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Late Fall and Winter Nymphing, with Alex Waller

Description: My guest this week is Alex Waller [41:36] from New Zealand. You've likely seen his great videos on or on You Tube, in his channel Trippin on Trout. Alex shares his techniques for fishing nymphs in late fall and winter with us, and his techniques are a bit different than what most of us use, so you make pick up some tips for your own trout fishing wherever you live. And because he often fishes for migratory rainbows coming out of giant Lake Taupo, his techniques will play well with Great Lakes "steelhead".
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Podcast Transcript:

Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast." This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer, and my guest this week is Alex Waller. And you probably know Alex from his great videos that you've seen on the "Orvis Blog,", or on YouTube, called, "Tripping on Trout."
Alex is a guy from New Zealand, and I thought because we're getting into the late fall, winter season, when nymphing is probably gonna be the most productive way to catch trout, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, I thought we would get some tips from Alex on how he fishes nymphs at the opposite end of our season. In other words, he's going into spring now. We're going into winter, and I thought it would be really, really educational to find out how he fishes cold water with nymphs, especially since Alex is fishing a lot of rivers that flow into large lakes, and there's big rainbow trout coming out of those lakes. It's gonna be a very similar situation to our Great Lakes' lake run rainbow, or steelhead, if you wanna call them that. So his techniques will be valuable not only to trout anglers but also to steelhead anglers.
But first, before we talk to Alex, let's do the "Fly Box," that's where you ask me questions. You can send your question to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Either just type it in your email, or you can attach a voice file and I might read it on the air. I don't answer them all, particularly if I've answered something in the past few weeks. So for the benefit of those of you who don't listen to every podcast, if I don't answer your question you may wanna go back into the episodes from the past six months or so and you may find the answer to your question.
So let's start with an email. This one is from Casey from Enumclaw, Washington. "Got a question for you about tying materials for creating fly bodies. I recently got my hand on some peccary and am loving the looks of it when it's wrapped up as a body on flies. I was wondering if you have any idea what is the most buoyant, effective natural material for tying dry-fly bodies/emergers? Also, with that, does adding a UV resin or any other coating in order to strengthen the material on the hook lessen the buoyancy of the fly? My other question is, what is your preferred way to store and carry tube flies?"
So Casey, first of all, that peccary might be hollow as a quill, but once you start wrapping it probably all the air is gonna come out of it. So though it looks good, it's not gonna be an especially buoyant material. There are lots of things you can use for fly bodies but you wanted to know about natural bodies, so I'm thinking that probably most types of fur, and natural fur, probably are going to be the best thing for floatation. Because what floats a fly on the surface or on the surface film is trapped air bubbles or the fly being pinioned in the surface film with all the little hairs sticking out, so that's why hackle floats a fly. That's why a fairly fuzzy body will float a fly better than a thin quill body.
And with the modern fly floatants that we have you can make nearly anything float, but still, the more pressure points it has to hold something in the film, the better, so a fuzzy body made out of natural fur. And then some of the really fine synthetic dubbings, the real fine ones, are also very good floaters. Some of the spikier synthetic dubbing in my experience don't seem to float as well as the fine fiber, really fuzzy dubbings. Of course, the most buoyant material, you wanted to know natural materials, the most buoyant material is a piece of foam or deer hair. If you spin deer hair, that will trap some air in it and it's quite buoyant, but it's not appropriate for all types of flies, but flaired and trimmed deer hair is quite buoyant.
And adding UV resin for coating is definitely gonna lessen the buoyancy of the fly. Not only is it gonna add a little bit of weight to your dry fly but it's also going to probably cover up all those fine, little hairs that you want to help float the fly. So I wouldn't use UV resin at all on dry flies. That's not gonna help them at all. Regarding your question on tube flies, there's a really easy way to carry tube flies, and that's one of these adjustable compartment boxes. That's the way I carry all my tube flies, and the adjustable compartments ones, you can make some long, narrow slots in the fly box. And what I do is I just organize my tubes based on color, or type, or whatever in those long, narrow slots.
And the cool thing about tube flies is you don't have any hook to catch on each other, so you can stuff a lot of them into a fly box. And then what I do is I take one corner of that box and partition it off with one of those adjustable pieces, and then I put all my tube-fly hooks and connector tubing in that. Sometimes I even put some cones or beads if I wanna add extra weight to a tube fly. So just a plain, old compartment box, I think, is the best way to carry tube flies. You can carry lots of them and they're not gonna get tangled up. Let's do another email. This one's from Steve.
"I'm new to the sport and trying to pick up one new skill per year. Last year, I ventured from dry flies to wets, mostly muddlers and buggers, on ponds. In 2023, I'm trying to get a handle on dry dropper rigs. My parents recently retired to a beautiful part of Tennessee where dry dropper fishing is nearly ubiquitous. I'm sure you've answered this before but I can't find a reference to it. Is there a universal rule for sizing when selecting a nymph to put under a dry fly when fishing a dry dropper? That is, if I'm fishing a size 12, Chubby Chernobyl, my nymph should be no bigger than x, or ought not to weigh more than y. If there's a rule, does the same formula for foam-body flies hold true for hair bodied or a thread-bodied fly? Or is it all just a matter of learning on-the-fly? Groan."
Well, Steve, I'm afraid you're gonna have to groan because like most things in fly fishing, there are no rules. One Chubby Chernobyl might not be the same as the next Chubby Chernobyl, and one beadhead hares ear might not be the same as the next one. And you need a fly that's buoyant enough to hold the nymphs up or act as a bobber, and I don't think there's any way of estimating it, you just have to try. After a while you're gonna be able to eyeball it and say, "Well, that nymph is just way too heavy to suspend under that little dry fly."
But until then, no rules that I know of because they're all gonna be a little different. And foam-body flies are definitely gonna hold a dry dropper up better than a hair bodied, and especially a thread-bodied fly. Thread-bodied flies are gonna sink pretty quickly because they don't have any resistance to the surface film. So stick with the heavily hackled foam-bodied flies, or ones with the big polypropylene, or EP Fiber wing, like a Chubby Chernoyl. And you're not gonna be able to fish a lot of big nymphs with a smaller delicate dry fly, just not gonna happen. So good luck, and you will learn it eventually.
Zach: Hi, Tom. This is Zach calling from the Czech Republic. I live on a small stream. It's probably no bigger than 15-feet wide at its widest point, lots of little riffles, a couple pools here and there, but mostly just, kind of, 1.5, 2.5 feet of running water, catch a lot of grayling, a lot of wild browns. Some stock rainbows and brook trout are, kind of, thrown in there but it's mostly smaller fish. The big brown on my river is 14, 15 inches of pretty nice fish, and I tend to fish with an 8-foot 4 weight most of the time, because I think a 5 weight's just a little bit too much.
I've been fly fishing now for a few years and I've just, kind of, gotten into swinging wet flies for these fish, and I'm finding it really enjoyable because some of the strikes are just amazing, and the downstream fly fish is pretty fun. And I was just wondering, I know you talk about a lot of small stream fishing. You do a lot of small stream fishing. I'm wondering if you ever do this, if you ever go swinging for smaller fish on smaller tackle? Because I know the conversation for swinging, it's usually for big steelhead salmon, things like this, and if you do, how do you set up your leaders? I'm finding that I tend to prefer a short leader, 7, 8, 9 feet, tip included. But I've found with swinging it's a little bit better to have something longer, maybe 12, 13 feet or something, kind of, a rod-length and a half or so.
