Creasy's Column - the challenges of winter fishing
By Hugh Creasy
And then the rains came down. It’s always frustrating when you travel for hours to get to prime waters to wet a line only to find the clouds opening up and damning your dreams. I must be getting used to it. Instead of cursing the weather, on my last venture, I made my way to the nearest motel and booked in for a couple of days, happy to read and watch television while the floods subsided.
There were similar conditions on another of my visits to this river, many years ago. I drove the road alongside the river until I came to a park where the flood had inundated the grass and the swings and playground toys were starkly reflected in a calm lake.
It was still raining when I saw a couple of fish tails waving in still water. They were a good 20 or 30 metres from the main flow of the river, and were busily feeding on worms, grass grubs, porina moth caterpillars and other insects displaced by the flood. I watched for an hour or so while the fish grazed the paddock, and it wasn’t until a dog raced into water with a great splash that they fled to safer waters.
Anyone who visits the West Coast knows the chance of rivers being in flood at this time of year is very high, but there are enough lakes and spring-fed streams to feed the angler’s appetite if they don’t mind getting wet. The upside is that you are likely to be alone. Tourists are often fickle in their fishing wants and are more likely to blame their guides for bad weather, than the forces of nature.
Guides have a hard time in winter. Their clients often have a formidable appetite for alcohol when they are not on the water, and the temptation to keep up the consumption rate can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, or at least a stiff hangover. Their clients are on holiday, and the guides are trying to run a business. The clients go on the wagon when they return home, while the guide has to cope with his next set of anglers raring to live it up.
However, the sun will shine, the rivers will clear and an angler must be ready take advantage of any opportunity. My biggest problem is poor memory. I forget where I have stored key pieces of gear, and in a workshop full of material collected over decades, it can take hours to find where I had stored precious items.
Even a pair of #12 wading boots disappeared for hours. I found them where I had stored them in a moment of extreme tidiness behind a couple of paint tins used in a recent project. In fine, warm weather you can dispense with waders, but when snow falls on the tops, the rivers run cold and waders become survival clothing.
I found mine, rolled them out and they looked perfect. On the river, though, they soon displayed their faults. In a matter of minutes I had wet feet. Inspection showed the neoprene boots had perished. It seems strange that neoprene should deteriorate before the seams on the uppers give way. I have a pair of neoprene chest waders purchased more than 30 years ago for duck shooting. They are well-used and still in perfect condition. My modern waders and the old ones are stored side-by-side, so it is not poor storage that caused the problem. The problem is in the quality of materials used.
Now, I am re-equipped. Cold waters hold no fear. My wading boots are now stored in the back of the car, along with the rest of my fishing gear. I wait in expectant hope for the rivers to subside.
My flybox is lined with bead-headed nymphs in various sizes as is a selection of weighted and unweighted woolly buggers.
As each day passes my expectations grow. The fish will be so excited to take my offerings, they will find them irresistible, and in my excitement I will probably lose a few. It will be sunny, the water will be clear, my casting will place a fly wherever I wish to place it and life will be complete. I can’t wait for the day.