Trevallyn Tailrace - Monster Trout
As the open season on trout waters arrives there will many keen anglers heading to the highlands to catch the first of the hungry, post spawn, browns.
With the winter well underway and some heavy frosts often covering the ground, I find myself keeping my trout fishing close to home. It is great to get home to a warm house, shower, warm meal and I really like my own bed.
I found it a bit tough to start with, but after a few days of scouting about the banks on the last hour of light, I started to find places where fish were feeding on whitebait and elvers
I had located several good places, including my old favorite haunt for big fish, the Trevallyn tailrace. Then I had to work out the keys to success. Many different types of plastics were thrown into the schools of bait fish and exploding trout - often just metres from my feet.
The best success was with soft plastic lures and Berkley Gulp products seemed the best of these for me. I am sure you can catch them on any lure if it is presented to them when they are hungry, but I will say that Gulps are my choice of weapon against the brutal brownies at the tailrace.
My main point is that finding feeding fish in places such as the tailrace is essential. Fishing where this is some kind of obvious action boosts the confidence. Occasionally you may be rewarded with a fish of a life time such as the 10 lb 8 oz sea runner I nabbed last year on a chartreuse Berkley Gulp minnow.
If I didn't find feeding fish then I seemed to be wasting my time, either they were not feeding or they were somewhere else.
I spent many days on various banks up to my knees in mud looking for a sign of a fish, and when I found one that was feeding I would persist cast constantly in that area.
I would watch closely for its movements, which direction it was coming from when it was attacking the bait schools, then I would work hard in front of them keeping it close to the bottom and slow retrieves. This persistence and method would usually come up trumps. Interestingly, fishing the soft plastic low and slow was more effective than on the top-even though that's where I could see the fish.
Things that I look out for when locating feeding fish, are signs such as feeding cormorants which seem have large feeding brownies close by.
I find that cormorants love to gorge themselves on the same baitfish that excites the big trout into making themselves known.
Signs such as nervous baitfish, as well as bait schools skipping across the surface, bow waves on the surface, and swirling in the water are all great indicators of fish looking for food. I have noticed large fish will often porpoise like a dolphin when cruising the edge in the bait school.
How to fish the tailrace is completely up to the person, but it is almost essential to have thigh waders and a vest to carry things. The shoreline is very muddy and you don't want get yourself or your gear covered in mud.
Also I like to fish mid tide as it is rising, this give you some time on the hard rocky bottom to walk the edge and spot where the bait is hanging, and also to have a look at the bottom so you can check out the snags and other structures.
Sea runners get more active as the water rises and gets close to the grass. At this time I will often see the fish begin to move.
Smaller trout will go around chasing the schools of bait into the grass line and pushing the school hard into the shore, once all the hard work seems to be done, larger predators such as the double figure brownies begin to show up making large swirls and splashes as they feed.
Fishing for sea runners and even resident fish in the tailrace is not like any other type of trout fishing. They do not have their own little piece of water that they hang in, so if you see a fish move on the surface by the time you put a cast into that spot the fish is probably 50 metres away, but they do have a tendency to push their food into certain places, these are the areas you need to locate on the day and work them constantly so when the fish come through your plastic is in the zone.
As I said earlier I prefer to use Berkley Gulps, and the Chartreuse 3" minnow is my all time favourite I found that bright colours such as this seem to work best on the trout in these waters where there was a bit of turbidity in the water.
Normally in turbid water I would go a darker lure to create a silhouette effect, but as these hungry trout were mainly feeding on white bait I found the colour variation on the chart gulp minnow to be a perfect match in the water.
Also other Gulp minnows worked well such as nuclear chicken, and pearl, I also had luck on Berkley Gulp natural sandworms.
When using Gulp sandworms in the tailrace you will catch a variety of other species as bycatch, most of them are just a pest at the time but, I did have lots of fun catching Australian salmon up to 30 cm, mullet, and very larger redfin perch on around 5 lb while I was waiting for the trout to fire up.
The best rod to use is a rod designed for soft plastic fishing and all good tackle stores will point you in the right direction. The most important thing in a reel is a smooth drag system, the fish in the tailrace are by far the hardest fighting trout I have encountered, they are real power houses and they will use the substantial current to there advantage. My two largest fish last year taking most of my line before pulling up.
You will also need to tire them completely. DO NOT try to land them when they are green they will break you off at your feet. Seeing a fish so close at the shore is most disheartening when it comes free as they are often trophy size.
Other things I would strongly suggest is to carry a landing net, I use a small landing net with a magnetic clip on it so I can have easy access to the net when required.
I like to use 3 lb - 4 lb braid with a 7 foot 6 lb flurocarbon leader. I find the flurocarbon leader great it the tailrace because it has good abrasion resistance and it is supposed to be close to invisible. I am not sure about that, but it is certainly less visible than the braid.
After you fish the tailrace you will understand how the bank is quite abrasive on your leaders.
Where to fish
I have included a mud map of the shore line that I fished last season. It has some spots where I caught fish and places I also regularly spotted good fish feeding, these are indicated by the fish symbol,
It also shows where I fished from and the direction in which I would cast. You can cast in the entire area around where you are standing and in fact I suggest you do. However, I have indicated a direction where the majority I think your major attention should be focused.
The last thing on the mud map is the current lines. These are obvious once you are at the tailrace and they change quite often depending on which turbine is being used. It also gives you an indication of the areas to cast. As you can see I am either casting hard into the current, similar to normal river fishing or casting in behind the current where the bait take refuge out of the flow.
Below is a list of things you might require to fish the local area for trout using plastics.
Once again I hope my article was informative and educational to those who are trying a different approach to their fishing techniques, and are willing to put in a few hours for a fish of a life time.
Thigh or chest waders (recommended)
Flurocarbon Leader: 6 lb or 8 lb
Braided Line: 3 lb - 4lb
Soft Plastics: Berkley Gulp 3" or 4" minnow in Nuclear Chicken, Chartreuse, Pearl or Smelt. (these are my choices)
Quality Jig heads size 1 or 1/0
Camera (To prove it to your mates!!!)
Sunscreen, hat, polarized sunglasses
Optional fly vest, lip gripper, braid scissors for tying leaders etc.