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Hayes on Mayflies

Peter Hayes
It is no surprise to me that as a trout fishing guide my December and January book out well before the other months. The repeat clients come primarily for the opportunity to fish the Highlands tremendous dun hatches.
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When you have finished for the day, why not have a brag about the ones that didn't get away! Send Mike an article on your fishing (Click here for contact details), and we'll get it published here. Have fun fishing - tasfish.com

Presented from Issue 105, August 2013

For those of those of us that don’t bother to fish all that much on the waters that are open all year the closed season takes a toll. You spend the cold winter months sorting out and cleaning all your tackle, doing the necessary maintenance on the boat and restocking the fly boxes with all the favourite patterns and no doubt some fancy new ones.

All the while in the back of your mind you are counting down the days till the first Saturday in August so you can once again wander the shore of your favourite lake, or drift that secret weed bed in your boat that has given up so many fish during past seasons. Well you don’t need to stress any longer because the 2013/14 trout fishing season is finally upon us. I tend not to worry about the rivers a great deal early in the new season, preferring to set my sights on the waters of the Central Plateau. In what has become somewhat of a tradition for me over the years I always head to the shores of Little Pine Lagoon at first light on opening morning, have a can of beer and head off for a walk to see what’s about.

The last few seasons have been plagued by very cold temperatures and frozen shallows but it doesn’t matter much to me anymore. That first weekend of the season is more about just being there and enjoying the environment and the social side of things, rather than the hard-core fishing. There is plenty of time for that later in the season.

As I sit writing this we are coming off the back of a very cold snap that carried with it a lot of snow. Many lakes have had frozen margins and in fact frozen bays which is not ideal. But we are now starting to get more rain in the weather patterns will help no end. With all this in mind it is going to be a bit difficult to predict exactly what conditions will be like early on in the season, so if like me you choose to head to the lakes what are some options?

Little Pine Lagoon…

As mentioned previously this is the first place I will be heading to start my season, regardless of the weather conditions at the time. I will mainly be looking for tailing fish even though the start of the season is not the supposed peak time for this style of fishing at

The Pine. Depending on water levels and how they are fluctuating there may not be as many fish showing themselves in the shallows as there is come September or October but what they lack in numbers they certainly make up for with eagerness to take a well presented fly as they look to put on some condition after a long, hard winter.

Rigged up with my Epic 4wt fibreglass rod I will first try and target any fish I see with a small fuzzle bugger style fly. Tied on a Kamasan B830 hook in size 10 with a brown super salt chenille body this fly has served me well on many an early season morning at The Pine. If the fish happen to be a bit touchy for some reason I will swap the bugger for a Scintilla stick caddis pattern in colour #14, dark chocolate. I am sure everyone would be familiar with this fly, but if you aren’t look it up and tie yourself some. Or if you are not that way inclined get down to your local fly shop/ tackle store and purchase a few of these deadly flies. One word of warning though, if you do tie these flies yourself please be careful when singeing the chenille head with a match. It is all too easy to burn it right off and the old stick caddis just doesn’t look right without the yellow grub poking his head out the end. Trust me, I know.

One thing I like to do when fishing a stick caddis or scud type fly to these fish if they are a bit spooky is to not use an indicator fly on top. I prefer to go the single fly option as it is one less thing that can get in the way and cause things to go pear shaped at the wrong moment. It can be a lot harder to detect whether your fly has been taken, especially if the water is a bit rougher but a nice greased up leader will go a long way to helping you detect those tricky takes. And over time you just learn to sense that something has changed and your fly has been eaten, which for me is a something special when you get it right, a bit more of a challenge I guess.

The other added bonus at this time of year is you don’t get the crowded shore lines you like you do as the season progresses, I’m not big on crowds anymore when I go fishing! If like a lot of people you are not big on the freezing cold starts early in the season don’t despair, Little Pine is fantastic early season water for pulling some bigger wet flies either from the shore or boat. If in the boat I like to drift the course of the old river bed and fish a bit deeper with an intermediate or slow sink rate lines just till I find out what the fish want at the time.

