Issue 90 February 2011
Trout Everywhere – Craig Rist
In Tasmania, trout have found their way into just about every trickle of water around the state. Many of these are very small tributaries of larger more popular rivers. The majority of the fish in these smaller streams are by no means monsters, with the average fish being somewhere between half a pound and a pound. Small brown trout dominate most of these small streams with the exception of a few rainbow only waters that are isolated from the dominant brown trout population.?The upper Mersey River between Lake Meston and Junction Lake is a classic example of this with its huge impassable waterfalls preventing any further migration of brown trout up stream.
Many fish possessing brilliant red or orange spots down their sides.?But by far the most appealing thing about these small streams is the seemingly endless number of opportunities you have to actually catch a trout.
On some streams, every pool will contain half a dozen or more fish, so if you miss an opportunity in one pool you simply move onto the next and try again. These small streams can teach you so much about trout and the way they hold and feed in different parts of the stream. Lessons are often learnt by trial and error, with a single day on a small stream giving you many opportunities to learn the way of a trout in a river.?
The world of a trout in a small stream is highlighted even more with a pair of Polaroid sunglasses on a bright sunny day. The smaller fish can be seen holding in the shallow tail of the pool while the larger fish are often holding stationary or patrolling the best of mid section. Take a moment to watch the fish in a pool for a while and you will soon see them taking insects beneath the surface as they shift to one side and rise up to take insects from the surface. The very nature of a small stream with its close proximity to the streamside vegetation sees many insects finding their way into the water. Because of this and the competition that exists for food within each pool, trout are nearly always looking up. The short runs and pools that are often present also mean they have very little time to accept or reject a possible food item.?Sometimes even small leaves or sticks floating past are mistaken for food. This eagerness to rise is why dry fly fishing small streams is so appealing. When dry fly fishing small streams it’s quite often more about the “take” and not the size of the fish that counts at the end of the day!
When you see a fish rise up to your dry fly and then stop, follow it down stream for a while and then refuse it, this immediately prompts the question of why??This is just one of the reasons why fly fishing can take you on a seemingly endless quest to learn more about your target species and the food organisms they feed on. Fish in small streams will usually take a well-presented dry fly but there are times when they too can have you scratching your head in disbelief, as they refuse some of the most reliable flies ever made. Like most trout fishing scenarios, presentation plays a major part to a trout accepting an artificial.?One of the biggest things that can destroy your presentation in a river is the onset of drag to the fly. I can think of only two exceptions, one is during the madness of grasshopper season when trout are accustomed to seeing hoppers kicking down stream and the other is during caddis hatch when skating a caddis fly across stream actually represents the action of the natural.?Presenting a dry fly with the longest drag free drift on a river is always going to pull more fish.? There are some simple things you can do to make this happen. Any river, be it twenty metres wide or half a metre wide has water flowing at different speeds across its width. Trying to land a fly over the top of a fast flowing rapid into the slower water off to the side with a straight line cast will see drag setting in almost immediately as the fly line is swept down stream in the fast water. By simply repositioning your casting position you can eliminate the need to cast over this faster flowing water that will create drag. One step sideways can make all the difference to get a drag free drift in a small stream.?One of the hardest places to get a drag free drift while fishing upstream is at the tail of the next pool above a fast flowing rapid. Casting a slack line with big loose sections of fly line over this fast water will give your fly a few more valuable seconds of drag free time on the water. This cast will take a little practice, but what better place to try it than a stream that is loaded with trout and opportunities. Another method of reducing drag in this situation is to lay your fly line on top of a large exposed rock at the head of the rapid, delivering only your leader and fly onto the slower water above.?In many cases on a small stream it’s possible to get up close to the tail of the pool and deliver the fly with most, if not all, of the fly line held off the fast moving water. This short line approach will often give you the longest drift possible in this situation.? In many of the over grown little streams, the rise to a fly from a short line is often only heard and not seen, as the fly is swept out of sight under the over growth at your feet. At times these small fish at the tail of the pool can be a real curse, as they are usually the first to be spooked up stream taking many of the bigger fish with them as they charge around the small pools in a panic. You can sometimes overcome this by entering the stream above the tail of the pool so the smaller fish are spooked down stream, leaving the slightly larger fish in a better state of mind to accept an artificial.? Every one loves to cast a line with the wind at your back as the line always lays out straight. But if your leader is not snaking out in loose coils you will be fighting the effects of drag all day. I find the simplest thing to do in this situation is to just keep lengthening your tippet until you can no longer cast it in a straight line. If your leader then becomes too long to manage simply shorten it up by cutting out the heavier mid section leaving the fine tippet to snake its way out onto the water to take up the affects of the different flows.??
Casting in small streams
One of the best things about small streams is that you can always find one to match your progression into fly fishing. There are streams that are flanked by open paddocks making them ideal for anyone starting out that needs a bit of room to throw a line. There are also many tight overgrown streams that will test the patience and challenge the skill level of the most advanced caster. Pulling off an impossible cast and getting a drag free drift is often satisfaction enough in these streams, with the ultimate complement coming from that subtle take as your fly disappears in a swirl.?
When you’re casting a fly in amongst long grass, over hanging trees and blackberries you are going to get your fly hooked up on the back cast or forward cast at some stage.?Take it from me, it happens to everyone and it is just part of fishing small streams. Mastering a few different casts for small streams will not only reduce this cause and affect, but also get your fly into places you first thought to be impossible. Short rods come into their own on small over grown streams and without a doubt one of the most useful casts with a short rod can be the side cast. Another useful method of delivering a side cast is to hold onto the fly in your line hand throughout the false cast releasing it only on the final delivery cast. This has the affect of halving the length of the back cast.? As the available room behind you diminishes even further the side cast can be replaced by a roll cast and then when things get really tight the bow and arrow cast can come into its own. I recently picked up a new type of bow and arrow cast while fishing a small stream with Mike Stevens and Leroy Tirant. We were fishing two rods between the three of us on a very over grown small stream that was covered in willow trees. After releasing yet another fish I passed the rod over to Mike and watched him climb down into the river under a canopy of over hanging willows. In the confines of the river Mike began delivering the fly up stream using a bow and arrow cast. But instead of holding onto the fly to load the rod up for the basic bow and arrow cast, as I would have, I noticed he was holding onto the fly line, leaving the fly and leader to trail behind him in the water. When he finally released the line it speared up stream twice the distance of what I could achieve by holding onto the fly. This doubled the length of the standard bow and arrow cast making it an ideal and extremely accurate cast for small streams. Mike’s casting technique was quickly rewarded with a fat little river trout charging around the shaded pool under his bent rod. Until now, I had always though of doing anything other than holding the fly by the bend of the hook would have resulted in the fly being firmly implanted into one of my fingers. Mike assures me this doesn’t happen very often and I must say, I never looked like getting hooked as I used that same cast to successfully probe some areas of a stream that were until now, unreachable.
Flies for small streams are no different to the ones you would use on the larger rivers. Early in the season small streams can offer you the first chance of taking a fish on a dry fly. Size 14 Red Tags can work well early, but if you’re having trouble getting them to look up try putting on a size 16 black beetle as a dropper under your Red Tag.
As summer approaches so do the mayflies, caddis, midge and beetles.?Again, the Red Tag will catch at this time as will the Royal Wolf along with a host of other flies. Small foam Chernobyl’s Ants, Bionic Bugs and the like, really start to pull fish at this time of year. Peter Broomhall is a very competent and devoted small creek fly fisher who wouldn’t fish any water that holds trout in Tasmania without a box full of his foam bugs. Peter has given me a lesson on the fish pulling power of foam and rubber legs on many occasions on these small streams. These days when I go fishing with Peter I no longer need to ask him what fly he is using, merely what colour?? Late in summer the grasshopper population really explodes on the low land streams. The water level has usually dropped and the fish are fired up on the thought of a grasshopper landing with a splash in their section of the stream. Competition for a helpless grasshopper is often fierce between these fish with things getting a little bit crazy as fish charge down stream several metres to inhale most flies landing with a loud splat. For that reason it’s little wonder flies with a bit of weight such as the foam grasshoppers and Chernobyl’s Ants and of course Peter’s bugs are irresistible to these fish at this time of year. Even late in the season you can still find a small creek somewhere to get a rise to a dry fly.?
Anyone who has hooked and then finally landed a big fish on light tackle will know it’s far more rewarding to have done it on tackle that gives the fish more control over the fight at some stage than you do. It’s what makes it all the more satisfying, when you finally do land it. Over the years fly rod manufacturers have been catering for the needs of small creek enthusiasts by making lighter and lighter rods. There was a time when a 2 weight was the lightest rod being made. Today they are down to rods that can cast 000 weight lines. My wife was kind enough to put one of these super lightweights under our Christmas tree last year. The Don River on the north coast is full of small brown trout and just happens to run down past our house.? The first opportunity I had on Christmas day saw me disappearing over the bank with this little 7’10” Sage and a size 14 Red Tag. The water on the Don was running higher than usual and slightly coloured after recent rains. I waded into the first pool, fishing the Red Tag across the long slow glide of the first pool. The fly wasn’t on the water long before it disappeared in a delicate rise. I lifted the rod and was presently surprised by how much this little rod was bending over under the weight of the tiny fish.? It even buried me under the bank at one stage. This rod suddenly brought everything into perspective and was a joy to cast and catch fish that actually took some controlling on this small river. The next forty five minutes saw 13 fish being hooked and landed along a 100 metre stretch of the river. In my mind anyway, these short light rods are defiantly the way to get the most out of our small streams in Tasmania.?But be warned, once these small streams have gotten hold of your imagination you’ll have even more trouble deciding whether to head to the lakes or fish that small trickle of water you passed over, only the other day. ?
