Fishing for trout in Tasmania with live mudeyes

by Ralph Crawford

Live bait fishing is one of the most basic techniques used in fishing. Refining the art to a high and skilful level, however, is Ralph Crawford from Glenorchy. In this article Ralph explains the techniques he has employed over many years; techniques that have had excellent results.


The mudeye is the larval stage of several varieties of common dragonflies and is, in my opinion, the best natural bait for both rainbow and brown trout when fished sensibly and correctly. There are three main varieties, the first of which is the spider mudeye. It is not common in Tasmania, but is widely distributed throughout Victoria, and New South Wales mountain streams. These are generally a larger mudeye, brown in colour, with long legs banded in yellow.

Second are the couta mudeyes, so called because they are long and narrow, mostly black, but sometimes varying to different shades of green. They are common in most Tasmanian streams and are easily gathered from the splits and cracks in old submerged logs, timber and occasionally under rocks and stones. 

Third is the bug mudeye, a smaller, rounder insect than others, usually coloured greenish brown, though occasionally green. These can be found, from January, in Lakes Pedder and Gordon in huge numbers under flattish stones submerged in the water.

To fish the mudeye you will need:

  • A light bait or spinning rod
  • Closed face, threadline, or baitcasting reel
  • Light monofilament line of 3kg max
  • Split shot in various sizes
  • Small short shank hooks (Captain Hamilton 6 or 7 are ideal)
  • Floats of about 2.5cm diameter (stick or ball)
  • Fly line grease.

To set up, fix a float about 40cm from the hook end of your line, then directly beneath it fix a split shot of sufficient weight to sit the float upright. About 4-5cm from the hook fix a smaller split shot.

Grease the line with the fly line grease for about 10 metres above the float. This will float the line on the surface and make retrieving slack line and the strike much easier.

To bait up, push the hook point into the mudeye in the vee formed by the wing sacks on its back, then bring the point of the hook forward and up behind the head; this will leave the mudeye sitting horizontally in the water.

Cast (upstream preferably) into the flow when river fishing and allow to drift back in the current. Always leave the bail arm open. If the float suddenly submerges and moves away, you almost certainly have a fish on. Let the fish take line unhindered, in fact you can often let the fish take up all the slack. This, of course depends on the stream.

When you are sure the fish has swallowed the bait, close the bail, take up the slack, and strike firmly.

From here on you are on your own. No amount of advice or detail will alter the outcome. One point to remember is that trout have excellent vision so casting from cover is a significant advantage. Sneaking along the banks, hiding behind logs and bushes, will bring better results than ploughing up the middle of the stream. If you must wade do it slowly.

If you are lake fishing, the same principles apply, but you must try and keep the wind to your back. This ensures the float and mudeye are being blown away from the shore.

To keep mudeyes, a large old rusty tin is ideal. Drill a number of holes around the sides, about 4-5cm from the bottom to permit airflow, then crumple up some old sacking, or thick dark colour3ed cloth, and place inside. Pour in water up to the holes and store in a cool dark place. Avoid the warmth as this will transform them into dragonflies. You can store them in the fridge but this may not be very popular.

Postscript/Note: It is illegal to buy or sell mudeyes and they cannot be transferred to other waters. They must be aught and used in the water one fishes in.

Reference: page 207 "Australian Freshwater Life".

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