I have spent a lot time on the waters in Slovenia guiding over the past few years. I’m constantly amazed at the size of the fish that hold up in some the bigger holes and pools along my local stretch of the Soca river. These holes tend to be out of reach from the more traditional styles of euro nymphing where you’re using a normal weight forward floating line with straight section of tippet material onthe end of your fly line with a weighted nymph attached .This rather simple method has been around for a while but to me seemed difficult to maintain good contact with the weighted nymphs. This is because of the way the different line diameters react with the different currents and flow rates. The other big problem I had was the tippet length is pre-set, meaning that if you don’t get the length correct the first time, you will have re-tie a new leader from scratch. The fly line also restricts the depth you can achieve and creates a bow in the line. I didn’t want to be spending any more time mending drifts or re-tying leaders while trying to fish. Instead I was looking for a system that would suit my style of fly fishing and in the environments that I fished. My preferred waters are typically the upper reaches of alpine rivers and the deep holes with strong currents of chalk streams.
My fly fishing has progressed a lot over the past 30 years and I was keen to see how many different styles and techniques I could learn. There are so many different styles of fly fishing to research I was overwhelmed. I decided to make it easy on myself and on one of my trips back to SA I went straight to Xplorer to have a chat with Jeremy.
While writing this I’ve realized that there are numerous different techniques that require different rods set ups, so I decided that I’ll break this blog into 2 parts covering the different applications and tackle. I tested these different styles of fishing throughout this past season in different conditions and variables as they presented themselves. I realized over the past few months that there is a time and place for everything and the Xplorer T50 range will always have a place in my kit waiting for the right time and application. Hope you enjoy!
NAME OF THE GAME……………
The idea was to fish the Xplorer T-50 10 footers as hard as I can, in as many ways as I can all in one season.
RODS – Xplorer T50’s 10ft 3WT and 5WT
Last year Jeremy and I had messed around with the Xplorer Guide II 10ft-5wt while fishing in Slovenia. We tested French leaders , Euro nymph lines and a variety of other floating lines like the RIO Single Hand Spey line. So armed with some of this background it was a natural to try the new Xplorer T50 range in a 10ft 3wt and 10ft 5wt. All that was left was to match the right a reel and lines.
REELS & LINES
I initially paired the Xplorer T50 10ft 3wt with an Xplorer EVO C 002 in a 3-4 wt. I found it to be a bit too light with the clicker style drag so I swopped it out for a slightly heavier reel. My old Xplorer ECLIPSE #002 with a sealed disc drag, loaded with a RIO FIPS EURO NYMPHING 2-5 wt line and an interchangeable 9m HANAK FRENCH LEADER balanced the rod better.
The Xplorer T50 10ft 5wt I used my Xplorer EVO 300D that has a stacked disc drag system and loaded it with a RIO SINGLE HANDED SPEY WF5F. The soul intention of this outfit was to test swinging streamers and large dry flies in the bigger sections of river and tight tree lined banks. These hard to reach spots tend to be where the bigger fish lurk.
Getting the Right Balance
The reason you want to achieve the correct balance in your rod and reel setup is pretty simple. When fishing a technique call “high sticking” for a full day, this can put a lot of strain on your shoulders and neck. Try holding your arm straight out in front of you for 30 seconds …….. feel that burn? Now try doing it with a rod and reel in your hand for the whole day. This is also very dependent on the waters you are fishing. Maybe you’ll find yourself fishing in murky off colored water or maybe you are sight fishing to one particular fish in crystal clear water. This would determine the number of successful “swings” to “hook ups” that you’d have on the day. Keeping your arm up and the line taught so that you have constant contact with your weighted nymph is what you need for success. Fail to keep a good connection with your nymphs and you’ll probably miss numerous takes. I’ve seen it many times before and it helps if you have the reflexes of a ninja in order to detect the subtle “takes” of the fly that is too often missed by the unsuspecting angler. Once the fish has felt your fly it’s very unlikely they will have another go and you’ll have to move on to a new spot.. So I suggest that you go up one reel size to balance the rod, making the tip more sensitive to the subtle takes you’ll experience fishing this style with the longer a 10ft rods. Give it try for before getting to the water to make sure you have a good balance.
FISH SPECIES-Marble Trout , Rainbow Trout , Grayling
THE HUNT- PART 1 HIGH ALPINE RIVERS
Xplorer T-50 10’0”5wt session
Now that I have a balanced outfit, I was excited to get out and hopefully christen the rod on my first outing. It’s a similar feeling like before a big night out with the boys back in the day or like driving a new bakkie ( pick-up truck ) on its first fishing tour!
The destination was the Soca valley where three rivers meet. Due to unstable weather and some unforeseen circumstances, my clients had to cut their trip short, giving me a week to myself to test my new rods.
