Autumn Tips and Tricks
Autumn Dry Fly.
It can be the best of times; it can be the worst of times. Autumn, that is. The last months of the trout fishing season can be as good as any other, particularly if the beetles and jassids make an appearance in numbers, or if the mayfly dribble on into the gloaming of the season. However if the winter rains come early, and the snow and sleet crash the party, it can be incredibly miserable as well. But perhaps the best saving grace for this time of year is that the water is still warm enough to get things moving insect wise, the trout still remember how to look up for food, and the bigger trout are getting very aggressive prior to spawning. By mixing up a variety of techniques over the days fishing, success can be almost assured. Almost!
April is one of those months where if the autumn is more like an Indian summer the dry fly fishing can be fantastic. In recent years the gum beetles have not been as consistent as they have this year, and if mild conditions persist as expected, then the fish in all the highland lakes will actively seek out these little golden domes. The other much anticipated insect that makes irregular appearances is the jassid. Trout love to eat these little leaf hoppers. They look a little like a stealth bomber, they are brick red or dark orange underneath, and have a triangular wing on top, which is black. They must taste like mars bars to the fish, and I am sure that they go looking for them, often we have seen browns in Arthurs swim past 20 gum beetles to eat one jassid, examination of the gut contents will often reveal more jassids than can be found in the surrounding area. Perhaps the best place to look for jassids is inside a trout!
Where Are The Best Places For Surface Feeders?
The best place to search for fish feeding on beetles and jassids is in wind lanes and slicks, particularly where they form off well forested points and headlands. In fact anywhere that the wind blows off trees is the logical starting place. Often the best place to be drifting is over deep water with the dry flies, if there are any beetles and jassid at all in attendance, then the trout will be in the top few feet of water. Have confidence that they will be there, persist with the dries for an hour or two in the warmest part of the day, you may well be surprised at how many big brown noses close over your dry fly. Or flies!
Some likely locations that should produce the goods are the ever consistent Arthurs Lake, Great Lake, Lake Echo, Bronte Chain of Lagoons, Pine Tier Lagoon, Little Pine Lagoon, Lake King William and Lake St Clair. Basically look where you have had the most fun this season, the fish won't have disappeared!
What Dry Flies Do I Need?
For dry flies in this situation there are no real secrets, but perhaps a few surprises. Red Tags, Guides Tags, Bruce Gibson Foam Beetles and Jassids, Cocky Bondhu, Geehi Beetles as well as Goughies Fly are all traditional patterns that work very well in these non descript situations. The pommy dries which I use a lot include such patterns as the Carrot, the Claret Carrot, the Bibio Hopper, which is probably the best imitation for the jassid that I know of, and the red Bob's Bits. Perhaps more surprising is the effectiveness of big dry flies such as the Black Muddler, the Stimulator, and larger mayfly ties such as the Shaving Brush and the Possum Emerger. The Black Muddler is quite a surprise, it consistently pulls up good quality fish from the depths, in both Arthurs Lake and Great Lake. We started using this fly with more confidence after one of our local clients, Bob Menary used it on a very hard day in Great Lake to excellent effect. It is also a great pattern just on dark during balmy evenings as well, although this is no real secret for serious Great lake anglers. One trick to remember though, is that if there is any sort of a wave, or any amount of cloud in the sky, you should move the dries all the time. Strip, strip, pull, pull, pause, slow pick up, and recast. Give them some thing to focus on, and move those dries!
Autumn Wet Flies, Getting Down To Them
Even though we all just love to catch them on dries, there comes a time in every season where there is little choice but to go under. These days are characterised by cold winds that blow with determination, skies filled with heavy cloud, and air often filled with condensed breath, and the smell of coffee fresh from the thermos. While it can be uncomfortable for the under dressed angler, the fishing on these days can be very good indeed. These are the days to target the big male browns as they get ready for spawning. These buck fish are often in the peak of condition, display great spawning colouration, and recover well when released, which is what should be done with trout at this end of the season. They are in inferior table fish to their summer counterparts, and they also have a job to do; that is to make more trout! A noble task indeed!
