Presented from Issue 109, April 2014
With cold weather and rain just around the corner, it is almost time to say goodbye to another trout season. Many of you will agree with me that the last month of the trout season in Tasmania is generally very productive. For me, April is an exciting time. I spend most of it targeting places like Arthurs Lake and Great Lake. I also concentrate on Four Springs Lake, which is only 30 minutes away from my home in Launceston.
While these are all great fishing spots, there is also another option that is even closer to home. It fishes well at this time of the year and is a spot that should not be overlooked. The North Esk River is the place I am referring to. Launcestonians are often put off by the mere appearance of the very ‘silted up’ North Esk River. If you cross the Lower Charles Street Bridge on a daily basis, you will know what I am talking about. This is the end of the North Esk, one of the Tamar River tributaries.
Without a doubt, this section of water does have its problems and can appear unsightly at times. I have never seen anyone fish there, but have heard many stories about large sea-run trout being taken there in the past.
To bypass the dirty water, take a drive out to the St Leonards Picnic Ground. This location is within 10 minutes drive of the city, and a great starting point for your late season trout adventure.
There is plenty of good parking at this location, and the dropping temperatures should see the summer swimmers all but gone. The river above the picnic ground weir is very clean and not subject to any tidal influence. The condition of the river here is in complete contrast to the conditions at the Charles Street or Hoblers Bridge locations.
In my opinion, fish taken above the weir are perfectly safe to eat; however, I am not so sure whether I would be game enough to try eating something out of the city end of the river! I imagine that most would agree with me.
From St Leonards, the North Esk extends towards Upper Blessington and passes through Corra Linn. There are remnants of an old trout hatchery at this location, which I am sure many of you are familiar with. Fresh water is fed into the river by the surrounding mountains. The water usually flows crystal clear, but can be slightly tannin stained at a few locations.
At Christmas time, huge sea-run trout can often be caught at St Leonards. At this time of the year, well-conditioned brown trout are in abundance, with the occasional small redfin perch thrown in the mix. Provided there has not been too much rain, and the river is not in flood, it is a great area to target these fish species. Which lures work best?
My favourite soft plastics to use are the local Tasmanian brand Strike Tiger 2” hawgs in ‘black n gold’ and also the 4” Strike Tiger curl tail worms in this colour.
The worms in particular, can resemble elvers or baby eels. Elvers are a large part of the trout’s diet in the North Esk and should never be overlooked in my view. You can also use American brand ‘Berkley’ sand worms or turtle back worms. Just make sure you choose darker colours; olive or dark green work well.
Whichever brand you choose, I suggest that you rig the plastic on a jighead of at least 1/12 in weight. This is especially important if you are fishing the deep water above the St Leonards weir. A light plastic will soon get swept away by the current.
Don’t forget to experiment with your soft plastics. You will find that most can be cut down in size, or that it may be possible to modify the appearance by pulling bits off with your fingers. I often chop and change my plastics in order to better imitate the natural food sources in the area.
The key to choosing hard bodies, especially in the shallows at Corra Linn, is to select small, natural coloured lures. Any of the well-known bream lure brands, including Cranka, Daiwa and Ecogear all produce suitable lures that are small enough for the local river/stream brown trout. My personal favourites are the small floating F03 and F05 model Rapala hard bodies. I have found that the best performing Rapala colours have been ‘Brown Trout’ and ‘Rainbow Trout’ – especially when fishing for smaller browns at Corra Linn.
There are a couple of good reasons why I like to use floating hard bodies, but the main one is that the river at this location can be quite shallow and snaggy, and these lures have the ability to float over underwater obstacles. All one has to do is pause for a second and the lure magically floats back up to the surface - well, most of the time! I find that by doing this, I can access many holes that often hold good fish. The added bonus with floating lures, like the ones I have suggested, is obvious - less snagged lures = less frustration!
When fishing the St Leonards end of the river, I tend to use larger diving lures such as the Daiwa double clutch in ‘Black and Gold’. The resident browns are bigger at this end of the North Esk and, in my experience; do need a larger, more resilient lure. Another good lure for fishing St Leonards is the ‘Golden Seducer’ diver produced by local brand YEP Tassie Tackle, with the red spots on this lure triggering some good strikes.
Although I haven’t used a celta spinner since I was a kid, they still remain a very effective lure for fishing small rivers and streams. You could consider using a small celta in the ‘green’ or ‘red perch’ pattern instead of a hard body or soft plastic. I am sure that it would be just as effective. If this takes your fancy, then Adrian Webb (Mepps fishing guru), who often writes in this publication, is a good source of information. His in-depth articles often feature good choices of spinner makes, models and colours, and I am sure that any of his choices would also be good for fishing in the North Esk.
|The St Leonards Picnic Area|
Where to fish:
St Leonards Picnic Ground
This location can hold some bigger than average fish. I have even managed to catch Atlantic salmon here, which I presume were escapees from nearby Old Mac’s Farm and Fishery. You don’t have to walk far from your car to the best location here, which in my opinion is the St Leonards weir. Great trout fishing exists immediately above and below it.
