Wait and Watch and Wonder

by Pedro Burney

(Originally published “On the River” 1974)
Just looking has its rewards.
When I reach a river, I put my rod up, sit down and just look. What am I looking for?
Well it’s a matter of questions themselves and answers.
Is there any activity on the part of the trout? I wonder what they might be feeding depending on the time of the season.
I may see fish cruising or I may see fish rising. I may see other activity – such as are the swallows active, indicating a hatch of mayfly?
Then there are other things not trout-related.
On a back country river, I saw a blue mountain duck. He followed me everywhere and then in the afternoon, he brought his wife back. Lovely to see.
At Lake Waikaremoana, the pigeons and the bird life are beautiful to watch. On the Tukituki River in Hawkes Bay, I have enjoyed watching the occasional rabbit or hare. Blue herons perhaps even a bittern if a swamp is nearby. Ever watched a hawk? The acrobatics in the air of a hawk dodging magpies is fascinating. The beautiful swallows darting and swooping over the river are a joy to watch.
The banded dotterell on the shingle – the pied stilts – even shags – are all part of Nature. I’ve seen weasels and stoats when I’ve just sat motionless and watched. Animals don’t recognise stationary objects s well. But they are very, very quick to pick up movement. I remember watching a stoat “freeze” a rabbit into petrified fright. Once as utterly still I sat on a log, a big hare came loping along and sat for a moment just five meres away.
Wild ducks – pheasant – quail – all are wonderful to watch.
The flowers of even weed-like plants are beauty in themselves such as the little blue forget-me-nots, the golden Californian poppies and the fox gloves especially in  beautiful massed display.
But get back to the fishing. It pays to look. I’ve watched chaps put up their rods, put on a fly and immediately enter the river without looking and summing things up. Instead I like to wait and watch. I wonder what the trout might be doing. I look for flies that may be coming down, note the colouring and then try to match the fly.
If a trout rises I look and wonder how it is feeding. Was it taking flies on the surface or was it “bulging” taking hatching nymphs just under the surface?
When I approach a pool, look for signs not totally of fish but of the river itself. How does the current flow? It will tell me how to fish my fly. I may need to strip off line and give slack to get the fly deep and/or get natural drift.
Look at the wind and sun. You can use the wind to assist your casting rather than be battling into it. With a strong wind behind me, dangerous for a backcast, I probably would roll cast.
The sun? You can use the sun as a somewhat shield as fish looking into the sun are less likely to see you.
Look, observe and analyse.
© Lake Waikaremoana and bird life



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