By Greg Morton
The Pomahaka River suits the spin fisher.
Ona perfect trout fishing day you land a good fish on your first cast and more trout follow soon after. You have lucked on early what the fish want. On other days, however, the intended script goes out the window and plan B and plan C have to be implemented to avoid the dreaded zero.
Never assume success is a lesson all anglers should heed.
Recently I ventured to West Otago which is one of my favourite fishing destinations. It has large, medium and small river options. At some stage of any of my visits I will be found fishing the Pomahaka River. It suits spinner fishing, has a good population of fish in the lower reaches, and plentiful access points. I have experienced a lot of top days on this waterway so was expecting something similar as I parked the Mazda last month.
I tend to always ignore the water near an access point so immediately walked for an hour. I hoped this tactic would get me away from the most pressured water. The river had been very high for several weeks prior to my visit, and flood debris and eroded riverbanks were very evident. After a brisk wander across farmland I reached a well-remembered glide formed on a river corner. This is a location where catching a trout first cast is the norm rather than the exception. Not that day though, and two hours later I was fishless. The fish were there, and I had lost two to aerial gyrations. By now I was on my fourth spinner and had used white, gold, green and brown colours. A group of Canada geese watched on, honking out their annoyance at my intrusion. I later encountered a pair with young goslings.
It was lining up to be a tough day at the office but I had confidence the fish would turn on eventually. The next spot I tried was behind some washed-down willow trees. Hard to forget this pool as it was here that I landed a lunker sea-run trout a few months back. An hour later, no fish had been landed and a sunken branch had decided to keep one of my spinners.
The Canada geese did not appreciate the Greg’s intrusion on their piece of paradise.
Greg’s plan C – a softbait grub that bore success.
“ This trout was not happy and pulled out all the tricks brown trout are famous for. 
After losing the lure I finally swapped to plan B. I tried a series of small spoons and as each failed I tried a new style and new colour. The fish were not interested and the spoons picked up quite a bit of weed. I went back to plan A – the spinners. I trusted them to come right so I just kept changing the colours and varying my retrieval speed.
The next fishing water I encountered was a 300m stretch of undermined riverbank where the current flow was near my bank. The water depth varied between one to three metres. It was hard scrambling along the crumbling edge of the river but where the terrain allowed me I cast across and down.
On one of the retrieves I felt a tentative tap, and this occurred several times over the following casts. When a perch followed the spinner in I was able to identify the culprit and soon after the sighting I was whacked hard. It was a good hook-up and line peeled away upstream. I realised then it was either a very big perch or a good trout, but before I could tighten up the tension the unseen fish had me in a snag. I tried every trick to get him out but finally the line snapped.
That made it three-nil to the fish. This total soon became fournil when a rainbow trout saw my spinner pass above it. It rocketed off the bottom, grabbed the spinner, then on feeling the hook leapt itself half a metre into the air, simultaneously spitting the lure back in my direction. Once free it jumped three more times to rub salt into the wound.
At this point I decided it was time for lunch and a serious debrief to think about how I could turn my day around. It was time for plan C. After munching my sandwiches I reached for a pack of Savage softbait grubs. I suspected they might do okay along the long stretch of riverbank I had fished earlier where the current was quite fast. I usually use a 1/16oz jig-head but decided to go up a weight to a 1/12oz as the water there was quite deep. Once geared up, I started back towards the selected spot.
I started casting upstream and let the grub wash downstream on its own steam, only retrieving it once it swept down below me. As it washed along I added the odd twitch and lift. Early on I had a couple of subtle taps so was hopeful a bolder fish would crash the party. Soon after I reached a very fishy rapid and was not really surprised when a fish grabbed the grub on one of my twitches. Nothing shy in his approach —he hit it hard. What I really like about the grubs is that the hook-up to landed rate is so high.
This trout was not happy and pulled out all the tricks brown trout are famous for. He bored along the bottom, sulked in the weeds and when near the surface went airborne. The hook was firmly pinned in his jaw, however, so in time he tired and I netted him. It was good to finally have an elusive Pomahaka trout in the net. After a couple of photos I slid him back into the water.
It had been a tough day but it ended well and forced me to adapt or fail. You learn more when the fishing is hard than when it seems easy. Next time I face similar circumstances though I will go to my reserve bench earlier.