I rigged a long French leader on top of my RIO Euro nymphing line so that it could fish one style up stream and then easy remove the French leader and fish another style downstream. This stretch of river has many different types of water and flow rates. The sight fishing here is amazing. It ranks up there as some of the most crystal clear water on this planet. The higher up you go in the system the faster the flow and tighter it gets. The lower reaches are way more expansive with big riffle waters and long pools. I opted start in the shorter, tighter sections of the Leppena River which contrary to its size, holds some big Marble and Rainbow trout. I grabbed my Xplorer T50 10ft 5wt and headed to a spot that I knew had some size fish holding. I first had to cross through some strong currents to access them. This is where the 10 foot rod exceled, allowing for that extra reach and the ease it turns over the longer French leader. I was using a heavily weighted stone fly nymph which I could feel was getting down into the bottom where the fish were feeding. I could feel the takes as soon I started to lift the tip of the rod, “walking the dog” through to deep holes. The current pushed my fly quickly through the hole to the end of the pool. I flicked it back to the top and started again. This time the tension on the line was true. I detected the bite straight away and confirmed with a strike. I was on. After a solid fight, I landed and released a great rainbow of around 50cm. The Xplorer T50 held its own in these tight waters. That set the tone for the rest of the day. I had an absolute blast prospecting every hole that I could find. The fishing was productive in the sense that I managed to get some really nice size fish out of holes that would normally provide zero hook ups. These fish would normally be hard to target but not anymore with this style of nymphing.
Looking back to my fishing Journal, I landed and released , 3 Marble trout of 40cm -50cm and 7 Rainbows 40cm – 65cm. This style of fishing has proven to be more productive than other styles or methods but it does have some limitations. For example when spotting a rising fish I would instinctively want to throw a dry fly to this fish. It’s not that easy to do with a French leader, unless you’re fishing downstream and onto that fish. I did notice that a lot of the rising fish were overlooked due to having my French nymphing rig on. I was not able to throw a dry fly with this set up.
My day was cut short when the heavens opened and I eventually I had to pack up. I wasn’t able to fish downstream with the Euro nymphing line on this outing.
Xplorer T-50 10’0”3wt session
The next session, I wanted to give the 10’0” 3wt T50 a run. I decided to test out some new styles that I had been thinking about on and my 3wt. This new session I loaded my RIO Euro nymphing line. It wasn’t my intention to fish the nymphing line as a conventional WF floating line, but perhaps it could work out well for me? I had a gap between clients and in no time I was standing next to the Leppena river at the crack of dawn. The river had risen considerably from some recent overnight rains, but it was still clean. I opted to go upstream to another spot to start my Soca beat for the day. This section was a few kilometers upstream and I was lucky, not another angler insight. The other anglers had probably gone home, worried about the rain predicted for the week. I grabbed the Xplorer T-50 10ft 3wt and I headed off to a spot that was well known by my friends and I. It looked like heaven or at least what I’d perceive heaven to look like. As I approached the water, I could see a marble trout hanging off of the main current. It seemed to be feeding on big rusty brown Danica mayflies that were congregating on the waters’ edge. So before even swinging a nymph, I put on a dry fly pattern to match these mayflies and had a go. She was just waiting there for a perfect drift? The fish was only about 15 meters away and with only about a meter of tippet on, it crossed my mind that the fly line would spook the fish. The cast was spot on with the fly landing 2 meters upstream from the fish, the drift was perfect. Bang the fish launched itself at my size 10 mayfly, only to find me attached at the other end of the line. After landing the fish with only one cast, I was a bit curious to see if this could be repeated. There were fish everywhere. It was chaos …… for some reason the gear and I just clicked. What ensued was one of the most amazing sessions I ever had on a dry.
I decided to continue fishing dry flies on my new nymphing setup for the rest of the day. Was I mad? Casting dries with a nymphing line? (I buried my head in my hands and had a laugh for a moment) This experience was one of the reasons I’m never afraid to try out new things that are perceived to be out of the norm or frowned upon by the fishing gods. Yeah right, what rules. Some of life’s best adventures are discovered when you “free form”, without rules. This somehow for me makes it more enjoyable.
The extra length on the rod helped with mending. Throughout this session I was able to get good drifts that were more accurate, almost guaranteeing a strike from the fish. Less slack in the line resulted in more converted hook ups. Looking back in my fishing journal, I caught and released a lot of fish that day. Average size was down but the numbers were right up.
12 Marble Trout 35cm-50cm and 19 Rainbow Trout 40cm-55cm
These 2 sessions above were the first session for each of the rods. Since then I’ve managed to stack up more than 100 days on the river using the T50’s, including the latest big catch, a monster Hucho Hucho but that blog will come in due time.
Part 2 of this blog will cover some of the different sessions on the 10 footers , different technics used , verdicts on the rods as well as the hunt for the Soca Grayling , so until then happy days and tight lines.