Hello Goulburn Valley
Fly Fishing crew,
I just want to ask a couple of questions. I want to
learn how to polariod and I was wondering if you could
give me some tips on how to learn by myself. I normally
fish on streams (small high country and lowland streams)
and was wondering if without having a lesson I could
learn on my own how to polaroid for trout?
David (I'm only 15 year old)
Hope the article
helps you in taking those first steps to successful
polaroiding. If you need any help just drop me an email
or swing by the shop if you are ever in the area.
Good luck with
Here is the article.....
Polaroiding for Dummies
by Antony Boliancu
Polaroiding is a bit of
a misnomer. While most aussie or kiwi fly fishers will
know what you are talking about, the rest of the fly
fishing world will be left in the dark when talking
polaroiding. Sight fishing is the correct description
of the method. Sight fishing with the aid of 'polarised
glasses'. When we say polaroiding we mean using polarised
sunglasses to remove the glare from the water's surface
and allow us to see into the water and to find individual
Polaroiding is hugely addictive.
Once you have experienced it is hard to go back to just
blind searching. Being able to see a fish before you
present a fly is a huge advantage. In many instances
you can watch a fish feeding for quite some time and
make a very accurate choice of fly based on your observations.
You can also put the fly in the best position possible,
meaning the fish is not as likely to be spooked in the
process and that the drift/presentation will be perfect.
You can also see a fish's reaction and sometimes refusal
of a fly, which will again give you great feedback and
greatly speed up the learning curve. When you are fishing
blind you get none of these clues to help you on your
What You Need?
To be a successful sight
fisherman there are a few things that you cannot be
without. First and foremost is the best pair of glass
polaroids that you can afford. There are a number of
great brands out there but we recommend the Spotters
above all else. Their range of Penetrators are about
as good as polarised glasses get. The colour, ability
of the lens to change to suit the lighting conditions
(photochromic) and their overall quality make them the
There are hundreds of frame
styles out there. Many suitable for driving or wearing
about town as well as fishing. But it is the most daggy
looking ones that are best for polaroiding. The larger
ones with the side shields are the pick of the pick.
This was proven over the past few trips to the
South Island where we took turns in changing between
several styles to try and work out which worked the
best. Time and again it was the person wearing the 'daggy'
ones who saw more fish. Needless to say that is what
we all use.
The second most important
thing is a wide brimmed hat to shade the glasses. The
difference between having such a hat and not is similar
to the difference between wearing polaroids and normal
sunglasses. Forget those baseball style caps. Invest
$30 in a quality, pack able Boonie hat. They can be
crushed down to nothing for traveling and can even fit
in the pocket of a vest. Make sure you get one with
a dark undersided brim, the darker you can get that
space between hat and eyes the more you will see.
Now you have the glasses
and have given them the best possible chance to work
by shading them correctly, your attention must turn
to making you invisible to the fish. What are you wearing?
Chances are it does not match the situation as well
as it could.
Colours must be drab and
blend well with the surrounding environment. Fish, like
all animals, see movement rather than form. Dress in
white, red, yellow, orange or even fossil and the fish
are going to have a much easier time seeing you. Walking
the banks, casting a fly, it's all going to be more
difficult if you cannot meld into the background. Have
a look at the Columbia gear. The Bonehead shirts and
the shorts/pants in the colour Sage will suit most freshwater
fly fishing situations.
Also remember you are as
only as strong as your weakest link. There is not point
getting it 80% right with pants and shirt the right
colour but a lovely red cap on! While it will make a
lovely photo, that dash of colour, it will not help
you in your quest to catch more fish! A couple of days
on our most recent trip brought this fact home to me.
On several occasions I was fishing with one of the guys
while other members of the group tried catching up to
us after fishing a few kilometres away. In one instance
they walked right up to me and never saw me at all,
instead focusing on the other angler whose vest gave
him away from quite some distance away! Don't underestimate
the importance of blending in.
So now we look the part,
we can see the fish and move about without being too
noticeable. What else can give us away? What other part
of our gear do we need to disguise? Probably the most
obvious thing, although maybe not until you are out
on the water will you realise it, is the fly line! We
only use green/khaki/sage coloured lines in our own
personal fishing time. While we sometimes test a new
line outside this colour spectrum or we may set up our
beginner outfits with bright lines (mostly so they can
see what they are doing), you will find that for the
most part we only use dull coloured lines.
