Opening of the 2010-11 Trout Season
The 2010-11 angling season starts on Saturday 7 August, with the traditional opening of brown trout waters. Rainbow waters will remain closed until Saturday 2 October this year.
Get a Licence!
You require a current angling licence to fish at any open inland water in Tasmania (including farm dams on private property), except at a registered private fishery where you generally pay to fish. You can purchase or renew an angling licence by visiting a licence agent (at major tackle stores or any Service Tasmania shop). Licences can also be purchased or renewed online at www.ifs.tas.gov.au.
Angling licences range in price from a full season adult licence at $66.50 to a short term weekend licence for $20. The full season licence offers anglers the best value for money; being a 12 month licence with the opportunity to fish every day of the year; and with significant discounts for juniors (80% less at $12.00), pensioners (45% less at $36.50) and seniors (25% off at $53.00).
Other benefits include the convenience of being mailed a renewal form each year before the start of the season, which contains a durable licence card. The Service also targets full season licence holders with information and special offers such as the automatic entry into competitions to win prizes. This year, we are repeating the offer of free entry to the Salmon Ponds on presentation of a full season licence card and also a Voucher, mailed out with the renewal notice, for a free weekend licence to ‘Take a Mate Fishing’.
Know the Rules!
There are rules and regulations that govern inland fishing in Tasmania and apply to individual waters. They cover seasons and times, bag and size limits, angling methods and boating. The general rules that apply to most waters are:
• an open season in line with brown trout waters from 7/8/10 to 1/5/11
• open to all methods of angling (fly, artificial lure and bait fishing)
• a bag limit of 12 fish
• a minimum fish size limit of 220 mm in length.
Waters that are an exception to these rules, such as waters open all year round, rainbow waters, waters closed to fishing at all times, and all waters in the Western Lakes area are listed in the Tasmanian Fishing Code 2010-11, which is provided for free with your licence. You can also search the regulations applying to individual waters by visiting the IFS Waters Database at ifs.tas.gov.au
Of special note is the closure of Lake Sorell this season under the Inland Fisheries (Delay or Prevention of Spread of Controlled Fish) Order 2003. This is due to an outbreak of juvenile carp in Lake Sorell in 2009-10 and to assist the Service in intensifying its effort to control the population during 2010-11.
There’s no better time than now to go trout fishing! The season is shaping up to be another good one with the fishery in excellent health as a result of last year’s drought breaking rains. Many fisheries are likely to continue to improve this year due to the prolonged period of inundation and associated ecological recovery. Hopefully, it will have created the opportunity for submerged weed beds to regrow and aquatic invertebrate species to repopulate, enabling trout to access more food and healthy water. Anglers, meanwhile, will enjoy improved fishing this season in terms of the fish – catch rate and quality – and the experience, with many excellent fishing locations all around the State from which to choose.
Almost any inland water is worth a visit this year, but there are several worth mentioning because of their stand-out improvements last season. The increased water level at Arthurs Lake over the past year has boosted this fishery out of danger from continuing low water levels. We should see this water return as Tasmania’s most popular fishing destination. It is surrounded by a handful of premium waters that have all benefited from higher lake levels and reduced angling pressure last season, including Great Lake and Woods Lake, as well as Penstock and Little Pine lagoons, and waters in the Western Lakes.
Apart from the Highlands, a number of star waters were returned virtually from the brink of non-existence last season. The Service has focused on these waters to rejuvenate the fishery at each with a boost to fish stocks over the past year. Lake Dulverton in the midlands, Craigbourne Dam in the South, and Tooms Lake and Lake Leake in the East, are well worth a visit this season.
Season Report on Angling Licence Sales
Improvement to the fishery as a result of the wet conditions last season, which lead to the increased availability of angling options, is the most likely reason for an increase in angling licence sales during the 2010-11 season.
By the end of June, total licence sales recorded for 2009-10 had risen to 28,902 which is the highest since 1998-99 when 29,690 licences were sold. This represents a 2.7% increase compared with the total number sold in the previous season.
Of most importance was a 2.7% rise in the sale of full season licences which was driven primarily by a rise in sales to Tasmanian anglers. This is a good result for the Service, which over the past two years, has aimed to increase the sale of full season licences with a particular emphasis on the local market. Within this category, the most significant rises in sales were seen amongst senior full season licences, which were up by 6.5% compared with the previous year as well as pensioner licences, which rose by 3.2%. This trend of increased full season licence sales to seniors and pensioners is likely to be a reflection of the aging angling market in Tasmania based on the State’s aging population base.
Amongst short term licence sales, there was a significant shift away from the 7 Day and 28 Day licences which dropped by 21.9% and 16.7%, respectively. The sale of 48 Hour licences however, increased dramatically in comparison, rising 64.9%. This trend away from the 7 Day and 28 Day licences towards the 48 Hour licence indicates that the two day licence is better suited to the needs of the short term licence buyer. The trend was significant amongst Tasmanian anglers and indicates that the two day licence fulfil its intended purpose of providing for a spontaneous weekend fishing trip.
The number of licences sold to anglers from interstate and overseas increased by a small percentage. Victorian anglers accounted for the majority of interstate licence sales, followed by NSW and Queensland.
TFBN interviews John Diggle - Director of the Inland Fisheries Service to find out how the stocking program works.
Many freshwater angler know that some fisheries are sustained through a comprehensive stocking program by the Inland Fisheries Service, but how does it all work? We decided to ask the IFS Director, John Diggle, about the principles and issues guiding the program.
TFBN: Why does the IFS engage in a stocking program?
The fundamental issue is that most waters in the state have natural recruitment because of free-flowing streams and rivers which the trout love, reproduce and do their thing. Where rivers in particular are well populated with fish there is no point in putting more stock in there with them as they just don’t compete. You just don’t do any good … it is a waste of time.
Where there is an issue is where a fishery has no natural spawning facilities. Examples are Four Springs and now Penstock Lagoon. If we want to keep such waters as a fishery you have to stock them.
TFBN: What strategies are used for these fisheries in the Central Highlands?
We have several approaches. For example, you can have a “put and take” type fishery like Craigbourne and Brushy Lagoon where you put big fish in … people catch the big fish … and go away. This is considered a family fishery where fish are relatively easy to catch --- you can take your kids and have a reasonable chance of catching a big fish … and have a lot of fun..
Waters like Penstock and Four Springs we stock with smaller fish which can grow to adult size for people to catch. I guess this can be called a “put, grow and take” strategy. We are trying to get a better quality product by not stocking with adult trout that have been virtually hand-reared and essentially domesticated. Wild stock, randomly selected from the Liaweenee Canal spawning run, are used for these fisheries and as they adjust to and grow in their new environments, anglers are virtually fishing for wild trout.
Basically, we are trying to manage the lakes in the Central Highlands as wild stock fisheries. With other fisheries the IFS is endeavouring to provide a range of freshwater angling opportunities from the easy access, basic family fun days through to the ultimate wilderness experiences.
TFBN: What happens to the collected wild trout ova?
Our hatchery and rearing ponds are now located at our IFS complex in New Norfolk. We no longer use the Salmon Ponds because of unreliable water supply and temperature. The Salmon Ponds were set up when the Plenty catchment was well forested and water flows were stable. However, now in summer the Plenty River is often no more than a trickle and we had to pump water up to the Ponds from the Derwent just to keep things going. But the lack of controls resulted in stressed fish and consequent poor quality - hence our decision to establish a state of the art hatchery here.
TFBN: What are the growth rates of fingerlings hatched from wild trout ova?
We would like the recently collected brown trout stocked out by Christmas this year. 20 gram fish are used to stock waters where there are known predators such as the redfin perch and other competition issues so that we maximise survival rates. Somewhere like Penstock we will stock with one gram or 5 gram fingerling hatched from wild trout ova because we know there are no other competitive or predatory issues in that fishery. It is a balance between survival and “wildness”.
The rainbows are different because we try to avoid stocking in the warmer summer months and commence stocking as the water temperatures cool – usually around March or April.
TFBN: How do you know how many fingerlings or young fish to put in any given fishery?
We don’t really do any research … it is not an exact science at the moment. The IFS can only rely on catch rates as determined through catch rates and angler harvests provided by annual surveys. We are only really bedding down a methodology that may enable us to know more about survival rates in future years.
TFBN: What is the cost of the IFS stocking program?
I haven’t got an actual cost per unit, but it is significant, and that varies depending upon the production. We work on the basis of around one cent per gram for our fish. I should iterate that our state-of-the-art hatchery facility and the stocking program is one of the more critical management tools available to the IFS to sustain a top fishery of browns and rainbows. We are positioned to respond to the impact of climate change, and to ensure that our trout fishery can be sustained.
TFBN: What is the difference between ‘wild’ and ‘domestic’ trout?
