Fly fishing during autumn in northern Tasmania.Nick Voce.
The autumn season brings with it a certain kind of sadness. For me, the changing colours of the autumn leaves are a reminder that only a few weeks remain before the majority of Tasmania's trout-fishing waters will be closed for the spawning season.
Less intense sunlight
With the sun's rays at a shallower angle, days are not as warm, or as long. Spotting fish is more difficult than usual due to the increase in reflected light.
Glare and cloud reflections make it harder still, even on bright days and at times, far too many fish are spooked before they can be seen. Rising fish, however, can be found and dry fly fishing is excellent when trout are quietly slurping down insects along the edges and in the backwaters, or charging around trying to catch insects on the wing.
The relatively mild weather that is normal at this time allows many species to complete their life cycles before the chill of winter arrives. Insects will be then be hard to find until spring.
Mayflies are still with us; Orange Spinners can to be found on or near the rivers near Cressy, especially in calm corners on windy days or along grassy banks. Many will be found laying their eggs.
Grasshoppers are still around and provide additional sport for the shore angler whose movements produce numbers of these to fall into the water and bring the fish to the surface for a feed.
In it's own way, nature protects every species, ensuring that every type of insect lays plenty of eggs. Aquatic insects must produce large quantities of eggs to help in their survival.
The females of several species lay their eggs directly in water, dipping their tails repeatedly in the cool water. These settle to the riverbed in readiness for hatching during the springtime warm-up. These egg-layers must represent an extra tasty meal to the ever-watchful trout as they are often seen jumping to snatch them out of the air.
Lively action can be expected at this time given the right conditions.
Fly fishing around Cressy.
A current of cool, swiftly flowing water via the Poatina power station, which has been recently been running at maximum output, maintains a high level throughout the system, producing excellent, though often challenging, dry fly fishing.
The increased depth floods backwaters which trout soon take advantage of, in their hunt for food they can be found in water so shallow their dorsal fins and their tails are waving in the air.
Orange spinners and a few damselflies are still about, as are plenty of grasshoppers. Fish in the two to three pound range are quite common, but take patience to catch.
In quiet corners out of the wind, you will find mayfly spinners and a few damselflies still actively laying eggs, especially in those brief warm humid conditions preceding the fall in air pressure associated with a cool change.
This beautiful river also benefits from the discharge of cool mountain water from the Brumbies Creek tailrace.
The magnificent stretch between Cressy and Woolmers Bridge near Longford has recently yielded some excellent catches.
One prominent angler reported a notable catch fishing dry fly and nymph in the area, catching and releasing over twenty trout for a session. Several of these were between two and three pounds in weight. Surely a great catch by anyone's standards.
I saw Peter Hayes boat a four and a quarter pound brown recently. The fish was caught drifting a dry fly. He was using a locally built seven and a half foot split bamboo rod at the time.
The mountain lakes
Some have enjoyed the excellent fishing for surface feeding rainbows at Great Lake recently.
Peter Hayes reports schools of fish visibly feeding on masses of thrips. Although a tiny insect, and too numerous to seriously try and imitate, any large floater, especially the amazing Chernobyl Ant will attract interest from these willing and hard fighting customers.
Macquarie River - methods
This river can be fished successfully from the bank or by drifting from a boat. Given the large population of trout in this river, most methods will work well here. Drifting from a boat allows you to cover a lot of water in a session.
Success relies partly on the fact that eventually the fly drifts over a fish that is willing to take it and it is then up to the angler to hook it.
Wet fly fishing
Down and across.
Usually, this is practiced by casting downstream at an angle and retrieving slowly at the end of the swing.
The idea is to systematically swim a suitable wet fly across the flow in a series of arcs, covering the best lies by sweeping it across the current, before retrieving it, taking a step downstream and repeating the action. It is an effective method for those who enjoy their casting! It is a last resort for many; if fish are to be found rising, other methods are usually more entertaining. A large Woolly Bugger on a long shank wet fly hook is useful. A sinking line really helps in keeping the fly deep enough in the swift current.
This approach is the most rewarding as it involves the use of more skills. These skills need to be practised to be successful. The method also contains elements similar to hunting. The idea is to first find your fish, then work out the best way to fool it. A dry fly is a useful type to try, and a nymph is deadly too. The actual pattern is usually selected on the basis of prior or local knowledge. Often, the choice is influenced by what insects are found to be present at the time.
In moving water trout often hold a strategic position in the current waiting for food to be brought to them. The common method is to cast a dry fly or unweighted nymph upstream of a feeding trout, from a position that prevents the fish from seeing the line in the air.
In slower water, trout are more likely to be moving about. It is more difficult to judge a fish's position when you can't see it properly.
Speed of delivery is important, in that brief moment after a rise, it is best to make your cast ahead of where you judge the fish's position. Obviously, the faster this can be achieved, the more certain the fly will be seen. You must not throw the line over a fishes back for fear of frightening it. Once the trout is aware of something unusual, it is unlikely that you will be able to fool it for some time, as their usual reaction is to stop feeding immediately.
Hormone induced feeding frenzy.
One of the benefits at this time of the year is that trout, heavy from a season of feeding are preparing for the spawning season and are hungry.
Shorter and cooler days produce changes in mature age trout.
Increased hormonal activity within their bodies sees a larger proportion of their body mass being used in the formation of eggs or sperm, in preparation for the spawning season ahead. This development can lead to an increased need for protein and more opportunistic habits. Their appetites are stimulated and they spend more time feeding.
A gathering of fish
In the weeks preceding the fishing season closure in May, trout are drawn towards suitable places to lay their eggs.
Wild fish are apparently attracted to the tributary streams of their birthplace by smell. Fish that are artificially bred and released by fisheries personnel may find their way there as well.
Large fish more vulnerable.
While not a schooling fish, trout may be found gathering around creek mouths waiting for the right time to access the gravel of the spawning areas. Rainfall is one factor that stimulates their movement.
At these times, larger trout that may not have been obvious throughout the season, might also be present and are more vulnerable to a well placed fly than is usual.
Many trophy trout are caught at this time of the year when instinct overpowers other survival responses.
Pay particular attention to the rules that govern your fishery as hefty fines are incurred for fishing in areas that are set aside for breeding purposes. Some may be permanently closed to fishing and effectively out of bounds if you carry fishing gear.