Little Pine Lagoon

Little Pine Lagoon situated on the Marlborough Highway between Miena and Bronte.  Declared a fly fishing only water, it is rightly regarded as one of the premier fly fishing lakes in Australia. 

Tailing brown trout feeding on tiny scud and some of the thickest dun hatches you are ever likely to see make fishing to the resident browns of Little Pine a challenging prospect.   Tricking a couple of these fish can take the frustration scale past the red line, leading to blood pressure problems, tantrums and big bottom lip syndrome.   However the satisfaction that ultimately comes from finally grassing a few of the brown trout in this water generally relieves all of these symptoms and leaves you with big feelings of smugness at just how clever you are.   It is a well earned feeling which is hard to achieve on other less challenging waters.

Access to Little Pine
Access to Little Pine Lagoon is along the Marlborough Highway which runs parallel to the Southern shore.   There are three boat ramps available at the lagoon, all three being on the Southern shore.   There is an informal ramp at the South West corner at the dam wall.  (Beware of the submerged rock as you motor out of the neck area in that section of the lagoon).   A formal boat ramp just South West of the Monpeelyata Canal, (Recommended ramp) and a more informal ramp behind the shacks on the Northern side of the canal (seldom used).
Foot access is available from several car parking spots along the Southern shore, this area is aptly named the road shore. The north Eastern side of the lagoon , the Cricket Pitch, Tailers shore, Little Pine River are accessible from a parking area at the shacks North of the canal. The North Western Shore, Untouchables, Senators Rock, Grassy Promenade , Western shore, are accessible by foot from the car park at the dam wall, then by a foot track around the lagoon.

Tailing activity on Little Pine really commences as soon as the water starts to warm a bit after winter and the water level becomes acceptable for seeing the fish close to the shore. I have taken tailing fish from opening week in previous seasons and then not until mid October at other times. To me a good level at Little Pine starts when the water is about 30 cm below the dam wall at the South Western corner of the Lagoon. By December the levels of Little Pine have usually stabilised and there are tailing fish along the shores most mornings and evenings. The best weather for seeing tailers is obviously calm weather preferably in low light.
Catching these fish can be maddening at the best of times, being in shallow water, they tend to be very spooky and when feeding have a narrow field of vision this means your fly needs to be in an area not more than three or four inches wide right in front of your quarries nose.

Ideal World: The best case scenario for catching a Little Pine Tailer would go something like this. It is dawn, the first rays sunlight are blocked by some low cloud and there isn't a breath of wind. About 60 feet along the bank a small triangular shape appears out of the still water only 6ft out from the edge. Staying low you slowly move froward to investigate, and see the shape re-appear a few feet closer to you, it's the tip of the tail of a nice brownie. From past experience you have a leader at least 12ft long which is greased to about 8" short of the #14 shaggy hares fur nymph you have attached. As you get to within casting range you drop to your knees, lady luck is with you, the fish is still working slowly in your direction. Now he is in range, keeping the rod low you cast to a point two feet in front of him, the fly line itself barely touches the water settling on the grass at the waters edge, the leader makes the slightest impression on the calm surface. The fly sinks and settles gently on the bottom without disappearing into the weed, your leader sits settled on the surface film and the trap is set. The tip of a tail appears right where you think your fly has settled, with your heart in your mouth, a couple of seconds seems like a week as you try to decide if he's picked up the nymph or not. Then just as panic begins to set in, your leader, which is sitting on the surface, is drawn away from you and into the water. Don't snatch the strike you tell yourself, pause for a moment and lift the rod, bang you are hooked up, your rod bends firmly and off goes a 3lb male brown heading to the middle of the lake like he'd been shot out of a cannon, stripping line from the reel as he goes. If only it was always that simple.......
This scenario has a few general rules to apply to fishing to tailers which can help bring results.

