Presented from Issue 99
Peter Broomhall’s tips for trout season opening day success on a few of my favourite fisheries
For Tasmanian trout anglers the first Saturday in August is the culmination of a gradual build up in anticipation that started a few weeks beforehand. During this time rods have been checked, reels oiled, lines renewed, leaders retied, hooks sharpened, waders checked for leaks and tackle and fly boxes restocked. In some extreme cases this has been repeated many times over...
Opening Day Memories
My earliest memories of trout season opening day is of pedalling my trusty old Malvern Star down the dimly lit streets of Latrobe at dawn, heading for the banks of the nearby Mersey River. Here, depending on the rivers mood I would either sit for hours on end watching and waiting for my rod tip to bounce signalling that a trout had been fooled by the earthworm bait offered or if lower clear water was encountered casting lures in the glides, ripples and runs. These lures were usually plain old silver wonder wobblers, which were in those days, and probably still are, surprisingly effective.
These past opening days all merge together to great degree, but one really clear memory is of the trout that were caught, usually fat little “pounder” sea run browns but sometimes much larger, with their silver scales falling off as soon as they hit the wet hessian of my fishing bag. These fish were then usually slung off the handlebars of the Malvern Star on the trip return trip home, straight up the main street of course, much like a Cairns Marlin boat returning to port with its catch flags proudly flying.
Opening Day Choices
For the intrepid Tasmanian angler the choice of location to fish on opening day is relatively simple considering we live in a state that offers tremendous variety in its trout fishing. Depending on the individuals chosen angling method whether it be fly fishing, lure casting, trolling or simply bait soaking the main decision is to either stick to the lower elevation lakes and streams and it’s more predictable weather or to take a risk and instead brave the often frigid August conditions in the highlands.
Lower Elevation Stillwaters
In our island states northern region where I am based the main lower elevation stillwaters include the popular fisheries of Four Springs Lake, Huntsman Lake, Brushy Lagoon and Curries River Dam. Lake Leake, Tooms Lake, Craigbourne Dam and the newly re-established Lake Dulverton are among the more popular waters in other regions. All of these are very good fisheries in their own right and have a dedicated band of devotees but if push came to shove I would go to the Springs every time for the season opener.
On opening day the car parking spots at Four Springs Lake are usually at a premium. Many people spend the first fishing session of the new season here and for very good reason. All angling methods are allowed on the Springs and all have a good chance of catching a large fish on this water.
However this popularity does have its price! On a typical season opening at Four Springs a casual midmorning glance across the lake can reveal a scene closely resembling a regatta more so than a trout fishery. Certainly not a spot to go if you do not like crowds!
In spite of this I have spent a couple of very enjoyable opening day sessions on Four Springs. Large brown and rainbow trout frequent the margins in good numbers and are generally suckers for a well presented wet fly such as a Woolly Bugger, Yeti or Fur Fly.
My method here is to get to the access point early and walk well around the lake shore in the predawn darkness by headlamp. This tactic generally results in putting some distance between myself and the majority of anglers who predominantly stay close to the vehicular access points. This effort will provide the early bird with plenty of untouched shoreline to explore. The shallow marshy rush lined corners immediately north of the boat ramp and continuing right to up to the top end of the lake are productive areas with plenty of food to tempt the trout in close. These shores feature plenty of channels, ditches, drop offs and structure such as drowned timber and stumps.
A lure, fly or bait worked through these areas will be sure to attract plenty of interest from the resident trout.
After a mornings sport the walk back to the car can also be very enjoyable with plenty of parties of anglers willing to have a chat about their successes and the “ones that got away”. A cool beverage being proffered is not uncommon either. Sometimes the return journey can take a very long time!!
Lower Elevation Rivers
Tasmania boasts some very good lowland river fisheries. In the North West we have the Mersey and Leven Rivers. The North boasts waterways like the South Esk, Macquarie and the Meander Rivers and the Southern district has the mighty Derwent, Tyenna and Huon rivers to name just a few. It is no secret that my favourite fishery of them all is the Mersey River so it is here that I will base my opening day discussions but the methodology will be effective on any river.
The Mersey opening fishing is always dictated by the weather conditions leading up to the event. If heavy rain has occurred in the headwaters in the preceding days the river will be high and hopefully spilling into the bordering paddocks. High water will bring the resident browns out to feed on the bountiful food supply in these backwaters flushed out by the rising water. Tailing trout that can be sight fished with wet flies or simple earthworm baits are an opening day dream. There are many many kilometres of river that provide suitable conditions for this type of fishing stretching from Latrobe as far upstream as the Weegena area. Fishermen should look for drains, ditches and low lying depressions as the trout will use these as “super highways” to enter and leave the backwaters. The few hours after dawn and again before dusk are the most productive times for this type of fishing.
If the weather has been kinder and lower clear water conditions are encountered, lure casting and swinging wet flies across the many ripples and runs is a productive method to deploy. The stretch of the Mersey adjacent to the Latrobe township is great spot to start this type of fishing as you have the chance of catching a silvery sea run brown trout as well as the numerous resident browns. Lures such as the enormously popular varieties of soft plastics common in lure fishing nowadays or simply the silver wobbler from yesteryear are proven methods for success as the trout in this area are strong baitfish feeders. For the flyfisher a Woolly Bugger variant is as good a fly as any to start the season with.
