Creasy's Column - By Hugh Creasy
The sun was below the horizon and its dying light cast a silvery glare on the water. Polaroids were no longer of any use. I took them off, careful to wrap them in soft cloth before dropping them into my wader pocket. I have ruined numerous pairs of cheap Polaroids by scuffing the lenses. There was no longer any visibility through the water, but as the heat went out of the day, trout should rise.
The air was still and I remained poised to cast to any movement. The tension built as the minutes passed. I knew there were fish in this backwater. I had seen them on my way downriver. They cruised the shallows, nosing into weed and under logs, but in near still water a cast would have to be perfectly placed to avoid putting them down.
A fish rose, dimpling the surface but not taking anything visible. There was more movement further up the backwater, and I knew it would not be long before caddis came off the water. After a few minutes the rise began and the fluttering dry-bodied insects suddenly appeared, skidding across the surface while their wings filled with blood and they were able to fly. It was a moveable feast for trout and they went mad in their pursuit.
I cast to the middle of the rise but my fly was but one of hundreds. The caddis floated downstream, wriggling as they went, then took refuge on my waders as their wings dried and they took off on their first flights. They crawled over exposed flesh, got in behind the lenses of my glasses, explored the interior of my ears and nose and generally became an uncomfortable moving mass. The ones under the collar of my shirt moved down my back and across my chest, making me creepily uncomfortable.
After a few minutes I gave up and moved to the riverbank. I was shaking caddis out of my hair and from under my clothes when a loud thump sent the ground shaking and the fish in the backwater streaking to the main river, leaving half a dozen wakes in their trail.
A hundred metres away, on the bank above the backwater, a tractor with a post driver at its rear was driving heavy timbers into the ground. There was an old maimai there, I had thought was long disused. But the landowner was doing some serious repairs on its reconstruction.
Rivers constantly change, and what was a good shooting spot one year could be dry land the year after, or a river course change could turn a backwater into a fast-moving reach, incapable of holding ducks. Of course it’s the same with holding water for fish. It is one of the great adventures of fishing, the way rivers evolve from season to season. Reaches and runs that gave great reward in one season can become non-existent in the next.
I strolled over to the tractor where the post-driver operator was twiddling the levers that made the operation so easy. He told me that for twenty years or more he had enjoyed good shooting over this section of the river, but in a big flood a few years back the river changed course and his neighbours on the opposite bank enjoyed the best shooting over the shallows.
“Now it’s on my side of the river. The ducks have been dropping in, so I fed out some grain for them. I saw more pigeons coming in, than ducks, but there’s plenty around, and when the pressure goes on they’ll be looking for somewhere to land.”
We discussed prospects for the coming season, and he was adamant that it will be the best season for years.
“We’ve had so much rain. The birds had a great breeding season, and the local dams are crowded with birds. They have to go somewhere, hopefully, it’s past here.”
I wished him the best of luck and in near-darkness I made my way downriver, feeling my way with a wading stick until I reached the head of a pool where fish once more were rising. A small wet was taken in pitch darkness and by lamplight I brought it to the net.
I won’t be back to the river for a while. It will be duck-hunters’ territory for a month or two. In spring I’ll be back, discovering new pools, runs and reaches. It’s something to look forward to.