It's all happening in the highlands

Peter Hayes
March and April are among my favourite months for fishing in Tasmania's Central Highlands.

The weather is generally at its most stable in these months and breathlessly still, bright, sunny day are not uncommon.   I remember being at Great Lake one day in a spot I call Proposal Point and looked in awe of the stillness of this wonderful environment. The surface of the lake was literally like a sheet of glass and I remember commenting that it looked possible to roll a marble all the way from Miena to Breona on the surface of the lake.

Fish were rising intermittently and everywhere you looked. The ripples giving away their position lasted for several minutes. Back to the point though.

Stable weather patterns are generally the most suitable for the bugs. In these months it is possible, and likely, that you will find a secondary hatching of gum beetles. There are often ants moving about due to smoke in the air or impending stormy/thundery weather. Midges love to come off on the still days and there is a good chance of finding a Jassid or two about.

Where to fish
I like to focus on the larger impoundments at this time of the season although having said that I can well remember many great days in the western lakes too.

Lakes like Echo, Dee, Great Lake, Arthurs are prime March April waters. These large surface area lakes are just whopping big insect traps.

The western lakes is a valuable resource and it is a delight to fish in this area in any good weather pattern. Late in the season, when the sun is lower in the sky, is a great time to polaroid this area. Have a look at any that take your fancy but only try to fish these waters in periods of good sun and zero cloud. The western lakes are all generally shallow and this has been a particularly dry season so beware of turbid water conditions. Leave it for two or three days after a big blow to fish here. By then the silt will have settled out. It's a catch 22 really. The shallow water levels are great for polaroiding but this causes the bottom to stir up in even medium winds.

Fishing methods
Stable, light winds are necessary to form wind lanes and I can tell you from first hand experience that wind lanes to trout are just like big sushi trains to people. The food is concentrated in a narrow width that stretches for long distances. Fish will start at the downward end and nearly always travel upwind in a straight line path.

I think it best to position the boat a long casting distance out to the side of the lane and cast side on to the slight wind. Don't sit in the lane with your boat - for a few reasons. One is that the fish will be coming straight toward you and unless your casting is pinpoint accurate you will stuff up many opportunities. Two, when a fish takes your fly he is pointing straight toward you and you will miss more strikes than you get. I side on take is always better for a hookup. Three, if anyone else sits upwind of you then you will not have put down all their fish. In this respect it is not good practice to cut another fisherman's lunch by parking on the same lane downwind. Either find your own lane or sit a decent distance upwind.

I always use a dry fly  - it's mostly personal and it's mostly what my clients pay me to do. The longer leader you can throw the better. Try using a 6 metre one - it is not that difficult. Always check the cast. By this I mean always give the line a sharp grab just as the leader starts turning over on the delivery cast. This will ensure that any remaining energy is used to kick the leader over straight.

Try using just one fly instead of two or three. If the fish are predominately on midges or ants use a Bibio Hopper or a black Bob's Bits with a red head. If there are beetles about you cannot seem to go past the Guides Tag that I tied a decade ago now. This fly has caught thousands of fish for hundreds of anglers in the highlands since its inception. This fly has all the qualities that a guide requires. Good floatability, good angler visibility, good fish visibility, good attractorbility (if there is such a word), good durability and finally it catches the clappers out of them. Make sure you have some in your box.10s and 12s are all you need and consider cutting the hackle off the bottom of them in still bright days.

Finding lanes
Use binoculars and stand up high on your boat. If possible I always look from the road before I put the boat on the water. The lookout at the dam wall on the Great Lake is an obvious spot - you will find others.
Downwind of points or spits that stick into the lake edge is always a good spot to look. The fact is that no one understands much about their formation and finding them is a little about observation skills and a lot about gut feel. Get out and practice is the best advice I can give you.  

In closing
Just get out and do it. Be perspicacious and I know you will be pleased with your efforts. Oh, one other thing. Think about letting go most, or all, of your catch. The fish are approaching full spawn at this time of year. The flesh is often soft and pasty and after all they are ready to shag so that we can continue to catch their offspring. Have a heart, and a little empathy -let them go and do it.

Peter Hayes

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