As an added bonus to early season Mersey River anglers the IFS usually releases a significant amount of relocated adult brown trout into the river, normally at Latrobe but I have heard that this year’s release may have occurred in the Kimberly area so keep your ear to the ground. These trout averaging around the 2 to 3lb mark, provide good sport for the first few weeks of the season.
The Lake Country
Where do we start here? Tasmania’s central highlands boast a virtual smorgasbord of potential opening day destinations. An online Tassie fishing forum that I am a member of, runs a topic each year in the lead up to the season titled “trout opening destinations?” or something of that ilk. A scan of the replies to this question from the forum members usually reads like the index page to Greg French’s marvellous Trout Waters of Tasmania book. Popular fisheries such as Great Lake, Arthurs, Woods Lake, Echo and the Brady’s chain all gain a very high position in the popularity stakes.
Once again the location of choice in the highlands to begin your seasons sport will depend largely on the preferred fishing method to be deployed. Diehard flycasters will lean towards locations like Little Pine Lagoon, Penstock Lagoon or even the 19 Lagoons while the lure casters and trollers will be targeting Arthurs Lake and Woods Lake for instance. One water that caters well for all angling methods and is a very productive winter fishery is the Great Lake. While the opening day gloss here is slightly tarnished by the fact Great Lake has been classified in recent times as a year round fishery with no real closure period, many trout anglers will still use the first Saturday in August as their first serious foray on this virtual inland sea.
One real advantage in the non closure for anglers intending to spend opening weekend on GL is that, dissimilar to other waters in the highlands, there will be recent reports circulating about where the trout are concentrated and what lures and flys are being taken by the resident browns and rainbows. It really pays to scan the internet fishing forums in the lead up to give you a head start in this regard. Winter trout in Great Lake tend to feed heavily on Galaxias that are shoaling around rocky reefs and shores. This fact means that the fish are readily targeting with lures and flys imitating this baitfish population. Soft plastics are extremely effective for this fishing.
Hot spots in the winter period generally include areas that are in close proximity to major spawning streams such as the mouth of Canal Bay (outside the posts), Todds Corner, Brandums Bay, Half Moon Bay and many others. Post spawned browns will be in these spots and rainbows that are just about to head upstream on their migration. Just remember to stay outside the 50 metre exclusion zone from any stream running into the lake while targeting these areas though.
The highland weather in winter can be very unforgiving with frequent snowstorms and freezing winds. The open barren shores of Great Lake can be very bleak at these times so anglers planning to visit here on opening day should come fully prepared for this eventuality. Taking a chance – an opening day anecdote
A couple of seasons ago a group of close fishing mates, Todd Lamprey, Jim Schofield, Simon Tueon and I decided to try something a little different for our opening foray of the new trout season. We had heard on the grapevine of a remote stream fishery in the central highlands that was potentially a very good early season water. Maps were studied and plans finally set in motion to take a chance and leave the comfort and more predictable August weather of the lowlands behind.
The early hours of Saturday found us driving up the Lake Highway through the fog, frost, ice and snow just wondering what we had got ourselves in for. Jim’s boat was trailing along behind the Toyota as the access to this stream involved a lake crossing to cut down on the hike required.
After a couple of hours in the 4WD the boat was launched just as the sun was beginning to make an impression on the eastern horizon. An extremely chilly journey was then endured before the boat was pulled up onto the lake shore at the pre-planned hike departure point. Just getting to this exact point was a minor miracle as navigation was extremely difficult through squinted eyes and tears caused by the extreme wind chill factor.
Once safely ashore and after time was taken to restore feeling to limbs, the map was rechecked to get our bearings, backpacks were donned and it was off on a trek not really knowing what we were going to encounter up over the hill.
After a rather eventful walk that included many twists and turns, dead ends and resultant backtracking caused by impenetrable scrub and not the least Simon taking a huge tumble and snapping the tip section of his Sage fly rod we finally arrived on the banks of a delightful looking stream. The water was running quite high with snow melt but otherwise conditions looked good.
There was still some trepidation in the air as always as when you are fishing a new water for the first time but this feeling vanished as soon as I spotted a good sized brown trout finning in the current only a few metres above our access point. A Woolley Bugger wet fly was quickly attached to my tippet and a quick cast above the trouts lie saw the offering engulfed in no uncertain terms and we were away. What a way to start the new season!
From this point we worked our upstream taking turns fishing favourite wet flys like buggers and Montana nymphs through the many ripples and runs on this newly found fishing paradise. Plenty of trout were landed and then gently released, predominantly Browns but with a sprinkling of beautifully marked Rainbow Trout averaging around the 2lb mark with Jim taking the big fish award with a spectacular brown trout which would have weighed at least 4lb’s. Numerous other fish were missed, pricked and ‘distance released” in the all too short time spent exploring this waterway.
Even Simon casting with his ¾ length rod managed to hook and land a number of nice trout.
The travel up on the icy roads, the freezing boat journey and the arduous walk to get there were all consigned to the back of the memory bank in very quick time.
For Tassie trout anglers opening day means many different things. Whether it means a day spent with friends, a social occasion, a day of solitude, an opportunity to explore a new water or simply a chance to get out and see how your favourite fishery has fared over the winter months, the lure of opening weekend is hard to resist.
I urge all anglers to get out there and enjoy the day. Pack your winter woollies and raincoat and don’t forget to renew your licence!