Tactics For Autumn Wet Fly Fishing
For fishing at this end of the season there is no real need to plumb the depths looking for the bottom dwellers. The big buck browns in particular will be well prepared to rise up off the bottom to clobber well fished wets. At most all we would use is either a clear intermediate line, or a sinking poly tip on a floating line. Any more depth than this and you may actually be fishing underneath the trout. The best rig would be three flies fished on a level leader of 6lb fluorocarbon, with a heavy point fly, a bright flashy middle fly, and a good bushy top fly.
Where Is The Best Place To Look?
The best place to be fishing for the big male fish at this time of year is around the inflow streams. Not directly where they pour in to the lake, but in and around all the structure nearby. One of the best places in Arthurs is in Hydro Bay where the Hydro creek enters the lake. This inflow stream is characterised by a line of emerging trees in the middle of the bay where the old creek used to run. Good fish station them selves up and down these features, drifting in and around here will result in some excellent fishing on the right days. Get the maps out and look for similar types of terrain in your favourite lake, and I will bet you that they will be there, and plenty of them too!
Every year in Arthurs there seems to be certain places where large amounts of fish congregate prior to the creeks filling with water. One year there was heaps of fish in the middle of the opening, just north of the Jonah Bay boat ramp, other years there have been a lot out in the middle of the Morass, and other times in the middle part of the Sand Lake. One thing seems to be certain, and that where they collected together last year won't be where they are this year. Find some of these places and you will find some excellent fishing, it won't matter much what flies you use, but keep them moving along and the trout will do the rest.
What Wet Flies Are Best.
First of all point flies. Simple is best, flies such as the Black Woolly Bugger with or without bead head is all I ever want in a fly, or a large sized Tom Jones. Other good point flies are the Bill Beck Cat Fly, the Red and Black Matuka, brown and green Woolly Worms, the Yeti in all its incarnations, and weighted Fur Flies. In fact, all these flies should either be weighted in the dressing, or tied on heavy wire hooks. These flies should also be tied on the leader using the Hayes loop knot, a diagram of which is nearby. This knot allows the fly to get maximum movement, very important when it comes to marabou tailed flies.
Flies for the middle position on the leader should be bright and flashy, little English wets such as the Alexandra, Silver Butcher, and Silver Invicta are great, as is the Tasmanian Fly the Bloody Mary. Others can include the Dunkeld and the Pearly Wickham's. Palmered flies in the middle should be dressed with soft hackles rather than the normal stiff ones, as this gives better movement in the water.
The top fly is the real killer at this time of year, a good bob fly twitched, pulled and skated across the waves will bring strike after strike, especially on cloudy and breezy days. Flies for the bob include the Soldier Palmer, the Grenadier, the Claret Dabbler, (is there a better bob fly?), the Bloody Mary, the Doobry, and the Zulu. Even Rob Sloanes" Sunset Fly is a great fly for the bob on a grumpy weather day.
The best wet fly retrieves are the erratic ones, try everything, discount nothing, until you are sure it is the wrong thing for that particular day. We have been using the roly poly technique with dry flies lately, it works very well, as it does with wets as well. The roly poly is simply where the rod is held in the arm pit, while the line is retrieved hand over hand, giving the flies a consistent movement, which is so very deadly!
The figure eight retrieve is as deadly as ever, as is the ballistic retrieve, which is to strip it in as fast as you can! Mix it up a lot though, what may dong them in the morning, may not be so good in the afternoon.
The main thing to remember at this time of year is to be confident, there are plenty of fish beginning to move and congregate ready for spawning, and they will move to well fished dries and wets, even in the worst of weather, if you can put up with it. Perhaps the worst conditions at this time of year are the bright and calm days, if you can be out when it's not like this then the fishing can be very good indeed. This is the perfect time of year to try every thing, as most days in April have a little of every season in them.
Take plenty of sunscreen, big hats, and all the Antarctic clothing you have, and enjoy the twilight of the season, the next one is too far away to not get out and about.