The Trout Journals


I thought about Dad and tied on a biggish deer hair sedge; I thought a bigger fly might catch the attention of a hungry fish in the fading light. For some unusual reason, the thin tippet slipped straight through the eye of the hook on my first attempt. When the light fades on days I’m lucky enough to be on a stream, I’m regularly reminded that my eyesight is slowly deteriorating.

Deer hair sedge

I walked down the bank quickly and quietly and saw a pair of ducks sitting on the near side. My approach started them and they hastily paddled their way to the far side of the creek, quacking and chuckling.

“Bloody hell. There goes my last damn chance.”

If I had a 12-guage instead of a five weight, we would have had duck for dinner.

Going through the motions, I put my line slightly upstream and to the far side, just down from where the pool widens after a narrow run. It opens up straight across from me; the current is strongest there. The swiftest water passes right beside some overhanging ti-trees.

When you watch the flow of the water, you can see that it slows as the stream gets wider. It could be as deep as two or three metres in the middle. The surface current curls around to form a little eddy right in the centre. Right where I’m standing.

No response to my fly on the far side. I try again, but it all seems fruitless. It’s depressing.

Then it happened. The rise form was clear, despite the fading light. The fish surfaced right at the downstream edge of the eddy.

With a quick flick, I put the sedge in front of the fish. And I couldn’t believe it.

The last sizable fish I hooked, on the Murrumbidgee at Bolero, tricked me. He was big. He forcefully burrowed his way to the bottom of the hole. I’m sure the conniving beast sensed my anxious tendencies – were my knots true? Would the leader or tippet snap if he shook his head? My hesitance gave him enough grace to wrap the line around a strong snag at the bottom of the pool. The fly popped and landed gently at my feet. If he had fingers he would have given me the middle one.

I wasn’t going to fall victim to that $#!† today. I had waited too long to catch this fish. I had lost count of the dreams I’d had about what lies at the bottom of this mysterious, dark, boulder strewn hole. The browns in this creek are more sheepish than the woolly creatures that fill the paddocks alongside it.

When I got the fish in the net I let out an honest and loud expletive. It was the biggest brown I had ever caught. A true leviathan from the small creek. A resident of this sheltered, quiet, cool spot. Too majestic to roast over a fire. Maybe Adam’s boys will catch him one day.

Right on last light (grayscale)

It’s a long walk back to the hut after fishing all day. Up and down hills. Negotiating gates in the dark. Puffing and panting as my PVC waders trap my sweat and turn them into a little portable mini-sauna.

Not today. There’s a spring in my step. Today I finally unlocked the secret to this wonderful old trout stream. I danced along the track to the hut in the moonlight.



Second in this wonderful series by Derek Grzelewski, “The Trout Bohemia” is just as good as “The Trout Diaries”, if not better. Even though I love reading fishing books, it took me longer than planned to getting around to this one. Life has a way of delivering curveballs that sometimes demand your undivided attention.

One of my favourtie parts is when the author meets up with guide Miles Rushmer to fish the small streams near Bay of Plenty. Pursuing enormous brown trout in the most confined of spaces, Messrs Rushmer and Grzelewski resort to some advanced stalking and bow and arrow casting techniques. Miles featured in one of the films profiled at last year’s RISE Fly Fishing Film Festival. In “Levithan”, he demonstrated these techniques first hand, and the electric fishing that comes about as a result.

As if hundreds of pages full of lucid and colourful details about his latest fishing exploits aren’t enough, Derek includes stories about the challenges faced by many of us with regards to life – and love. Along the way he figures out some of the answers. But like most of us, the answers to many questions wait patiently. In the mean time, we might as well keep fishing.

As a consequence, this book sometimes reads like a novel. Other times, it’s a guide book with useful information about specific parts of this island nation I call “heaven on earth”. At other times, you might think it’s a conservation piece.

Like “Diaries”, the book includes a few nicely arranged photos, courtesy of Grzelewski. One, of the Tongariro, is of an exact spot I have fished. Seeing it, I enjoyed a satisfying sense of camaraderie. Perhaps Derek would like to fish with me – and vice versa. And the illustrations in the second book in this series are by a new artist: Stella Senior. They add to the gentle feeling communicated by Derek’s musings.

Finally, this edition has a fantastic conclusion. With an epilogue that covers more than six pages, it’s wrapped-up really well. And the whole book is just so damned easy to read. I finished it in around three days. It was over the Christmas holidays and I wasn’t working, but even if I was busier, it’d be pretty easy to finish it quite quickly.

Looking forward to reading Derek’s next literary offering.


The fish was rising steadily, if not predictably.

I tied on a Royal Wulff and drifted the fly over it. Nothing. A few more castes and the fish hit it with a splashy rise, but I couldn’t connect. I waited a few minutes and made another cast. Again, the fish rose to the fly, but I couldn’t set the hook. Boy, it was fast!

Perhaps another fly would set better. A Stimulator. Same thing. The fish rose to it several times, but I still wasn’t good enough to set the hook.

Try another fly – what the heck. This fish wasn’t shy; it was definitely focussed on feeding.

On went a Stu Tripney Elk Hair Caddis. And wouldn’t you know it, the first time the fish rose to it, I was on. It screamed up and down the river, painfully close to the very snags that offer it protection from predatory cormorants – and fishermen.

A lovely Snowy Mountains brown trout.

Image of brown trout

Later in the day, the weather turned. But what a view.


