Its almost that time again, October the 1st. The day that is etched into all anglers calendars rolls around quicker than we thought and we begin to dream of those perfect days on the water chasing down feeding fish in clear rivers. If your like me this day is an important time to stamp your mark on the season and get into the swing of things by having a decent trip arranged, last year for me it was a serious backcountry endeavour, this year its looking to be more laid back and a wholesome (lazy) experience.
October weather can be fickle at the best of times and putting all your eggs in one basket can sometimes be disastrous so I usually have 3 or 4 options lined up incase things go haywire. Your unlikely to get perfect conditions but if you strive for the best of the lot you will sleep much better knowing you did all you could to get the most out of the trip.
Last year was a perfect example of this. My first, second and even third options were dropped due to a decent storm about to lash the South Island, so I went way out of my zone to somewhere I had never been and did more driving and hiking than any sane person would ever want to do for a fish (if there are any sane fly fisherman?). Although the weather smashed us for the first 2 days, I could be rest assured I made the best decision out of my options and then when the heavens opened, they shined directly onto me (of course) and I heard the chimes of hitting the jackpot!
Im finding it hard to recall no but we landed around 2-3 fish each on the last day, all except 1 over the 8lb and 2 of them beating the reverted 10lb mark! You can see all the action in one of my first fly fishing films here:
Tips for Fishing the Opening Months
I find getting out during the first few months of the season some of the most rewarding of the year. The fish are more receptive to your offerings, less spooky and in places, more numerous than at any other time of the year. Although you may not get as much surface action as mid summer, there is still something special about watching a fish making a wide raging move to take a nymph and watching that indicator dunk (or what indicator?).
Flies: Ill usually start off with a double nymph & indicator rig early in the season, using size #10-#14 patterns with some flash to stand out in water that is usually a bit higher than during the summer months. If I’m feeling frisky, or better yet if the fish are, Ill chuck on some terrestrial patterns such as beetles, or possibly a parachute adams if the fish seem to be sitting high in the water column and this usually gets a reaction. Also another good method is to cast a streamer up and across those deeps pools that may be hard to see into. With fish trying to regain condition after the winter, be sure you have some heavy duty tippet on as they will hit hard!
Locations: Its a great time to get out and about and explore new water. Last year I explored close to 25 new rivers in the first few months of the season, finding some that became my regulars for the rest of the year and others that I realised could change a lot over the coming months (for better or worse) and I noted when I thought it best to return. Generally those waters higher in a system are the best places to start as there will still be a lot of fish remaining from the winter spawning run, its amazing some of the places you can find fish hiding at this time, places you didn’t even know were big enough to hold a fish that damn big!
Gear: Early season can throw some wild stuff at you, high flows, gale winds and big fish so its good to be ready. Ill usually run with a 6wt rod and have a backup 8wt in the car incase things get really gnarly! You can also get away with heavier tippet which can be a blessing when fighting strong fish in strong flows. Also, one of the most important things is wet weather gear. Be prepared for shit to hit the fan, even if it doesn’t look like it will. Last season opener my mate was near hypothermia when we were on a backcountry trip in pouring down southerly rain with no waders in quite a large river. Luckily we were not to far from a warm hut when I noticed things were going down hill. I try not to wear waders as of October 1st, but this year with the luxury of being close to the car, I may just dabble 😉
Practice: Now, most people try to refrain from getting out onto the park in the middle of town to throw around a fly line, in fear of being ridiculed by 13 year old girls. If this one of your phobias, no need to fear, just go find a random piece of water, even if it has no fish and start laying out a line. If you haven’t been fishing much (or at all) since the season ended you will be seriously rusty on opening day and that could be the thing standing in your way of making it great.
To finish up here is a video from another one of my October trips last year, this one was a road trip I went on for around a week by myself exploring new waters and getting into some serious fish.
Just remember, use September to get read, practice and prepare for whats going to be an epic season ahead!
Special: 10% off Guided Trips
The first few months of the season can provide you some spectacular fishing regardless of the variability. To celebrate the opening months I’m going to provide a 10% discount on my daily guide rates for October & November booking when contacted through my website. If this interests you and you want to chat about a trip just get in touch below.