Lake Augusta

with Craig Rist

Lake Augusta is part of the Nineteen Lagoons area in the Western Lakes. Access to these lakes is via the Liawenee Canal road on the western shore of Great Lake.  
Lake Augusta is used by the hydro to catch and redirect the water draining from the Western Lakes down the Liawenee Canal to fill the Great Lake.
During the summer months the water level in the lake drops to form two lakes, Augusta Dam to the north and the natural Lake Augusta to the south. Augusta Dam has deep water along the dam wall and along the northern shore. The River Ouse flows in from the western shore and the James River flowing in from the natural Augusta on the southern shore. Natural Lake Augusta is relatively shallow with a sandy lakebed with patches of weed and rocks. The lake has four shallow sandy bays between the road and the out flow of the James River. Each bay has its own unique sandy beach and alpine sand dunes. These are the largest formations of parabolic sand dunes in the area. These sand dunes have formed over time by the prevailing westerly winds. Long narrow spits go out into the lake, separating each bay. These bays are shallow with hard sand under foot making wading very easy and safe.

Lake Augusta is open to all forms of trout fishing and is the only lake in the nineteen lagoons where the use of bait is still permitted. When using bait only one hand held rod is allowed.  I have written about a day with a fly rod but these same conditions can be taken advantage by all forms of land-based trout fishing, especially where they involve actively searching for fish with polaroid sunglasses. There are brown and rainbow trout present, with a bag limit of 5 fish per person. Brown trout are more commonly caught as they are found in all parts of the lake, from the very shallow margins, to the deepest part of the lake. Rainbows, on the other hand, prefer the deeper water. Fishing from a boat can be a great way to access some of the shores or to do some boat polaroiding. There is a boat ramp on the northern shore of Augusta Dam and on the eastern shore of natural lake Augusta below the levee. I use the term boat ramp loosely on the natural Augusta, as it is no more than a shallow beach launch. When these lakes are low care should be taken while navigating this water as there are some large rocks not too far below the surface.

Fishing the Sands

When the wind blows from the west and there is some blue sky about, this is the time to fish the sandy beaches of natural Lake Augusta. The wind and wave action from a westerly, funnels the available aquatic and terrestrial insect life into these shores. Trout can be easily seen patrolling these sandy shallows feeding on the accumulation of these food items. Such conditions can bring on some fantastic sight fishing over these sandy flats.