And I usually do some [inaudible 00:10:05] sections, like 15 pound or something like that, and then a little tricolor indicator in the middle there just to see where the fly is, and then down to lighter line. And I was just wondering if you could share any tips and tricks for small stream swinging on light rods and how you do it, and how you've found the most success? Thanks for all you do.
Tom: So Zach, I don't swing flies very often on small streams because you have to get upstream of the fish, and I've found that I have to be too sneaky when I'm upstream of those fish in small streams. However, if your streams get a little bit wider, and you can sneak up on the fish and stay off on the side, yeah, I do it occasionally. It's fun but just not that effective because I worry about spooking the fish. I typically use a standard 7.5-foot leader with two flies, and you definitely want that second fly on a separate dropper, not in line, the way a lot of people fish nymphs. I think that separate dropper when you're swinging flies is much more effective.
And what I do with that is I try to look for, kind of, a uniform riffle where you can get a decent swing. Pocket water, and plunge pools, stuff like that where there are a lot of swirly currents, not the easiest place to swing a fly. So on the rare occasion when a small stream widens up and there's a nice, general uniform riffle, that's where I'm gonna try to swing a fly. But your streams may said small but you didn't say how small. Your streams may be a little bit bigger than what I'm used to fishing. Here's an email from David from Georgia.
"As always, thanks for the podcast. It has become a valuable go-to resource. My question today concerns hook gaps. In preparation for fall delayed harvest trout fishing in the Smoky Mountains, I tied a number of tried and true patterns. However, when I got to the water I experienced an unusual number of lost fish on aggressive strikes. I could just chock it up to that particular day, and those particular fish, and short strikes, but I inspected the newly tied flies and noticed that I might've over crowded the hook gap."
"When tying flies with lots of material or bulky materials, mops, Woolly Buggers, sculpins, etc., do I need to be extra cautious about the hook gap? Is it okay to trim materials away from the hook gap while the fly is still on the vise, or will that compromise the entire pattern? Do these patterns just need a wide gap? What hooks, either style or size, do you recommend for patterns such as mops, bugger, or small streamers to avoid this crowding issue? I have never thought much about hook gap size until this occurrence. Any insight you can offer would help with confidence in tying and fishing these patterns."
Well, David, I'm not sure that it was a hook gap problem that caused you to lose those fish. Sometimes fish just strike a fly weird, and sometimes they're just attacking it and not really grabbing it, and so I wouldn't assume that it was your hook gap. It might be just the way the day went. Sometimes that happens. In general, I think probably you want at least half the gap exposed. So if you're tying a big, fuzzy fly, you don't want that body material to extend more than half the distance to the gap. But if you're tying Woolly Buggers on a standard hook and you're crowding the gap, I would think just going to a little bit thinner body, a little bit thinner chenille, and maybe a little less hackle will keep that gap from getting crowded.
And yeah, you could trim it, certainly you could trim it away from there, but I would just try to use a little bit finer body. And hackle isn't gonna really can wind your hackle right down through the gap and hackle isn't really gonna prevent you from hooking a fish. It's more the heavier materials, like chenille, or deer hair, or foam, or something like that. And with these kind of flies, I don't use any special hook for my mops, and my Woolly Buggers, and sculpins. I typically use either a 3x long or a 4x long streamer hook. And there are wider gap hooks. The trouble is you're gonna generally get a shorter shank, or you might just wanna go to a one size bigger. If you wanna keep that same bulk in your fly just go to one or two hook sizes bigger and then you're gonna have more room in there.
Here's an email from Pete, from Norway. "I really enjoy your podcast and have learned so much from this. This season I practice the pile cast that you suggested to me last fall when I was struggling with getting slack on downstream presentation. It works wonders, so thank you. Now to my new question. I've lost two big fish this season, both are the kind you really can't stop thinking about. It still hurts and I keep replaying the situation in my head. What did I do wrong? In both situations I hooked up in relatively slow water, but after about 5 to 10 seconds, the tippet broke. As I recall, both fish shook their heads aggressively. I think both were trout but the second one might've been a grayling, so I'm not sure."
"One, do all fish shake their heads when hooked? And two, what should I do to combat big fish doing the head shake on thin tippet? Your advice would be much appreciated. I'm sure you've experienced this many times. I love your podcast and hope you'll continue making it for a long, long time. It's my favorite." Well, thank you, Pete. I'm sorry you lost those two fish, and there's a number of things that could've happened. One is maybe your tippet is a little bit too light for the size of the fish. So at times you may need to go to a heavier tippet.
Also, do you check your knots every time? Do you check your knots and make sure that your knots are secure? It's always good to test a knot, and when the tippet came back, if you can remember, was there a pig tail on the end of it, or was it a clean break? If there's a pig tail on the end, probably your knot failed, and so that tells you that you either need to use a different knot or you need to be a little bit more careful of your knot tying. Not all fish shake their heads but often larger fish will at first, and I don't think I do anything special. I'm trying to think, I guess the best thing to do if a fish really starts head shaking would be to ease up a little bit on the tension you have on the fish. Usually they'll shake their heads and then they'll take off and run or dodge around.
So they generally won't shake their heads the whole time, but if they do, I guess just pulling the fish a little more gently and possibly letting a little more slack, because if you're pulling in one direction and the fish is shaking its head in the opposite direction, you can put a fair amount of stress on that tippet. So maybe just lower your rod tip a little bit when the fish shakes its head, and then raise it back up when the fish runs or is doing something else. So I hope that helps, and I hope the next time you hook a big fish you land it.
Jim: Hey, Tom, this is Jim from Sugar Land, Texas, where there is no equal. Hey, the first time we met at Three Rivers Ranch in Idaho I told you I was just talking about you. I was there with one of our fishing buddies talking about fishing Robinson Creek. I followed the advice you gave somebody on your "Fly Box," and that was, when approaching new water that you've never fished before you start off with a dry dropper. So following that advice, I had a dry Chubby on top, and about 10 inches below I had a Copper John for the nymph. I caught four really nice brook trout on Robinson Creek on the top, and two beautiful rainbows on the dropper. My question for you is this. When do you use what I would call a bobber, others call a strike indicator? And do you use a plastic? Do you use cork, or do you use some other material like yarn as a strike indicator? Like everybody else, love what you do for the industry and really appreciate your good, easy-to-follow advice. Take care, Tom.
Tom: Hey, Jim. Thanks for your call. I find more and more that I don't use a strike indicator. I really love dry dropper. If there's any chance that fish is gonna take a dry, in other words, if the water is above 50 degrees, or maybe even above 45 degrees, and I think they might take a bigger dry fly, then I'll use the dry dropper. I've been surprised at times, even in the early spring, when fish would take the dry fly instead of the nymph. But there are times when I would use an indicator. If the water is really cold and I'm fishing deep, and I'm not Euro nymphing or doing something else, and I wanna fish nymphs, a couple of nymphs, then I will use a standard strike indicator. I like the foam airlock indicators.
And the other kind of indicator I like is a yarn indicator, the New Zealand Yarn Indicator, or the Pat Dorsey type, do-it-yourself yarn indicator I like very much. I don't care for many of the other styles of indicators. I carry about eight different types in my sling bag, just a couple of each, but I find myself going to either the yarn or the airlock most of the time. And then if I'm gonna be fishing any shot, if I need some split shot to get my flies down into deep, heavier water, I'm definitely gonna be using an indicator instead of a dry fly because it's gonna drown the dry fly. So anyway, that's what I do. Thanks, Jim.
