upstream to give the nymph more time to sink. This was just what the doctor ordered. The indicator ducked and Phil was instantly hooked up to a serious fish. This fish showed little interest in jumping or coming to our side of the river. It was a true stalemate style situation. The fish not willing to give an inch and Phil not willing to force the issue and risk loosing what he knew to be the biggest fish of his life. Eventually the fish turned our way and I got into position in the deep fast water behind the fish and waited for the fishes head to hit the surface. I saw my chance and took it and netted the big fish. Phil, Sally and I were ecstatic. The fish weighed 8.5lb and was easily the biggest trout I have seen in that stretch of the river.
This was probably my favourite day guiding this season. Good company, clients willing to learn and listen, receptive fish and a beautiful river as a backdrop. I’m sure with an introduction like that to fly fishing – Sally and Phil will be back!