Where To Start
There are so many small streams in this State that it’s hardly worth naming them. Besides, one of the most exciting things about this type of fishing is discovering your own little gem of a stream that makes you feels like you’re the only one who fishes it. For many, this could be closer to home than you think. Tributaries of the better known trout rivers around the State are a great place to start. Pick a fine day, get a map and knock on some doors to gain access to a stream that has taken you eye, or follow up one that has been secretly passed onto you by a friend of a friend, who knows of a small stream that never gets fished. Who knows, that could become your own gem of a small stream.
Inland Fisheries News
Male Carp Get the Snip
It’s well known that men who’ve ‘had the snip’ are no less virile than their non-sterile mates, but what about male carp?
The Inland Fisheries Service is hoping there’s no reduction in the ability or interest of sterilised males to pursue female carp because it’s planning to use them as radio-tagged transmitter fish in Lake Sorell. Since female carp attract males and form aggregations in preparation to spawn, these sterile male ‘trackers’ obviously need to show interest in order to alert the radio-tracking team about a possible spawning event.
Radio-tracking is an important tool for locating carp aggregations and studying carp behaviour, particularly in the large expanse of Lake Sorell. It allows for targeted fishing during periods and at locations where aggregations are occurring, which greatly increases the efficiency of capture and removal of carp. Surgically implanted radio transmitter male carp have been used in both lakes Sorell and Crescent since 1997, and the method has been highly successful at Lake Crescent, where carp have been eradicated.
A small population of adult fish remained at Lake Sorell and during the spring-summer 2009-10 spawning season, multiple spawning events occurred resulting in the successful recruitment of thousands of juvenile carp. The spawning was not surprising, as Lake Sorell experienced a combination of rising water levels and increasing temperatures at the time, ideal conditions for carp spawning. In addition, this large water body offers a vast expanse of wetlands which are ideal spawning habitat, making it more difficult to monitor for carp activity. Unfortunately, the reproductively viable radio implanted male carp were implicated in the successful spawning events.
During a review by the Carp Management Program in May 2010, the risk of continuing to use non-sterile male fish as ‘trackers’ at Lake Sorell was considered too high. Consequently, all but a few of these male tracker fish were removed from the lake in winter 2010 and the remainder, being used in pheromone trials, were removed during spring. It was decided at the review that in order to continue to use radio-tagged adult male carp for radio-tracking in Lake Sorell, the Service would need to investigate the options for sterilisation.
So, with the support of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE), the Inland Fisheries Service recently began an investigation on the effectiveness of two different methods for sterilising male carp. The trials are currently underway and the results will be monitored over the next six months.
The first method being investigated is chemical sterilisation by an injected implant of Superlorin. This is less invasive; decreasing the threat to fish recovery, but it is a short term fix to reduce sperm count and is likely to wear off after a few months. The second and preferred method is surgical sterilisation, a vasectomy. This has increased likelihood of long term success and it enables the radio-transmitter to be surgically implanted at the same time.
To date, the vasectomy has been trialled on ten and the chemical implant trialled on four adult male carp. Six of the surgically sterilised carp were also implanted with radio transmitters. All of the fish have made 100% recovery with the use of antibiotics – an excellent result given warmer water temperatures and increased likelihood of infection. They will be held for observations over the coming months to determine the success of the strerilisation methods. If successful, the Service plans to deploy the radio implanted carp in Lake Sorell during winter 2011, prior to the start of the spawning period in spring.
It’s not known yet whether these surgically sterilised males will perform as well as the previous reproductively viable radio-tagged carp. This will become clear once the success of the sterilisation process has been confirmed and the radio-tagged fish are released. However, if they’re like most other species, including humans, very little will have changed in their virility and interest in pursuing females, but the risk of breeding has been greatly reduced.
Stocking the Western Lakes
ave you ever fished in a remote location in Tasmania like the Western Lakes on the Central Plateau and wondered how the fish got there? After all, ‘salmonids’ which include trout and salmon, are native in the Northern Hemisphere and were introduced to Tasmania by early European settlers.
Since the first successful shipment of live trout eggs from England to Tasmania in 1864, brown trout have been introduced or spread naturally to inland waters throughout the State. While self sustaining populations have formed in many locations, certain waters require periodic or regular stocking by the Service. This is the case for certain waters in the Western Lakes primarily those found in the Nineteen Lagoons area.
The first confirmed record of brown trout being established in the Western Lakes was in 1893 and the first stocking by the Fisheries Department took place in 1895. However the Western Lakes only started to become popular with increased access to the area after the 1950s when Lake Augusta Dam was built.
By the late 1970s, the number of anglers visiting the area began to rise significantly. This continued until in the 1990s, it was felt that certain management actions were needed so as to preserve the fishery’s unique values and ‘wilderness fishing experience’.
After extensive consultation with anglers in the late 1990s, the Western Lakes Wilderness Fishery Management Plan was released in 2002. Some of the stocking objectives and management requirements were subsequently updated in 2008 with the release of the Tasmanian Inland Recreational Fishery Management Plan 2008-2018.
Stocking management objectives
The Western Lakes is essentially maintained as a wild brown trout fishery with wild rainbow trout present in some waters and brook trout in Clarence Lagoon only. With thousands of waters in the region, fishery management relies heavily on natural recruitment of wild fish stocks. The primary aims are to maintain sustainable catch rates, fish quality and the overall wilderness angling experience.
Only a number of waters in the more popular Nineteen Lagoons area are managed more intensively apart from Clarence Lagoon, which is a stocked brook trout fishery at the southern end of the Western Lakes fishery. These select waters undergo a limited stocking program of wild stock brown and rainbow trout fry, hatched and grown at the Service hatchery from eggs harvested from wild fish, as well as adult fish transferred directly from Great Lake.
Generally these stockings only occur in waters where natural recruitment is not possible, in circumstances where consistent significant declines in trout populations are evident, and only ever with wild fish stock. In waters stocked regularly with fry, the aim is to mimic a more natural style of recruitment by providing a consistent influx of juvenile fish into the population. This is termed a ‘put and grow’ style of management rather than a ‘put and take’ style arising from only adult transfers. The former has been made more possible in recent years with the increased production of wild fish stocks from the Service’s redeveloped hatchery at New Norfolk.
Management categories and recent stockings
Ada Lagoon, Lake Ada, Lake Augusta, Lake Kay, Double Lagoon, Lake Agnes, Lake Baillie, Lake Flora and O’Dells Lake all have self sustaining brown trout populations and do not require stocking. These fisheries offer average or higher than average catch rates and have specified catch limits – increasing the minimum fish size and/or decreasing the daily bag limits.
East Rocky Lagoon, First Lagoon, Lake Dudley and Tin Hut Lake are managed as trophy waters. They are either not stocked or stocked only at low rates depending on management requirements. For example, the plan is to stock First Lagoon and Lake Dudley with fry every four or more years as required. East Rocky was stocked with 100 fingerling brown trout in May 2010 following a reported population decline. Lake Dudley has also been stocked periodically with rainbow trout fry.
Carters Lakes, Lake Botsford, Lake Chipman and Rocky Lagoon are stocked at a moderate rate, receiving fry on an annual basis. These waters offer limited natural recruitment but generally have higher catch rates than the designated trophy waters. In addition, Carters Lakes, Botsford and Rocky Lagoon are stocked with adult fish, and Lake Chipman receives rainbow trout every couple of years. Last May, Carters Lakes, Botsford Lagoon and Rocky Lagoon received 350, 300 and 100 adult transfers respectively; and in October 2010, Carters and Botsford each received 750 fry. Lake Chipman, meanwhile, received 1,500 brown and 1,500 rainbow trout fry in January 2011.
Emma Tarns, Third Lagoon, Lake Paget and Second Lagoon are stocked at a low to moderate rate but with varying age classes. Emma Tarns and Third Lagoon are more suited to on-grow trout, whereas Second Lagoon and Lake Paget are more suited as ‘put and take’. Emma Tarns generally receives brown trout fry most years and Third Lagoon every two years, while Second Lagoon and Lake Paget receive adult brown trout transfers every year. For instance, Lake Paget and Second Lagoon were each stocked with 50 adult brown trout in May 2010, while Emma Tarns and Third Lagoon received 375 and 500 fry in January 2011.
Little Blue Lagoon is managed purely as a rainbow trout fishery and Clarence Lagoon as a brook trout fishery. They are stocked with wild stock rainbow trout fry and brook trout fingerling every year or two. This year, Little Blue Lagoon was received 3,000 rainbow trout fry in January.