Here's an email from Alex in Jersey City. "I wanted to bring up a topic you've addressed in the past related to how fish see color underwater. Attached is a reference table showing the distance fly colors can supposedly be seen. Although covered on various episodes, some of the info I've heard and read feels conflicting at times. For example, I understand black is the most visible color in water at a distance, and a black streamer is often recommended in high, murky, and or fast water. But at the same time, people talk about preferring black hooks versus red, silver, gold, because people think black hooks are less visible."
"If I follow the science on how far colors can be seen, why would we choose the color that's furthest visible in the water for the hook? I'm assuming the answer is that what attracts the fish attention is not just related to color but also to sheen, dull versus shiny, and contrast, dark against dark, light background, among other factors not related to color, like size, movement, vibration, and small. But nonetheless, should a white, dull hook not be a more desired color than black for daytime fishing in shallow water, since white is the least visible color at a distance? A dull sheen reflects minimal light, and during the day, shouldn't white blend in better with the bright sky since fish tend to feed and look upward? I don't remember ever using a white hook and don't really plan to, but more just wanna make sense of the science."
"Number two, people say that fish are bright fly in fast or murky water so it can be seem, but bright flies, according to the visibility chart, lose their color quicker than dark colors, like blue, green, or black. Is this the case where even though the bright color fades quickly at a distance, if the fish are within range to see it, it's gonna stand out and attract their attention more due to their bright color contrasting with its surroundings, versus a dark color that might be further away but won't stand out?" All right, so Alex, first of all, throw out all your charts. Throw out all your rules. I use black hooks on a lot of my saltwater flies because I believe that I have seen particularly striped bass on the flats shy away from a bright, shiny hook. So I use the black hooks because they're duller. White might be a good idea.
If you could have a matte-white hook, that might be a really great thing to do, but I don't know of any white hooks, and you probably could paint a hook white with a matte-white paint, waterproof paint, but I find the black hooks work just fine, and I really think it's just shine and not anything else. The black generally blends with the background, and yeah, it's visible but fish can always see the hook. They just choose to ignore it. Most fish don't associate a hook sticking out of a fly with danger. As long as the fly follows the right shape, and size, and roughly color, I don't think a hook sticking out of a fly matters. And we've got a tippet sticking on one end, too, so we got lots of stuff sticking out of those flies. Fish aren't that smart.
And as far as color goes on streamers, yeah, a lot of it's size, movement, vibration. Smell we don't typically worry about too much because most of us don't put scent on our flies, but there are rules and they're made to be broken. So the rule is, dark day, dark fly, bright day, bright fly, or light fly. And I generally start out with that, and I've talked to most guides, that's what they'll do. If it's a really bright, sunny day they'll go with a light-colored fly or a bright fly, and if it's, kind of, a dull day, they'll go with a black fly. But smart guides and anglers are, if they are not doing anything with that, they're just as likely to switch to a black fly on a bright day, or a bright fly on a dark day.
So you really have to experiment and you never know from one day to the next what the fish are gonna prefer, what color, or whether it's bright or dark. It really varies, and in some rivers, sometimes bright flies always work, and in some rivers, dark flies always work. But I find in the rivers that I fish you just have to experiment. And you can follow the rules if you want to begin with, but you're just gonna need to experiment because there are no rules that are gonna hold up in the reality of fishing for any species.
Here's an email from Devin. "I'm new to fly fishing, so new, in fact, that I don't even own my own rig yet. I'm fully in the research phase of this and fully intend on diving in soon. I'm completely overwhelmed by all the information that's at my disposal. I feel like I need to be an ichthyologist, entomologist, physicist, ecologist, and ballerina, all before I even go fishing. I'm well acquainted with the Orvis Learning Center. Well done on all the awesome content, and I've digested a few books as well. I'm still totally overwhelmed, though, and don't know what to do next. The closest endorsed fly-fishing guide is four hours away. I live in Eastern South Dakota and the mountain streams are hardly abundant in the heart of the Great Plains. Can you help point me in the right direction for this beautiful past time? Are the cards simply stacked against me in the rolling plains of the Midwest? Where do I even begin?"
Well, Devin, I've got what I think is some great advice for you. Forget about trout for now. Don't even think about it. It sounds like you feel like you have to go trout fishing to be fly fishing and that's not true at all. In your part of the world, you have some great bass ponds. You have some panfish ponds. You probably have some places that host carp. Carp are difficult, though, so I wouldn't stick with them, but I would find a pond somewhere close by where there's some easter sunfish, or maybe small bass, and I would have a ball with them. You're not gonna need to be an ichthyologist, entomologist, physicist, ecologist, or a ballerina to go fishing for sunfish, and they're a lot of fun. They pull hard. They're very eager to take a fly and you don't need to drive four hours.
So what I would do is just, you know, stop reading so many books and watching videos, and go fishing. Find the nearest pond that's got some kind of fish in it, and just go and learn from experience. Trout are hard. Trout are hard and carp are hard. Both of those species are difficult to catch and I don't think you wanna start out with them if you don't even have an outfit yet. I would just find some place close to home, go have fun. Spend a year or two doing that, and then when you feel like you're a little more comfortable, or maybe at the end of the season, then drive the four hours to go trout fishing. But practice your casting, practice your knots, practice playing fish on those local fish and you may find that you never even wanna fish for trout, so good luck.
Here's an email from Kyle, from Massachusetts. "Hey, Tom. I'm new to fly fishing and I've really been enjoying the podcast and all the information that I've been taking in. My question is, I live by a particular river and I've heard that the fish there are not only of good size but also very particular of what they take, often only taking in incredibly small midges due to the fish being highly pressured. I've also been told that the water is incredibly clear, as the water is coming off a local reservoir. I've stocked up on a few dozen small flies for the occasion, but would it be advantageous to try and throw some larger flies as well? Is there ever a situation in which a stretch of river or body of water is inundated with smaller presentation because that's what you need to do, but going off the beaten path might work better, as the fish don't see them as much? Any input would be appreciated, as one of my favorite aspects of the sport is the subtle nuances one encounters on the water."
"PS, I'm running out of things to purchase, so if you get the powers that be to make a fishy pattern backpack, that would be great. Thanks in advance." Well, Kyle, first of all, I think I know the river you're talking about and I've fished it a couple times, and the fish there are not eating those little, tiny midges because they're highly pressured. They're eating the little, tiny midges because that's what they got to eat. Right close to the dam there are often not many mayflies, or caddisflies, or other things in the water. Midges thrive really well in low oxygen concentrations, and although the water is cold coming out of there, probably the oxygen is pretty low. So that's what you're gonna find mostly are little, tiny midges, and so that's what the fish eat.
However, I would not hesitate to throw a bigger fly, and this could apply to any place you go fishing where the fish just seem to take small flies. Sometimes they'll see a housefly, or an ant, or a beetle, or a moth hit the water and they might eat it. So what I would do is I would try a bigger fly for just a few casts, because they're probably gonna come and take a look at it and either eat it or ignore it. And on subsequent casts, that bigger fly, bigger than they're used to seeing, they're probably gonna ignore it. And I do the same thing with a nymph, with a larger nymph. I would throw it a few times.