Domestic means they have been selectively bred in a commercial fish farm, and that includes the Atlantic Salmon that are put in some waters around the state. However, our top priority is the fish hatched and reared from wild trout ova, especially rainbows. We have stocked rainbows back into Great Lake because this fishery is our main source of wild rainbows, but it is a fishery that has been under considerable pressure in recent years. It is important for the IFS to protect and sustain the wild rainbow trout fishery so this year we put 100,000 ten gram rainbows back into Great Lake. And we will continue with this stocking program to protect this valuable resource from here on.
TFBN: What about Brook Trout?
Mmmm … they struggle! The brook trout fisheries we are managing seriously are Clarence Lagoon, Plimsoll, Selena and Rolliston. A small number of brook trout have been transferred into Bronte Lagoon and Lake Leake, and we have put some domestic fish into Bradys, Brushy and Craigbourne just to see what happens. I think it is fair to say that we have maintained this species as a novelty value really, although they are a beautiful fish and excellent eating.
TFBN: Is the IFS still stocking waters with triploids?
Another focus for the IFS is the production of triploid fish which have an extra set of chromosomes and which are sterile. These don’t have the ‘hand-brake’ of producing gonads. As diploid fish mature a lot of energy goes into producing milk and ova, whereas in a triploid fish all that energy goes into muscle growth. So when a triploid reaches maturity it just gets bigger and fatter.
The IFS have struggled to produce triploid brown trout in particular, and we rely on commercial stock until we get our triploiding vessel operational in the very near future..
Triploid rainbows, for example, are important in fisheries where there is no natural spawning facility. Female trout in such waters often become egg-bound and simply die – they can’t expel their ova which simply rot in the belly.
TFBN: What are some of the more success stories from managed stocking?
Penstock Lagoon is the one fishery I would hold up as a real success story. It is a water that we have stocked with very small fish to endeavour to produce a very natural, wild trout. Anglers consistently report that fish caught from here are quality fish in all respects. We continue to stock very small rainbow and brown fingerlings now that the transfer of adult fish has been phased out.
The Directors Choice
With tackle boxes sorted, new flies tied, reels serviced and waders checked it is now getting time for the dedicated angler to think about where to go on Opening Day. No more dreaming of what could be!
For many it is a tradition, almost a ritual, to be fishing for that elusive trout on Opening Day. Some will no doubt head to their favourite water, and expect a reasonable number of anglers to ply their skills and test their fortunes on Woods or Arthurs, perhaps even Great Lake.
The less hardy won’t venture into the Central Highlands, preferring local fisheries such as Four Springs, Huntsman Lake, or Craigbourne, hoping to avoid the worst of winter weather. Of course, there are our many rivers which should be producing tasty sea-runners chasing whitebait at this time.
To help with this decision I thought it would make a lot of sense to talk to someone who should know just what waters could be the most productive early in the season – none other than the Inland Fisheries Service Director, John Diggle.
John reckons the pick of the waters for early season will be Tooms Lake which he believes is one of the ‘big improvers’ and which was one of our top ten waters for southern anglers given problems with Lake Sorell.
Since 2006 drought conditions forced Tooms into serious decline but now it is again full, and resident fish have been complemented by stocking with 600 adult browns and 2,500 small brown trout. Last spring the IFS also stocked Tooms with some adult rainbows. According to John, “The growth rate of these fish will be phenomenal, mainly because of the ready availability of Jollytails which were introduced a few years back.”
This season John expects Tooms Lake to be as productive as Woods Lake has been over the last couple of seasons in terms of high catch rates and quality of fish. And who knows, given this lake’s proximity to the East Coast a few anglers may be able to relax in shorts and T-shirts on opening day!
Although Arthurs Lake didn’t fish very well last season, with the catch-rate around half of what it normally is, John predicts that it could be a very different story this time. This fishery did improve towards the end of the season, as did Tooms Lake, and should provide anglers with good fishing and productive time on the water.
In fact, John reckons that this season Arthurs will more than rival Great Lake as one of the state’s premium fisheries. Water levels are good, and engineering problems are preventing the HEC from pumping water from Arthurs into Great Lake. “I am expecting big things from Arthur’s Lake this season.”
Another fishery the IFS is developing is Lake Echo. According to John, “This lake has been our focus. With climate change we need to look a bit west as the rainfall is still pretty good in the western part of the state, and we need to develop fisheries like Echo to counter possible dry conditions on the eastern side.”
“Echo is a big water, and quite similar to Great Lake in that it’s got browns and rainbows … although one difference is the presence of the predatory redfin perch but there isn’t much we can do about that. We have also improved the access to this lake with the north-western boat ramp, making three access points in total for anglers.”
John believes that, as some anglers already know, Echo will have wind lane fishing for rainbows just like Great Lake.
Heading the Director’s choice is Huntsman Lake, an evolving fishery. According to John, “Now is the time to fish it because browns are a good size. But with so many streams feeding more and more fish into it the average size is likely to drop slightly. The Huntsman will provide a great variety of fishing given its ideal setting with trees all around it … a very pleasant experience.”
Lake Burbury, a fishery that has so many fish and which is highly productive, is also high on the list of choice watres. John isn’t too sure whether it would be the ideal destination on opening day if weather conditions are wintery, but it is a water that needs angling pressure and that pressure is sure to come from North West and West coast anglers.
For many of us, tradition … or is it simply habit … is hard to break, and many anglers will simply seek out the waters that they know well. But this may be just the time to move out of our comfort zones and experience angling in one or more of the new, emergent fisheries that would be the choice of our IFS Director, John Diggle.
Interesting to note that the 08-09 IFS Annual Report named the top ten waters, and the catch-rate, which attracted the most anglers during the 08-09 season:
1. Great Lake (1.84 fish per day)
2. Arthurs Lake (2.21)
3. Woods Lake (2.82)
4. Penstock Lagoon (1.03)
5. Little Pine Lagoon (1.52)
6. Bronte Lagoon (1.99)
7. Four Springs (1.36)
8. Bradys Lake (0.83)
9. Brushy Lagoon (0.96)
10. Lake Burbury (2.01)
Early Season Northern Rivers – Christopher Bassano
The anticipation surrounding the start of the fishing season seems to increase every year. We have had three months to decide where we will go on opening day, changed our minds ten times and finally decided that we will wait and see what the weather is doing. The highlands and the lure of big fish is ever present but this year it could be time for a change.
Often overlooked in the early part of the season, the rivers of Tasmania’s north and north east provide excellent fishing for fly, lure and bait anglers. The exact location of your chosen spot should be determined by your chosen technique and the height and colour of the water.
For the fly fisherman, the Macquarie River has not fished as well over recent years as it has in the more distant past, but it looks better for this season. This difficult fishing is definitely due to low flows and warm summer weather. The best of the mayfly hatches will not start until October and dry fly opportunities will be limited. However, there is a silver lining! The high rainfall of recent weeks has swollen the river and backwaters have appeared down its course. These provide excellent fishing opportunities for all fishing styles. Fish have already been seen tailing throughout the lowland sections.
A burst dam further up the system a couple of years back had a negative impact on the river and the best fishing was further down the water course. Good Winter rains over the last couple of years should invigorate it again though. Although the height of the water around Woolmers Estate is usually determined by the amount of water being released from Brumbys Creek, backwaters will still fill if enough rain falls around the source. Water quality in spring will not be as good as that coming from Great Lake but this will not deter the fish. Finding the best backwaters can often mean driving up and down a river looking for just the right spot. On the Macquarie that can mean from well above Ross to Longford.
Small wet flies worked in eddies on long leaders over newly flooded ground can be productive. For the spin fisherman, shallow running lures and soft plastics will have the same effect. Although fish numbers may not be as high as those in other rivers, the quality of the fish can often make up for the reduced opportunities. Most fishing will be ‘blind’ but when light levels are low, trout can be found swirling in shallow water up adjoining ditches and channels.
For those who prefer to use bait to chase their fish, an unweighted worm and light spinning gear is all you need at this time of year on all rivers – including the Macquarie. Expect the river to be running a little discoloured which will hide you from the fish but do likewise for them.
Running into the Macquarie is the Lake River. This river always runs with a ‘milky’ hue but expect it to be more muddy than milky if heavy rains persist. For those who have not fished the Lake River, it holds larger fish than you might at first think. Access is not always easy but if you are willing to walk from the obvious public access points, back eddies and side gutters are not hard to locate. The best techniques to use are similar to those outlined for the Macquarie.
Junctions of inflowing side creeks can provide a colour change and although not quite as productive for trout as they are for barramundi in the north, fishing these areas can be productive on an otherwise fishless day.
The same can be said for those areas where major rivers meet. Remember that trout do not have eye lids and when all else is equal, they will choose to stay in clear water where they can hunt and see danger with relative ease.