Trout fry have been carried in fish ‘kettles’ and ‘billy cans’ on horse and dray, and then by foot, to remote locations since the birth of the Tasmanian fishery. Today, over a 150 years on, fishery management is more sophisticated but trout fry are still carried on foot to some of the less accessible waters in the Western Lakes.
The Service now has vehicles specially equipped for live fish transport and stocking. This equipment includes two 1,000 litre purpose built plastic cartage tanks with fish outlets at the top and rear, internal aerators and oxygen diffusers. Oxygen tanks and hand held monitoring equipment are also carried on board alongside the tanks.
The Service takes great care to ensure that fish mortality rates are kept low to zero throughout the transport process. Fish biomass and water temperature are critical for success hence fish density is kept to a minimum, and oxygen levels and water temperatures within the tanks are monitored. Unnecessary fish handling and transport over long distances, particularly on hot days, is avoided.
For stockings of juvenile fish, the utility or fish transport trailer is backed into position at the designated release point and a 150 mm diameter flexible hose is fitted to the fish outlet on the tank. The fish are then ‘shot’ through the pipe once the valve is opened, directly into the receiving water. Larger fish, such as with adult transfers, must be removed manually by net through the large top hatch of the tank and transferred singly into the water being stocked.
In the case of the more remote Western Lakes, the young fry are carried inside two strong plastic bags inside a backpack. The inner plastic bag is partly filled with water, approximately three to five litres depending on the density of fish to be carried. The fry are then netted from the outlet and placed in the water, which is then saturated with oxygen. The remaining space in the bag is filled with pure oxygen before being tied tightly. The backpack helps to keep the fish cool and the plastic bags supported during the walk, which can be anything from approximately 20 minutes to two hours.
Once at the release site, the plastic bags are removed from the pack and the inner bag held in the water for a period. This allows the receiving water to mix with the water inside the bag and helps prevent any shock to the fish as a result of the difference in temperature between the two waters.
After a period of adjustment, the fry are released into their new home. They tend to stay together for a few minutes before slowly dispersing once they have grown familiar with their new environment. Also, because they are wild fish stock, their natural instinct begins to take over and they quickly become alert to both prey and predator. It takes these small fry three to four years to reach a legal size for anglers fishing the Western Lakes.
Sarah Graham - Inland Fisheries Service.
Fishing on the Wild Side
Mike Fry doesn’t only live on the Wild Side of Tasmania, but also goes fishing in probably the wildest boat ever to troll for trout—certainly in Tasmania.
When your mate says ‘What are you doing tomorrow, want to come up the Gordon for the night?’ it would be pretty hard to say anything else except “you bet” and start checking out your tackle box and packing your overnight bag. But if your mate was Troy Grining and he wanted to give his new 52ft, high speed cruiser a run across Macquarie Harbour, test the new onboard dory with a chance of landing a nice Gordon River Brown you would have to feel privileged. I didn’t say anything about getting on my hands and knees and kissing his feet…just having a lend of ya’ but I did feel very appreciative.
I would like to say that I spent the whole evening choosing the most appropriate rods, reels, lines and selecting a range of lures, salivating at the thought of immersing myself in one of the most pristine fishing environments that Tasmania has to offer, but I didn’t. As it turned out I was working that evening and in the morning, although up with the larks, I had a number of last minute jobs looking down the barrel of a 10.30am departure from the Strahan wharf.
“Xzet” was waiting for me at its berth with a few passengers from the Horsehead Ski Club. Troy and Guy used their massive cruise vessel Eagle to help the club break the world ski record with 114 skiers. Check it out on You Tube. We were going to head out through Hells Gates for a spin before dropping them off at the back channel jetty at Macquarie Heads. Now most people familiar with the size of Macquarie Harbour would be thinking how are they going to do all that and get up the Gordon and start fishing before setting up for the night in a suitable anchorage. When the vessel is capable of over 40kts I would say not a problem.
The west coast put on a familiar act as we went out through Hells Gates with a lumpy swell and a metre of sea on top which was going to make dropping a lobster pot in a bit tricky. Our plan was to drop a pot amongst the kelp on the north face of Cape Sorell. We did manage it but let’s not talk about the result.
We headed in to Pilot Bay with a view to latching onto a few flathead. Some of the locals were drifting and I am not sure if the sight of this big fishing cruiser was too much for them but they left the bay to us. Maybe it was because the flatties were not around. I tackled up my two rods with soft plastics and we did a drift which usually works here. One of the ladies that I gave a rod to hooked two rats but lost them on the surface.
I had forgotten about the mozzies in Pilot Bay…they’ve got two engines on each wing….bring the Aeroguard!
Then it was time to drop our passengers off and get down to business.
Once clear of the back channel Troy pushed the throttles and we climbed up to the plane and sat on a comfortable 32.9 kts. Troy explained that at that speed we were chewing up 99 litres per hour on each engine and if we took her up to top speed of 43 kts we would go through about 170 litres per hour.
Our travelling time to the mouth of the Gordon would be 20 minutes and once there we would be restricted to around 6 kts.
This vessel has two supercharged high performance Detroit diesels. Troy and Guy Grining bought them from the USA and reconditioned the donks themselves. The V8, 92DDEC 3s are two very mean machines and at 760 hp each this rig flies. The propulsion system is a surface drive from Sea Fury in NZ. It captures air and reduces cavitation to put it simply. Just a footnote the US military uses the standard version of these motors in their Patriot Missile prime movers; and that is just one!
As soon as we slowed down I rigged up two rods with Rapala minnows. One was a clear 4” which I was hoping would resemble a recalcitrant whitebait survivor from the annual carnage and the other was a 4” brook trout pattern with an orange belly. I had always done well trolling the edge of the reeds where the large browns lay in wait.
Given that we were not in a tinny but a massive 52 footer may have been the reason that we probably did not latch on. We turned off the port engine and idled with the starboard but I could see that stealth was not going to be our long suit. We persevered for about 45 minutes although I had trolled before in a 50ft sailing cat but today the trout were shy. It could also be that the troops staying at the Boom Camp had taken a fair percentage of the residents out in the previous six months from late August when the first whitebait start showing up.
We anchored just above the Boom Camp and Troy’s young son Alex and I headed off in the Quintrex 430 Dory to take a quieter look at the reed banks. One technique that I used previously was to tie a large whitebait saltwater fly about 40cm above a 4” Rapala Minnow. This has worked well in the past but I decided to persevere with what I had. One rod each side with the boat about 2 metres away from the reeds. Troy had mentioned that he saw fish echos on the sounder but down a couple of metres or more.
The rain was starting to set in so first evening no fish, we returned to the mother ship for a comfortable evening. With three cabins and a large lounge this is more than just a fishing boat. Around half of the length of the boat is fishing area with the dory on a tilt ramp with the pot hauler conveniently located to double up as a winch to bring the dory back up. The large duckboard provides a great fishing spot, safe boarding and use of the dory to boot.
The next morning the weather broke so Alex and I headed off with the promise of a hearty cooked breakfast after the first session. Young Alex did a great job of steering the boat as I worked the rods. Snags were regular and I lost the 4” clear Rapala and I decided to go deeper using a JJs StumpJumper. I hadn’t trolled with one of these but I decided to give it a go as I felt that we could get down a couple of metres.
JJs have been around over 20 years and initially John Ellis used timber handmade lures. These days the new lures are plastic but have an effective action around snags where they tend to float up backwards in a snag. I chose a dark green frog pattern. We were in frog territory and these Gordon Browns would no doubt be familiar with the little critters.
I got Alex to head back downstream a mile or two where I had previous catches. Fly fishing in this area can be good casting experience but the water drops off very deep with parts of the river approaching 100 ft deep. The reeds are in about 1.5 metres of water on the edge of the drop off to about 4 metres. I could have brought my fly rod as there are some shallows behind the reeds in places that could be rewarding. If I had more time I am sure a well postioned fly with a dropper could have done the trick. The reeds are thick with a lot of smaller weeds which make for difficult manoeuvring. The trouble is that the Gordon is so isolated and you can’t get across the harbour in a small tinny. Hence “Xzet”.
Then bang! I got a huge hit and then nothing. I took a couple of turns and my first thought was that I must have a lump of weed or a snag. Then it took off again but only for a short burst. I kept the tension on and slowly pulled in and close to the boat the fish made its presence known as it tried to do a runner. I was surprised when it broke the surface when I saw what a good size it was. Alex handed me the net as it gave one last effort at evading capture.
The force of the strike had knocked one of the eyes off the lure but I was impressed with both the fish and the performance of the JJs. My scales said 6lb but I reckon they were wrong.
It was a case of quality being more important than quantity as I made the decision that the Gordon River had given of itself more than I had hoped for. Alex and I congratulated ourselves as I administered the last rites and headed for a well earned breakfast.
This is one area of Tasmania that you can truly say that the beauty of fishing this river is just being there. Catching a fish is a bonus but there are some majestic fish in this river and with just a few hours trolling we landed a beauty.