If they ignore it, then okay, then you gotta go back to the smaller flies. But you might even move around a little bit because you may find that one fish that's looking for a little bit bigger meal, so don't hesitate to try it. I would try an ant, a little beetle, probably not something as big as a grasshopper, but something bigger than those midges anyways, and I would try it. The worst that can happen is you don't catch a fish and you have to go back to fishing those tiny midges, right? So I would give it a try. Those fish are eating those midges because that's what they see day in, and day out, all day long, but they may be occasionally looking for a bigger meal. And sometimes you might wanna try that bigger fly maybe at first light or last light. When the light level is a little lower, the fish tend to be a little bit less particular about what they eat, or on a rainy day. So give those things a try and I'm sure you'll eventually catch a fish on a bigger fly.
Here's an email from Daniel. "First of all, I wanna thank you for your podcast. I'm new to fly fishing and I'm learning a ton listening to your podcast. I don't necessarily have a mentor or someone to learn from. Now the question. Last year, I went on a trip with my girlfriend and her family to Mammoth, California. Her dad fly fishes often. I've always been intrigued by fly fishing, but having no one to show me, I've never given it a try. He was gonna fish the Owens River that next morning and asked if I could join, so I went to the local fly shop and picked up an Orvis Clearwater 9-foot 5 weight. We went fishing that next morning and he gave me the barebones and I got to it. That day, I caught a tiny fingerling. I put my rod away and I hadn't used it since."
"I got up here to Butte, Montana in August for work and I packed my fly rod. I've been fishing a few times a week on all the wonderful rivers around here. Between the guy at the local fly shop, YouTube, and your podcast, I've managed to get some pretty good fish. Everything from a dry dropper, dry flies, and even some smaller streamers have been working for me. I've landed a bunch of fish, some even in the 15-inch range. I've been having a blast with my new hobby. I'm not sure if I'm ready to make the hefty investment of one of the higher-end fly rods but would like to upgrade a little bit. I've been kicking around the idea of upgrading my fly line on my Clearwater, considering that would make a good amount of difference without having to upgrade my rod or reel. There are so many to pick from it's a bit overwhelming. Any line in particular you recommend for a beginner like me with a Clearwater? Thanks again. Hope to hear back from you."
So Daniel, yeah, I think a new fly line is probably the bet investment you can make. That Clearwater is a great rod and it's gonna do anything you want it to do. A better fly line, a premium fly line is gonna float better, it's gonna cast nicer, it's gonna shoot better so you'll be able to get longer casts easier. And I would go with the Orvis Pro Line in a floating...Orvis floating weight-forward PRO Line. They come in both a textured and a smooth finish, and the textured line is gonna cast a little bit farther because it has that, kind of, golfball dimple effect. It's gonna float a little higher because it's got more surface area.
But some people don't like the sound and the feel of the textured line so you have to maybe go into a fly shop and feel both of them, and see which one feels okay to you. The smooth one is still the nice line. A lot of people prefer the smooth line, but again, the textured is gonna give you a little bit more performance. But I think that you're right, that a new fly line is going to up your game probably and make things a little easier and more fun for you. And so I would upgrade the fly line. Just get a standard, floating line for what you're gonna be doing and not a fancy taper or anything, just the standard PRO Trout taper, and I think you'll enjoy that new line a lot.
Stefan: Hey, Tom, Stefan out here in New Mexico, calling you with some questions about fishing for striper and bluefish up in your neck of the woods. Thanks for answering some questions last year on this topic for me. I really appreciate it, and I've got some follow ups now for you. One is gonna be about line choice, and the other has to do with presentation, and certain times of day and night, so I'll start with the line. I did okay the past couple years with an 8-weight float line setup, and I'm wondering this year if I go out there in the early May, sort of, striper run season, May, June, if I should approach with the options of an intermediate or a sink-tip line, even a Polyleader setup.
To be more specific, I'm fishing along the rocks, dropoffs, and maybe in some coves where there's some sand, but mostly right out front. No estuary fishing or backwater stuff, just in the surf, so heavy water, big water, deep water. And yeah, I'm wondering what you and your listeners thought about alternative line choices and what the pros and cons were there. Next question was in regards to fishing during the night, I know that a lot of lure clean up some of their best fish in the middle of the night. And I know depending on tides, I'm gonna be doing a lot of my fly fishing next year in the evening, in the middle of the night, and then in the early morning to see what works. And so you don't really hear about that much in the fly fishing specific community, maybe because it's a little sketchy, but I'm gonna be doing it and I'm wondering if you've done it, or if you and your listeners have thoughts about fly fishing for striper in the dark?
And lastly, in terms of presentation, choosing flies, lines, and retrieves during these, sort of, darker times, I'm wondering if there's alternatives to the, sort of, throw it out there and strip it back approach. I've heard people discuss, kind of, slack-line approaches, dead drifting, kind of like we'd be doing for trout. And yeah, I'm wondering if there's some alternatives that you've played with in terms of bringing back and presenting those flies in different ways to the striper in different times of the night, different levels in the water column so that we can be more precise in our presentations? So I hope that these questions find their way to the podcast and hopefully create some lively discussion and division in the community. All right, thanks, Tom. Cheers, and hope you get down to the tropics this year. Take it easy.
Tom: So Stefan, yeah, a floater is probably the most useful line for that fishery. I use one about 80% of the time, unless I'm fishing from a boat. And for another line, I would go to the opposite end of the scale. There are times when an intermediate or a sink-tip line work pretty well, but if you're fishing in heavy, deep water, I would go right to a depth-charge line. They get down really fast. They'll shoot really well. You can make a long cast with them. You have to kinda lob it. It's a little bit different kind of casting but what I usually go with is a floater and then a depth-charge line. that'll get you right down quickly into that deep, heavy water. And yeah, there are times on the flats or in shallow water that you might want an intermediate or a sink tip. A lot of people use them, but I think for two lines, a floater and a depth charge is gonna be able to cover most of the things that you do.
Now regarding fishing at night, yeah, I've done a lot of fishing at night for striper bass. In fact, when I first stripe-bass fishing, that's all I did was night fishing. I never fished during the day, so I've done it a lot, and here's what you wanna do probably. You want a floating line or possibly an intermediate, but generally a floating line with a longer leader is all you need. And you're gonna wanna fly with kind of neutral buoyancy because the fish can't see your fly if it's down deep. They're gonna be looking up and they're gonna see the fly against the sky light. So you can leave your Clouser Minnows and your weighted flies at home. Use something like a Deceiver, or a floating sand eel, or something like that that is...I find that surface flies like Gurglers don't work as well at night, but just something that's neutrally buoyant without a lot of weight to it has a lot of action, a lot of marabou or saddle hackles in it will work.
And then you want your retrieve to be slow. The fast strip that works during the day doesn't work very well at night. I think the fish may not be able to see it, or may not want to chase it. But generally what I've done at night and what seems to work for stripe bass is to just keep tension, pull in the line very, very slowly in long, steady pulls, and just barely keep tension on that fly. You'll know when the fish take it. You'll feel the weight. But so intermediate buoyancy flies, slow retrieve, and of course, then you gotta find the fish, which is the hardest part of stripe-bass fishing, so good luck. Night fishing for stripers is a very exciting thing and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
All right, that is the "Fly Box" for this week. Let's go talk to Alex about late season nymphing. So my guest today is Alex Waller. Alex you probably know better from "Tripping On Trout." If you watch any of the Orvis Facebook or "Orvis News Blog" posts, or you look at YouTube, I'm sure you have seen some of Alex's great video work. And Alex, you guide as well, right?