Brumbys Creek is another water which suffered badly from low levels during last season. It is regularly frequented on opening day by local anglers hoping to catch larger fish around the bottom weir. Trout often escape from the fish farm and present anglers with a better than average chance of a three pound plus fish.
Trying to predict what the water level will be is almost impossible and it can also change very quickly. Rising or high water levels will bring fish into the shallows and provide the best fishing conditions. Sight casting to fish foraging in gaps in the weed is a real possibility. This is especially so above the top and bottom weirs where the flow spreads out and structure provides a break from the current. As with all of the rivers, stay away from the main flow and concentrate on slower moving back waters and ditches. The base of the weirs is also a reliable fall back as the turbid water provides currents in which fish can hold.
If water levels are low and less than ideal, deeper undercut banks are worth prospecting. Since the ‘settling dam’ was built at the base of the Western Tiers, water quality has reduced alarmingly. Although you would be unlucky to see it, there is potential for a huge volume of dirty water to come thundering over the weirs. If this happens, go elsewhere!
Near by, the South Esk is one of my favourite destinations for early season fishing. There are many backwaters in very accessible spots that hold catchable fish. The water around Longford is under fished and has been flooding over paddocks throughout July. Fat fish will abound. The Mill Dam area is well worth prospecting if there is not too much water.
A clear summer flood is prime time fishing in the South Esk due to the numerous depressions that join the main river channel. When water rises into these areas along the entire lower course of the river, fish will move in to feed on drowned worms, spiders and grubs that were too slow to evacuate. Although it is difficult to polaroid these fish in the dirty waters of August and September, they are still there and very opportunistic. It is worth staying back from the edge of such areas and observing. Many fishermen feel as though the “dilution factor” is against them when there is such a large volume of water. This would be true if it wasn’t for the fact that fish will always gravitate towards a spot with the most food, plenty of cover and with no need to fight the current. Instantly, this rules out 99.9% of what is in front of you and often reduces the dilution factor to a better average than during summer.
For the fly fisherman, the headwaters may provide the pick of the sport. If fishable backwaters are hard to find, water levels are too high or in fact too low for flood water fishing then the upper reaches are where you should go. It is very common to find dry fly fishing and certainly sight casting in the region around Mathina at this time. Look for clean water and start fishing. Even those fishing with unweighted worms will have success with long casts upstream. Slowly real in the slack line as it comes towards you while holding the rod to the side. If the line stops, quickly point the rod at the worm, wait a second and strike. If you wait too long, the fish will have the worm too far down its throat and you run the risk of damaging or killing a fish that you had no intention of keeping. If this does occur, cut the line and tie on another hook. Do not go looking for it!
The Meander River has been touted as the premier back water fishery during early season rains. There are plenty of run off channels, creeks and even storm water drains that enter the river down it’s course. Since the Meander Dam went in, the days of huge floods around Deloraine are gone. I suspect that fishermen are the only ones who shed a tear. What the dam has done however is to maintain more consistent flows. The further from the dam we look, the more influence run off creeks will have on water quality and height. This tells us that unless we can find that wonderful slack water as the river spills into the paddocks, we should look a long way up river. Walking from the Westwood Bridge and searching in amongst the tussocks is reliable. Look for flat country surrounding the river bed. The further up river you venture, the rockier and steeper it becomes making it less attractive if you are wanting backwaters but they can be found in smaller numbers up to the dam itself.
Before Huntsman Lake was built, my brother used to fish that exact stretch of river on opening day, never tie on a wet fly and always catch his bag. The fish were not big but all ate dries. The river upstream of the dam still provides the same quality sport. If you are looking for a feed, this is not the spot for you. The fish are tiny and best left to those who are there for the sport, intending to catch and release.
North Esk and St Patricks Rivers
The North Esk and St Patricks are influenced by rain falling in a different region. If other rivers are flooded out, this area (along with the Forrester) could be far less affected unless it has fallen in the east. Even still, it provides very consistent early season fishing. With Forestry plantations in the head water regions of the North Esk and St Patricks, neither river clears as quickly as it used to after rain. As I write this, the water running under one of the bridges of the St Patricks near my home has remained high and dirty for weeks. Both rivers can be fished in a very similar manner. Again, backwaters behind willow trees and ditches will produce plenty of fish for the worm fisherman. These are a little harder to fish with the fly and those using this method should venture upstream looking for clear water. There is nowhere better than the headwaters which provide kilometres of polaroiding water. It is tight but a small nymph placed in the right spot will elicit an aggressive take. As the fish are generally very small in these rivers, sight casting in dirty water is not easy. The fish need to be in centimetres of water in order to make a disturbance and although it does happen, it is not consistent sport.
When the rivers are running just inside the banks (a ‘banker’) fish will sit right along the edge waiting for the river to spill over. The target area for landing your offerings is small but as there is less water these fish could possibly sitting in, your chances of success are very good. This is where celta fishermen really clean up! Before my fly fishing days, I learned about trout and their behavioural patterns fishing these exact rivers with a red and gold celta at this time of year. It is a great way to recognise good trout habitat through success and failure.
All fish at this time of year are likely to be in less than ideal condition after spawning. They are generally a little bit ‘slimy’, out of condition and their flesh is less than perfect. Unless you really, really want a fish to eat, their table quality can not be recommended and I would advocate catch and release. This will see them there for you and everyone else during the summer months.
In a Nut Shell
Basic Facts about fishing northern rivers in August and September:
1. If the water has spilt out into side ditches, paddocks and back waters, that is where the fish will be lying.
2. Look for the cleanest water possible.
3. If water appears unfishable, keep going upstream until you find cleaner water.
4. Don’t fish fast water as most fish will have moved to slower side waters.
5. Fish your flies and lures slowly as fish can be lethargic at this time.
6. An unweighted worm is the best way to catch fish in flood conditions.
7. Don’t simply go to the lakes!!!! The northern rivers can provide much better fishing and is a lot warmer!
Launceston Show Day, during early October, marks the traditional start to Tasmania’s mayfly hatches. The place to be is on the northern rivers made famous by the writings of David Scholes.
Upper Macquarie River
The Upper Macquarie River (from the Lake River to Tooms Lake) is the traditional Tasmanian home of mayfly fishing. Properties such as Stewarton were favourites of Scholes and other fly fishers; even today the Stewarton road bridge provides angler access for fly fishers chasing these hatches, made possible by great co-operation between the local land owners and the Inland Fisheries Service. Although Stewarton is the focal point for effort on the Upper Macquarie, better and more consistent hatches are found further upstream, where riparian areas are in better condition, and less cropping and de-watering occurs. Last season saw this section of river bounce back from years of drought, with hatches and trout populations visibly active and recovering.
The October Show Day marks the start of the traditional mayfly season, but great red spinner hatches can be found from late September onwards. A second mayfly event to target are the early morning caenid hatches, which occur through October and November from about 7am till 9am.
Water heights are critical to the hatches and fishing on the Upper Macquarie, and ideally the river will be flowing within the range of 0.18 to 0.40 at the DPIWE Fosterville measuring station. This daily measurement can be found on the Bureau of Meteorology website.
Lower Macquarie and Brumbys Creek tailrace
Both of these waterways have received additional hydro-flows since the mid 1960s. These increased flows, and their cooler temperatures (emanating from altitude in the highlands) delay the start of the spring mayfly hatches. My mayfly season on these waters typically begins with caenid and baetid mayfly hatches during November, on calm days prior to lunchtime. As November progresses, the larger black and red spinner mayfly spinners begin to hatch in greater numbers, peaking in December. Red spinner falls can continue into January on Brumbys Creek, and despite drought and new water quality issues stemming from the Hydro’s more recent operating practices, the red spinner hatches are still excellent. Warm and muggy afternoons are essential.
The Meander isn’t known as one of the classic mayfly streams, but its springtime, morning mayfly hatches are second to none. Starting in late September, from the middle Meander (Deloraine) to its confluence with the South Esk, hatches of caenid mayfly appear on the long and slow, gliding pools. Caenid mayfly prefer silt-bottomed habitats, hence their preference for these pools on the Meander.
Since Lake Huntsman was built across the headwaters of the Meander, the fishing has changed. Whilst some local have found the fishing harder, it has been more of a case of the need to re-learn, and adapt to the new river. What is certain from my guiding and fishing experience is that the environmental flow through summer, combined with existing areas of high structure (woody debris etc), has led to a healthier eco-system, and a significant increase in the average size of the trout downstream of Deloraine. This river is fishing better than it has for more than a decade, and is a great example of what can be achieved with environmental flows.