Tips for the Gordon River:
Based on my recent experience try a JJs. Halco have a similar pattern but I find they don’t troll particularly well and twist the line. Troll the edge of the reeds and if you have a fish finder look for returns on the drop offs. Spin the cliff edges where the trees overhang. Rapalas have always been my favourite but watch the snags. There are many submerged trees and loosing lures is an expensive exercise. If in doubt move further out. I had a Glass Shad Rap GSR4 in my kit and would have tried that next if I was going to continue to fish as they are recommended down to 11ft. As it happened I used it on the Henty a few days later with a nice sea runner the result.
Stay at the Boom Camp from February onwards or by appointment with clubs from August until end of January. Or do as I did and hitch a ride on a larger vessel as a mothership and stay in comfort. If you stay at the Boom Camp please treat it with respect and leave something there for the next people and make a donation to the upkeep.
Dawn ‘n’ Dusk
Many anglers know, dawn and dusk are the best times to be on the water to maximise one’s chances of success. But how many regularly get out of bed early and experience the magic of first light—breaking over one of our lakes and rivers. To be in the half light waiting for the sound of a trout slurping a morsel off the top of the water, or in some cases leaving a ring that is barely visible to the naked eye.
The fish are there, and they are there in numbers and more often than not they are feeding hard. They often continue to do so until the sun burns off the cloud cover and puts them down to seek refuge in the depths below. I talk mostly in this article about Lake Leake, but a lot of what I say is relevant around the state.
It’s 4 am and the alarm goes off breaking the nights silence, my wife sighs and mutters something that sounds unfavourable. I am pretty sure I heard the words ‘you’re bloody mad’ in there somewhere and for a few fleeting seconds.. I agree.
Then the thoughts of feeding trout invade my head and in no time at all I find myself in the car heading to one of my favourite fishing destinations—Lake Leake.
In this article I would like to share some information on this ‘early morning water’ that will hopefully lead to some success for you.
I hold few secrets when it comes to sharing experiences and information because as far as I am aware no lake or streams have ever been ruined by doing so and as we all know just because one witnesses success one day, it doesn’t always translate to the next.
Lake Leake has had some very ordinary reports written on it of late with people saying that the fishing there is very challenging.
A couple of my mates and I disagree with that line of thinking, as recent trips to this water have resulted in us catching our bags in a very short period of time. If I was a betting man, I would envisage that those not fairing that well there are probably arriving well after all the action has happened....dawn.
This water is an amazing fishery for early morning midge feeders, in fact I would go so far as to say you would be hard pressed not to find feeding fish on top at this time of year if the conditions are right.
A perfect morning here is a light southerly and an overcast sky, and I emphasise the overcast sky, for without that, it’s all over by around 8.30 am, but sometimes that’s all you need as the five fish bag limit is often taken by anglers ‘in the know’ by that time anyway.
It is a cocky feeling one gets when talking to someone who has just arrived at the boat ramp as you are packing up to head home. They admire your catch and you know they will probably have to work very hard to achieve the same results.
They might ask us what fly we used, where we went etc and I am happy to tell them. I even give them a couple of the flies, but unfortunately most of the action is over.
Early morning methods
Right, you have done all the right things and arrived at Lake Leake as daylight is breaking What to do now? My suggestion is to engage the electric motor, and slowly move around the lake until you spot a wind lane with a bit of insect life in it, then just sit there........for they will come.
Unless you have an experienced eye, you may not notice feeding fish at first, as many just sip their tucker from under the surface, the only giveaway is the slightest ring left on the water.
Even when you do pick up the path of a feeding fish, they can still be very hard to follow; this makes for very challenging and sometimes very ‘frustrating’ fishing indeed.
That being said, every trip is a new adventure, last time we encountered fish charging past the boat with their heads out of the water and mouths open like one of those ‘whale sharks’ you see on the discovery channel.
If you’re a long accurate cast, you hold a distinct advantage as this gives you more chances at the fast moving rainbows before they spot you.
As for myself, I am not the greatest of casts therefore I improvise by sitting down low in my boat and by picking the direction a particular fish is heading in, I position myself far enough in front of that fish so as to set a trap by casting my fly in wait for it a couple of meters ahead.
When one is poised ready to strike as the fish works its way closer and closer, it is a magical feeling, especially when the fly is taken,.... the reel screams to life and it all comes together, now that’s worth getting out of bed for!
Early morning flies for this water need only be as simple as a team of two or three size 12 to 14 black seals fur fly’s with a brown hackle, in fact anything small and ‘red tagish’ like a Zulu dry will work.
Presentation is more important than the fly itself, in my opinion. Sometimes though they seem to ignore it and go under your dries, if you witness this happening, after a couple of times, I suggest you tie a small nymph or stick caddis to your dry fly’s hook shank and hang it six inches under it, this technique usually brings the fussy fish undone.
Dusk is another great time to fish! Minimal effort for maximum results (in theory anyway) and I am all for that. As the sun disappears over the hills that surround Lake Leake, the fish, especially in the last half hour of daylight start to look up consistently again, quite often a persistent angler will be greeted with a huge swirl appearing from nowhere next to his boat as a fish charges to the surface, grabs whatever was on top at the time and heads for the bottom again.
An Elk Hair Caddis is a great fly to put on now, especially if there is a good hatch flying around you, beware though as quite often there is no warning of an impending take, they just want to smash it!!
Other great flies to try are the Johnny Dekkers’ “Purple People Eater” (a purple woolly bugger with an orange tail) or a buoyant mudeye pattern pulled along the top of the waves in short sharp strips.
It might appear like lunacy casting blind in the dark to noises or the glimpse of a ripple that didn’t look quite natural, but if you’re going to get a big fish, now is the time. You don’t have to ‘see’, you only have to ‘feel’ when the line goes tight and you hook up.
Soft Plastics too
With the huge advances in soft plastics that have come forward in recent years, this is another method that produces fantastic results in the darker hours.
Today we are spoilt for choice and the variations of softies in different colours and scents, pre rigged or unrigged, nowadays, seem endless.
I love to fish with plastics early and late in the season especially at dawn as these are the times of the year when the fish are eager to put on condition and they seem to be looking for something a bit more substantial in their diet on a more consistent basis. The fishing can be fantastic, especially if your after that monster!
The big advantage with this form of fishing is depending on the level of water you are fishing in and the size of the jig head you are using, you can cover a lot more territory with the added advantage of longer casts, enabling the angler to reach the depth’s required when necessary.
I have caught many fish with soft plastics in early morning wind lanes , (especially rainbows), after spotting a boil or rise and then casting a couple of meters in the direction upon which I think the trout is heading, I then try to retrieve the plastic past the fishes nose.
Once again, the strikes can be very aggressive, morso before full daylight.
My personal favourite plastics are Berkley gulp pumpkinseeds and the Tassie Yep “Red rascal” and “Flapper” range in both the pre rigged and unrigged versions.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve used Lake Leake as an example in this article, mainly because it is one of my favourite waters, but the same techniques and tips could be applied to Burbury, Huntsman, Four Springs, Brumbys Creek etc, etc with equal success, these methods work for me and work well, I am just an everyday angler with no great skill set to fall back on, just a fair bit of experience collected from over four decades of fishing our fantastic Tasmanian lakes and rivers.
By making the effort to get up early or by heading out after tea to fish the evening until dark, I do catch fish regularly and so will you.
We are lucky in Tasmania to have the many lakes that are surrounded by gum trees.
There are numerous insects that live in the trees, and on the right day they will be blown onto the water. Gum beetles are one delicacy for trout and they often cruise the shallow margins of a lake looking for these and will slurp them down with gusto. So when the breeze is warm the rod and the flies are put into the car and away I go.
I have been lucky this summer to be at the waters edge when the gum beetles (Chrysophtharta bimaculata) have started to fall. They are quite a clumsy insect only being able to fly short distances, so around the shore lines are most productive. However, on really windy days the beetles can be blown for miles and end up on the lake next door.
The best time to fish for trout feeding on these insects are when the fall first starts or the fall is light. In the past I have witnessed massive falls of beetles and there will be so many the water looks like a greenish carpet but the fish will not be feeding when the fall is like this. I think they like to see a beetle here and there so it is more of a selective thing.
Using an artificial for the gum beetle feeders I only use one fly as there is nothing like putting a single dry fly to a feeding fish. Over many years there have been various beetle patterns used, some quite complicated and others very simple — some of which work well. After working on various patterns over many years — simple is best for me. Fishing the beetle is quite simple find a feeding fish and place the fly in front of the fish and let it find the beetle.
Thread – Brown
Hook – Light gauged, short shanked size 10
GT Stripe – Small orange foam cylinder
Beetle Back – Olive Rainys sheet foam 1/8” thick
Underbody – light yellow seals fur or antron dubbing
1: Take brown thread along shank and slightly around the bend of the hook. Tie in the single foam cylinder.
2: Cut a strip off the foam sheet this needs to be about 12mm wide and 20mm long. Now cut one end of this into a pointed shape.
3: Place the pointed end of the foam strip onto the hook shank so the point is facing toward the hook eye take the thread and tie this down firmly tie the full foam point down going forward and then back to where the foam has been tied in.