From the shore I always opt for an intermediate line to start with just to help cut through the wave action etc. on the surface of the water. Favourite flies for this are again the Fuzzle Bugger in various colours and the mylar Yeti with a gold body and grizzly wing in either brown or olive. It doesn’t hurt to have them in weighted versions as well just to change the action of the fly a bit if needed, or carry some style of eight you can add to them as required such as Loon deep soft weight.

Great Lake….

Those that know me would I am sure be fully aware of my love for this body of water. Whilst it may not look pretty to some with its barren clay and rock covered shorelines, in my eyes it is a thing of beauty. I have spent countless hours wandering the shorelines of this amazing lake casting big wet flies out into its waters and it is something I will never get sick of.

Wandering the shoreline with a nice breeze blowing into you from some direction to stir up the water right at your feet is about as good as it gets. I like to use a nice stiff fast action style of rod for this type of fishing like my Scott S4s 6 weight. It makes it much easier to turn the bigger flies over in the breeze that I use when fishing this way. Once again I like to use an intermediate line for most of my shore based fishing on the Great Lake, but if I happen to wander onto a deeper bank or a nice drop off I always have a full sinking line of some sort in my pack on a spare reel ready to go.

Fly choice is once again fairly simple for me, if I had a box full of mylar Yeti flies in various wing and body colours I would happily wet fly fish this lake till my time is up without needing a different style of fly. It is also a brilliant water to fish wet flies from a boat. If you can strike the right conditions and get a nice drift along your favourite shore, or weed bed you will be guaranteed some sort of action. And one of the added bonuses of the Great Lake is the chance to pick up a nice big rainbow just for a change of scenery. If you haven’t already tried it, give the Great Lake a go early in the season, it is in my opinion one of the most under-utilised waters as far as fishing goes in the state.

Where else….

The options are endless really. Limited only by your imagination and how much effort you want to put into it. The most obvious ones I have not written about are Arthurs Lake, Woods Lake and Bronte Lagoon. These are all fantastic early season options.

Once again the type of fishing you choose will be determined to some extent by water levels and weather conditions. Tailing fish at Arthurs and Bronte if the levels allow it, pulling wets out of the boat at Woods, the options are endless and all can offer up excellent sport at any given time. If on the other hand you are feeling really adventurous you can always head out west to the Nineteen Lagoons and even beyond before the gate opens.

I have some early season trips before the gate is open into Double Lagoon and those sorts of places for some amazing shallow water fishing. Fisherman are now also using mountain bikes to cover more ground out here early on and fish different waters and having made a considerable investment in a new bike this year I for one will be giving this style of fishing a go in the very near future.

A word of warning though, if you do decide to head out here before the gate opens be prepared. The weather can turn bad, really quickly and if you are faced with a considerable bike ride or an even longer walk back to the gate to your car you want to be prepared.

Make sure you have suitable clothing and plenty of food on hand just in case you need it. Don’t disregard the smaller, often over looked waters either. Places like Cameron’s or Bruisers Lagoon and even Shannon Lagoon. Although not wild fisheries as such or certainly not a wilderness experience they can still offer up fantastic sport at any given time. Though the fish in the first mentioned couple of lagoons are slabby spawners transferred from other lakes it is surprising what you may find lurking in these waters from previous seasons still. And if you are lucky enough to tangle with a fish in one of these waters that has survived a season then hang on. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you might encounter. I was lucky enough last season to tangle with a couple of these very fish tailing in Bruisers Lagoon. Whilst I didn’t land one of them it turned out to be well worth the effort to have a look there!

Have a crack….

If you decide to give the highlands a try early on in the season, do so with an open mind. Odds are you might strike bad weather or freezing lake margins, but that is all part of the experience of being up there doing it.

While I may not have mentioned your favourite lake what I have done is tried to give you an insight into what has worked for me over the years during the early parts of the season. The waters I like to fish and the types of flies that have proven to be successful for me.

If you have another lake where you prefer to go that has served you well why not give the flies mentioned a go there if you haven’t already. Fly fishing to me is about evolving your skill set and always learning or trying new and different things. Don’t be afraid to think outside the square and try new things, you might be surprised at the results you get. And if the weather does pack it in and get to rough up there, we just might run into each other at the lodge where you can tell me about your most liked early season waters over a beer or three. Good luck and have a great year on the water where ever you choose to fish.

Gavin Hicks

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