Alex: I do guide. Not so much the last couple of years with current global events, but yeah, I'm a guide as well. So between that and YouTube it's, kind of, pretty much all I do.
Tom: And I should mention that Alex is from New Zealand and we're talking to Alex from New Zealand. We're gonna talk about late fall, early winter nymphing today, and of course, late fall, early winter nymphing in New Zealand would be, what, like, April, May, March, April, May?
Alex: That's a good question. So yeah, I guess our summer comes to an end around that April, May, so yeah, I guess you're kind of going May into June around these parts. A lot of the back country stuff will end, or a lot of our rivers close at the end of April. A few stay open til the end of June, but in the area where I live in, which is a place called Taupo, there's a big lake, and then we have several main tributaries that float into that lake and those tributaries stay open all year. So what we get is we get the rainbow trouts through these big spawning runs up these tributaries, I guess much like the steelhead do from the Great Lakes and that kind of thing, from what I understand. So that's, kind of, predominantly our winter position is that kind of style.
Tom: And even though you're backwards, Alex, even though your seasons are definitely backwards...oh, do you tie a clinch knot in reverse of the way we do? Is there, like, a Corey Ellis effect with the clinch knot?
Alex: If I was gonna tie a clinch knot then I would probably definitely do it backwards [inaudible 00:43:50] but I actually use double Davy knots for everything, which is the same way as everywhere else.
Tom: You used a double Davy knot? Wow, you're the first guide that I've met who uses the double Davy knot. I've heard some good things about it, and every other guy that I fish with...
Alex: Really? It's changed...
Tom: Sorry, go ahead.
Alex: It just changed my life, that knot, and I saw it on Facebook or something one day and thought I'd give it a go and I straight up have never tried it. You should definitely give it a go. It's a game changer, so good.
Tom: Okay, I have tried it, I have tried it but you're the first guide that I've ever...a lot of people swear by it but I generally go with what guides use because guides are, you know, they live and die by their knots and so that's interesting. You're the first guide that swears by it so I will definitely have to try it.
Alex: Yeah, it hasn't failed me yet.
Tom: Good. Good. So anyway, even though, Alex, the seasons are reversed and his rivers are different than ours, trout are trout, and bugs are bugs, and seasons are seasons, and I thought us North Americans would really learn something from the techniques you use for nymphing. Because we're always learning new stuff from new parts of the world, and so I hope you'll share some of your insights on nymphing at, kind of, the end of the season.
Alex: Yeah, sure. I'll happily tell you whatever I know. I know a little bit about a lot.
Tom: All right, so let's start with your go to. If you're going to be fishing, what are your go-to flies and your rig? Are you going to be fishing indicator, dry dropper, Euro nymphing? And then how do you rig up your flies to start anyways?
Alex: Okay, so we're starting in this, as the season's changing, things are getting colder, I certainly see fish out of the lake are starting to run. Generally that time of the year, fall into winter, and to be fair, we're in spring now and a lot of those principles will still apply. But if I'm looking at nymphing, the biggest thing, going back a few years now that I kinda got my head around was I used to just use a tapered leader. And then I would build off the end of that and I would use that for dry dropper fishing. I'd use that for dry fly fishing, sight fishing, and nymphing.
And then as soon as I got my head around the fact that if I'm gonna be predominantly nymphing fairly deep, heavy flies, I want to get my flies down on the bottom, that kind of stuff, which as you're, kind of, coming into those colder months, those fish are always on the bottom of the river. They're not gonna come up in the water. They'll move left and right to eat but they don't wanna come up in the water column to eat, so if your flies aren't bumping past their nose you're just not gonna get any at all.
So due to that, as soon as I started to build my own, kind of, straight-through leader, and by that I mean not an 8-foot leader but straight from the fly line, straight to the hook, I'm talking, like, 3x, thin diameter, all the way through the entire system. That allows those flies to drop through the water column quicker. That thin diameter line cuts through the water quicker than a tapered leader. That's a game changer right there, just cause that way your flies are getting down into the zone quicker and they stay there for longer, and so you got more chance of the fish seeing them.
Tom: Okay, so let's back up and really unpack this and how exactly you rig it. So how do you attach it? I assume you're using fly line, right? You're not Euro nymphing.
Alex: Yeah. So no, I tried that a few years ago, several years ago now, and it's super effective but I just didn't enjoy it. It's not my thing. I like to aerialize and manipulate the fly line. That's kind of what I enjoy. Yeah, so it's just straight through. It's a floating fly line, and then off of that, I will generally get maybe a foot or 18 inches of 1x, and I'll make a perfection loop, or whatever loop, whatever loop you like to tie and you have confidence in. So I'll just make a loop in that, and I'll loop-to-loop that to my fly line welded loop.
Tom: Okay, so you have a little bit of a soft butt in there, a little bit of a softer or heavier butt?
Alex: Yeah, a little bit. To be fair, in a pinch I don't even know if you need it but it's, kind of, I don't know, it just sits right in my head to have a little bit of a step down or something slightly thicker before getting down to 3x, but I don't even know if you need that, to be honest. And I've definitely been in times where I've just done 3x perfection loop and then it's made zero difference to the fish.
Tom: It seems like it might be smart because 3x is so fine that it might cut through the coating on your fly line, so I think maybe that's a good way to do it. Yeah, okay.
Alex: That's a good point. Yeah, so I do that. You don't need more than a foot or so, 18 inches tops, and then I'll tie a blood knot, and I'll then just go 3x pretty much straight through however long I'm gonna make that leader. And that will change depending on the river I'm fishing, the conditions, and that kind of thing, and also the depth of the water that I'm about to fish. There's some rivers, smaller rivers you can get away with maybe just a rod length of leader, maybe 12 feet, but there's other rivers, bigger rivers that flow in that I might be fishing a 15-foot leader that day. It kind of just depends on the situation. There's no one formula fits all for that.
And then depending on, again, the conditions, so if it's rainy, if the river is up, if there's a bit of color in it, I might be able to get away with 3x right to my first fly. I've become a big fan of fishing as heavy as I can get away with. So if I can get away with 3x, I'll fish 3x. If I need to drop down to 4x, I'll drop down to 4x, and I won't drop any lower than that generally, especially wintertime. You just don't need to.
Tom: Okay, do you use a tippet ring in the end of the 3x? Or do you just use a blood knot?
Alex: No, I just use a blood knot straight through, but there's no reason why you couldn't use a tippet ring. I use tippet ring off my Polyleader and I'm a big fan of them, but generally I don't feel the need to. So yeah, so I've got my little step down as much, 3x, as I feel I need to to fish the water in front of me effectively. A minimum of a rod length is the go to in New Zealand just because our water is generally pretty clear. Trout are pretty switched on. You don't really want that fly line snapping on the water near fish at all, and I don't know, it's a pretty good rule, I'd say, for probably anywhere in the world, a minimum of a rod length. But I'm just guessing on that. I haven't really fished in the state so I don't know. What do you tend to run over there as a minimum lead length?
Tom: Most people use a 9-foot leader which is rod length. I tend to go longer. I tend to go 12 to 15 feet. I think like you, I think you need to keep that fly line as far away from the fish as possible. And I find it easier to mend, particularly if I'm fishing dry drop or indicator with a longer leader, so yeah.