The North Esk, and to a lesser extent its feeder stream the St Patricks, are another two classic fly fishing streams. Unlike the slower streams of the Northern Midlands, these rivers do not feature significant hatches of red or large black spinners (Atalophlebia sp.). Instead, these rivers feature excellent baetid and small black spinner (Nousia sp.) hatches, starting during the last week of September. The best hatches occur when the river is flowing medium to high and clear; unfortunately, the St Patricks in particular is flowing dirtier during high flows, more often, corresponding with an increase in forestry activities among the headwaters over the last decade.
The mayfly fishing on these twin-streams is straight forwards: focus on the foamlines and current-seams where hatching mayfly duns accumulate. The larger fish will be in areas close to deep water and structure for safety from predators.
The South Esk is Tasmania’s longest river, and features the most consistent of the mayfly hatches. Once again, with very few exceptions, the major hatches on the South Esk River feature baetid, caenid and small black spinner (Nousia sp.) mayflies, rather than the larger black and red spinners of the Atalophlebia species. The best hatches occur upstream of Storeys Creek in the Fingal Valley, and from Evandale to Glen Esk. The better mayfly waters feature weedy pockets and gravel, as opposed to the sections of black dolerite bottom that can also be found.
As with the other midlands streams, hatches on the South Esk begin in October, and carry through until Christmas. Morning hatches of caenids even occur into early February. Clouds of black spinners can excite anglers and smaller trout alike. But the largest of the trout will be found hidden under over-hanging bushes, sipping the tiniest of the mayflies from seams of currents and foamlines.
The South Esk is a great mayfly water, but its future is under threat. The current Draft Management Plan for the river plans to allocate a mere 40% of the recommended summer flows to the river, in favour of using it for irrigation. If this goes ahead, then fishing on the river will decline until the fishery collapses, much as occurred with the Break O’Day. Anglers need to pressure Minister Bryan Green to implement scientifically recommended environmental flows on all of our rivers.
In a similar story to the Meander, the Mersey River is a fishery reborn since environmental flows were allocated for the first time in 1999. The river has come back to life, and once again features some great dun hatches.
The Mersey is a hard river for many Tasmanian fly fishers to come to grips with. It’s faster than most are used to, and the rocky freestone substrate is a foreign bottom to wade. The key to successful mayfly fishing is to fish the shallow water. Nearly ninety percent of the trout that my customers catch on the Mersey are caught in less than sixty centimeters of water–thirty centimeters is ideal. The long, slow glides between the pools are worthwhile, particularly during the early morning caenid hatch, but good pools require a tight foamline running along good structure if they are going to hold solid numbers of trout.
The spring mayfly season on the Mersey is short, with hatches of baetids and Nousia sp. mayflies lasting through October and November, and part-way through December. Caenid mayflies hatch from December through January.
What flies to use?
Mayfly patterns do not need to be difficult. I use a range of deer hair and possum tail Shaving Brush, a few CDC F-Flies, Parachute Black Spinners and Ostrich Herl Nymphs. Tying instructions for these patterns are available in my new book Fly Cards, or available for purchase from www.inseasonflyfishing.com.
Daniel Hackett, RiverFly Tasmania
Up top early – Highlands rewards the hardy – Christopher Bassano
Yes it is cold—some even think miserable, but wow, the fishing can be fantastic. After three months of winter and very little fishing, the beginning of August is the traditional start of the fishing season. Many people leave it until the central highlands warm up before venturing ‘up top’ but by waiting that long, you could be missing out.
The northern end of the plateau has seen heavy rains in early July and lake heights rose quickly. If this continues, water will cover new ground bringing fish into the shallows to forage for food. Of course, much of this relies on the Hydro which means it is anyone’s guess as to what will actually happen.
As is always the case, the water in lakes situated lower in altitude will warm up first and this tends to bring fish onto the bite sooner. Lakes higher in altitude get warmer as summer approaches and lowland waters over heat.
With this in mind, it is no surprise that waters such as Four Springs, Tooms Lake and Lake Leake are very popular in August and September.
Four Springs can become choked with weeds by December and therefore has a relatively short ‘peak period’. Coupled with it being so close to Launceston, its early season popularity is understandable. I am sure that most people will find success fishing wet flies and soft plastics but to escape the crowds, I look elsewhere.
There are many questions being asked about Tooms Lake. The fishing in recent years has not been what it used to. The enormous populations of Jolly Tails and Galaxia are still there but trout numbers being caught seem to be down. Since October last year, there have been 8,500 yearling rainbow trout released into the lake, 2,500 brown trout fingerlings, 10,000 rainbow trout fingerlings and 620 adult brown trout (released this June). Although the numbers are impressive, most fish have been small but their growth rates should be outstanding. I will certainly be visiting this lake in the first fortnight.
Hunstman Lake does not have years and years of history to look though to gain an appreciation of how it will fish in the first two months. Although featureless in many ways, it is a dark horse and a trip through Meander will be worth while for bank anglers.
For the more adventurous who will be highlands bound, the options are plentiful.
Bronte Lagoon has always been a favorite of mine when the water is high. The Long Shore, Hut Bay, Tailers Bay and Woodwards Bay are all excellent locations for fly fishermen. Keep it simple and fish Woolly Worms and Fur Flies around the tussocks. The sound of frogs should give away the whereabouts of foraging fish. Early and late in the day could bring sight fishing to tailers but for increased success, fishing knee deep water and less should be the staple technique.
If you have access to a boat, fishing around the intake portal for brook trout is great fun. These fish love cold water and there is no shortage of that in August. The earlier in the season you chase them, the more likely you are to have success. A sinking line will be very handy and large flies such as Woolly Buggers and Yetis in green, black and orange will produce the goods. Along the drop offs at the front of Woodwards Canal consistently provides fishermen with opportunities. Almost the entire lake is a good depth to fish which makes this lake so very attractive. Yes, there are good areas and great areas but it is almost all worth a cast.
For the lure fisherman, the same applies when fishing from a boat. From the shore however, Red Rocks seems to consistently produce the best fishing. Fish numbers are very high in the area and with westerly winds blowing on shore, conditions could hardly be better. Green and Gold and Red and Black are reliable colours.
When water levels fall, fly fishermen should look elsewhere but it is not as critical for the lure angler. Soft plastics have really allowed people to fish in conditions that were previously difficult. Jig heads can be rigged practically weedless and fishing slowly over drop offs and weed beds is now relatively simple. The ability of this technique to ‘plum the depths’ in order to find fish is second to none.
Unlike the aforementioned lakes of the lowlands, if things don’t work out at Bronte or the Hydro has pulled the plug, Bradys, Binney, Echo and Pine Tier are not far away and more than worth a trip in their own right.
Little Pine Lagoon is popular throughout the season. Apart from the potential for tailing trout early and late and the day, it is the domain of the boat angler until the mayflies start. South westerly’s that blow over the dam wall will be the predominant wind. It is cold and can be fierce bringing inhospitable conditions and difficulties with line management. The lake is yet to spill and ‘flush’ which, although excellent for tailing trout later on when levels rise to create ideal conditions, it may affect water quality and weed growth through the warmer months. Floating lines can be used but to maximize your chances, sinking lines from clear intermediates to Di 5s (sink rate of five inches per second) are far more adaptable. The general rule with earl season wet fly fishing is slow and deep but sometimes that is only half true at Little Pine. Going through the depths by using sinking lines rather than sinking flies makes casting much easier. Heavy flies tend to have a hinging effect and when trying to get distance, turn over can be hard to attain. There is also no need to try and fish with three flies as two will do the job just fine. Bill Beck’s Cat Flies and the usual arsenal of woolly buggers are eaten well.
The use of sinking lines enables you cast out and count them down before retrieving. This way, you can work the depths until a fish is hooked and then stick to it. Unlike other lakes, fishing slowly is not as important at Little Pin. I have always been a big advocate for varying the speed of the retrieve throughout a fishing session. Of course when a particular speed works at a certain depth, stick with it but if fish are not coming quickly, go back to varying the speed. Trout can be strange creatures and what is good for one is not necessarily ideal for another. Whether you are retrieving quickly or slowly, always hang your flies at the boat! Fish will often follow flies all the way to boat before taking eating them as they are lifted and left to settle just below the surface. There is no excuse any more for having fish swirl and return to the depths as you lift off to recast!
Woods Lake is another great early season water. It is full of fish and they are generally eager to feed. Woods is another lake that provides equal opportunity for fly fishermen and lure anglers. Soft plastics and hard bodies are equally affective. There are a number of Berkley Gulps and Squidgies that are regularly used by anglers however last year I was privy to a few session where the Wasabi Wriggler on a two gram jig head really caught some fish. This would be my first choice if the water is not too dirty and has that usual greeny hue to it. If it is dirty, bright and flashy colours along with very dark ones will bring the best results.