4: With the yellow dubbing dub on a nice little fat under body it does not have to be done really neatly as a few fibres will give a leggy look. Take this along the shank and finish back from the eye a little.
5: Bring the foam back forward also finishing back from the eye a little. Tie the foam down firmly but not tightly as if it is too tight the thread will cut the foam. Cut away excess foam to form a head.
6: Pull the orange form cylinder over the top of the beetle back so it looks like a GT stripe. Tie down in the centre of the foam hard. This orange stripe has nothing to do with catching trout it’s there to make the fly easy to see as any beetle pattern of this type sits low in the water.
7: Whip finish varnish and cut thread away.
Tenkara Fly Fishing
The long and short of it
is a rodmaker who does most of his fishing with a six and a half foot bamboo doing with an eleven foot graphite Tenkara rod? This was a question I was asking myself as I made my first cast with the no-reel, fixed line, telescopic rod on a small, Snowy Mountains stream.
What is Tenkara?
Tenkara is a fly fishing method, practised in Japan for thousands of years. Literally translated, it means ‘from Heaven’. Like most old rod based methods of fishing, it involves no reel. A fixed line is simply attached to the tip of the rod.
Originally the rod was a single piece of bamboo, and the line horsehair.
On the end of the horsehair, the fly was cast or dapped onto the water.
Modern Tenkara has evolved to long (eleven to fourteen foot) telescopic graphite rods. Folded down, these rods are incredibly compact, at around 50-55cm. Though the tips are incredibly fine, and fragile if mis-handled, under normal fishing they are cushioned by the rest of the rod. The butt cap unscrews, allowing easy removal and replacement of broken sections if this does happen.
A short length of braid (called the ‘lilian’), sealed at the very end, is permanently integrated into the rod tip. A knot is formed in the lilian, allowing the casting line to be looped onto it for fishing, and quick removal when taking the rod down.
The casting line is of a fixed length, from one to one and a half times the rod length. There are two choices here. Traditional Tenkara lines are of a tapered, twisted design (like twisted leaders). More recently, people have started using high visibility level 10-15lb fluorocarbon as a casting line. The traditional lines are very light and soft landing, while the relative weight and fine diameter of the fluorocarbon give more line speed and less wind resistance. To the end, a length of fine tippet (recommended 5lb maximum) and the fly are attached.
Quite a bit of detailed information on Tenkara is available on the internet. It has generated some recent interest in the USA so there are rods and other accessories available there too. Without reel seat hardware, guides (or wraps), they are quite cheap. A couple of hundred dollars will see you set up with all you need. Check out www.tenkara-usa as a starting point.
Though I had heard about Tenkara fifteen years ago, I didn’t give it much thought until recently. While researching bamboo rodmaking in Japan, I came across numerous magazines showing pictures of Japanese anglers fly fishing small streams using Tenkara. The simplicity and apparent limitations of this technique had me curious, especially given the recent resurgence of short line nymphing around the place. Much of my own small stream dry fly fishing is also done at close range, albeit with a very short rod, so I thought Tenkara might make an interesting comparison. Japan Flyfisher magazine staff writer, Tomoniri Higashi, organised a Tenkara rod and line for me to try out. I opted for a ‘short’ 11 footer, in the hope that this would be best suited to our small, often bushy streams.
When the package arrived, I attached the line, tippet and a casting fly and went outside for a flick. Without the weight of a reel, the whole outfit was a combined 3oz, which is a strange feel to start with. What clicked straight away, was the casting stroke required to turnover the almost weightless line. It was very similar to the action for throwing a long leader with no line out the tip off a short bamboo rod. This shouldn’t have been a surprise I suppose, as you need a short, firm, casting arc to load the rod without using the weight of a line to do so. Most references recommend a finger on top style for Tenkara, but I found it a little easier to squeeze a tight positive loop into the cast with a V or thumb on top grip.
After this brief introduction, I organised a day with a fishing mate, Troy, up to a small high country creek. We also took a short, 6’3” Cane rod as a comparison. Just to relax and get into the feel of the day, we started with the bamboo, catching and releasing a few small rainbows. It was time, we decided, to get the Tenkara rod out of the back of Troy’s vest and put it to the test.
Which brings me back to the start of the article. The short, tight casting stroke described earlier proved quite effective, and I was popping the fly into corners, up bubble lines and against undercut banks. With an eleven foot rod, and eleven foot line, plus your arm and the leader, casts over 25 feet could be made without too much trouble. It should be noted that some more experienced Tenkara anglers use as much as one and a half times the rod length of line, so with a fourteen foot rod, quite long casts can be made. When the wind picked up, it did take a little more work to punch the fly in than my little bamboo. Similarly, while more accurate than I expected, it was hard to obtain quite the same pinpoint delivery as with a shorter rod. In part this may be down to experience and technique.
A few other adjustments had to be made over a conventional rod, but for the most part these were quite intuitive. Without a line hand to manage line, slack had to be managed by lifting the rod up. The long rod and light casting line did make it easier to minimise drag without having to mend. All but the last few feet or even inches of tippet could be held off the water. Even when more line was on the water, there was less drag on the fine 15lb fluorocarbon ‘flyline’ than a plastic or even silk. It was also fun to flick the fly up and around a bend in the stream before you reached the corner. Knowing when the fish takes your fly would be another thing though I guess!
Well, before too long, the inevitable happened, and a little rainbow of about eight inches took down the deer hair caddis. Lifting the long rod gently the hook was set. Now the fun really started. Normally a fish like this would be brought to hand without much fuss. Think again. With the seemingly unwieldy length of the rod and fine tip, and no line to strip in, some short-term mayhem ensued. The rod actually took a much deeper bend than I expected. The feel was also very direct. The line, being attached directly to the tip rather than running through guides, telegraphed every quiver of movement down the rod into my hand. The fish went for an undercut bank close to me and I had to step back to get the rod down low enough to put side strain on it. Back out, it headed downstream in a modest flow and I had to take a few paces after it. Before too long however, with the rod raised up, I had the tippet in hand, and soon after, the fish. Whew, and an eight inch rainbow at that. I will say, however, that there are claims of quite large fish being taken on this tackle.
After a quick picture, the fish was released and I handed the rod to Troy. It wasn’t long before he landed a fish too, and we went fish for fish for a while. I’d left the cane rod back a hundred metres while we fished and took pictures. I called out to Troy I’d pop back and get the other rod so we wouldn’t lose it. He said (jokingly, I think) ‘nah, leave that crap back there’. I don’t think either of us were planning to ever be full time Tenkara converts, but it was a lot of fun. We were laughing like kids through the whole experience. There was something Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn about the simplicity of it.
We continued on for a bit, before we both started to notice that our rod arm was getting tired and a bit sore, like when you’re holding something up on a wall waiting for someone to get organised with a hammer to nail it up. This mainly came about from trying to squeeze the maximum length out of casts, particularly in longer glides, as well as holding the line off the water to obtain a drag free drift.
One feature of the telescopic nature of the rod is that you can temporarily shorten it by collapsing one or more of the bottom section to create a shorter rod. This can be used in more tightly overgrown sections or under tree canopies. With so many Australian streams being very bushy and overgrown I do think the ability to fish with a short line as well as a short rod is an advantage. I think Tenkara is probably better suited to more medium sized freestone streams with pocket water and tumbling, turbulent flows, than it is in a really overgrown water. I’m sure more experience would obviously help in managing the almost weightless line in sticky situations however.
Seeing some immediate strengths of a new technique are interesting, but what gets me thinking just as much, maybe more, are the limitations they present. It makes you open your mind up a little, and this can feed back on to your regular methods of fishing. As an example; when fishing up a smooth glide, you usually make successively longer casts to fish the water with creating wading wake. This isn’t an option with Tenkara, so you’ll have to look for options from the bank. Too overgrown? Then you’ll have to learn to wade like a heron, lifting each foot gently out of the water on each step, maybe even crouching low while doing so. Result – you become a better wader, which will help whatever tackle you’re using.
After a while we decided to go back to the bamboo. The first cast I made, I nearly threw the rod right out of my hand. The ease of casting the full loading little rod was overwhelmingly comfortable and natural. Again, this was maybe partly being because what I fish most of the time. Troy noted the same thing. We caught a couple more little stream fish and then headed for home.
In a curious coincidence, fellow bamboo rodmaker, Callum Ross, mentioned to me recently that he and some friends from the NSW Southern highlands had been trying out Tenkara gear on small streams there and in the Snowy Mountains. I also see that the Spring 2010 edition of Fly Rod and Reel magazine has an article discussing Tenkara.
So, should conventional fly rod and reel manufacturers be quaking in their boots, with Tenkara taking the place of all other tackle? Probably not. I doubt I will fish it more than a few times a season, but even from the brief trial, it was a worthwhile experience. It’s obviously an elegant, simple, effective method, and quite a bit of fun!
Check out Nick’s website:
Game Fishing – Off to a Great Start
Having enjoyed early starts to the past few game seasons this season was looking ominously like it wasn’t going to shape up all that well.