Alex: Yeah, for sure.
Tom: Now, Alex, are...
Alex: Yeah, so then that'll go to...
Tom: Sorry, go ahead.
Alex: I was just gonna say, and that'll go down to my first rod, my dropper fly, which will be something heavy, usually a big stone fly pattern or something like that with a heavy tungsten bead. It could be anything, you know? That's just what I like, I like a stone fly. It's a good fly to get the rest of your rig down, and then off of that I will then tie my double Davy knot. And I'll take maybe a foot of, again, the same, either 3x or 4x, depending on what I step down to, and whatever my point fly is gonna be. It could be a natural, but to be fair, especially once those fish start running, patterns are pretty much a go to just because it's that time of year and that's what those fish are seeing a lot of. But it could be a natural, it could be anything from a pheasant tail, to a hare and copper, whatever you wanna chuck on there.
Tom: Okay. And when you put your dropper on, are you attaching it to the bend of the first hook or the eye of the first hook?
Alex: I'm a fan of just attaching it to the bend. I know some people do the eye but I've never really done that. And I fish [inaudible 00:53:37] hooks, too, and I don't tend to have any trouble with the tippet sliding off the hook. So I think as long as you've got a good knot and everything bound down nice and tight, that that really won't be an issue.
Tom: Okay. Now are you fishing an indicator with this?
Alex: Yes. Yeah, I'll chuck you know what the New Zealand strike indicator system looks like?
Tom: Oh, absolutely. It's very popular in the States. Yeah.
Alex: Oh, cool. Awesome, yeah.
Tom: Nearly every fly shop sells it, yeah, the yarn indicator. Yeah, it's very popular.
Alex: Oh, wow. Oh, brilliant, and rightly so. It's, as far as I'm concerned, the best one out there. You can adjust the size of your indicator. It's super sensitive. You can change depth. It doesn't affect your leader at all. It doesn't kink it or doesn't damage it, so yeah, I'll just build...I'll use the extra large tubing just because generally you're using heavy flies. You're probably gonna add split shot at some point as well just to make sure those flies are getting down, so I'll use the extra large tubing, and yeah, make sure I've got a nice beefy indicator that's gonna keep everything up and not sink too much.
Tom: Yeah, the other thing that New Zealand indicator has advantage of other indicators, such as a Thingamabobber, is if you try to slide a Thingamabobber on the 3x it won't stay put.
Alex: Oh, really? Okay.
Tom: Yeah, it won't stay put, so the New Zealand indicator will stay put with that tubing, so yeah.
Alex: Yeah, and I'll say that anyone having trouble with the indicator sliding up or down the line whilst they're fishing, you probably just haven't got enough wool in there. So you just need to pack it out with a little bit more wool, and the other thing, too, is you can use those on a tapered leader system in the summer or whatever. Just be aware that if you do slide that indicator right up to the thick butt section of that tapered leader, that's gonna stretch the plastic out, and then you come down and you want to then fish shallower. As you slide it down the system to the thinner diameter, you then might find that you stretch that plastic out and it will start to just slide down towards the fly. You might [inaudible 00:56:09] that out again.
Tom: Okay. And do you treat the yarn with a fly floatant when you use it?
Alex: Yeah, just a little bit of Loon Aquel is what I like, not too much. If you put too much on there it all, kind of, gunks up and it has the opposite effect, and just sinks a bit much, so definitely less is more when you're applying that, just a little bit. And then the other thing as well, while we're on indicators, is so the key to making a good floaty indicator is you wanna, once it's all set up, you wanna get a pair of scissors and you wanna cut a nice flat top on top of the indicator. Do you know what I mean when I say that?
Tom: Yeah.
Alex: You just, kind of, let everything just sit as it is. If you've got a pair of scissors and you just give it a buzz cut, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Commando," it's that kind of buzz cut. That's what you kind of want.
Tom: Does that buzz cut just make it more visible, easier to track? Is that what it is?
Alex: It makes it more floaty because it'll give it a nice shape. And then what you'll find is, as you start to fish it through the day, you'll find that the sides will start coming out, and [inaudible 00:57:34], and it'll join at the top. And it'll look like, do you remember those Troll dolls when we were younger?
Tom: Oh yeah.
Alex: They've got, kind of, funky hair kind of shape? Your indicator will start to look like that as you start to fish with it. And if that happens you'll find that it'll sink more. But if you just bring it in, dry it out on your sleeve, just trim off those wispy bits and make it a nice flat top again, give it a little bit more treatment, and it'll float again [inaudible 00:58:05] much, much better.
Tom: Okay, good point. Yeah, I've never given it a buzz cut but I'm gonna try that next time.
Alex: Yeah, it makes a big difference. You don't want an indicator to look like a Troll doll.
Tom: No, no.
Alex: You want it to look like a buzz cut.
Tom: I'd get shamed off the river if somebody caught me with an indicator with a Troll haircut.
Alex: And rightly so as well. So yeah, so indicator generally, and obviously because you've got 3x all the way through for the main part of your system you can fish any depth really easy. When you get to a shallower run you just shorten it up, boom, away you go. There's a very old-school way of doing indicators here in Taupo especially, and that's to have clip-on indicators that will clip onto the loop of your fly line and that's a terrible idea. One, you talk to any fly line manufacturer, they'll hate the idea that you're putting pressure on your fly line loop that way. But the worst thing is you can only fish one depth, as long as your leader is, so you got nowhere to go. So definitely that adjustable indicator is the way to go.
And then, the only other thing then is just making sure you're fishing heavy enough to get down to the bottom. As your indicator is floating down the river and you're doing a drift, every now and then you want to see that indicator just ticking and bobbing, and just bob, bob, bob, bob, and that's your fly bumping on the bottom of the river. If you're not seeing that it's telling you that you're not fishing deep enough, or you're not fishing heavy enough, or both. So the indicator can tell you a lot more than just whether or not a fish is eating your fly or not. It can tell you what's happening underneath the water, whether your flies are where you want to be. So it's certainly really important to look out for, especially if those fish that you're targeting are on the bottom. You wanna see that indicator just clicking along, just bob, bob, bob, bob, every now and then. It just tells you the flies are where they need to be.
And then, sometimes the other thing you gotta do is you've got to add split shot, either that or you've got to change out and use a heavier fly made of double tungsten bead, or something super, super heavy. You can tie it on, you can tie up some little depth charges, but I just add split shot. It's easier.
Tom: Alex, where do you put your split shot when you attach it?
Alex: Oh, so it depends. If I'm fishing natural, so I've got my dropper fly, and then whatever else, my [inaudible 01:00:49] is a natural fly, I'll put my split shot probably a couple of inches above my dropper, so above my first fly. But if I'm fishing an egg pattern, generally the egg patterns tend to be a bit floaty. Then what I'll do is I'll put it about halfway between my dropper and my egg on the actual second tip section.
Tom: Okay, so you're calling that...
Alex: And then I [inaudible 01:01:13] making sure that that...
Tom: You're calling that big, the first fly, the stone fly, your dropper, you're calling that the dropper?
Alex: Yeah, sorry. Yeah, I call that the dropper, and then my point fly is whatever I've got tied off of that. Is that the same as you call it in the States, or is it other way around?
Tom: Oh, the terminology varies with, depending on the region and the person. For instance, I just call my big fly and my little fly, or my top fly and my bottom fly, but it's confusing, point, dropper.
Alex: It is super confusing.
