Tongariro River flow might make fly fishing too difficult?. Find a good book or find a fishy story – i.e.
A few years ago I watched an American guest performing what he called “shadow casting” (?). He claimed he was “creating a hatch” by casting back and forth, just zooming the dry fly all over the water without touching the surface. His confident explanation was that the fish would think there was a swarm of edible juicy insects buzzing around and they would not be able to resist coming up to the surface to have a look and a taste if only out of sheer curiosity. They would be alerted and excited by the glimpse of the fly shadow passing over the pool and get curious enough to overcome their natural cautious instincts?
Baloney? But I finally found a reference to it in that classic novel – “A River Runs Through It” – written in 1976 when Norman Maclean was over 70. I had previously read it about 30 years ago but had missed the reference to shadow casting. I don’t remember Brad Pitt’s stand-in casting style but perhaps it was real – even back then.
So recently I was standing on the river edge in the upper river in hot humid conditions, sweating from the heat bouncing off the water – usually hopeless conditions too hot for trout fishing – when a lone cruiser was spotted. It eventually slowly drifted in so close I could confirm a large Rainbow still with his spawning colours displayed in a deep red blush. This was the ideal chance to try “shadow casting” when no one else could see me making an even bigger fool of myself.
This was the first time this season the cicadas were clearly heard buzzing on the track so I tied on an irresistible gawdy cicada pattern. I cast out and around the trout, looping back and forth as though I knew what I was doing?. I even fooled myself.
The cast varied between standard 10 to 2 style adding a mend in flight now and then plus my peculiar version of roll casting sideways style, lightly skimming without touching the water and flicking it away whilst slowly adjusting for the gusts up river, maintaining such an erratic natural insect flying pattern.
Such concentration almost made me dizzy. After about an anxious minute or two I have to admit I was quite proud of my stylish wand waving artistry as the trout was still there. It seemed remotely possible after all.
The technique was obviously a test of my patience to persevere until the casting style had measured the distance and factored in the wind to gently land the fly right on his nose.
This added to my excited anticipation (rather than to the fish?) and I felt confident enough to quietly slither and wade closer behind the figure eight pattern that the trout was maintaining up and down – about half way between the faster seam beside the main current and the shore.
On a no-fish day the sheer drama was almost more than I could bear. The trout did not appear spooked or frightened at all by the buzzing circling whizzing activity and motion of the fly and just kept on casually coming back for more. He was definitely curious. A hook-up had to follow?.
Eventually I was confident enough to gently land the fly. The trout was so relaxed he did not change direction to approach the fly but let the water drift it around him. Perhaps my whiz casting lured him into feeling perfectly safe? I was poised on edge, as you do, expecting him to strike at it if only to see what it was. But he ignored it.
Instead he showed complete indifference at my skills, preferring to wait longer for another display of shadow casting until the fly landed perfectly in position, to be sipped in without any excessive movement or strain. That made me convinced it must be a jack.
When under immense strain, anglers imagination is such a mighty powerful force. I even promised to release him to make it more attractive for the beast to crunch the fly.
I innovated and made it skid zig-zag like a real insect about to take off in flight. Desperate stuff.
In the end it made no difference.
The nervous anticipation made me almost breathless as I made a complete fool of myself and the huge Rainbow (it has grown longer since we left) was still casually circling and ignoring me as we departed.
Recovering my breath later I remembered the American angler used a tiny delicate dry fly about size 18. My stealth bomber was size 8… So?
But what an exciting time we had.
There is so much more to fly fishing than just catching…
Afterwards I consulted Google:
The notion of “creating a hatch” was introduced (in print) by George LaBranche in 1914 (The Dry Fly and Fast Water). The method was sometimes mocked by angling writers across the pond as an example of the unsophisticated techniques and unsophisticated trout found in America. LaBranche, however, was anything but an unsophisticated fly fisher. He was one of the finest fly casters of his time (or of any time), and his section on reading the water in the same book is still one of the finest ever written (my opinion).
Despite the “unsophisticated” accusation, variations of this technique can be used to entice trout even in extremely pressured situations. It helps if the trout is visible so that its reactions can be used as a way of gauging the effectiveness of the presentations. Trout will wiggle their fins or bodies in an increasingly excited manner when the method appeals to them. It also helps to present the fly near, but not over the fish until its excitement seems about to peak. The method can work in “blind-fishing” situations, but it is always hard to know if one is just wasting time or even putting fish down when the fish can’t be seen.