Outfoxing Trout

One of Tasmania's leading trout fishing guides, John Fox, explains his methods for having a successful day on the water. John has a shack at Arthurs Lake and rates this lake as Tasmania's premier lake.

"I love Arthurs Lake, and having fished it for many years find that no matter what the weather there is always a shore, or bay that is fishable, and fishy. It doesn't matter what sort of fishing my clients want to pursue, Arthurs will usually deliver. One thing that really concerns me though is the constant variation in level. A stable level would result in better established weed beds, and better fishing. The draining of Cowpaddock was criminal and the HEC showed a complete disregard for anglers.

Topline Trout Tours caters for both lure and fly fishers, it is up to the clients to choose their weapons. Some like to troll, some drift spin, while some like a wet fly and then there are the dry fly purists. I am often asked if it bothers me which way a client likes to fish and I must admit it doesn't. If they are comfortable with their method they will usually have a great time. I am not a fishing instructor, and I don't like teaching people to fish, advice for sure and local knowledge is my forte.

Looking through my diaries I find that 705 of the fish that are caught are caught on lures and 30% on flies. The most successful lures that I (meaning clients), use for drift spinning: the devon style green/gold. These are available by most of the leading Tasmanian lure makers.

For trolling the local cobras are excellent and have been developed for Tasmanian conditions. At the start of the day the usual procedure is to have 3 or 4 lures out of different colours. These are generally green/gold, black/gold and red/gold. Most of the time the green and gold is the successful lure and then all are changed to this pattern.

Regardless of how good these are though, I would never go out without a rainbow pattern. Rapala. The Rapalas and most of the other bibbed lures work well and are very useful when fishing the deeper areas. On the bibbed lures I always use a non-slip loop knot. This gives a better action to the lure. I don't use any swivels or antikinks with bibbed lures. With cobra style lures I like to use a swivel and with devons an anti-kink and a swivel.

Sometimes a flouro bead, or even two, are used to push the hooks back further produces good results when fish are striking "╦ťshort'. Top quality hooks are essential, VMC cone cut or any of the chemically sharpened hooks are excellent. Varying the trolling distance can also be very effective. Line weight is another important consideration, too light and it is hard to set the hook, too heavy and the lure looses its action. I find 4.5kg in the better brands is about right.

Techniques:
For lure fishing the rough, overcast days are best. If it is bright, fish the deeper places with a bibbed lure by either trolling or drift spinning. First light and last light are certainly the best times though. Usually I take my clients in for an early dinner and then fish until last light.

Get yourself the best fishfinder you can afford, I use a video colour sounder. Look for the weed, the bottom structure and the depth, not the fish. Set your lures to run over the top of the weed and check often for weed on the lure. When drift spinning try the rough downwind side in 2-3 meters of water. Try a drift through the trees. Fish quickly in a fan shape in front of the boat, working from one side to the other. When you have finished the drift, drive back up the same line and then move across, you won't disturb the fish as much this way. I don't use a drogue (sea anchor) when drift spinning, but do when drifting with a fly.

When fly fishing I use pretty much the same technique. Fish a relatively short line (just an easy cast), a long line leaves a belly and you will lose too many fish on the strike. Blind searching with a dry fly, parallel to the shore can also be very productive, especially back into the shallow water.

The flies I use are:
Wet flies - yeti with a seal's fur body or a fur fly, both in a variety of colours.

Dry flies - Red Tag, Black Spinner and a floating Pot Scrubber nymph. This is dressed lightly with an enlarged thorax, fiery brown seal's fur in a size 10.

Another technique I use is a tandem fly as shown in the illustration. This can work very well on tough days. My favourite spinning rod/reel is an Abu Cardinal reel with an Ugly Stick rod.

If it looks like a really bad day we will often head to the West Coast and explore Bronte or Lake Burbury, it gives a pleasant break to see some new water. In the ten years I have been guiding though there has not been one day that we haven't fished.

A few tips: the Sand Lake area of Arthurs produces the best fish, with our best of 4lb 12oz. never hurry a fish to the net. If you try to hurry and scoop the fish up you can catch the second set of treble hooks on the net and lose the fish. This can be very disappointing after all your hard work. Kill fish straight away with a sharp tap on the back of the head, and clean within the hour, store out of the sun under a wet bag.