Tom: Yeah. But no, as long as we let people know that you're calling the dropper is the first fly that you tie on, or the bigger fly, then that's fine, and then the point fly is on the point. That makes sense.
Alex: Yeah, that's it. So that's an egg pattern, which is generally winter fishing, I'll put the split shot between those two flies just to make sure the egg is right on the bottom, because potentially if you've got a foot or 18 inches between the two flies, then your egg could potentially be fishing a foot to 18 inches off the bottom. And in some cases that's just too far off the bottom for the fish to even look at it so you've gotta get it right in the face. But less of an issue if you're fishing natural, you know, as things are warming up as you come into spring and similar kind of stuff with summer. But again, you're just looking at the situation and what's in front of you, and just kind of tweaking it here and there if you need to.
So it's another really big thing I tell people is you don't just walk up and you just fish with one rig. If things aren't working, if you can see fish, if you know there's fish there, or if you just think, "There has to be fish there," and what you're using isn't working, just don't be lazy. Just keep changing things, go a bit deeper, add a bit of weight, change a fly, try a different drift, maybe lengthen out your leader a little bit. Just keep changing things up and eventually you'll find something that actually works.
Tom: I got a couple of questions for you. When you put the split shot just on a piece of tippet, or whether it's between the flies or above the flies, how do you keep the split shot from sliding?
Alex: Ah, good question. Something I've just started doing in the last couple of years actually is, so I will open up the split shot and then I will lay the line through the split shots. And then rather than just crimping it straight away, what I'll do is I'll go around again, and through, then crimp it, so you're kind of almost putting a half hitch through the split shot. Does that make sense, before you crimp it?
Tom: Right, you're going around it, yeah, so it does the slide. Okay.
Alex: Yeah, so you lay the line through, then you go around again and then crimp it, and it kind of locks itself in place, and that seems to work really, really well.
Tom: Okay, and you don't seem to have any worries with strength doing that?
Alex: Not really, not on 3x. Once you start getting down, if you're adding split shots at 4x or 5x it definitely becomes an issue. So what I tend to do then, especially if I'm going down to...5x's generally go as light as you'll ever need, especially in New Zealand. So what I'll tend to do then is I do add a section of 5x, or even 4x is I'll tie a blood knot and I'll leave one tag end of that blood knot long, and then I'll add my split shot to that tag end so I'm not compromising the main rig at all because it's definitely [inaudible 01:05:16] fish in the past, 100%.
Tom: Yeah, so you really have to cut your tippet and add another section to get that blood knot in there?
Alex: Yeah. It's a little bit of messing around but it's definitely worth it. It saves you losing a fish, and you just know when it's broken off where that split shot was, because, yeah, it's very obvious and it's crushing. You could've avoided it.
Tom: Yeah. And do you have a good way for removing split shot once you've got a, let's say you're fishing deep and you move up to a riffle, and you've got shallower water and you wanna remove that split shot? Can you easily remove it without having to re-tie your tippet?
Alex: Or go see the dentist? Yeah, I try to be a lot better about not using my teeth to take it on or take it off now. So what I tend to do is, when I apply split shot, I'm very mindful now about just using my forceps, and I'll just crush it on with a pair of forceps. And then, when I take it off, if you take those forceps and you kind of grab one half of the split shot, then you can take your thumbnail and then you can just pry the other half open. It's actually really, really easy. That's how I tend to do it. Every now and then I kinda get lazy when I put the fly on and I find myself going to use my teeth, and I've just got to stop it because I can't afford to go to the dentist. [crosstalk 01:06:54] pair of forceps and I use them.
Tom: Well, particularly that non-toxic shot, that tin shot is a lot harder than the old lead. And of course, putting lead in your mouth probably wasn't the greatest idea when we all used to do it, but the non-toxic shot is really hard.
Alex: Yeah, here's the crazy thing, Tom, is New Zealand, you can still use lead split shot. That's what we have in our shops, all lead.
Tom: Yeah. Well, you can use it in a lot of places in the States. You can't use it in Yellowstone Park and you can't use it in the state of Vermont where I live, but most places you can still use lead shot. Orvis doesn't sell lead shot just on principle but it's still available. You can still buy it.
Alex: Yeah, I just don't see why they don't just get rid of it and just use the non-toxic stuff just across the board. It'd make so much sense.
Tom: It does, yeah.
Alex: Yeah, if it was available here I'd use it for sure, 100%.
Tom: And it's not even available? You can't even buy it in New Zealand?
Alex: No. I think you'd probably have to get it from overseas. Actually that's a good idea. Why don't I just order it in?
Tom: Yeah, we've got some good Orvis dealers in New Zealand. Just talk them into carrying it. They can get it from us.
Alex: Yeah. I'm gonna do that. That's what I'm gonna do. [inaudible 01:08:20] make a note of that and I'm gonna do it.
Tom: Maybe even start a trend.
Alex: There you go, split shot, let's start it right here.
Tom: Right here on this podcast.
Alex: Yeah, so right here, this is where it started, the New Zealand non-toxic split shot trend. Yeah, so now we're kind of talking specifically, like, late fall into winter stuff for this style of nymphing, but I will use the same setup and the same everything really for certain times and places, and summer, too. It's not just a, "You must use this rig in winter because it works and it doesn't work in the summer." It's all just water dependent. If you go through some of those big pools in the summertime there's gonna be times where you'll want to get your flies down deep and fish a big pool. So I'd use exactly the same setup, then that just means you've either gotta not be lazy and just change over your...if you're fishing a dry dropper and you get to a big, deep pool, and you're like, "Yeah, that looks fishy. There's gotta be a fish in there."
So you either then take the time to just change over your rig, or if you know that there's gonna be several times during the day where you might come across that kind of water, considering just taking two rods and then setting up one with that nymph rig, and then one with the dry dropper, and then you can just [inaudible 01:09:57] change as you go and it's a lot easier. Sometimes if I fish with a buddy that's what we'll do, we'll set up one of our rigs ready for nymphing and then the other one ready for dry fly fishing or dry dropper, and then we'll just use each other's gear as and when you get to that piece of water. That's a thing to do. Also it gives you a really good excuse to go out and buy some more gear.
Tom: Absolutely, that's what I like to hear.
Alex: Yeah, so when your missus asks you, "Why do you need another rod?" You've got an actual, real answer for her.
Tom: Yeah, just listen to the podcast and Alex will tell you why you need another rod. Excuse me.
Alex: That's right. Actually, on that, while we're talking about rods real quick, if you know that you're gonna be fishing, you're gonna go nymphing and it's gonna be some heavy flies, maybe some split shot, an indicator, that kind of thing, higher water levels, also think about what rod you're gonna use for the day for that rig. So you don't wanna use your nice 4-weight dry fly specific rod for that kind of fishing because it'll struggle it a little bit. So you might wanna choose a rod with a bit more punch to it just so it can handle fishing those kind of rigs, and the big mends, and with your water load in low casting, or anything like that, that's something you have to consider as well if you're gonna be fishing that way and kind of think about the gear, choosing some gear that's gonna make that pleasurable to do rather than just struggle away and get it and it's set for the job.
Tom: What rod do you use for that kind of fishing, bigger nymphs and indicator?
