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Rising trout can create a real rollercoaster of emotions. They offer the promise of easy-to-locate fishing that are obviously feeding, but the myriad of technicalities around hatches, presentations, and capabilities as an angler can combine to make it seem like hooking one of these fish is an impossible task. And nowhere is this more evident than on the Mataura River. However, help is at hand…



  • As the rise commences, be careful not to rush in. By doing so you risk putting down the early risers, and pushing them outside of a comfortable casting distance. Instead, sit and observe as more trout begin to rise, and move out towards the edges. It is wise to target these edge feeders away from the main pod, which usually begin feeding out some distance from the bank. The more times a trout rises the more confidently he feeds, and covering a fish before he loses his wares can often result in him going off the feed.
  • Pick one consistent riser and cover him repeatedly. When surrounded by rising fish it is easy to attempt to cover each one as they surface, but this often proves counter-productive. You risk putting down more fish than you will inevitably deceive.
  • Is your targeted fish a rhythm riser, or does he feed sporadically? If he is the former then you can pick when he is about to surface and place your fly accordingly. If he is the latter, then you can but cover the water surrounding his position systematically and hope for the best.
  • Whilst many anglers will swear that a direct upstream presentation is imperative when fishing out a hatch I disagree. By casting directly upstream to a fish, you will inevitably be landing your tippet, and part of your leader across the trout’s window. The finer tippet may appear transparent, but as your leader tapers, the line shadow increases, and Mataura browns are sensitive to this. Additionally, any heavy presentations are likely to slap the water within close proximity of the fish, an action sure to put down your prey. Instead, I aim to position myself directly opposite the fish and cast across to him wherever I can and employ reach mends where needed. However, sometimes this is not possible without the fish seeing you, so casting at an angle from the downstream quarter is the solution for an unobtrusive presentation. In doing this, your line, and leader will land well to the side of the fish, and as it drifts down the current your fly will be the first thing the trout will see. If you are casting across-stream you can manipulate your drift so that the fly is the first object to enter the fish’s window.
  • When the hatch is heavy the trout will hold closer to the surface, so as to feed efficiently while expending minimal energy. An inverted ‘V’ wake will often give away the trout’s presence when sitting high in the water column. When at the surface the trout’s ‘window of vision’ is much smaller than it is when sitting deep. This allows the angler to regularly approach to within a couple of rod lengths of his prey, but his presentation must now be delicate, and the fly must travel exactly down the trout’s preferred feed lane.
  • It is important to remember not to cast to the rise itself. This is where the trout took the natural, not where he was sitting when he first saw it. A trout will often drift downstream some distance with the natural, scrutinising his target before accepting it, especially if they have come up off the streambed. With this in mind, it is imperative to present your artificial well upstream of the rise form if you see the fish came up from below, however not so far upstream to generate drag. The longer your fly is on the water, the more currents can push and pull on your leader. Micro drag may not be noticeable to the angler, but certainly is to the fish.


Observe the rise form as this can dictate just which stage of the hatch the trout are taking. Trout will often ‘lock on’ to a particular phase of the mayfly life cycle when that phase is present in large numbers, and this is where ‘matching the hatch’ becomes essential to success.


This is where the nose protrudes above the surface indicates a dun has been taken. This will often be accompanied with an audible ‘plop’ type of sound, as the fish takes in an amount of air with the insect.


This signifies the trout are taking emergers, or nymphs in, or just below the surface film. This is often accompanied by the subtle ‘kissing’ sound of a fish gently sucking in a prey incapable of escape. At this point, the trout is likely to ignore any high floating dry fly presentation.


This indicates a leisurely rise to a spent spinner, an exciting rise form as often the length between the head, dorsal and tail can be gauged throughout the action. It can also signal a fish that has risen up from the streambed to eat, and is turning back downwards in the aftermath so it is important to consider this.

It is important to recognise each type of rise form, for each indicates a different stage of the hatch.


  • When duns are hatching, there may also be spinners upon the water, and if the aforementioned head/tailing behaviour is observed, any presentation with a dun imitation will often be futile
  • If the trout are bulging, then an emerger pattern riding low in the surface film is called for, as the trout will usually ignore anything else. This is the key ‘match the hatch’ stage upon the Mataura, and a sound understanding of the emerging dun is what keeps the successful 10% of anglers ahead of the rest
  • When trout are locked on and rising to duns upon the surface will readily accept an emerger pattern sitting in the film
  • However, the reverse is not true. A trout feeding within the surface on emergers, or cripples, will feed solely upon this phase from efficiency alone, and will unduly shun any traditional dry presentation

All of this is what makes the Mataura such an endlessly fun river to fish, and once you have a good understanding of some of the technicalities behind rising trout you’ll have that much more of a chance to catch them.


Chris Dore is a battle-tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever-changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.

In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.

For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?


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