Those casting flies are best using sinking lines as I have just mentioned. Certainly, Woods fish do respond well to slow and steady retrieves but again, try anything until it works and experiment. I am not saying that fish here are less instinctive than others but we have caught them on monstrosities that could only loosely be called flies. Flies with large amounts of marabou, fur and cactus chenille in ridiculous colours have often worked when the more subtle and lifelike patterns have drawn a blank.
As is the case with Bronte and Little Pine, there really isn’t any bad water in Woods Lake. I saw a boat pull up in what was geographically the dead centre of the lake in the early part of last season. I joked with my boat partner when, through binoculars, it was clear they were using extremely heavy lines and spinners in what can only be described as ‘the middle of nowhere’. Within a few minutes my laughter was turned to horror as they extracted five fish and rubbed my face right in it. I visited the area on future trips and caught fish but found that I could just about drift anywhere and find fish. Yes, it is true that certain hot spots will produce more but you are never out of it on Woods early in the season. Be aware that fish quality and size can vary from day to day.
With south west winds prevailing at this time of year, the boat ramp is very exposed and care should always be taken when launching or trailering your boat. In a very strong south westerly, don’t even bother going down there unless you have plenty of help.
The burning question is, ‘will Arthurs be back?’ The water is very high in Arthurs and fish should be hard in on the shore again. By the end of last season, they had moved back into the Cowpaddock and with water covering grass that has been high and dry for the best part of two years, fish won’t miss the opportunity foe any easy feed. The Opening, Tumbledown Bay, Seven Pound Bay and Hydro will be very similar. We are going to be spoilt for choice. Very cold mornings when the edge of the lake ices over are never quite as productive but mild, over cast conditions are what to look for. Shallow running flies such as wet beetles, Mrs Simpsons, Hamills Killers and Fur Flies will work well. Don’t ignore dry flies as the season goes one.
Boat anglers (and I will certainly be one of these) should have the best fishing on the lake in years. Expect well conditioned, hard fighting trout. Concentrate on the ten to twelve foot range, getting flies hovering just above the bottom. Old creek beds and sub merged rock bars are also worth searching but drop offs and well known weed beds are the main points of interest.
The Sand Lake side of Arthurs has been worryingly dirty since the agreed minimum levels were ignored by the hydro. Hopefully this year will see it clear up and become worth fishing again. Drifiting across the face of Stumps, Flemmings and Tumbledown Bay will be productive if this happems.
Lure fishermen always do very well on Arthurs from opening day. The Morass is a well known hot spot as is Creely, Pumphouse and Hydro Bay. The last three spots provide reasonable shelter from the strong south west winds if you sue the Pumphouse boat ramp. Phantom Bay is a bit of an enigma. It seems to run hot and cold but one thing is certain, some extremely large fish are caught from this area in the opening months. They generally fall to lure anglers fishing over the yabby beds that are present through that section of the lake. Again, deep and slow with plastics such as black and gold paddle tails or rainbow trout patterns are reliable but hard body enthusiasts can also fish floating or suspending deep divers with confidence. Get the lure to the right depth and let it sit before giving it an erratic action back to the boat. So will Arthurs be ‘back’ this year? Assuming the water stays high, I would say yes but don’t expect those huge mayfly hatches until we get consistently more stable water levels.
The final lake that is well worth fishing is Great Lake. If you have not been fishing it already, you should be. Although open for twelve months and coming out of a very productive winter, the fishing is going into improve over the next two months. Galaxia will be starting to spawn on the rocky shores and trout will find them. Any point around which the wind is blowing is worth fishing. Boundary Bay, Christmas Bay and Becketts Bay have served me very ell for many years at this time. Simply cast around structure and drop offs with lures or flies and hang on. Unlike later in the year, bright conditions are not ideal and rough, overcast weather is far more productive. Again, black and gold are good colours as are lures looking like rainbow trout par. The ‘Brown Snake’ Stiffy Minnow touched up with an olive permanent marker pen to look like a Great Lake Galaxia has been catching me more than its fair share of fish recently.
When fly fishing, green is a wonderful colour in this lake. The Green Machine, Green Fuzzy Wuzzy, Olive Yeti and a number of variants there of are all that is needed. The fly does not seem to make as much difference as the way in which it is fished and where it is fished. Find the rocks!
Recently, some anglers have been catching plenty of browns while others can only catch rainbows. The rainbows are certainly localized but all fish are in surprisingly good condition. Jerky retrieves should be used by all fishermen and for once, there is no disadvantage in fishing off the shore. Those in a boat will be better off casting into the bank which means land based fishermen will be in a better position to work the likely areas well. Don’t rule out polaroiding or early morning midging fish if calm, bright weather prevails. These styles of fishing have been very successful throughout the winter and once again, will improve with time.
The only problem posed by trout fishing in August and September is which good option to choose. There are equally good lowland and highland options which can provide sight fishing and if casting wet flies or lures brings a smile to your face it won’t matter where you go. Water height may dictate things when fishing off the shore but boat anglers who vary depth and retrieve will be rewarded with large bags. It is amazing how quickly your fingers warm up when the fish are biting.
Well here we are into two thousand and ten, eleven for many there would be great thought in what the coming season will bring. Will the tailers be there, the polaroiding be as normal, will the insect hatches be improved on Arthurs Lake. All sorts of questions cross one’s mind when in fishing mode. Last season was very average for me and many others who live in the highlands in every aspect of fly fishing so let’s hope all will improve this season. In saying this there are some individuals who had really good fishing in the past season.
What can I tell you to start with, if everything is normal? The flies I suggest will be the same as usual—Woolly Buggers (my favourite) Hamills Killer, Mrs. Simpson, Matuka in red and black or green and black, my Wigram’s Robin variation is a great fly as well. Tie some Woolly Buggers with some marabou for the tail put a little wriggle in the back end also a couple of strands of flash but don’t over do it with the flash just a little will get the trout’s attention. Also a bead or some lead wire on the shank before tying will get the fly down into the strike zone. Weighted flies are better used from a boat. I tend not to add weight to the fly if I am lake fishing from the shore. A Hi D Line will help get the fly down and it always pays to experiment trying different depths to find the fish. This means counting the line down. When doing this always keep close contact with the fly don’t let a belly get in the line. When a belly does occur that will be when the trophy fish will be missed.
If fishing from the lake shore walk to within a cast of the water and have a look at the very shallow edge for any movement it may surprise what is moving at close range. If fish are in close choose a fly that is not too big as the bigger the fly the quicker it will sink and tangle in the weeds or snag up on roots.
For the rivers cast out to mid-river on a forty five degree angle and let the line swing down with the current and retrieve back in a variation of movements, put some life into fly. The flies on the river could be much the same as in the highlands.
If there is a reasonable amount of water flow add some weight to the fly when tying as this will help get the fly down.
I hope that your season is productive.
Big wets work
There is no better sight in fly-fishing than seeing your dry fly taken off the surface. Seeing a fish rise up from the depths, then its mouth close over the fly is truly magical. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Sometimes other methods have to be used to fool our target species. When conditions are bleak and cold, early or late in the season, then sometimes we have to resort to blind fishing big wet flies. Some fisherman like to refer to it as blind flogging, but I don’t think that gives enough credit to it, so we will stick to blind fishing.
Walking the shore of a lake armed with a box of your favourite wets can be a very effective way of catching fish. With a bit of extra knowledge a long and laborious day can become a productive one.
I find the most successful shores to be the ones that have a wind blowing onto them at an angle of around 45 degrees. This type of wind will form a current along the shore which will keep any stirred up food trapped close in to the bank. As we all know if you find a shore with food on it, you will find the fish. Having said that some of my best bank based fishing has been straight into the teeth of a stiff wind. I have had some memorable days along the southern end of Great Lake pushing into a strong northerly based wind.
Whilst we all like to cast a full fly line, on these sorts of days it is rarely needed, let alone possible. All you need to do is rug up, wade out a bit and get your fly out in front a few metres. You will be amazed how close to you and the shore the fish can be in these sorts of conditions.
When you can’t find a shore with the ideal wind on it, don’t despair. The other important aspect to look for is structure. As you move along the bank keep an eye out for things like logs, larger rocks, drop-offs and channels. These can all help to hold the fish in close to the shore long enough for you to catch one or two, especially if you can throw in a bit of weed cover as well.
Fishing from the shore I like to use a weight forward floating line most of the time. Only on the odd occasion will I switch to an intermediate line with a clear sink-tip. I mainly use 9ft tapered leaders down to around a 6 pound tippet to help with turnover into the wind, and one or two flies depending on the situation.
Fishing wet flies from a boat is a totally different game to fishing from the shore. For a start you have a whole lot more options available to you. You can travel the lake whilst on the water looking for the perfect shore as conditions change. A breeze running parallel to the shore is good for the boat based angler as you can get some really good drifts going.