Alex: So for example, yesterday I was fishing pretty much very similar rigs, just longer, so exactly what we just talked about but kind of maybe in the 15, 16-foot range. I was using the Helios 3 5-weight D for that, and that was handling it really nicely. Either that or the Helios 6-weight f does a really good all-around job. So that' can fly fish a dry fly to a fish one minute, and then you can fish a big, deep pool, a 16-foot leader, and split shot easily the next. So those two rods are pretty good for that. Five-weight, 6-weight is generally a pretty good go-to weight here in New Zealand. It'll do pretty much everything you need anywhere you go. Bigger water, bigger rivers, bigger fish, maybe [inaudible 01:12:46] 6-weight, or if you're fishing in really strong headwinds you probably want that little bit more punch. But some of those smaller Headwater remote stuff, 5 weights is just money. And then you've still got enough power there so that when you do hook a fish you can deal with it.
Tom: Alex, when the water starts to cool down in the fall getting into winter, do you have a time of day that seems to be more productive for you and a certain water type that you like to look for?
Alex: I mean, I kinda guess it depends. If you were gonna be rocking on the river first thing and then want to swing some streamers, that change of light can be really good, especially if it's gonna be a sunny day. Sometimes when the sun comes up and then streamer fishing can shut down. But to be fair, if I'm gonna go out and say, for example, I've got a client and we're gonna go out for the day, I don't worry about getting on the water before dawn or anything like that. We'll just, kind of, get on the water and you're gonna find fish and they're gonna eat flies. I'm sure if I kept a diary and I'd have to find the bite times that are better than others, but I don't really worry about it. You can normally find fish that are gonna eat.
And then in the summertime, [inaudible 01:14:13] fishing, you generally want the sun in the sky so it helps you see. It doesn't tend to have the same effect of pushing fish down and making them hide as it does in other countries. New Zealand fish, they don't really have any natural predators so they're just out and they like the sun, and it helps you see. So yeah, I just basically think if you've got time and you can go for a fish, just get out there and fish whenever you can, rather than, "Oh, I shouldn't go because I can't get out early. Just go, just go fishing. You'll find some fish."
Tom: That's true, you have different situations in that you don't have any avian predators on those trout, do you? So they're not so reluctant to stay hidden during the day.
Alex: Not at all. You'll find, especially with those brown trout and stuff like that, you'll find them out just basking in the sun and having a sleep. Every now and then they'll be out, and then as things warm up you might get the [inaudible 01:15:10] coming off, or the caddis, and then things will warm up. And then as you move into that afternoon you'll actually find more fish out feeding because things are starting to get going rather than first thing in the morning, things are cold. Sometimes fishing some of those [inaudible 01:15:28] rivers, it takes a while for the sun to get on the water. Not a [inaudible 01:15:32] happen first thing. You kind of actually want the sun up warming things up for you. So yeah, like you said in the beginning, it's a little bit backwards over here.
Tom: Oh, it makes it more pleasant, that's for sure. You don't have to look for fish hidden under logs and things like that.
Alex: And again, same in winter. Really, the biggest thing in winter, especially around here because where you can fish is a bit more limited, and this is generally where everybody comes to fish. The only reason I would say you wanna get out on the water early is to beat people to the river.
Tom: Yeah.
Alex: Yeah, [inaudible 01:16:10] about that.
Tom: How about weather patterns this time of year, or not this time of year for you, but this time of year for us, fall, early winter? Do you find any weather patterns are more conducive to good fish feeding than others?
Alex: Yeah, certainly when it comes to running fish, when you get a low pressure system comes in and it rains, especially when it [inaudible 01:16:38] and raise the river levels slightly or a lot, they'll trigger fish into pushing up into rivers, and they're actually gonna get going. And then if you can time that, especially as [inaudible 01:16:53] anywhere really, if you can get in there as that river is starting to drop and clear, you're gonna have a good time. And yeah, I guess it comes down to if you've got good gear you can get some great fishing in terrible weather. It'll be a really good time.
And then if the river level is up and there's a bit of color that doesn't seem to matter to fish if there's any sun out or anything like that. There's generally fish to be found anywhere in any conditions. It just kinda comes down to whether or not you actually wanna go out and fish in it. I like fishing in the crap weather to be honest. There's less people out. Fishing can be really good as long as you've got good gear. It's actually kinda fun being out there in the elements.
Tom: I agree with you, and the fish seem to also lose some of their caution when the weather is not so nice.
Alex: Yeah, 100%, especially if the rain comes down and gives a little bit of color to the river, and especially if it stays overcast. I like to swim a lot of streamers through wintertime and that kind of thing, and so that kind of overcast, rainy condition, they tend to wanna be a bit more aggressive to streamers throughout the day, whereas sometimes when the sun is up high they'll shut down a little bit. So yeah, I've got no problem with crap weather. Really, it comes down to what I say, that if you're lucky enough that you can pick and choose when you go, that's great. Most people, it's like, if you've got time, just dress right and just get out there. Get out there and fish.
Tom: Yeah, I think it's great when you go fishing because if the weather is nice and sunny it'll be a pleasant day, be pleasant to be out there, and if the weather is crappy it might not be so pleasant but the fishing might be better, so you can't lose, right? You just go fishing.
Alex: Exactly, it's a win-win either way as far as I'm concerned.
Tom: Yeah.
Alex: And you don't get to catch fish when you're just not out. If you don't go, you don't go, right?
Tom: And you don't learn anything either.
Alex: Yeah, exactly. There's always something. I hope it never stops but I always come back having learned something, and every year that goes by I wonder how I managed to catch fish last year because I generally learn so much each year.
Tom: Isn't that the truth? Yeah, isn't that the truth?
Alex: Yeah, that's one of the cool things about it. You can do it for an entire lifetime and there's always something that you're gonna learn.
Tom: Yeah, and I think that going out when the conditions are really lousy, like, maybe wind and water so dirty you can barely see anything in it, and you go out anyways and often you learn something. You say, "Oh, that's what the fish do in this kind of water."
Alex: Yeah, exactly, because you're not generally out there in that so you don't get to see it, but if you're out there...I guess the more time you're on the water, the more these little things you'll see, and notice, and pick up, and then you can just kinda put that in the toolbox and it's information you can draw on down the track.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. All right, Alex, well, I wanna thank you for sharing your nymphing technique with us. It's different than most people use, and it sounds like a great technique, very versatile, as long as you're not gonna switch to a dry fly right away, but it sounds terrific.
Alex: Yeah, it's a little bit of...that's just what I was saying, if you can fish and take two rods with you, you can swap between a dry fly rig and a nymphing, I think that's great. But really, you could have your leader basically pre-tied at home in, like, a little leader wallet and it really doesn't take a long time to just slip your flies off, take your tapered leader off, put your premade one back on and tie on a couple of flies like on an indicator. Really, five minutes in the scheme of it isn't that long, and it might actually catch you a few more fish throughout the day. So I guess it comes down to just don't be lazy. We're all fairly lazy at times, I know I am, but if you can make yourself stop and do it, it'll catch you fish.
Tom: Yeah, exactly. All right, Alex, thank you.
Alex: But yeah, it's been great fun talking to you now. I appreciate you having me on.
Tom: We've been talking to Alex Waller of "Tripping On Trout," and I would highly advise you to watch some of Alex's videos because they're entertaining, and they're exciting, and you learn some cool stuff, and see what fishing is like in New Zealand. And I'm sure, as in his podcast, you'll learn some things you can apply to your local waters.
Alex: Thanks, Tom, I appreciate it.
Tom: All right, Alex. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today and hope to talk to you soon.
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