When you think about it,
it all makes sense! The thing that the fish is most
likely to see is a bright fly line waving back and forth
around them. Some people say that a white line is hard
to see against the sky but this is rubbish. A white
line flashes the entire time it is in the air and stands
out against any sort of streamside foliage. If you cannot
afford to buy a new line then buy a tin of Dylon dye
from the local chemist and dye only the front thirty
feet of line the appropriate colour. Please use an 'old
pot' and none of the good cooking gear out of the kitchen
or you could be putting you newly assembled camouflage
gear to good use, having to hide in the garden for the
better part of a week!
Learning to be Sneaky!
This comes naturally for
some e.g. lawyers and accountants, but for the rest
of us some practice is usually needed! Again getting
back to what fish see, that is movement, we must think
about how we go about moving along the riverbank. Firstly
you must go slowly! Going slowly you are much less likely
to be seen. You also see a lot more. When you are walking
you are constantly moving your head and having to focus
and as a result you will spook lots of fish. The slower
you walk the more of a focus you are able to get on
the bottom and consequently the fish. Move a few slow
steps and then stop. Wait a few minutes. Watching
carefully before moving up a few more metres and stopping.
Use any hiding places that you can. A tree or high grass
or a fence post can make all the difference. Use these
places for an extended viewing of the water near to
Keep your profile off the
skyline…..use whatever you can to shield yourself
from view. Use a high bank behind you to move along
slowly, the high bank screening your profile. Keep as
low as is comfortably possible. Hide behind trees, boulders
etc. Sometimes you may even have to get down and crawl
into position (depending on how desperate you are!).
Tread gently. While fish
cannot hear you talking as all sounds are reflected
off the water's surface, it is not the case when walking
along the banks. Vibrations can be carried a long way
through the water, and clomping along will spook many
fish. Use gentle steps and go slow.
Keep your shadow off the
water. A shadow thrown out across the water will spook
a fish just the same as if you threw a rock in. Shadows
should be managed so that they land on the bank. While
sometimes this is almost impossible, particularly later
in the afternoon, to some extent this can be avoided
by walking well back from the bank. Staying well back
from the bank can also reduce your profile so that only
your head is visible to the fish rather than your whole
body. Minimising the amount of you that is out in the
open is always recommended.
Remember the deeper the
fish is, the more that it can see outside its underwater
world. Conversely the closer it is to the surface or
the shallower the water; the less the fish can see.
This is worth noting, as you don't want to be moving
if the fish has a great view of the outside world. Often,
when a fish is in shallow water or rising, I will take
the time to move into a better position, knowing that
I can take a calculated risk that I won't be seen.
This also means that any
presentation to a fish sitting near the surface must
be spot on for the fish to see it. The deeper it is
the more leeway you have. Often when a fish is staying
within a foot of the surface, rising consistently we
have found that that unless the fly is in the fish's
exact path then there is little chance of a take. On
the flip side we have seen fish come a few metres in
deeper water to take a fly. Not the be all and end all
but definitely something to be aware of.
What Should I Look For?
Of course the most obvious
answer is fish! Sometimes it will be that easy. You
may have great light over your shoulder from behind
at about lunchtime on a hot January day while on a high
bank with a broad brimmed hat shielding your polaroids
and you will see everything.
Every speck on the bottom will be obvious. But more
often than not conditions will not be perfect. The wind
may be up, or you may have patchy cloud, it may even
be late in the day. But don't despair, as there are
many clues that trout offer up to the trained eye.
The first thing that you are most likely to notice is
movement. Movement is what most predators first use
to distinguish items of prey from the background. This
can be a dark shape down deep or even the flash of white
as the fish takes a nymph and his mouth opens and closes.
Even the flash off the flank of a fish as it turns on
its side to take a nymph.
Trout can be almost invisible, especially rainbows in
fast water! But there is one thing that doesn't lie.
That is the shadow dropped by a fish in bright light.
While this can sometimes be mistaken for the fish itself
it is of little consequence as it still means a fish
is present. Shadows are one of the most important clues
as to a fish's whereabouts.