Depth can also be important when fishing from the boat. I have on more than one occasion drifted a shore for no fish only to go back and drift it again at a different depth for much better results. When you find the depth the fish are at it pays to concentrate on that sort of area, even if you change shores. If you don’t have a sounder in your boat you can use the humble old piece of rope with a weight on the end and knots tied in it at metre intervals. Not very high tech, but it has saved the day for me once or twice.
A good drogue set-up is important to be able to fish the depths correctly. If you drift to fast you simply won’t be able to get down to where the fish are holding effectively.
Another piece of equipment I find vital to a good days fishing is the electric motor. The electric is very good for fishing in the shallows and for avoiding structure under water without spoiling your drift. I also use it at times for searching along shores throwing a few casts to try and locate where the fish are a bit quicker.
Fishing from the boat is where the full sinking lines come into their own. If the fish are feeding down deeper a full sinking line can get your flies into the feeding zone and keep there for the maximum time. I have started to use the Airflo range of sinking lines and fine these cast further and are easier to manage than most others I have tried.
I generally use a level length of 6 pound mono for my boat based leaders. As most of the fishing is done down wind turn-over is not a problem like it is fishing from the shore. If I need to run more than one fly I add droppers using a three turn surgeons knot. I find three turns better than two as it helps to hold the dropper away from the main line a bit better.
Big wets I like to think of as flies in the hook sizes 4 to 8. Most of my flies for this style of fishing are tied on Kamasan B830 hooks. These are a long shank hook made for lure style flies. My preference being for a size 6. There are two main types of flies I use and these are the Mylar Yeti and the Fuzzle Bugger.
The Mylar Yeti was first introduced to me through the book Australia’s Best Trout Flies. It was developed by Ashley Artis and is known in the book as the Green Rabbit and Pearl. It consists of a mylar tube body and a rabbit fur wing. Over the years my fishing mates and I have tied this fly in a million different color combinations and it became known simply as the Mylar Yeti. My latest versions of this fly have been tied with grizzly zonker strips for an extra buggy look. My favourite combination being pearl tube and olive grizzly zonker strip. If you can find an olive zonker strip with dark tips these are deadly as well. Please contact me if you do find some and I will buy them off you. They are not that easy to get hold of some times.
The other fly I have been using a bit is the Fuzzle Bugger. Developed by mainland tyer Murray ‘Muz’ Wilson it is a variation on the famous woolly bugger. The advantage being that they are so much easier and quicker to tie. It is simply a marabou tail and chenille body. Before winding on the chenille body dub a long fibred dubbing to it, wind on body and you are nearly done. All that is left to do is take to it with a strip of velcro and rough it up. I like to dub an extra bit of dubbing at the head of the fly before tying off. Doing this just gives you a bit more body at the front. Purely personal choice as the fly is fine either way. Favourite colors for me are the usual black, brown and green combinations. I have had some success using a black/purple combination also.
Both of these flies can be weighted if needed. They can be tied with lead in the body, brass or tungsten bead heads, or in the case of the Fuzzle Bugger I have even tied them with weighted eyes. Another trick you can use is to slip a couple of brass beads onto your leader before tying on the fly. This not only gives you easily removable weight but a bit of noise as well, caused by the beads coming together. Be sure to carry each style in a few different colors and weights to find what the fish like on any given day.
Although in Tasmania we are blessed with some of the best trout fishing the world has to offer, we don’t always have the same luck with the weather. So if conditions are not ideal and there are no fish actively feeding on the surface you are going to have to do it. Rug up in your warm gear, of which there is plenty to choose from. Jump in your boat, or pick your favourite lake shore. Grab a box or two of big wets and start stripping. You may be surprised how much fun it can be, and what you can catch on those miserable days. See you out there.
Finding Australian salmon
In Tasmanian waters there are two species of Australian salmon, the Eastern Australian salmon (Arripis Trutta) and the Western Australian salmon (Arripis Truttaceus). The Eastern Australian salmon are more commonly found along the north and east coasts, while the Western Australian salmon are found along the north and west coast of Tasmania. The only physical difference between the two are the number of gill rakers they possess, with the eastern variety needing more due to their preference of dining on tiny krill as well as bait fish.
The average size usually encountered in Tasmania waters is between one and four pounds. Their schooling and competitive nature often results in multiple hookups with strong powerful runs and adrenaline pumping jumps. These attributes alone are enough to see many anglers travel across the State to seek out these light tackle sports fish.
Australian salmon have a strong fish flavor and are best eaten fresh. Like all fish destined for the table, they should be bled and put on ice as soon as possible. I like to fillet, skin and remove most of the dark red meat, as you would on any tuna before cooking. This seems to lighten the flavor for those who do not like that strong fish taste.
Australian salmon are found all along our coastal waters and estuaries. There are times when large numbers of mature fish move into estuaries and other coastal locations when a particular food source is in abundance. This could last weeks or months and is normally associated with the tidal movements of the day. The news of a run of these larger salmon usually spreads pretty quickly, bringing a sudden influx of boats and anglers to that area. As a general rule the best time to start fishing is two hours before the high tide with the action normally tapering off after the first hour of the outgoing tide.
When large bait schools remain in estuaries such as Georges Bay at St Helens, these salmon also remain and can be seen pushing bait schools up to the surface throughout the day.
Lure fishing for salmon is best done during daylight hours, as the bite will shut down with the fading light at the end of the day. At the start of the day, dawn can be a very good time to be on the water, especially when it coincides with an incoming tide. Anglers who have set their alarm clocks to be on the water at first light can be rewarded with long periods of surface activity with salmon feeding freely at this time of the day.
Australian salmon reach maturity at around 40 to 50 cm long and like many species the small juvenile salmon use these sanctuaries to mature before heading out to sea. Juvenile salmon from 10 cm to 30 cm are often caught in our estuaries, with a run of larger fish drawn into these estuaries as the abundance of bait fish builds.
As a young angler living on the north coast, I spent many enjoyable hours of my youth pursuing these small salmon with silver wobblers. When I took up fly fishing at aged fourteen, my first fish on fly was a 15 cm Australian salmon. It didn’t take me long to work out that these fish were suckers for a small white fly. After that initiation, I found myself down at the water’s edge undeterred by the rain or wind, knowing full well they would eat a fly regardless of the weather.
When a bait ball is pushed up to the surface within striking distance of the sea birds, it isn’t hard to see when there are salmon in an estuary. When this happens, it’s simply a matter of finding the birds to find the fish. When a school of salmon lose their hold over the bait ball through dwindling numbers of bait or when boats run a little too close, forcing them to switch from feeding mode to survival mode, the school will drop back down until they have another school of bait balled up. Although the feeding frenzy at the surface has stopped, they can sometimes be tracked by the pelicans and seagulls swimming after the bait ball that is just out of their reach. A well placed cast ahead of these birds can often result in another hookup.
Other sea birds to look out for are terns and gannets tracking the bait school from the air. More subtle signs to look out for are the occasional slashes or leaps from salmon as they hunt down individual or small groups of bait fish. In this instant sea birds may be nowhere in sight due to the lack of bait balls being pushed up to the surface.
When our feathered fish finders are not on the scene, it’s time to utilize that Fish Finder you paid good money for, to locate the bait or the school of salmon. Alternatively, trolling proven salmon lures at different depths can be used to not only catch salmon, but also to find their location to use other methods such as casting soft plastics and flies.
The other places to find salmon are over the shallow reefs, weed beds and sandy flats. Here, small schools of salmon can often be seen fleeing these shallow waters as they are spooked by your own boat or other boats nearby. Despite this, their willingness to feed can result in a hookup as they spook past the boat.
Unless you have a forward scanning fish finder, they are of little use in such shallow water. A more productive approach is to troll using an electric motor or simply drift down with the tide or wind, casting lures ahead of the boat. Anchoring the boat and allowing the schools to come to you is another way of fishing an area without disturbing the school. Using a little berley here, doesn’t hurt either.
Along our coasts, prime aquatic real-estate for Australian salmon are the areas where estuaries and rivers meet the open sea. For the shore based angler the rocky headlands, rock walls and beaches in these areas provide many opportunities to cross paths with Australian salmon during the incoming and outgoing tide. All methods can be used here, be it suspending a pilchard under a float off a rocky ledge or casting lures, soft plastics or flies. Along our many pristine beaches, schools of salmon are often found within casting distance from the shore. A paternoster rig with a combination of bait and small feathered poppers is a popular method when fishing in the surf. These small feathered poppers bounce around in the surf working their magic long after your bait has been stolen.
Many of the scented soft plastics can also be used with this rig. Searching the gutters with a lure or soft plastic is also effective when salmon are about. Sight fishing for salmon along a beach is possible and is best done from an elevated level. The extra height allows you to see beyond the breakers and have a better angle to see beneath the surface. Behind the breakers a school of salmon can often be identified by the nervous water they create as they near the surface.
