A Typical Dutch picture: Polder canals are perfect for fly fishing.

Fresh water

In Australia not much is known about fishing in The Netherlands. And why should there be, you may ask. There are farms in the northwest of Australia that are bigger than The Netherlands. Should a country that small be of interest to Australian fishermen? I think it should.

The Netherlands has hundreds of lakes and rivers. This alone makes it an interesting country from a fishing point of view. Besides this the Dutch are known in Europe for their innovative techniques and skills. Some of those might even have a use in Australian fishing. Judge for yourself.

In the first part of my overview on Dutch fishing I'll give a few examples of Dutch freshwater species and the typical Dutch techniques we use to catch them..

Sportfishing is one of the most popular pastimes in The Netherlands. Not strange, because the Dutch are blessed with a lot of different types of waterways and lakes. Especially in the west and the north part of the country, you are never more than a few miles away from a canal, river or lake.

One of the most popular types of fishing is coarse fishing with a pole or feeder rod for species like roach, rudd and bream. Nearly as popular are fishing for carp and fishing with lures and bait for predatory fish like northern pike, zander and (redfin) perch. Dutch lure fishermen are known for their fondness of experimenting with techniques and materials.

Dutch fly fishermen share this love of experimenting with their lure-fishing colleagues. They have to be innovative. Most of the Netherlands is flat country, which explains a total lack of traditional trout- and salmon-rivers. Fly fishermen weren't able to borrow the age-old techniques from traditional countries like England and France. They had to develop their own fly fishing culture. And they did. Successfully.

Fly fishing for coarse fish

A Golden Rudd, nicknamed: Polder Trout.

A finely tuned float, hair-thin leaders and minuscule hooks. These are the tools of the trade of experienced Dutch coarse fisherman. Roach and bream have for many years been the domain of the fishermen with poles of up to 14 meters long. To the layman, these fishermen make up the picture of sportfishing in Holland. Long rows of fishermen who sit motionless along the bank of a canal. If you didn't know better you'd say that fishing in The Netherlands is static and boring. But even coarse fishing doesn't have to be like that. Many Dutch fly fishermen have known that for years.

Already in the early fifties Dutch fishermen were experimenting with fly-fishing in the canals between the polders: the land that was regained from the sea. They had noticed that rudd (Rutilus rutilus) sometimes reacted strongly to insects on the waters' surface. These fishermen, who were familiar with the works of Ritz, Goddard and Sawyer, asked themselves if a rudd couldn't be tempted to take a well-presented dry fly. The type of fishing that evolved from these experiments became so popular that the rudd earned the nickname 'polder-trout'. Until far into the eighties fly-fishing for rudd was the most popular form of fly fishing in the Low Countries. King sized brown and black palmers and red tag were the top patterns.

Long leaders and heavy nymphs

During the 1980's a group of fishermen started to take their fly rods to different types of water. In the beginning they tried their luck on shallow tributaries and lakes that were fed by the big rivers, like the Rhine and the IJssel. Rudd, roach (Scardinius erythroptalma) and ide (Leuscius idus) gathered there in springtime and were eager to take dry flies and nymphs fished in the surface. Even though the fishing wasn't bad, the amount of fish caught wasn't in comparison to the vast schools of fish that ran from the still water up the river to spawn. Most of the fish stayed near the bottom in the deep and fast flowing parts of the river. Traditional methods didn't work on this type of water.

Fly-fishing for these fish presented the fishermen with a riddle. How do you get a tiny nymph to the fish and at the same time notice very subtle bites? A fast sinking line would get the nymph to the fish. Problem was that a sinking line isn't subtle enough to register the tiny bites of carefully feeding roach, ide and bronze bream (Abramis brama).

A big-river bream puts a bend in the little fly rod.

The first results came when some of the fishermen started experimenting with very long leaders and ultra-thin tippets. The tiny nymphs were weighted with several layers of lead wire. The long leader, sometimes seven meters long, and thin tippet, appeared to be the only way to get the small nymph to where the fish were and still register the bites.

The described method is still the way to go when fishing the spawning run of coarse fish on the big rivers. Long and accurate casts aren't possible with the long leaders, but they aren't necessary either. As long as the nymph touches bottom it catches fish. The nymph is cast upstream and fished at an angle. A type of fishing similar to nymphing for New Zealand rainbows on North Island rivers. A little indicator on the leader shows the bites.

Coarse fish aren't known for their fighting abilities. But with the light gear you'll still have a fight on your hands when a two-kilo ide takes a nymph, or when three kilos of bronze bream puts its flank into the flow. Quite a hand full on a three-weight, especially when you think that fishing can be wild on good days with more than fifty hookups as a rule.


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Last updated: December 17, 2001 ©1999-2001 SportsFish. All rights reserved.
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