Stay low, and keep the rod as low as you can while casting.Fish as long a leader as you can cast comfortably and accurately in the conditions.If you are fishing a wet fly grease your leader to within about 8 inches of the fly, this will help with detecting a take. The greased leader should not spook the fish due to it's narrow field of vision in shallow water. Conversely you can fish a wet fly / nymph attached to a dry fly tied off the bend in the dry fly hook. You can get takes on either fly this way, and takes on the wet will be immediately visible as the dry fly is pulled under the surface.
Try to position yourself so the fish is working towards you. There is less chance of spooking a fish if the fly is the closest thing to the trout and the rest of the set up is well clear of him.
In calm water I avoid twitching the fly especially on Little Pine, if the trout doesn't see the fly wait until he is clear of it and then present it again. If there is a ripple on the water conditions are a bit more forgiving and you can get away with less discreet presentations and tactics, here a bit of a twitch may get attention.

Some of the best wet fly patterns for tailers on Little Pine include snail representations, small shaggy nymphs, and scud patterns. Try to keep them a bit scruffy as this will stop the fly sinking into the weed and being hard to see.
Along the shore when the wind is blowing drifting dry flies is a good option. The trout are still there and usually feeding, the problem becomes seeing them. Walking along the shore down the wind systematically covering the water with a small red tag or a dun pattern, good size fish can appear out of inches of water to seize your offering. On windy mornings and evenings this tactic can bring good rewards.
Although it would be regarded by some as heresy, pulling larger wet flies such as a black woolly bugger can produce good results on those windier days, this can have good effect even in the shallow water around the edges of the lagoon.

Mayfly time.
December and January sees the Dun hatch hit it's straps around Little Pine Lagoon. Overcast days give you the best chance of seeing one of Little Pine's famous, or should I say infamous, dun hatches. I say this because when the whole lagoon is covered with mayfly duns so thick that a dinner plate would cover three or four anywhere on the water, the chances of getting a trout to take a dry fly representation is bit like the odds of winning Powerball. A dun hatch like this is amazing to see, nature really works some wonders at times and it is a gift to be on the water when so much life is occurring right in front of your eyes.

If the trout are rising in these circumstances it is best to pay close attention to the manner in which they rise. A boil in the water is generally attributable to a nymph or emerging dun being taken just below the surface. If a fish is taking duns on the surface a "porpoise" over the fly or a nose out of the water usually give away the take as hatched duns being eaten off the surface prior to their flight to freedom.
I am a loch style convert, I nearly always use a three fly team on a long leader in a dun hatch. If the fish are boiling on nymphs and emergers, I generally fish three flies that cover all bases.
A typical rig for me would be, top dropper a Claret Dabbler, middle dropper a hares ear spider or possum fur emerger, and on the point a nymph. Cover a rising fish and then slowly draw the flies across where the rise was. With three different possibilities moving slowly in the area, a feeding trout is most likely to react to one which represents the stage he is feeing on. This tactic works well on Little Pine, as well as other mayfly waters like Arthurs Lake. If three flies present a casting problem, try two flies choosing which ever patterns best represent how the fish are feeding.Moving flies nearly always work best in windy weather when there is a ripple or wave on the water.
In calm conditions another good tactic for dun feeders on Little Pine is to suspend a nymph below a dry fly fishing static. Cast and let the nymph sink below the dry at a depth you have set by the length of leader between the flies. Watch for the dry fly disappearing when the nymph is taken, or when the dry fly itself is eaten. React swiftly to the nymph being taken or give that good old pause prior to lifting if the dry fly was on the menu.

Little Pine Lagoon offers many challenges, the nature of the fishing here is, rightly, three quarters of the reason that Little Pine has the reputation that it has. The average brown trout range from just under a pound to three pounds or better. I know of one 7.5lb brown that was taken last season. The shallow nature of the lagoon lends itself to visual fishing for tailers and other moving fish whether they be midge, dun or beetle feeders right through the season. The Inland Fisheries Service has imposed a bag limit of 5 fish on Little Pine Lagoon, sometimes this limit is a walk in the park, but more often than not a couple of brown trout in a session on Little Pine is a good achievement.

Joe Riley

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