Coastal islands such as Waterhouse, and St Helens Island. Exposed rocks like Elephant Rock at St Helens and reefs such as Hebe Reef at the mouth of the Tamar River are also regular haunts for Australian salmon.
Salmon feeding on krill are often encountered while travelling along the coast to other fishing locations. The excitement of seeing a mass of fish feeding at the surface can quickly turn into frustration, as these salmon are usually easily spooked and very selective. The tried and proven, Silver Slice will usually get snubbed while these salmon are feeding in this way.
Finding krill feeders is best done during the summer months on relatively calm days to be able to see the current lines containing the krill and the feeding fish. Once a school has been located, a careful approach is needed so that the school is not put down by the sound of the boat. How close you can approach with a motorized boat, will soon be discovered on the day.
If trolling is what you enjoy most, then you may want to try swinging small green plastic tubes or flies across these schools while trolling very long lines to keep the boat well clear of the school. Another way is to position the boat up wind, turn off the motor, and allow the wind to silently take you within casting range of the feeding salmon. In this situation it’s amazing just how close these salmon will come to the boat before they become unsettled and swim around it.
Polarized sunglasses are also useful to see the direction the school is moving before making a well timed cast. Using a fly rod with a size 1 olive green fur fly can work very well on these krill feeders. The very nature of fly-fishing allows you to silently drop a fly ahead of the lead fish without spooking them. If fly fishing isn’t your thing, then one of the ultra light 2kg spinning outfits available today can be used to cast lightly weighted jig head flies, soft plastics or even tiny bibbed lures. Once you have the right lure and approach, these fish suddenly stop being so elusive and start acting like the aggressive, competitive feeders they are.
Summer or winter, Australian salmon offer many fishing opportunities for all ages and are a valuable resource for many recreational anglers in Tasmania. Keep only what you need for a feed and return the rest to sustain the population we have become accustomed to, for generations to come.
Sea run trout tactics – Craig Vertigan
During the trout off-season I tend to spend a bit of time chasing bream, to continue getting a fishing fix, and spend time tying flies and dreaming about the trout season to come. It’s a time to spend doing tackle maintenance, stocking up on lures and dreaming up new challenges and goals for the trout season ahead. When the new season comes around I usually spend the first few months targeting sea runners. Sea run trout are simply brown trout that spend much of there lives out to sea and come in to the estuaries for spawning and to feed on whitebait and the other small endemic fishes that spawn in late winter through spring. Mixed in with the silvery sea runners you can also expect to catch resident fish that have the typical dark colours of a normal brown trout as well as atlantic salmon in some of our estuaries that are located near salmon farm pens. Living in Hobart it is quick and easy to do a trip on the Huon or Derwent and is a more comfortable proposition compared to a trip up to the highlands with snow and freezing winds to contend with.
Last season was a real jump in my learning curve on these silver rockets, so I thought I’d share some of what I’ve experienced.
Firstly the most important thing is edges. Work the edges because that’s what the trout are doing. And the reason they are doing that is they are hunting down the whitebait, which are trying to seek refuge from strong currents and hungry predators. It surprises many people just how far into the skinny water you’ll catch big trout. You need to approach the water with stealth and always be on the lookout for signs of feeding. Many times they can be right at your feet!
For a short trip out I still do the odd bit of shore bashing. There are quite a lot of spots on the Derwent such as along Bedlam Walls, Geilston Bay, Old Beach and around Dowsing Point where you can get easy access. But there are many other spots where you just can’t access the area any other way than from the water on either a boat or a kayak. For shore bashing I like spots with a gentle sloping hard muddy shore where you can easily wade or spots such as Bedlam Walls where you can walk along the rock platform and fish along the edges of the deep drop off. When fishing from the shore I always look for feeding trout hard up against the edges. I move along the shore and fan casts out as I go and always put some casts parallel to the shore before I walk further along it. I’d say the majority of my trout caught from the shore are from the zone of five metres out right up to the shore edge. Many times the trout are actually tailing with backs out of the water as they drive the bait fish into a corner. I have polaroided some monsters around 8lb cruising hard up against the edge around Bedlam Walls and lost the battle with a few of them too. But the average sea-runner of 2-4lb is a much easier proposition on light tackle from the shore. If you really want to get serious about catching sea runners you need to fish from either a boat with an electric motor or a kayak. There’s just so much shoreline that’s otherwise completely inaccessible in both the Derwent and the Huon in the south and no doubt this is the case for many of the other estuaries in the state that hold good numbers of sea trout.
In some of the prime areas where the whitebait hide and the trout come to feed a kayak is the ultimate weapon of choice to target the fish. The spots where the kayak truly excels is in the shallow flats where a boat can’t get in and around fallen logs and snags where a boat would have a lot of trouble manoeuvring into position. The shallow flats I’m referring to can be found in the lower sections of the Huon and the Derwent, and the sunken trees are a big feature of the Huon river, especially above the Huon bridge. A kayak also excels in the stealth factor, which can be a big factor when chasing trout. Sneaking along the edges of the tall reads on the banks of the Derwent around New Norfolk is a great way to target the trout.
I had some great sessions in the Huon River early last season, chasing sea runners and atlantic salmon as they marauded the whitebait. The guys I fished with both had Hobies, and were able to stay in position against the strong outgoing tide while I got myself a good workout swapping from rod to paddle in a traditional paddle kayak. I’d get a few casts in before having to paddle back up to where the fish were busting up the whitebait. I did manage to catch some very good sea runners and atlantics, but maybe I could have caught more if I’d spent more time with a rod in my hand.
In my issue 85 article on the Scamander River ABT tournament I mentioned the versatility of the mirage drive Hobies for holding position in a current. Fishing in a tournament under time restrictions really highlighted the extra time you get with a rod in your hand rather than a paddle. The advantages of the mirage drive make it perfect for chasing sea run trout just as much as the bream. After much testing and deliberation I decided to buy the Hobie Revolution.
There’s a lot of tidal current as well as fresh water flow in the estuaries. So you need a kayak that is capable of moving against that current with relative ease. One of the best times to target the trout is when there’s a lot of flow in the river from recent rains coinciding with a large shift between the tides. In the past I managed to successfully fish from my paddle yak, but I now fish it from my pedal yak and the difference is quite noticeable for this style of fishing. The pedal yak is able to keep me in position facing into the strong river currents while I can continue casting, while in the paddle yak I was constantly swapping between paddle and rod and probably missing a few opportunities in the process.
A light graphite rod of 6 to 7 foot in the 2-4kg range teamed with 1000-2000 sized spinning reel and 4-6lb braid and leader are the tools needed for the job. And when it comes to lures I use the fly fishing motto of “match the hatch”.
I generally use two styles of lures when chasing the sea trout: bibbed minnows and soft plastics. In the soft plastics lures such as the 3 inch Berkley Power Minnows in natural colours such pearl blue or watermelon, pumpkinseed and the galaxia green work well. The Berkley Hollowbelly in pearl watermelon is also a killer imitation, which I use in shallow and clear water. I rig these on light jig heads from 1/32 to 1/16 and occasionally on a weedless worm hook.
In the hard body minnows I favour shallow to mid depth diving minnows that are 4-8cm and also in natural colours such as: Daiwa Dr Minnows in brown trout or olive ghost, Stiffy Minnows in brown snake, Atomic Hardz Shad 50 in ghost gill brown, Strike Pro Bass-X and Smeltas in natural colours and Rapala X-Raps in olive green or muddler. It’s also worth trying surface lures such as the walk the dog style. When you catch them on surface lures the takes are thrilling and very similar to a river trout scoffing down a big hopper fly.
I will resort to more vibrant and flashy colours when I’m not getting a hook-up but the fish are obviously feeding. I found that in times like that sometimes the whitebait are so thick that you can see a solid mass as the bait ball swims under your yak. And at times you’ll cast a hard body to a feeding trout and come back with whitebait stuck in a treble. Its times like these that you need to have a lure that stands out against the mass of naturals!
Another lure that does well is the humble Tassie Devil trolled along parallel to the bank. The reed lined banks between New Norfolk and Bridgewater Bridge are the hot spot for trolling Tassie Devils.
After observing the masses of naturals I think another key factor in a good imitation is the addition of silver rimmed eyes. Many times that is the standout feature of the whitebait packs as they swim under you. If a lure combines these eyes with some translucency in the body and a little bit of shimmer then it will make an awesome imitation.
As mentioned previously the golden rule is work the edges. The whitebait will swim up closer to the centre of a river when the tide is coming in, helping them on their migration to spawn, but when the tide turns and they have the river flow as well as the tidal current to contend with they are forced to seek out slower currents along the edge. So with all the whitebait corralled up against the edges it becomes easy pickings for the trout. So the outgoing tide tends to bring the feeding to a climax for the trout as they feed ravenously on schools hard up against the edges.