On this stretch of the river, upstream from where I caught the brown, there were a few wonderful looking backwaters. Quiet places where trout forage for food that gets washed through. John McInnes wrote about these beautiful places in “Tread Quietly”.

“Backwaters! Our noses probably wrinkle at memories of stale smelling weed, dank banks, overhanging trees and stagnant slime. But the backwaters I mean have a different character. They are still patches of water, connected easily to the main river and perhaps freshened from upstream trickles percolating through cooler deeps of gravel. For me, especially in the summer, they are favourite places which I am prepared to walk a long way to find. When I come upon one I stand or sit quietly for ten minutes or even twenty. Eventually one or two shapes pass unhurriedly by, stopping, pausing, tailing, turing and even breaking the surface to suck in a pot-pourri of waterboatmen, snails, damsel fly nymphs and other desirables.”

I didn’t get to fish these backwaters on this day. Hopefully one day I will.


Dynamic Nymphing

Ever since I became interested fly fishing, I’ve been a fan of nymphing. Most people love the dry fly, but the idea that trout get most of their dietary requirements sub-surface had me focussing on nymphing from day one.

I’m still a beginner in this great sport. So the fantastic stuff in George’s book had me pouring over the detail, and even making notes.

From Pennsylvania, George Daniel was on the US Fly Fishing Team from 2006 to 2010, placing fifth at the 2006 world championship and was also the US Youth Fly Fishing Team coach in 2008 and 2009. It’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about fishing.

George’s book is one of the most in-depth references to nymph fishing I’ve come across. I’m not saying that I’ve read every fly fishing book ever published, but I’ve seen a few. The table of contents for this all-inclusive book looks like this:

  1. Dynamic Nymphing
  2. A Nymphing System
  3. Casting Weight
  4. Tight-Line Tactics
  5. Suspension Tactics
  6. Fly Patterns
  7. Fishing Pocketwater, Riffles and Runs, and Pools
  8. Nymphing the Extremes
  9. Nymphing Small Streams

Like many other fly fishing books, this one covers casting, reading water, trout biology, and other basics. Where George shines is the detail he imparts about tight line strategies and suspension approaches. The author does a great job promoting the idea that a good fly is one that is the right size, shape and colour for the conditions at hand.

And he champions the idea that good technique is more important than the “perfect” fly.

Good advice for a bloke with only a few years under his belt in this wonderful world of fly fishing.



My new fly tying desk and lamp. The Whitetail antler is from Wisconsin. The stones are from the Tongariro. And the Ausable Bomber is from Alan Petrucci in Connecticut.

Time to get tying.


The past few months have been arduous. Tumultuous. Down-right tough.

We recently sold our house. On its own, that’d be stressful enough, but a poor decision by me almost ten years ago resulted in an unusual situation that hung over our heads like a dark, ominous storm cloud. I suffered more than a few sleepless nights, wondering what would happen. But thanks to Amanda, we got through it ok.

That out of the way, we were confronted by more challenges. I won’t record the minutiae detail here, as these particular hurdles were relatively trivial. Trivial, but annoying nonetheless.

And the money ball. The big one. A couple of weeks ago my position at work was made redundant.

I like to write quite a bit; I keep a personal journal in which I record lots of details about all parts of my life. But this is the first time I’ve written of my redundancy. I guess because I’ve been so busy planning my next career move, and meeting as many prospective employers as possible.

I was told by a “career transition consultant” that I’d go through ups and downs. Highs and lows. A couple of days after the event, I thought “Not me. I got this.”

But “they” were right. As time goes on, and you find yourself at home in the middle of the day, when you “should” be at work, your mind starts playing tricks on you. Could I have done something to stop it from happening? Am I not valuable? Am I not useful? You might even catch yourself thinking “Will I ever get a job again?”

So fishing took a back seat. Then, this happened.

Ben Lomond brown trout

Just last week, this beautiful brown trout came to my net on a private property near Ben Lomond in the New England region of NSW.

And even though I lost my job, Amanda has hers. We did sell our property – so there’s no mortgage to pay. There are a few job prospects. Lots of consulting opportunities that are very close to bearing fruit. And being my own boss does have its perks.

I can go fishing whenever I want to.


I must remember that I am more fortunate and privileged than most people living on this planet. I’m not rich, not by a long shot, but I’m certainly not poor. I think of the people in the Philippines, who recently battled what must have been one of the most severe weather events they’ve ever endured. And I sit here, in my selfish state of melancholy. Many Filipinos lost their lives – they had no choice. I pray for them.


I prepared what I thought were perfect plans for a few grandiose fishing adventures over the past month. But it wasn’t meant to be.

On the day I was scheduled to fish with Josh Hutchins at Thompson’s Creek Dam, I fell victim to a nasty virus that put me in bed for a couple of days. Following that, a trip to the East Branch of the Kiewa River in Victoria was all but rained out. I did manage to step into the river and another nearby stream, but the conditions weren’t great, and it simply wasn’t my day.

I did, however, have a bit of luck at the 10th Singleton Fly Fishing Club Carp Classic, held last weekend. Side-by-side with my fellow Club members, I did my best to remove a few fish from Lake Liddell in a couple of hours.

Lake Liddell

Pretty spot? Certainly.


Some people won’t fish for carp. It’s “beneath” them. I’m not of that ilk.

Carp are all the rage in America at the moment: Kirk Deeter has even written a book dedicated to fly fishing for the world famous rogue fish species.

All-in-all, a pretty nice Saturday morning.