My favourite spot is to fish right above the weir, in the deep water. If the water is flowing over the weir, a pressure effect is created against the weir’s retaining wall. I have found that trout seem to be attracted to this pressure effect, often congregating deep along the length of the wall. I sometimes use a deep diving hard body lure to get down to where the action is. But more often, I use a well-weighted soft plastic lure to do this. Creature baits and soft plastic worms are great to use here.
I cast a little upstream so that I can get the lure ahead of the weir. This gives the lure time to sink to its running depth before reaching the weir. I use a variety of soft plastic retrieves, but usually start off with the simple ‘lift and drop’. It is exactly what it sounds like; cast your plastic, let it sink then lift and drop. Wind slowly as you drop to take up the slack line, and then repeat. It is as simple as that! If I get no interest using this technique, then I incorporate some fast and slow twitches into the lift part of the retrieve. The key here is to only move your rod tip an inch or two either way. If you move it any further, your soft plastic may not look as if it is swimming naturally.
If I have exhausted the water above the weir, then I move directly below it. Smaller plastics work well in the shallow riffles below the weir, but so do floating hard bodies. I target the slack water created by any protruding obstacles I find, such as large rocks. Trout will often sit behind these as away of conserving energy. They also use this opportunity to find an easy meal that might float past in the current. Place your lure of choice in this location and you should be able to bring one of them unstuck! In-between
While there are official sign-posted IFS anglers’ access points around Blessington (above Corra Linn), the section of river between St Leonards and Corra Linn is surrounded by private farmland. If you are planning on accessing the river here, you should seek permission from the landowners before making your way across their property. They are usually more than happy to accommodate. Corra Linn
This is the famous old trout hatchery. It is a 10 minute drive from St Leonards and can be accessed from Blessington Road as you travel towards Ben Lomond. Again, access doesn’t get any easier than driving down into the park like grounds and parking your car. The section of river towards St Leonards is a good choice, but I like to walk upstream toward the Corra Linn bridge.
If you choose to do this, then definitely take a pair of waders with you. Some good felt soled wading boots will also be of benefit as this section of the North Esk is shallow and quite rocky. The underwater rocks are also very slippery, so take care!
As I walk towards the bridge here, I tend to target the deeper looking pools in the river, using floating Rapala hard body lures. I make a cast into a ‘likely’ looking pool and immediately start to retrieve the lure. I use a basic flat retrieve (just a constant wind of the reel), but I throw in some subtle twitches to make the lure look more attractive to the trout. If things are slow, I try ‘ripping’ the lure and pausing. Most takes will occur on the pause. I also use Strike Tiger 1” nymphs rigged on a very light jighead when the hard body lures aren’t working.
Regardless of what lure you are using (soft plastic or hard body), make sure that you use a fine leader. The clear water and spooky nature of the trout in this location doesn’t make it easy. I find that using a fluorocarbon leader of between 3lb to 4lb (maximum) tends to increase my catch rate, and, in my opinion, at least a good rod length of leader is required. Match it with a good quality braided main line of the same breaking strain for the best sensitivity and feel.
The North Esk River is a great late season trout option that should not be overlooked. It is also very close to home for many anglers living around Launceston. It may even be so convenient, that the ‘lunch time’ trout fishing trip could be a possibility for some. This location is a great alternative to the cold and sometimes adverse weather conditions often encountered in the Central Highlands during late trout season.
In writing this article, and regardless of where you live, I hope that I have inspired you to explore your own doorstep for good fishing spots. As I have found out recently, good fish sometimes lie closer to home than you may think.
- Use the most sensitive and lightest weight rod you have.
- Match your rod with the lightest spinning reel you have.
- Use a fine diameter braided main line for maximum sensitivity – no more than 4lb breaking strain is ideal.
- Match the main line with a fine diameter leader of equal breaking strain.
- Use at least a rod length of good quality fluorocarbon leader and a leader knot you can trust.
- At St Leonards, use lures that resemble elvers or baby eels – some plastics can be modified to look like elvers by pulling bits off with your fingers.
- Target the deep water immediately above the St Leonards weir – get your lure right down against the weir wall.
- Target any slack water behind obstacles that break the flow of the river – i.e. look for big rocks and boulders sticking out of the river.
- Target the deeper pools in the shallow sections of the river toward the Corra Linn Bridge. Use floating hard bodies to float over and prevent snags.