I saw an awesome sight one trip where a trout of about 5lb chased some fish so hard that it came out of the water and landed on a sandy bank and had to flap its way back into the water. It felt like watching that David Attenborough doco where the killer whales chase the baby seals right up onto the beach.
This illustrates perfectly what tactics the trout are using to catch their quarry, driving them up against the edge until they have no where to retreat and then pouncing. So we must use that knowledge to our advantage. Position your kayak a comfortable casting distance from the bank and slowly work your way up the river blind casting until you spot feeding fish. Sometimes the tell tail sign is a few fleeing whitebait jumping clear of the water. Then you need to try to guess which direction the fish is chasing the whitebait and put your lure a little ahead of that position.
When you’ve found a feeding fish sometimes they’ll keep on slashing away at the whitebait for a very long time and it’s worthwhile putting continuous casts into the zone while this is happening. When the whitebait are thick the trout will feed frantically and may miss your lure because of the wall of whitebait. Just keep persevering until you finally get it in front of the trout’s nose. They don’t seem to spook when they are feeding this heavily, especially when you’re in a stealthy kayak low to the water.
A fish-finder is a great tool to help you out in your quest, along with a good pair of polaroid sunglasses. The fish-finder helps you find the right depths, structure such as sunken trees, weed beds and drop offs and channels in the shallows. When you find trout or whitebait in one of these zones you can use your fish-finder to keep on finding similar spots throughout the session to maximise your chances. Use a slow stealthy paddle/peddle and constant scanning with your polaroids to find schools of whitebait. Sometimes they are easier to see when they go across a sand patch or over a sunken log, so always have a good look around such areas of good visibility.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that an area is too shallow to hold a trout. I’ve caught plenty of fish in water so shallow that my rudder or mirage fins touch down. In those areas you may need to pull your rudder up and for Hobie owners you’ll need to use small strokes with the fins up against the hull, or lock the fins up and grab the paddle. On a recent winter trip with my mate Scott McDonald we both hooked up to sea runners in super shallow water. In both cases we saw a bow wave moving towards where our lure was, as the trout pushed through the skinny water to get to our lures. Scott’s 57cm brute went ballistic when hooked and he had to drag it out of the rocky shallows into deeper water to have a chance of landing it.
I generally use soft plastics when targeting fish feeding in edges that drop straight down to depths beyond a metre. The approach I use when I spot a fish slashing at the baitfish is to cast near the slash with a lightly weighted plastic and let it sink slowly for a few seconds. Then give it some small but very erratic twitches to try to get the plastic just moving up and down on the spot without moving it out of the zone. The reasoning behind this is that the trout will often stun a school of whitebait and then turn back around and pick up any injured or stunned fish.
If you don’t see any feeding trout then just methodically cast your way up the bank, casting your lure as close to the bank as possible and using a gentle lift and pause retrieve, making sure to always get in the slack line on the pause. In these situations the fish will invariably strike on the pause so be ready.
Hard body minnows are ideal for bouncing along super shallows in water where no boat can go. This can be heart in your mouth stuff as you cast to a feeding fish with its back out of the water and then a few winds of the handle later you see a big bow wave as the trout chases down your lure. You have to tell yourself to relax and wait for the hit, and then it happens and you’re hooked with a big trout thrashing about in 10cm of water.
I have started using surface lures with a walk the dog style retrieve when the light is low. To get the lure to swing left and right you simply give the rod a constant small twitch down or to the side while maintaining a slow and steady retrieve with the reel. The seductive swinging motion can elicit some exciting surface action.
When casting to a feeding fish I tend to slow my retrieve right down and just use some erratic twitches along with big pauses to keep the lure in the strike zone. Otherwise I use a slow rolling retrieve with just the odd pause for a second or two. If fishing in deeper water I’ll put some hard cranks in as soon as the lure lands to get it down to the working depth, before slowing things down.
If you’re casting to trout in amongst the sunken trees it’s a fine line between catching fish and losing lures. But that’s a risk you’ve got to take if you want to get the hook-ups. Accurate casting is the name of the game. But even still you will probably lose a lure or two to logs hidden in the depths.
Finally after all the hard work you’ve hooked yourself a trout. They’ll do everything in their power to get off that hook, including spectacular leaps out of the water, head shakes, body rolls and heading for the deep cover of snags. There’s a few things you can do to even the odds in your favour. The first of which is to always position your kayak so that you can retreat to deeper water to pull a fish away from the snags. Keeping your paddle on your lap at the ready can help in case you need to quickly go into reverse.
Another tactic to control the fish is good use of the rod. Keep it down low if the fish is close to the surface to try to stop it jumping. Apply side pressure to use the strength of the butt section of the rod to turn the fish and dictate terms. If the fish goes under your kayak put the rod in the water to stop it rubbing the line on your hull.
Finally always maintain pressure, all the way to the net. Trout are good at flapping about madly when they get yak side. Ease off the drag as the fish gets closer to give yourself another shock absorber besides the rod.
Where and when
Southern estuaries such as the Derwent, Huon, Esperance and Lune are all good spots. Sea trout in the Derwent can be found all the way from the first rapids above New Norfolk down to the Tasman Bridge. In the north try the Tamar, especially around the tailrace, Pipers River, the Mersey, Rubicon and Leven rivers. The west coast has the Henty and Arthur. And even some of the rivers such as Georges on the east coast will have sea run trout.
The prime time for sea runners chasing whitebait is between August and November. But they can be found a couple of months either side of that. I have already started catching the odd sea runner and a few residents in June in the lower section of the Derwent. So hopefully this is a sign of bumper season to come.
Carp in Lake Sorell
For many southern anglers Lake Sorell has been one of the most popular, accessible and productive brown trout fisheries. Its shores were home to private shacks, club shacks, and hundreds of campers.
That is until the sudden infestation of carp, a problem that continues to plague this water. Despite continuing efforts since 1995 by the Inland Fisheries Service to eradicate the pest, the Spring of 2009 saw an increase in juvenile carp which, according to IFS Director, John Diggle, was “the biggest spawning event we have had.”
It is estimated that around 5,000 carp are now swimming around Lake Sorell where as prior to last year’s spawning, numbers were less than 50.
According to the Director, “The good thing is that these fish are all juveniles and as they are unable to breed for a couple of years we have a window of opportunity to wipe them out.”
IFS staff have already taken out over 14,000 carp from Lake Sorell last summer, and it is vital to eradicate mature carp as soon as possible as a four kilogram carp has the potential to lay one million eggs.
John Diggle believes Lake Crescent is now free of carp and that, in itself, is quite an achievement. No juveniles have been found since 2000, and no adult females have been detected for nearly three years. According to Diggle, “It is a clear demonstration that we can and will eradicate carp from Lake Sorell.”
Although carp do eat some macro-invertebrate species that brown trout also enjoy, they are not predators of trout fry or fingerlings. The issue is what carp can do to the food chain and to the water quality.
Compounding the presence of carp in Lake Sorell is the issue of poor water quality resulting from drought conditions. This is also impacting on Lake Crescent. Both waters have high levels of turbidity – colloidal particles in suspension which don’t settle to the bottom of the lake bed. According to Diggle, “It’s a bit like a farm dam that doesn’t clear, and that just isn’t attractive to anglers.”
Whilst this is a result of drought conditions in this part of the island, low water levels back in 2000 also contributed, especially in Lake Sorell where there has been some erosion of the lake bed.
Currently the water management plan for the Clyde catchment area is under review, and there will obviously be some discussion around critical minimum water levels necessary to sustain both trout fisheries, and especially for the protection of Golden Galaxias in Lake Crescent. No doubt other stakeholders – irrigators and local town water supplies – will be seeking their share of the resource. But there is no doubt that the IFS is putting a strong case for critical minimum water levels so that this fishery can once again be a prime destination for trout anglers.
If water levels can be sustained, the carp eradicated, and water turbidity controlled there is no reason why Lake Sorell can’t regain its former status as one of the state’s top fisheries which used to attract 50% of the state’s anglers in any one season. Afterall, there is a very good head of fish in Sorell resulting from excellent natural spawning conditions, albeit dependent upon variable rainfall patterns.
According to the IFS Director, “That’s what I want … that’s what I have been working on for years. However, our problem may not be so much about carp or water quality but climate change. If the things people are saying about climate change are true, and it is only going to get drier than we are now, the future may not so promising for either lake, or for most of the eastern part of the island.”
Then again, Lake Dulverton is now full and has been stocked; Tooms Lake is spilling and has also been stocked; and Craigbourne Dam should again deliver angling delights for southern family expeditions to this water.
So it looks like at least two years before Lake Sorell will again be open for anglers, although the IFS will assess the situation at the end of each summer.