To me, fly fishing is a sport. Passivity is simply too boring. There needs to be something more than the simple act of casting and catching, playing catch with gimmie trout. Am I likely to get my ass handed to me? I’m in. Is it going to be a huge day of walking? Perfect. Is there something unknown about where we’re going? Wonderful. Is the hook-up painfully obvious? Maybe you should have a go instead… unless once hooked up landing that fish is going to be virtually impossible. If there’s something unpredictable, you have my attention, I’m in. No matter, there has to be something active, captivating, unknown, or unexpected, otherwise, I’m likely more interested in running the camera and looking for a neat angle to shoot or a way to highlight the scene with high frame rate shots.
Such was the case on a small, gusher of a creek in the New Zealand high country quite a few years back. Amelia & I had been working our way up through its gorge with a little success. The usual Jensen way is to get intrigued, find the hardest way to get to a bit of water, take it on, find a fish or two, keep plodding, then find a few pockets of wonderful fishing before the “shit, that’s a long way out” hits an hour before sunset. This day was no different.
It was the first trip across the meadow and an S-bend of pools and undercuts screamed rainbows. I managed a nice one in the back end but nobody was home under the cut banks. We moved up and I noticed the cross-fence and said to Amelia “Yup, pretty sure we know where the bloody fish will be”. Thankfully it wasn’t an electric fence with high amps and triple grounding wires that some farmers seem to install for the sheer joy of knowing they’ll snap an angler or two. And sure enough right underneath the fence was an active rainbow in the seam coming off the shelf into the pool.
The likelihood was that if I jumped the fence I’d spook it. If I walked way around and crawled back in on the opposite side I’d have no back cast and still risk being exposed. And if I stayed on my side of the fence I’d have to reach the cast but I’d end up with drag. The bet was that in this location that drag or no drag, that fish was eating my dry. And out went the cast, the drag ensued, and that fish motored upstream to eat the fly anyway.
And then came the drama. Fighting a fish is nothing more than offsetting angles and tensions, the goal simply to steer it away from escape cover with just enough pressure without snapping the tippet. For as many times we do it, we all know we have to get lucky sometimes too. You can do your best but without a solid set of horseshoes, you don’t land certain fish. This, most certainly, was one.
The Jensen’s are Alberta, Canada natives who migrate down to New Zealand every year on the hunt for big trout! Their videos of sight fishing to trout are second to none. Be sure to check them out on Instagram @jensenflyfishing.