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Swandives

Swandives

Fish fillets from Australia

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New Zealand wonders

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Sometimes - it doesn’t happen very often - a place not only meets the claims of travelogues and tourism brochures, it surpasses them. For a fisherman, New Zealand is just such a place.

I have a bit of a love affair going with New Zealand. It’s amazingly compact and beautiful. The landscape is ever-changing; from beach to lush, green farmland to rugged slopes. The air is clean, the water is clear and pure and the produce is fresh and delicious.

And the fishing!! When it comes to trout fishing, most fisherman talk of New Zealand with something that to the uninitiated, sounds as if it can only be hyperbole. Zane Grey called it the Angler’s Eldorado and while it has been a few years since the author penned his famous work, the moniker is no less apt today.

So I don’t really know why it took me so long to discover the wonder that is, relatively speaking, on my doorstep. It takes me longer to drive to my beloved Snowy Mountains in Australia than it takes to fly to New Zealand. This was my second trip. Needless to say, it won’t be my last.
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A Clouser Minnow

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The latest addition to my fly pattern repertoire - a Clouser Minnow.

I plan to use this predominantly as a salt water fly, but its versatility means you can use it for all sorts of fishing. It’s easy to tie, too.

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Last trout of the season

The last trout of the season

We spent the June long weekend in one of the best places in Australia - Kosciuszko National Park. It was the last weekend of the trout season and many of the trout - especially the browns - have already moved up into the streams to spawn.

My childhood family holidays were spent exploring the park and fishing with my dad, so it holds a special place in my heart. In those days, the Alpine Way was a corrugated track and driving it at any time of the year was something of an adventure. You could drive the entire way from Khancoban to Thredbo without seeing another vehicle and you had to dodge the lyrebirds and wombats - and the occasional fallen tree! Dad, mum, my sister and I would pile into our old Toyota Corolla station wagon - no 4WD for us - and go exploring. And our favourite place was the Geehi Plains, on the banks of the Swampy Plains River. We would make camp at the Geehi Hut and feast on sausages in rolls with tomato sauce. And it remains one of my best memories.

These days, the Alpine Way is sealed and National Parks & Wildlife has paved the main Geehi rest area. It no longer has that feeling of the wild, remote high country. But you can still go off the beaten track to find it, and it is still as beautiful as ever. My husband and I have a little 2-door Pajero 4WD that is a veritable mountain goat. We call him (yes, he’s a ‘he’) Errol, after Errol Flynn, because he’s a swashbuckling adventurer. We explore the tracks and walk the river in search of the trout, rainbows and browns, that lie between the boulders in the crystal clear pools. For the most part, Australia is a wide, brown land; harsh and immense. But in the Snowy Mountains during winter it is clear and cold, with light that coruscates off the water of gin-clear mountain streams below the snow-line. It is glorious.

I spent most of the weekend nymphing with my favourite wet fly - the black bead headed nymph. Many fly fishermen turn their noses up at wet flies; dry flies patterns such as mayflies and adams are what really capture the imagination. And in some ways I understand why. The moment when a trout rises slowly to sip a delicately placed fly, or when it erupts from the water with a splash and a roll, is largely why most of us weirdo fishos do what we do. But many of those same fishermen would have caught their very first trout on a wet fly, not a dry one. And I find wet flies more versatile; a trout will just as easily take a wet as a dry, in my experience, but not the other way around. I sometimes wonder whether the reason so many fishing epistles wax lyrical about dry fly fishing is because finding the right conditions to fish a dry fly is a far rarer event and, as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Whatever the reason, I will never, ever, forget the moment that Indi River rainbow grabbed my nymph and took up off the river, tail-walking and flashing and making my heart sing. It will remain one of the proudest moments of my life.

Hmmm…a wee bit too retrospective and indulgent. I really just wanted to post this photo (above). It is taken in the afternoon, when the sun has dipped behind the snow capped peaks and the mist is just beginning to rise from the river. I had been fishing a Red Tag fly on top, with my trusty black nymph below and this fellow smashed it, using the fast current of the snow-melt water to his full advantage. I have a rule: no fish in the freezer. Which means we only ever keep one or two trout - the rest live to fight another day. This young fellow was the last trout of the season. A beautiful fish, for a beautiful spot.

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How to tie mono leader to braid

Came across this handy video in an attempt to get more strength into my joining knot when I am fishing with soft plastics. i fish with 6 pound braid and a 5 pound mono leader, but my trusty bloodknot wasn’t doing the job. This is much better:

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Simms, it’s time to make real wading boots for women

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These are my wading boots. They look great and they’re supposedly designed for women but my personal experience is that they are very, very uncomfortable. I have to take them off after an hour or so which, when you consider I bought them for serious river forays, is hardly satisfactory.

And the worst part is I can never try before I buy, because the number of female fly fishers in Australia is not large enough for retailers to justify holding stock (and I completely understand this on their part). So, if you want anything, you have to order it - which is how I ended up with a pair of wading boots that don’t suit me at all.

So here’s my plea to fishing gear manufacturers - really think about whether your ‘women’s’ range offers values and addresses your customers’ needs. Because it is true that women talk - and while they may be a small proprtion of your customer base, they are nonetheless disproportionally vocal.