Over the past two or three seasons we have had fish as early as the last weekend in November and certainly here in numbers by the end of December, however over the past two weeks fish have been reported in reasonable numbers down the entire East Coast and appear to be getting thicker by the day and also, starting to move in closer to shore where the smaller boats can get at them – time to pull the lures out at last.
Talking to Rocky Carosi from Professional Charters at St.Helens during early February I found that there are large numbers of small striped tuna around which ensures there will be plenty of makos about for the shark enthusiasts as well as some good schools of albacore around the 6/7 kg range for those anglers who are quite partial to a good feed of the ‘Chicken of the sea’ – the only hold-up getting into these fish so far has been the anglers nemesis – wind. The large numbers of stripeys and albacore also has some scientists excited as they predict a good run of largish yellowfin chasing them.
Marlin—are you serious?
Moving down the coast, one boatload of ‘bottom bashing’ anglers got the shock of their lives when a couple of marlin started leaping not far from where they were fishing out off Maria Island – now there is some news that will get the fanatics going!!
Strangely enough, the waters wide of Maria Island seem to have consistently produced marlin hook-ups over the past few seasons so this would be an ideal spot to start searching for those looking to land their first billfish. One chap I know hooked up two seasons in a row on what were fairly certain to have been big ‘Blues’ only to bust the first one off and get spooled on the second one – if you are going to have a crack at these make sure your gear is in ‘top notch’ condition because if there are ANY weaknesses you can be certain that ‘Beakies’ will find them!!
Further south there have been reports of both albacore and striped tuna in reasonable numbers out of Eaglehawk Neck, predominantly out on the shelf but starting to move inshore as the waters warm up and the occasional angler has been fortunate enough to strike it lucky as far in as the Hippolyte Rock.
There have also been reports of small yellowfin jumping out on the shelf but at this stage I don’t know of anyone lucky enough to hook and land one yet – this is sure to change as we move towards March as the fish move in onto the inshore reef structures.
Yellow Bluff, Foxy’s reef, Little Hippolyte and the reef at the back of the Big Hippolyte are great places to start looking for those that love challenging themselves against these speedsters of the sea.
There has also been plenty of mako action out of ‘The Neck’ for southern shark enthusiasts when the weather permits.
South to Pedra and blues
Down around the southern corner Lee Harris from GO Charters (operating out of Southport) took his first team of anglers for this season down to Pedra Branca last week and had an absolute cracker of a day with plenty of - - - wait for it - - - Southern Bluefin around the thirty kilo mark with one beauty broken off at the back of the boat reported to be around the ninety kilo mark – what a start to the season that would have been - break out the tissues boys!!
What is interesting is either these fish have bucked the trend and turned up early this season or as some of the locals have been saying for years now – they never left at all!!!
If the weather was a bit more friendly down that way we may well be catching tuna all year round in the game fishing Mecca - Tasmania (certainly at Pedra anyway!)
So, although the season seems to have reverted to the days of old where tuna fishing doesn’t get underway until late January – all that remains to be seen is how long it will last this year; will it finish in May or will it keep on going as it has in recent seasons until June July and one year even August?
El Nino weather patterns have been good to us – La Nina is an unknown quantity.
My advice is strike while the fishing’s hot! Dust the rods off (check the rollers) and give the reels a service, spool them up with new line – sharpen the hooks and get out there and have some fun – tomorrow’s tuna isn’t promised to anyone.
Shore Based – St Helens
The St Helens area offers anglers a real variety of fishing options for those possessing a boat or kayak, Georges Bay, Scamander River, Ansons Bay and various coastal Lagoons are all easily accessed by watercraft. However the angler on foot is often left standing wondering where to go and what to do as the boats motor off in the distance. But there are options for the walking fisherman to target and enjoy some great sports fish.
Most Tasmanian anglers are well aware of the quality and size of the Australian salmon and yellowtail kingfish that are available in Georges Bay, but accessing these fish from the shoreline is sometimes seemingly impossible. However there are a couple of areas and techniques that will allow shore based anglers a chance of tackling these wonderful fish.
Many of the schools of Australian salmon, often with small yellowtail kingfish mixed in, will hold up throughout the bay. They can be seen way out in the middle smashing up the surface chasing baitfish but quite often the large schools of salmon will move in and out of the bay and school up inside the Barway. Its when they move backward and forward like this that the shore based angler can take advantage of a small but productive window.
The fish will generally follow the tide so as the tide turns and makes the run out it takes a host of food items and bait fish with it and the salmon will often follow. There are a number of areas that the shore based angler can target the salmon but the high tide limits these a little bit and as the tide recedes more area is available to the angler, also concentrating the fish.
The first and probably most productive area is Dora Point; this is the northern point of the channel as it leaves the Georges Bay and heads over the Barway. Here there is a top class rocky point with easy access and big rock areas protected from waves and spray to store extra gear carried down. The rocks give easy casting straight into relatively deep water running right at the base of the rocks and out to the middle of the channel. On the ocean side of this point is a great little beach that has the channel running almost parallel with it that often has good salmon and kingfish schools sitting within casting distance off the beach. As the tide flows out and drops away more sand on this beach is exposed and the angler is able to walk out closer to the edge of the channel and cast straight into much deeper water, this is where a lot of the salmon will hold just over the edge of the drop waiting to ambush any baitfish forced out of the shallower water.
With the tide now much lower another very productive area is also revealed and this is on the inside of Dora Point, by driving to the end of the track past all the camp grounds and walking down the short track through the coastal scrub there is a large sandy spit exposed at low tide that gives access right to the edge of the channel leading out of the bay toward Dora Point. This area can quite easily be fished even without the need for wading and straight into relatively deep water. Quite often through this area large schools of fish will hold up waiting for the tide to move back in bringing with it fresh ocean water and more food and baitfish. But salmon are not the only species available along here, big silver trevally are regularly caught here with the use of soft plastic lures.
I consider the northern side of the channel to be the pick of the areas, it gives a wide range of choices depending on whether you like to fish the more ocean side off rocks or the more sheltered water off the sand inside the point however the southern side of the channel also offers some options. The Break Wall at Blanches Point looks like it would be a fish magnet but unfortunately this is not always the case, as the current moves very fast along the wall on either the incoming or outgoing tide schools of fish tend to move by quickly not holding station where it would be easy for anglers to target them.
The very end of the wall however can be a different story, as the water movement here tends to eddy and be turbulent if offers some protection for schools of bait fish and mackerel out of the main current. The salmon and more importantly the yellowtail kingfish know this and can often be seen smashing the bait within easy casting distance to the angler. The trick here is to fish right at the very end of the wall and cast into the turbulent water and any water that may be stirred up by wave action.
Another area that can be targeted, although a little more difficult to access, is the southern side of the channel on the inside of the Breakwall at Blanches Point. Here you will need to park in the Blanche Point carpark and walk along the overgrown track to the edge of the sand dune bank looking down over the channel. This can only be accessed at low tide and you will need to scramble down the bank using the old makeshift ladder which can be hairy when carrying good quality fishing tackle and a bag of gear. Once down by the channel edge you can walk for quite a distance back down the channel towards the bay and fish the edge the whole way. Along here you have a good chance of also picking up big silver trevally as well as any salmon or kingfish that may be moving in and out. Be warned though that this area is alive with toad fish and leatherjacket that will have you chewing through bags of soft plastic lures at an alarming rate. (Daniel Paull also has good success here. See the following story)
Tackle & Techniques
To effectively fish these areas I highly recommend the use of lures over bait, either soft plastic lures, metal casting lures or some of the new style of weighted hard body bibbed lures. I say that because of two reasons, number one leaving the bait behind makes it easier to move around from spot to spot as you don’t need to carry buckets or packets of messy bait in some type of storage container separate from everything else. Number two when using bait you tend to attract a lot of the less desirable and rubbish fish that would normally not be targeted with lures.
Metal casting lures such as Halco Twisty’s and Slices, Norstream Sluk Lures, Asari Mahi lures or my favourite the Spanyid Raider and Sniper Lures. All of these lures come in a variety of sizes usually ranging from 10gm right through to 60gm to suit whatever conditions the angler is presented with. The metal lures are used more to target the salmon and the kingfish, both of these fish are high speed swimmers so retrieves need to be the same. The technique is to cast as far as possible, let the lure sink for a few seconds or longer depending on the water depth and where the fish are so mix up the depths a little, and then wind quickly, even as fast as you can wind as believe me you will never out wind a salmon or kingie. The faster you wind the more aggressive the fish will be and so will the strike.
The soft plastics can be fished in a similar manner however you may not achieve the same casting distances as you will with the metal lures. Plastics such as Squidgy Flick baits in 85mm and 110mm and DOA 4” Jerk Baits are ideal and used with jighead weights anywhere from 1/12thoz right through to 1/4oz depending on conditions. The plastics can be fished a couple of different ways, either letting them sink deeper in the water column and twitching them back if the fish are down deep, erratic jerky retrieves through mid water or like the metal lures fast retrieves across the surface or just below the surface. What the plastics lack in their ability to be cast long distances they make up for in versatility when it comes to retrieves.