I have been fishing the Nineteen Lagoons area for many years now and have never really spent much time on these shores. Simon Hedditch, a fishing mate of mine, has been telling me about the great sight fishing he has experienced along these shores during a westerly for some time now and for some reason I had never made the time to check it out.
Early in the New Year, Simon suggested we have a day on these shores and to make things interesting we would only use our small creek rods. Simon's 6'6'" two weight and my 7" one weight fly rod. Using these small rods on a wind swept lake was either going to be a lot of fun or end up being a very frustrating day. Because the sight fishing aspect of fishing these bays was the main feature we had a lazy start to the day, arriving at the lake around 9am. We made our way over the sand dunes stepping onto the first of the four bays. Waves lapped the shore as the wind was blowing from the southwest, just what we had hoped for. I waded out to my knees while Simon stayed in close to the shore. Together we started to wade, while polaroiding, the first bay. Visibility wasn't that great at this stage. Light cloud covered the sun producing an annoying glare over the water that reduced our vision into the water to about five metres. With the wind at our left shoulder we had a few practice casts. Casting to the right with the wind was pretty easy, but trying to punch out a one weight line and a small dry into a stiff breeze was a different story. One advantage we did have with such windy conditions was the ability to get very close to fish before they realize we where out in the water with them. A short cast is often all you have time for anyway, when a fish suddenly comes into view only metres in front of you. This close proximity fishing can be very exciting as you punch out a small red tag two rod lengths in front and hope the fish sees the fly before it sees you.  As we slowly made our way through the water, Simon was talking about his past experiences. "Last time I was here there were fish hard in against the shore over in that corner, there were fish everywhere".  Simon was polaroiding the water with confidence, expecting to see a fish with each step. After wading the length of the first bay we had only managed to see three fish in the poor light. All three had swum onto us before we could get a cast in. With the clouds blocking out the sun more often than not, who knows how many fish we had not seen. We crossed over the first spit separating the next bay and entered the water again. As each cloud covered the sun, we would stop and wait for it to pass before wading on. Even when the sun did come out from behind the heavy clouds, it was still filtering through a light coverage of clouds, limiting our view through the water. We desperately needed a patch of blue sky. Finally Simon caught the movement of a fin as a fish swam towards him. A quick cast saw the size 14 red tag riding the waves in front of the fish. The fish spotted the fly and slowly eased up under the fly and took it with confidence. Simon lifted the rod instantly bending it back to the cork. The little rod bent valiantly as the hooked trout took off over the shallow sand flats. With nothing but sand between Simon and his fish the fight was clean and he soon had a fish of around two pounds in hand. The fish was quickly released and we were back in business. Simon managed to pick up another fish of around a pound and a half before we left the second bay.  I had a fish come in on my left down wind, but I failed to deliver an accurate cast into the wind as the leader and fly were blown off to the right. The difficulty of casting into the wind with these small rods was all part of the challenge we had set for ourselves. Hopefully making the rewards even greater when we did manage to hook a fish. The sun had made its way over head and we could now see more behind us that in front, so we decided to walk out around the next two bays to the out flow of the James River and fish our way back to the car with the afternoon sun behind us.  On our way, we stayed well back from the waters edge, but couldn't resist looking back into the water for any signs of a fish. We hadn't walked far, when a flash of a fin caught my eye, as the waves exposed the back of a tailing trout, in the middle of the day.  I waited for the fish to turn away and quickly moved closer to the waters edge and punched out a low cast directly into the wind. The leader and fly rolled out into the path of the feeding fish that had now turned towards me. As the fish took the red tag I was looking straight down into its mouth. Knowing this wasn't the best angle to hook a fish I let him have the fly a bit longer before setting the hook.  The hook went in and the fish erupted in the shallows, it had nowhere else to go, but out into the lake. I pointed the rod at the fish allowing it to take line and settle down. Fighting a fish on such a light rod in open water was a blast. A small fish suddenly becomes a big fish when you're on the verge of loosing control on a fully loaded rod.  Simon caught the next two fish while I tried to capture a jump shot with my camera. The last bay, leading to the James River, had the occasional dun floating in with the wind. Every now and then a fish could be heard taking duns out wide. Simon picked up another fish just before the river and then the wind dropped out. Fish started to rise to both duns and black spinners. Simon watched a fish tracking black spinners in a quiet corner below a high bank. He put the red tag out amongst the spinners and the fish responded immediately by sucking down the tag.  While Simon played out his fish, another fish was slowly taking duns in front of me. I had changed flies to a parachute dun and put out a long cast ahead of the rising fish. Three seconds later a snout left the water sucking down my fly. We were both hooked up at once, landing two nice fish. By the time we had released these fish the wind had come back up killing the rise as the spinners took shelter amongst the low lying scrub.  Just past the river there is a small water hole, only knee deep, that drains into the Lake. Simon had mentioned spooking a fish in there on his last visit and was keen to see if it was still in there. As we neared the small pond, Simon wasn't feeling too confident in successfully polaroiding this water with the cloud cover present. A fish bow waved from the shallows as it sensed Simon's movement well back from the waters edge. A few seconds later another fish took a dun from the surface even closer to Simon. Simon was a good ten metres from the waters edge, putting out a long cast on his short rod. The fish found the fly and sucked it down. Simon was on, the fish charged around the small pond while Simon did his best to bring this fish under control. We were amazed that there was more than one fish living in this small pond. After landing the fish, Simon was pretty happy with the way things had unfolded and put the fish back for some other lucky angler to experience.  We had a deadline to be back at the car by 2pm, as I had to start my first night shift at 6:30. It was now 1pm so we did some very quick polaroiding on the way back to the car. We both managed to pick up another fish each on the way. In total we had caught nine fish between us in less than perfect conditions. I can't wait to get back on the sand when there is another westerly blowing and hopefully, a bit more blue sky.

Craig Rist