Learn from season past, prepare for next

This is the time of year that many anglers go into hibernation but contrary to popular belief their brains do not shut down just because their casting arms are inactive.

There are things to do in the winter, one of which is to reflect on the season past.

How did it compare to previous seasons and were there lessons learned to help us be better anglers in the future?

The first thing that strikes me about the season is that I fished the Mataura less than usual.

This was partly due to high water, especially in the spring, but also due to an apparent lack of fish especially in the lower reaches where I have fished a lot in recent years.

I say apparent because not catching fish does not mean they are not there.

Lack of skill could be one reason or just being there on the wrong days.

However, I did not even see many fish on my visits even when the water was low and clear.

One reason for this lack of fish could be two enormous floods in the last three years.

Big floods have a more devastating effect on small fish rather than big fish, which creates a lean spell for a few seasons.

The good thing is if all is well otherwise, lack of pollution for instance, then the population should increase again quite quickly.

On the brighter side the lower Taieri fished well for most of the season in terms of numbers of fish of an average weight.

But it was not just the lower Taieri — the middle reaches of the river fished well too, especially to the willow grub.

My experiences of the upper river were not as good as in previous seasons but still worthwhile fishing.

Long spells of hot, dry weather do not help the angler on this part of the river.

In general, the long, warm dry spells extended the willow grub season which gave me some of my best days both on the Pomahaka and the Taieri.

Willow grub fishing can be some of the most engrossing and frustrating fishing to be had; big fish at the surface sipping down these tiny creatures while totally ignoring the angler’s offerings.

All of which increases the satisfaction when a fish is caught.

All in all, there is no such thing as a bad season, just some seasons that are better than others.

To make next season even better there are a few things we can do.

For fly fishers, improving casting is the most effective way to make us better fishers.

Make sure you have the right tackle for the job and keep it in good working order.

Also, if you are a fly fisher, tie up a stock of your favourite flies as well as a few new ones such as a never-fail willow grub pattern.

And do not forget to mend leaky waders and replace leaders and that old cracked fly line.

This is my last column until the new season.

 - Mike Weddell

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