The final style of lure that I am very impressed with and is producing great catches of salmon as I write this article is the new Maria Duplex series of bibbed hard body lures from Japan. Traditionally bibbed lures are very light and difficult to cast with all but the lightest of casting rods designed for chasing bream and trout, no match for trying to cover distances and target larger fish. However Maria have developed a casting lure designed for just the purpose of chasing salmon, kingfish and small tuna from shore, they are a bibbed lure like a Rapala, come in 2 sizes a 65 mm that weighs 18 gm and a 80 mm that weighs 31 gm allowing them to be cast great distances with more chance of a strike. The Duplex has an excellent wobble and roll action and works well with a high speed retrieving. It is also very effective fished from the beach, it is a sinking lure and it will easily reach the bottom and fished back with an erratic retrieve. The Duplex comes with Owner ST-46 #5 trebles.
Rods should be 7-8 foot in length and in the 2-5kg or slightly larger weight category, graphite preferably as they offer lightness and strength as well as the ability to cast the lures being used. Reels in the 2500 to 4000 size are perfect, stick with quality brands such as Shimano ect as they will offer good warranty periods and high quality components and drags capable of handling bigger fish. For spinning I highly recommend a good braided line, 8-10lb braid should do the job nicely and one of my favourites is the Power Pro brand, its one of the thinnest on the market and also one of the strongest.
Being limited to shore fishing doesn’t mean you have to miss out on quality fishing and some good fish are regularly caught form the areas mentioned above so don’t be frightened to give it a shot.
Silver Trevally – From the Shore
The silver trevally or Pseudocaranx dentex has to be my most favourite and cherished light tackle species in Tasmania. They are just an awesome little fish to catch, especially if you manage to hook one over that magical fifty centimetre mark! Personally, I began targeting the species many years ago on a variety of baits and artificial lures from a small stretch of beach in Georges Bay. At the time, they were the ultimate sports fish, the very thought of hooking up to one of these fish was enough to keep me saving up for more packets of soft plastics. One of the aspects I really enjoy about targeting trevally is their simplicity to catch. Sure, they aren’t as hard to catch as a big black bream, but at the end of the day, I think everyone would be happy with a large, hard fighting silver trevally. Over the years, I have discovered many trevally holding locations scattered along our coastlines, even up around Burnie! With their awesome fighting abilities and overall beauty, I can understand why the silver trevally is one of the most popular species Tasmania has to offer.
The species are predominately a coastal fish that prefer inshore reefs, beaches, bays, estuaries and structure around large current flows. This member of the trevally family is generally grey with a hint of either blue or green depending on their current habitat. The species are also commonly known as white trevally, trevally, blurter, skipjack trevally and silver bream. They usually inhabit the waters south of Brisbane and right round the coast to Geraldton in Western Australia. Tasmania has some excellent trevally fisheries; these include the popular fishing destinations of Georges and Anson’s Bay in the states north east. As most anglers would agree, the silver trevally is one of Tasmania’s most popular sports fish, along with our other more prominent species, the black bream and east Australian salmon. Fishing from the shore just adds another element to catching these species, and in some cases, it is more enjoyable than fishing from a boat!
Finding trevally from the shore is easier than some people may believe, all you really need to find is some good water flow and structure. Silver trevally love structure, especially reefs and rocky points lying adjacent to fast flowing water. Having said this, I have also often caught trevally in still water with very little structure. Weed edges, rock walls, river mouths, wrecks and basically anywhere with some broken bottom all make perfect trevally habitat. Regarding dietary matters, I believe that the species will travel and feed wherever there are prey items to be found, including those places where you just wouldn’t expect to find one. These fish are pretty opportunistic predators and will feed on a vast range of small fish, crustaceans and invertebrates. While foraging for small crustaceans such as crabs and prawns, trevally will often sit on the bottom with their heads down, ready to ambush anything that may swim or float past. Generally, when you actually hook up to a fish, your soft plastic or bait will either be floating down or sitting on the bottom. This is probably because the species feed on bottom dwelling prey items.
As mentioned before, Georges and Anson’s Bay are real hotspots for silver trevally. If you really want to get into some good fishing, head to one of these two places. I personally fish Georges Bay the most for trevally and they can be pretty thick in there at times. Blanche Point is my most favourite land based destination in the entire system, it is easily assessable and the fishing there is phenomenal, especially for big salmon and trevally. There are a few spots on the north west coast too. Those locations produce fish, just not as big as their east coast cousins. Red Rock, a small rocky outcrop located just outside of Burnie is one of my personal favourites. There is always plenty of trevally around Red Rock to keep you entertained! If you ever venture up to Red Rock, be sure to bring some heavy gear, there can be kingfish there at times.
Techniques and Tackle
With the evolution of artificial baits, I find it hard to use anything but soft plastics these days. There are just so many brands on the market that will help you catch silver trevally! As far as soft plastics go, you simply cannot go past anything that imitates a small baitfish or invertebrate. Berkley make an excellent range of trevally catching soft plastics and I believe that they are the best way to go if you are just getting into fishing for this particular species. I don’t say this because I like personally favour Berkley products, I just say it because I know they work! Invertebrate imitations such as the Berkley Gulp 6” Sandworms in Camo, New Penny and Natural and 7” Turtle Back Worms in Green Pumpkin, Pumpkinseed, Camo and Watermellon just cannot be overlooked. Don’t be afraid to use bait fish pattern plastics either, larger fish absolutely love them! Minnow variations could include Yep Flappers in Pearl White, Red Rascal and Smoke Cloud, Berkley Dropshot 3” Minnows in Pearl Watermellon, Pearl Blue, Pearl Olive and Bloodworm. These are all proven trevally catchers!
Jigheads have a very important role to play while you are targeting silver trevally, you must be able to keep your soft plastic in the strike zone. Most people would ponder about how much weight they should have in order to get their plastics into the zone. I actually tend to use pretty heavy jigheads, anything from a 1/16th to a 1/6th oz head. It all really depends on how much tidal flow there is where you are fishing. In really fast water, you really need to be using a suitable weight to get your plastic to the bottom where the fish are. The current will often pick your plastic up and move it around so it always pays to cast up into the flow and wait for it to hit the bottom before you begin your retrieval. In still water, you can get away with using small, light weight jigheads. Because there will be no current, you can leisurely wait for the plastic to hit the bottom. Just remember to make your retrieval slow, just take it easy and the fish will scoff you plastic with no trouble at all. Think about your surroundings, make sure to match a suitable plastic with a suitable jighead and you should be able to successfully target silver trevally.
I have been using a 7’2” SSX Squidgy Spin in the Shimano Starlo Stix range for over a year now and I simply can’t fault it, especially while fishing for trevally. It is light enough to really feel every single bite and it’s strong enough to pull any fish out and away from nasty structure. Shimano make an awesome range of rods to suit every angler, from snapper enthusiasts to tournament anglers. The Catana range is a great example of a cheap, quality rod. You can catch absolutely anything on these rods. I even managed to land my very first kingfish on one! Reels can vary depending on what you are targeting. A quality reel is needed for many saltwater species, including trevally. Both Shimano and Diawa make exceptional thread line and overhead reels. If you are starting out with soft plastics, you would be silly to go past the Shimano Sienna 2500FD, Sedona 2500FD or the Symetre 2500FJ. All three reels are just perfect for trevally, bream and salmon. Match any of these reels with some quality 5lb Hi Vis Yellow PowerPro braid and some 6lb Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon leader and you should be all set to go.
So with all of that out of the way, I hope you catch a few. Silver trevally are an excellent sports fish, they go like a cut snake and they are pretty good on the chew too if you decide to take one home. They make excellent sashimi, so I am told anyway! Try and be as conservative as you can, make sure to look after your catch even if you are keeping a few. It is known that the species is relatively common in Tasmanian waters, do the right thing though and always remember to limit your kill, don’t kill your limit. The fishing in Tasmania is getting better every year, let’s try and make it last for future generations.
Grasshoppers – The Big Mac of Trout Food
Many people ask me when the best time to come to Tasmania fishing is. There is only one answer as far as I am concerned – Autumn.
March and April are what I call the wedding months. All the girls want to get married then. Why ? Because the weather is the most settled and they are almost guaranteed a beautiful day.
I like it because the river fishing can be exception and I like river fishing. Grasshopers have been prolific the last couple of seasons with unprecedented grass growth no doubt helping the populations.
Grasshoppers obviously provide a ‘meal in a mouthful’ for river trout – they must be like a Big Mac for them and trout often swim meters to violently scoff one from the surface.
From a guides point of view there are many ‘taking candy from babies’ opportunities. The most wayward of casts still gets jumped upon and the takes are often so vigorous that there is no need for a strike as many trout hook themselves. Mostly the solid dumping down deliveries that would scare a Little Pine tailer all the way to Lake Kay are just what is required when hopper fishing.
Another pleasant thing that happens to the Tasmanian rivers at hopper time is that the catch rates significantly increase in these months and the average size could almost double. I can think of many creeks and rivers where during the season proper we might catch a dozen a day and the average might be a guides pounder. Come hopper time the daily bag could easily move to a couple of dozen or more and it is not unusual to find plenty of 2 pounders and an occasional fish of 4 or maybe, dare I say it, 5 pounds.
