River Fishing Tactics
Finding feeding river fish--
Wind lanes, bays and weed beds are all fish (and fish food) producing areas well known to lake fishers. These fish producing areas are typically associated with lake fishing, and in the case of wind lanes, loch style fly fishing in particular. Whilst these features of fly fishing may appear to be unique characteristics of lake fishing, these same fish producing features are present on Tasmania's rivers and are capable of producing equally spectacular fishing oppurtunities. Add to these features some undercut banks and white water rifles and the angler will wonder why they ever ventured from their local stream!
Eddies - the bays of the river
One of the most prominent features of rivers are their eddies. To the beginner these are recognisable as the parts of the river where the water flows backwards within a "bay'. Eddies can be as small or as big as you can imagine and are formed when the downstream current hits a river bank obstruction and turns back in on itself, eroding out a bay over time and creating a current that is typically slower and of course flowing in the opposite direction to that of the main current.
There are a number of features to an eddy that lend them to great fishing. The typically slower current inside an eddy often results in thick weed growth that, at times, houses a myriad of aquatic foods such as snails, nymphs and scud. Being a slower current within the eddy, resident fish do not have to work to fight the current and as a result find such areas a favourable haunt to reside in and feed amongst. Often these fish will patrol a defined beat (swim and feed in a repetitive pattern), which can be used to the anglers advantage.
As a rule, egg laying insects, dragonflies and damselflies as well as the majority of mayfly species require a slow current to swim up, emerge and hatch in, often in addition to a semi-submerged structure to crawl up and out of the water upon. Eddies provide a stable flow suitable for the emergence (hatching) of these insects and also provides an appropriate current for aquatic plant life such as rushes to establish in, and debris from winter floods to settle in, all upon which insects requiring structure to hatch out may utilise.
With all these insects utilising the slower moving waters of eddies, there can at times be a smorgasbord of feeding opportunities for the trout. Of course, being slow moving and often "glassy" smooth, insects such as mayfly duns are not going anywhere soon so the fish have all the time in the world to mop up there prey. Make sure your tippets are degreased and your fly is free from drag.
Seams - the wind lanes of the rivers
The 'seams" of currents are the points at which two differing currents meet. For instance, and most typically, seams are found at the point between the fast water of the main river current and the slow moving water of an eddy. In this scenario the seam will typical begin at the upstream "headland" of the eddy, and finish just above the bottom "headland" of the eddy. Seams are excellent for a number of reasons, but the basic principle is access to food. A trout feeding along a seam doesn't have to work hard for a feed as it has access to foodstuffs in the fast water that are pushed towards or in to the seam, and access to foodstuffs filtering out of the slower current in to the seam and the fast water. Quite often a fish will station itself momentarily in the calmer current and cross into or over the seam to feed. This is an effective way to save on energy and maximise feed.
As with wind lane based lake fishing, seam fishing requires good fish spotting skills, and quick accurate casting. Once the fish (or rise) is spotted, the cast should be made upstream of the fish. The fish may patrol a small beat, or in the faster currents be fairly stationary but either way, a quick accurate upstream cast can be the key to success.A Royal Wulff with a small nymph two feet under is a top way to fool seam feeding fish. To prevent the heavy butt end of the leader from sinking and dragging your fly under in the faster currents, grease the heavy butt end of your leader (only) with a floatant, but again degrease your tippet.
Undercut banks - the dependable feature
Undercut banks are perhaps the most dependable feature of rivers for locating feeding fish. For beginners, undercut banks are those banks that are characterised by clay type soils that have been eroded or even "undercut" (as the name suggest) by the current. For this erosion to occur, the currents adjacent to undercut banks are by and large faster, consistent currents.
Fish are attracted to and feed along undercut banks for a number of reasons, but food supply is the main one, along with well oxygenated water and safety from predators. Insects that may hatch upstream in slower waters are fed down these faster currents and can at times form a conveyor belt of food supply for resident trout. For the fly fisher floating a Wulff and a nymph down, the trout has less time to make up its mind whether to eat the fly or not, and the faster currents help to conceal the leader and bad casts etc.Undercut banks are typically at least one foot high by their nature, and this can provide extremely important shelter from wind for flying insects, in particular mayfly spinners. Mayfly spinners, and to lesser extents caddis flies are poor fliers and require calm conditions to gather into the characteristic "clouds" of mating insects that the fish chase and feed upon. Undercut banks provide the required shelter from breezes and on rivers such as the Macquarie can form hotspots for spinner action in the mornings and evenings. Trout feeding on windblown terrestrials also utilise undercut banks to a great extent. Grasshoppers in late summer can provide superb fishing opportunities along undercut banks as they fall off or are blown over undercut banks in to the water. Floating a big deer hair grasshopper pattern down an undercut bank and having a big snout poke out and crunch it can be awesome!
Riffles - great for beginners
Something any fly fisher enjoys who has tried it is floating a hair winged Wulff or small bushy Red Tag down the bubbling riffle of a small creek. Riffles (however you pronounce them) are the fast rocky runs typically in between pools. Riffles are more so known for smaller fish however they often hold some fat surprises, but the best feature of riffles are their fast flowing, broken water.
The faster flowing water results in the trout having to act quickly if it wants to eat, so there's no chance to inspect the fly, only time to chomp and ask questions later. A further bonus to the fast flow is the broken, bubbly water that helps to conceal the leader, the angler, and most of the mistakes.
Riffles are their most fun and successful when there are terrestrials or other surface foods such as mayfly duns on the water. Wading upstream and casting ahead with big buoyant dry flies is the typical method of fishing riffles.
Rivers offer a variety of fishing opportunities. Add to the above some backwaters, flooded ditches and paddocks and weedy channels and the fly fisher can begin to get a feel for what Tassie rivers offer. Remember that these are fragile ecosystems and many are already under a lot of external pressures, so only take what you need for a feed.