On a river or lake bottom shapes are important. Your
eyes will quickly learn to distinguish
the more important ones. In rivers in particular you
will often see logs and odd shaped rocks that could
be a fish. If you cannot determine exactly assume it
is a fish. Otherwise use skills of deduction to work
out whether it is in fact a trout. A trick that works
for us is to try and work out which way the object is
facing. If it is across, even slightly angled across
the current, it is more than likely, not a fish. If
it is sitting head on into the current then I would
at least try and fish it. The last trip for NZ was an
eye opener. In the last week of the trip, in mid-March,
the sun was getting low in the sky. On at least five
occasions we decided that it was a rock and not a fish
only to spook it seconds later. It is very annoying
spooking 8lb 'rocks', so give everything that could
possibly be a trout a going over with the fly. You will
Basic Overview of Possibilities
The places/situations that
you can Polaroid a trout are endless. From the tiniest
alpine creek to the largest lake, a little bit of knowledge
can help you to unlock the potential of any destination.
Small Streams -
Alpine Creeks While dry fly fishing and blind
fishing are the norm there are plenty of opportunities
to see a fish or two. But due to the type of water it
will be limited to mostly the pools. As many of these
streams require you to wade and therefore cut down your
view of the water, and also because the sun is not around
for a long time in narrow, steep sided valleys, options
are limited. Stick to the obvious spots…the tail
outs of the pools, the bubble lines and the seams. E.g.
- Any river coming off the Great Dividing Range in Southeast
Small Streams -
Slower Rivers These rivers (the Rubicon is
a great example) offer a heap of possibilities. They
are generally deeper, being incised into the floodplain
and are characterised by deep stable pools, high undercut
banks and lots of structure. Fish will most likely be
found near to structure with the polaroids. Because
of the volume of water that is often coming down, the
pools will be harder to sight fish pre-January. Once
levels drop in late summer and autumn the fish in the
pools can be easily seen lining the bubble lines, tail
outs and the main body of the pool. Use any structure
available to screen yourself from the fish. Second only
to later season low water is hopper time. Where you
can reliably find fish out along the edges near structure
waiting for a large meal to drift by. E.g. Rubicon River,
Rivers - These are my favorite as they generally
have very clear and cold water with the largest flows
during the hottest months. Making them excellent when
most other rivers are slowing because of the heat. These
rivers swell to many times their usual size as demands
for irrigation water downstream are met. Rivers like
the Goulburn, Mitta Mitta, Swampy Plain and Tumut are
While the bottom colours
of the freestone tailraces can make polaroiding tough
you can maximise the chances of finding fish in even
these tough circumstances. In the Swampy fish will be
seeking respite from the full effects of the current.
The seams, the places where fast water meets slow water
are perfect places to concentrate on. The inside of
river bends are great spots to find large fish lined
up waiting for food to be brought to them.
Other rivers like the Goulburn
provide a different style of polaroiding. That is edgewater
based sight fishing. Fish can be found on station in
close to the bank and also cruising in backwaters. In
fact, the Goulburn arguably provides the best sight
fishing in the state! Look for off river lagoons and
backwaters with little or no flow where fish will be
found cruising. Also smaller current reverses and in
amongst the willows between the Breakaway and Eildon
will offer countless opportunities. E.g. Goulburn, Swampy.
You can find trout cruising in any lake that they have
been out into. Having said that, some waters are better
than others. If you really want to do serious polaroiding
in lakes I would suggest heading to Tasmania and getting
out on the flats. The main problem is that you do need
sunlight; and Tassie can be a real hassle when it comes
to consistently getting quality light conditions.
While fish can be found
working the edges on the deeper lakes it is the shallow,
silt/sand bottom lakes we love for this style of fishing.
Shallow water from shin to mid-thigh depth is perfect
and you should wade down wind using the waves that open
to get a look into the water. This style of fishing
is very popular and the place to be is the Western Lakes
in Tasmania. E.g. Western Lakes E.g. Botsford, Double
Bar, Rocky, Ada etc E.g. of mainland lake Pretty Valley
Pondage (bank edges), Eucumbene/Jindabyne,
New Zealand - There
is nothing like NZ when it comes to sighting fish. The
waters are crystal clear, they are abundant and the
fish are large. Once you have earned your dues at home
this is the place I would most recommend a visit to.
The sheer number of different
options means that I cannot go into any real detail
here. But it has everything mentioned only more of it
and of a much higher quality. Fish are often seen in
minute detail, you can almost count the spots. If you
have a passion for sight fishing you owe it to yourself
to get over there. E.g. Most rivers on the South Island!
Hundreds of them!
I put this together on
a quiet Sunday afternoon because of a request for info
via email last week. If there is anything that you would
like to see in the near future on the site please email
me as we are always looking for new ideas for content.