I once read a book by the famous bike rider Lance Armstrong titled ‘It’s not about the bike’. Well at hopper time I can assure you that it is not about the fly. Having said that I am still somewhat fussy about the design of the fly. For me I want a fly about the right size as the average hopper. Whilst I do catch many on large yellow wing type monsters mostly I prefer a size 12 tan job.
I feel it is very important that the fly is heavy. This helps it land with the characteristic ‘PLOP’ that is so obviously music to a trout’s ears. I don’t want a size 14 parachute CDC type fly when I could simply have half an inch of three matches glued to a hook. Why not? Go and carve some hoppers out of the bamboo chopsticks that your local Chinese takeaway gives you. Colour them with waterproof texta and a coat of your clear gloss fingernail polish and glue them onto a size 12 hook. See how you go. Right size, right colour, right shape, heavy, positive buoyancy – just perfect.
Rick Keam’s poly hoppers are also about as good as you can get although they are a little light for me and Muzz Wilson’s ‘Wee Creek Hopper’ is a sensationally simple fly too. These days I save my huon pine hoppers for my girlfriend Anna to use and the clients get hastily tied Wee Creeks. Anna is special and the clients don’t know any better anyway!
Get yourself a short rod and use a 9 foot fast tapered leader. Learn what a tuck cast is and use plenty of high tip whip to finish the cast. This will put the fly down firmly without much line or leader entry noise. Don’t use much more than a 4 or 5 weight and this helps reduce the line noise too. You just want to hear the plop every time your fly lands.
Most takes will come within a second or maybe two of landing so don’t fish a cast more than say 4 or 5 seconds. Search the water at 5 second and 2 metre intervals. Trout can come 2 metres easily in 5 seconds at Big Mac time.
Make sure you come along to one of my casting days if you cannot do any of the casting stuff I am talking about. It will be the best investment that you can make in fly fishing.
The great American caster Floyd Dean has a really cool and special Grasshopper cast. This puts the hopper in with super speed and a healthy PLOP (even with a light weight fly) but humps the fast moving fly line up into the air so that it very lightly gravity drops onto the water ever so quietly. I will show you someday.
Because of the manner in which you are fishing your way upstream fish will inevitably hear the fly land BEHIND them and turn downstream to fetch it. Once they take the instinct is to turn back to their lie and they are mostly auto hooked on the turn. It’s nice to rarely miss a strike in fly fishing.
I suggest that if you ever see a fish move forward in the current to gently sip your free drifting hopper then you are not delivering firmly enough or you are casting at greater than 2 metre intervals.
So, if you want to catch lots and maybe some real leviathans get out on your local streams during March and April. Wear gaiters or waders all the time and have some fun. Hopper feeders never fail to put a constant smile on my face.
Marine Fisheries News
Why Sharks are Special
Sharks are the top predators in our marine ecosystems. They are highly vulnerable to overfishing because they are long lived, slow to mature and produce fewer offspring compared with other fish. Sharks play an important role in our oceans by cleaning up dead and dying marine species.
How Many Sharks are Caught?
The estimated number of sharks and rays caught by recreational fishers during 2007-08 was 41 000. Of these, 32 000 (78%) were released and only 9 000 were retained. Sharks and rays are one of the main species caught by gillnetting although hook and line fishing is also common.
The main reason that sharks and rays tend to be released is because of the poorer eating qualities of some species such as dogfish and draughtboard shark. The other reason is that fishing rules in Shark Refuge Areas don’t allow sharks to be retained.
Catch and Possession Limits
There are size, possession and boat limits which apply when fishing for sharks. There are also restrictions on gear, fishing areas and the type of bait which can be used.
School and gummy sharks have a minimum legal size of 750mm or 450mm if headed and tailed. The combined possession limit is 2 sharks.
There is a boat limit of 5 sharks and rays combined including school and gummy sharks but excluding elephantfish. Elephantfish are not included in the boat limit but still have a possession limit of 2 per person.
Sharks are often caught using hooks either with a rod and line or a set line. A set line is either a longline or a dropline with up to 30 hooks attached which can be left unattended. Set lines are not permitted in Shark Refuge Areas. People possessing or using set lines must have a recreational sea fishing licence specifying set lines.
Be aware that although you are allowed to use up to 30 hooks on a set line, the more hooks you use, the more likely you are to potentially exceed your bag limit and waste fish. Remember that you are responsible for what you catch, so try to limit the number of hooks on your line if there is a risk of overcatching.
Only one set line may be used by a licence holder, however in waters of more than 150 metres depth, more than three licence holders can join their lines together provided no person uses more than 30 hooks and no more than 90 hooks are used on the line. Also, no more than 120 hooks can be set and no more than 4 set lines may be on a vessel.
Licence holders using set lines must be present when the line is set and retrieved. Both longlines and droplines should be clearly marked with your licence number and the letters “LL” for longline and “DL” for dropline on the marker buoys. The buoys used must be at least 195cm in diameter.
Shark Finning Rules
When catching and retaining sharks in Tasmania, you must leave the following fins attached until you have landed them.
The dorsal and pectoral fins must remain attached to all shark until they are landed. You can remove some other fins to assist with bleeding. If you remove the head of a school or gummy shark, then it must measure at least 450mm from the back of the gill slit to the start of the tail.
These rules about shark finning were introduced to abide by international agreements to help prevent the illegal trade in valuable shark fins and to ensure that sharks are handled responsibly. The rules apply to all recreational and commercial fishers.
When cleaning your catch, be mindful of fish waste and how you dispose of it. Shark heads and frames take some time to decompose so dispose of them in a responsible manner either by returning them to deeper water or at an appropriate refuse disposal area.
Shark Refuge Areas
Shark Refuge Areas have been set aside in Tasmanian waters to protect sharks, particularly school and gummy sharks. Fishing is restricted in these sheltered habitats so sharks can breed and raise their young.
No shark, skate or ray other than elephantfish can be taken in Shark Refuge Areas and recreational fishing gear restrictions apply. The use of set lines and mullet nets is prohibited and where permitted, gillnets may only be set for up to 2 hours.
Key coastal embayments in Tasmania with known important habitat critical to the breeding of sharks and rays which have been declared as Shark Refuge Areas are:
• Port Sorell
• River Tamar
• Georges Bay
• Great Oyster Bay
• East Coast Waters (between Seaford Pt and Cape Bougainville)
• Mercury Passage
• Blackman Bay
• Pitt Water
• Frederick Henry and Norfolk Bay
• Derwent River
• D’Entrecasteaux Channel
Whilst there are no declared Shark Refuge Areas in the North West, there are a number of bays that may be important for breeding, so it’s important that you fish responsibly. Stick to the size and possession limit and consider the gear that you use.
Protected Sharks and Rays
The following sharks and rays are protected: White Shark (known as Great White or White Pointer Shark), Maugean Skate, Grey Nurse Shark, Megamouth Shark and Whale and Basking Sharks. If encountered, they must be returned to the water.
Abalone Virus Update
A reminder that recreational abalone divers should remain on the lookout for any signs of Abalone Viral Ganglioneuritis (AVG) in wild abalone following a recent outbreak on the East Coast. An abalone farm and a nearby processor are now subject to biosecurity restrictions.
At this stage, there are no new restrictions on the recreational take of abalone. However, area closures may be implemented as a control measure if necessary. For information about the existing closure of some northern Bass Strait islands to lower the risk of AVG entering from Victoria, go to www.fishing.tas.gov.au
What are the signs of AVG?
• The most likely sign is abalone that are weak and/or dead.
• In some abalone, you may see:
protusion of the mouth part; and/or
edges of the foot curling inwards, leading to exposure of clean shiny shells; and/or
abalone showing signs of stiffness, commonly referred to as ‘hardfoot’ or ‘hardfish’.
What to do if you see any sick abalone
• Collect some whole abalone in the shell in a sealed plastic bag or container and record the exact location where the samples were collected.
• Refrigerate but do not freeze any samples.
• Contact the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment’s Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888 (24 hours free call).
• Avoid moving to another dive site as this could spread the disease. Return to land and decontaminate all equipment.
How to keep your abalone fishing gear clean
By thoroughly cleaning surfaces and removing organic material that may harbour the virus, you can prevent the spread of aquatic diseases including AVG.
Wash gear thoroughly – wash wetsuits with a wetsuit wash preparation and fresh water or with a mild soap or shampoo. Tanks, buoyancy vests, regulators and masks that have not come in direct contact with abalone can be washed down with soap-free fresh water. Equipment that has come into contact with abalone including catch bags, gloves, knives and measuring devices should be soaked in soapy fresh water for 30 minutes and then rinsed. All equipment should be allowed to dry, preferably in the sun, before re-use. Wash boats thoroughly with fresh water and detergent away from the shore.
Though there are no human health implications from handling or eating abalone infected with AVG which is known to only affect abalone species, people who have had contact with abalone should wash their hands with soap and water.
Need more information?
• Get a copy of the Recreational Sea Fishing Guide from Service Tasmania;
• visit www.fishing.tas.gov.au; or
• subscribe online to have fishing news information updates emailed.
• Phone 1300 368 550 or 03 6233 7042