Dry fly close to home

Joe Riley
It's amazing how close to home good dry fly fishing can be found. As summer comes along the lowland rivers start to offer some exhilarating, and often challenging dry fly fishing. From trout cruising the slow moving glides or pools sipping minuscule offerings out of the surface film, to excited  brown trout freely leaping from the water to catch mayfly and damselfly on the wing. These fish are catchable. With a little patience, intelligent fly choice, a good  leader setup and accurate casting they can be brought undone, and once two or three of these fish come to the net you can really feel a sense of satisfaction about achieving a challenging task.

In the North of the State there are plenty of rivers, often we drive big distances to find feeding fish, when in fact there are options close to our back door. Rivers such as the South Esk, Meander, Mersey, Brumbys Creek and Macquarie in their lowland stretches have plenty of fish that rise freely, particularly of a morning or evening as they cruise around their pool feeding in a relaxed manner. If you live in Launceston, the South Esk at Hadspen is only minutes away, Longford has stretches of all of the above named rivers at hand, Westbury and Deloraine both have the Meander, and Deloraine also has the Mersey close by. If you live on the Northern side of Launceston the famous St Patricks River moves with smaller trout and the North Esk holds fish right down through St Leonards and into Launceston.
Morning and evening, even on a calm day you can find fish rising right in the middle of the Deloraine township. At Longford, the boat ramp at the junction of the South Esk and Macquarie where water skiers zoom up and down all day undergoes an amazing transformation morning and evening as trout start to feed, almost urgently, making the most of what is on offer in the quiet times. While we all love the peace and quiet and getting away from other fishermen, the paradox here is that while you are only minutes from home, you never seem to have another angler walk in on you and start to cast to your fish. You also don't have to put up with turning up to your favourite polaroiding spot and find three other cars there already. Best of all you can sneak out for a couple of hours, including travelling time and fish to rising trout.

Mornings and the caenids
I'm no entomologist, so what I refer to as caenids are the small, dark bodied mayfly that hatch en masse and fall to the water prior to morning. The precise genus and species of these sorts of flies escapes me for good reason, if it doesn't matter to the trout, it doesn't matter to me. So I'll be referring to these small mayfly here as caenids, even if I am ignorant in doing so.
Brumbys Creek is famous for it's caenid hatch, and the subsequent morning fishing to big browns that sip the spent caenid spinners. The same event occurs along the length of the Macquarie, South Esk and the other lowland rivers mentioned. As summer moves towards Autumn, the fall of caenids on a calm morning can be so thick that they form a dirty slick in the middle of the river, the trout rise rhythmically every 3 - 4 seconds in an exercise in the economic use of energy. These fish become a real challenge, other food is available but the caenids are of most consequence at this time.

During the evening all manner of fare is made available to coax fish out of their lies to surface feed - beetles, the odd mayfly spinner, adult and hatching caddis are the norm. All of these plus the chance of a mudeye emergence will bring fish to the surface and cause often hectic rising activity all close to home! It is amazing where trout will survive and in fact thrive. While living at Westbury I had a spot I nicknamed "the ditch'. Now the ditch is not a water you would drive miles to go to. It's not the gin clear water of a freestone river but it had anywhere up to 7 or 8 trout rising every evening in a 100 metre stretch which was basically a culvert about 15 metres wide. The spot is on Quamby Brook in the Westbury township still within the 60 kph speed zone. Fly fishing is like most addictions, I certainly can't go too long without a session, so "the ditch" provided an easy "fix" where I could be out of the house for literally 45 minutes and catch a fish. Best of all there were actually some quite big fish smooching around, the best I landed was a 3¼ lb brown of magnificent proportion. These fish weren't taken on dry fly, but they show the point that ridiculously close to home, trout can be found.

Daytime options
As I said we really are spoilt for choice. The Macquarie and Brumbys Creek are both very easy drives from Launceston. These waters offer world class dry fly fishing on bright calm days as mayfly spinners, both black and orange, and their ugly duckling predecessors, the duns, try to live out their lives without being chomped by browns and rainbows.
Again the North Esk and St Patricks River all have accessible areas and fish that will rise to small spinner and beetle patterns. If you are not preoccupied with size, you can go out and often catch your bag from waters like the St Patricks river, on dry fly and within a half hour drive from Launceston.
As summer goes on, particularly this year with record low rain and paddocks that are dry before springs end, you can expect that the grasshopper fishing around the lowland waters will be outstanding. While spinners and duns are the go on calm days, likewise grasshoppers are the option on warm windy days as they blow into the water along the edges of the rivers.
Without getting too far into any particular type of fishing, you can see there are plenty of options available for dry fly fishing around population centres in the North of the State. I haven't gone into detail about dry fly patterns and tactics for each option because all have enough intricacies for an article on their own. The aim here is to point out what is available right under our noses in these time pressured days where we don't always have enough time to drive to the lakes. Here are a few general tips for fishing dry flies to rising trout;
Fish as long and fine a leader as you can comfortably.
If fish are gently sipping on indeterminable food, fish small flies that sit low in the surface, e.g. small Klinkhammers or hackle-less seals fur dry flies.
Judgment is the key to presenting to rising trout, try to read where fish are going and lead them accordingly.
Dragless drift is essential, read the current between yourself and the fish and place yourself where you has as few a problems with the current as possible.
Don't be put off by no reaction from rising fish as they often will not see the fly. They move from side to side in the current and an apparently perfect presentation can miss the mark.
Change flies if you consistently get no response, or just "pushes" at the fly.
Finally there are plenty of stretches of water easily accessible around the north, however respect land owners rights and ask permission if you think you need to cross private land. Also keep only what you "need for a feed" because after all these are the sort of waters you can pop out to for a fresh trout anytime you get a spare moment because these spots are so close to home.

Joe Riley

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