Oh, and if anybody has a pair of wading boots they’d like to recommend, I’m all ears (or should I say, feet).

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A foray into fly tying

I’m a newcomer to fly tying, although I spent many hours watching my father tie flies when I was younger. I am really enjoying it, and there is immense satisfaction in finishing a fly. This one is a bead-head soft hackle nymph. I was intending to tie a bead-head black nymph, which is my very favourite wet fly; I caught my first trout on a black nymph, and have used it with particular success on the Swampy Plains River in NSW and Indi River on the boarder of NSW and Victoria, Australia. When the trout are sulking and won’t rise, they’ll still take a black nymph. But finding a simple, step-by-step guide for the complete novice proved more difficult than I thought it would. So I went with this one: a bead-head soft hackle nymph.

I am very keen to try it out as soon as possible. Here’s the fly part-way through:


A partially finished bead-head soft hackle

A partially finished bead-head soft hackle

And this is the result.

The finished problem

The finished product

If you are a beginner to fly tying, I recommend the Orvis Fly-Tying Manual - How to Tie Eight Popular Flies by Tom Rosenbauer. It runs you through each step without assuming knowledge like so many fly tying books and the patterns (such as the soft hackle nymph pictured here) are simple enough that you aren’t likely to become discouraged.

The other brilliant thing for the novice is the enormous number of ‘how to’ videos on YouTube. Sometimes, just seeing something makes all the difference. I mastered the whip finish in minutes thanks to this one:

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It is a wolf herring

Unidentified fishWell, it took a while, but I finally have a name for the previously-unidentified fish I caught up at Hinchenbrook in Queensland. It’s a Dorab Wolf Herring! And a pretty big one at that - they grow to 1 metre in length but are rarely seen bigger than 80 centimetres, according the Australian Museum.

(As an aside, have you ever checked out the Australian Museum website? I thoroughly recommend it. It’s simply awesome - http://australianmuseum.net.au)

Anyway, the only reason I found out was thanks to the fabbo people in the Australia group at Saltwater Index. Big thanks to E-Rik and Paul. I have been wondering about this one for almost three years now!

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Can you name this fish?

Unidentified fish

OK, here’s a curly one. About two years ago I caught this fish off a jetty at the mouth of the Hinchenbrook Channel in Queensland, Australia. For two years, we’ve been trying to identify it. I have given up - for the life of me, I don’t know what it is. It’s not a hair tail, because it has a forked tail. When I caught it, I thought it might have been a barracuda, but it’s clearly not; the markings don’t seem right, it lacks that elongated nose and, in any case, look at that low-slung jaw. It did have sharp teeth though. It’s long and ribbon-like, which further adds to the confusion. The bloke at the fish shop didn’t have any idea and I’ve been unable to find a similar looking fish in any texts or internet images.

I am at a complete loss. So, if anybody can shed some light on the one, I’d be forever grateful!

For the record, it was caught using live herring (I think they were herring, but not 100%…some nice fishermen pulled in at the jetty at one point and gave us their leftover livies). And it went back in the water.

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Fly fishing film festival

What do stream fishermen do when the season’s ending, the trout are spawning and the long wait for spring and the return of river fishing begins? Why, they plan their next fishing trip and attend fly fishing film festivals!

Australia is better-known for its outback wilderness and, with a sea-girt coastline, it’s not surprising that salt water fishing dominates. But the story of the introduction of trout and salmon to the waters of the southern hemisphere is, like so many of the really interesting aspects of our history, largely unknown to most Australians.

Fortunately, Tasmanians and the good folk at Gin Clear Media have told the tale in a way that is guaranteed to have any fly fisherman drooling at the prospect of fishing in Tasmania. The Source - Tasmania is the feature at this year’s RISE Fly Fishing Film Festival. It begins at the beginning - in 1864 when Sir James Youl successfully orchestrated the introduction of more than 100,000 salmon and trout to the River Plenty. No mean feat in the days when refrigeration was practically non existant. The third time’s a charm, as they say; Youl had two unsuccessful attempts before he hit on the magic formula - packing ova in moss in the ship’s ice-house. The trip took 91 days but the surviving eggs went on to become the source of the trout population in Australia and New Zealand.

Fast forward 145 years and recreational trout fishing in Australia is big business. In the Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales alone, it is estimated to inject $70 million a year into the local economy and support 700 jobs.

But it’s Tasmania that literally shines in this film. If you weren’t planning a fishing trip before seeing the movie, you will afterwards. Corny as it sounds, it makes you realise what an incredible country we live in and fishing lets us see it at its most beautiful.

Film maker Nick Reygaert hosted the evening at the Palace Cinema in Leichhardt. His perspectives on filming and fishing were fabulous. And it wasn’t hard to tell the film festival goers from the ordinary film buffs - as we walked up the stairs, snatches of conversation swirled through the room like flies caught in a back eddy. They were all about fishing; when, where, how big, the rig, the fly, the fight. Just thinking about it makes me long for those clear mountain streams. But if your motto is along the lines of Work to Live, Live to Fish, then hopefully the clip below will help tide you over until the next outing.

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