Big wets work
There is no better sight in fly-fishing than seeing your dry fly taken off the surface. Seeing a fish rise up from the depths, then its mouth close over the fly is truly magical. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Sometimes other methods have to be used to fool our target species. When conditions are bleak and cold, early or late in the season, then sometimes we have to resort to blind fishing big wet flies. Some fisherman like to refer to it as blind flogging, but I don’t think that gives enough credit to it, so we will stick to blind fishing.
Walking the shore of a lake armed with a box of your favourite wets can be a very effective way of catching fish. With a bit of extra knowledge a long and laborious day can become a productive one.
I find the most successful shores to be the ones that have a wind blowing onto them at an angle of around 45 degrees. This type of wind will form a current along the shore which will keep any stirred up food trapped close in to the bank. As we all know if you find a shore with food on it, you will find the fish. Having said that some of my best bank based fishing has been straight into the teeth of a stiff wind. I have had some memorable days along the southern end of Great Lake pushing into a strong northerly based wind.
Whilst we all like to cast a full fly line, on these sorts of days it is rarely needed, let alone possible. All you need to do is rug up, wade out a bit and get your fly out in front a few metres. You will be amazed how close to you and the shore the fish can be in these sorts of conditions.
When you can’t find a shore with the ideal wind on it, don’t despair. The other important aspect to look for is structure. As you move along the bank keep an eye out for things like logs, larger rocks, drop-offs and channels. These can all help to hold the fish in close to the shore long enough for you to catch one or two, especially if you can throw in a bit of weed cover as well.
Fishing from the shore I like to use a weight forward floating line most of the time. Only on the odd occasion will I switch to an intermediate line with a clear sink-tip. I mainly use 9ft tapered leaders down to around a 6 pound tippet to help with turnover into the wind, and one or two flies depending on the situation.
Fishing wet flies from a boat is a totally different game to fishing from the shore. For a start you have a whole lot more options available to you. You can travel the lake whilst on the water looking for the perfect shore as conditions change. A breeze running parallel to the shore is good for the boat based angler as you can get some really good drifts going.
Depth can also be important when fishing from the boat. I have on more than one occasion drifted a shore for no fish only to go back and drift it again at a different depth for much better results. When you find the depth the fish are at it pays to concentrate on that sort of area, even if you change shores. If you don’t have a sounder in your boat you can use the humble old piece of rope with a weight on the end and knots tied in it at metre intervals. Not very high tech, but it has saved the day for me once or twice.
A good drogue set-up is important to be able to fish the depths correctly. If you drift to fast you simply won’t be able to get down to where the fish are holding effectively.
Another piece of equipment I find vital to a good days fishing is the electric motor. The electric is very good for fishing in the shallows and for avoiding structure under water without spoiling your drift. I also use it at times for searching along shores throwing a few casts to try and locate where the fish are a bit quicker.
Fishing from the boat is where the full sinking lines come into their own. If the fish are feeding down deeper a full sinking line can get your flies into the feeding zone and keep there for the maximum time. I have started to use the Airflo range of sinking lines and fine these cast further and are easier to manage than most others I have tried.
I generally use a level length of 6 pound mono for my boat based leaders. As most of the fishing is done down wind turn-over is not a problem like it is fishing from the shore. If I need to run more than one fly I add droppers using a three turn surgeons knot. I find three turns better than two as it helps to hold the dropper away from the main line a bit better.
Big wets I like to think of as flies in the hook sizes 4 to 8. Most of my flies for this style of fishing are tied on Kamasan B830 hooks. These are a long shank hook made for lure style flies. My preference being for a size 6. There are two main types of flies I use and these are the Mylar Yeti and the Fuzzle Bugger.
The Mylar Yeti was first introduced to me through the book Australia’s Best Trout Flies. It was developed by Ashley Artis and is known in the book as the Green Rabbit and Pearl. It consists of a mylar tube body and a rabbit fur wing. Over the years my fishing mates and I have tied this fly in a million different color combinations and it became known simply as the Mylar Yeti. My latest versions of this fly have been tied with grizzly zonker strips for an extra buggy look. My favourite combination being pearl tube and olive grizzly zonker strip. If you can find an olive zonker strip with dark tips these are deadly as well. Please contact me if you do find some and I will buy them off you. They are not that easy to get hold of some times.
The other fly I have been using a bit is the Fuzzle Bugger. Developed by mainland tyer Murray ‘Muz’ Wilson it is a variation on the famous woolly bugger. The advantage being that they are so much easier and quicker to tie. It is simply a marabou tail and chenille body. Before winding on the chenille body dub a long fibred dubbing to it, wind on body and you are nearly done. All that is left to do is take to it with a strip of velcro and rough it up. I like to dub an extra bit of dubbing at the head of the fly before tying off. Doing this just gives you a bit more body at the front. Purely personal choice as the fly is fine either way. Favourite colors for me are the usual black, brown and green combinations. I have had some success using a black/purple combination also.
Both of these flies can be weighted if needed. They can be tied with lead in the body, brass or tungsten bead heads, or in the case of the Fuzzle Bugger I have even tied them with weighted eyes. Another trick you can use is to slip a couple of brass beads onto your leader before tying on the fly. This not only gives you easily removable weight but a bit of noise as well, caused by the beads coming together. Be sure to carry each style in a few different colors and weights to find what the fish like on any given day.
Although in Tasmania we are blessed with some of the best trout fishing the world has to offer, we don’t always have the same luck with the weather. So if conditions are not ideal and there are no fish actively feeding on the surface you are going to have to do it. Rug up in your warm gear, of which there is plenty to choose from. Jump in your boat, or pick your favourite lake shore. Grab a box or two of big wets and start stripping. You may be surprised how much fun it can be, and what you can catch on those miserable days. See you out there.