Chasing Autumn Trout - April - Mayby Chris Bassano
With one month of the regular ‘brown trout season’ remaining, good fishing is anything but over. There are a large number of productive fishing options left and in some instances, it may be the best you have had.
At this time of year brown trout begin to think about spawning. For lake fish this means ‘running’ up inflowing rivers to pair up and let loose. The trigger for this hysteria is rain and the subsequent fresh water. Whenever rain falls in quantities great enough to influence the flow of water into a lake at this time of year, trout sense that it is time for their annual pilgrimage and begin their long vidule. They begin to change colour, becoming darker and more vivid in colouration while congregating in large numbers.
By the end of March this year, more than three hundred fish were already in the fish traps in the Liawenee Canal and at the end of March a further 500 ran over the course of two days. This was a direct result of the rain that fell at this time. Although most fish move into the rivers at night, they mill around for some time in the bays into which these rivers flow before entering the mouth. This has huge ramifications for the fisherman. Some lakes and places within these lakes are more productive than others. Here are some of my favorite spots to visit in April.
This season has not been a good one for Arthurs Lake. Last years water levels had an adverse effect on the water quality and condition of the fish. During March Arthurs has begun its resurrection with fish proving more plentiful in the shallows and their condition improving. Hydro Bay, The Cowpaddock and Tumbledown are all spots worth fishing. Fish have already started gathering in these areas in numbers and have shown a true willingness to eat most offerings. Even on bright days, these fish can again be tempted to eat dry flies if real insects are present. I have also found good numbers of Jassids on this lake around the point just north of Creely Bay. With a light south westerly blowing, the lee of the shore amongst the trees will hold fish willing to eat the dry.
If you were to ignore this entire article but remember one thing, it should be this… In spite of what you may read, trout do not simply go to river mouths in order to spawn. Yes, on some natural lakes this may be the case but on all of our hydro lakes, these fish enter the ‘old river bed’ and follow it through the lake until they reach the new river mouth. Astute anglers will do some research on old maps and those who have the technology will use their boat sounder to locate these river beds and concentrate their fishing efforts around them. Trollers, lure fishermen and fly fisherman alike will all benefit from remembering this. Although not confined to Arthurs, on no lake is this phenomenon more apparent.
The north eastern shore of Brazendale Island is a hot spot for shore anglers. The old river bed is able to be reached from the rocks amongst the trees. With sticks all around you, hard body lures will be successful without emptying your tackle box on submerged sticks. Even fly casters can reach this area without getting their feet wet. Boat anglers will find access straight forward and any wind which blows along the shore will provide hundreds of metres of productive water.
Fishing around the timber and rocks of Hydro Bay will gives access to spawners moving through as well as resident trout. The area can be fished in the same manner as any bay is throughout the season. If you have a GPS on your boat, mark in every point on which you catch a fish and most times, a pattern will emerge.
Although early season pressure on this area was greater than ever and water levels extremely low, this region will fish very well in April. The water levels have already risen recently and fish are back tailing along lake edges. Inflowing rivers have also swollen and insects still abound. Lake Augusta will continue to have caddis and dun hatches as will Lake Kay, Second Lagoon, and too many other western lakes to mention. Fish in this area can lack condition after the low, warm water of mid summer but are surprisingly accessible. Christies Creek in the south and Blue Peaks to the north will both have fish tailing in shallow water. The sun at this time of year is very low and even during the middle of the day polaroiding light is not what it was a few months ago.
Not surprisingly, lure casters will be more attracted by overcast and windy weather and as more rain falls, the fish will become more responsive.
Woods has been outstanding all season and April will be no different. For fly fishermen, spinners still appear along calm shores although the deeper weed beds will continue to hold large numbers of fish. Again, the water levels have been low but smaller fish have kept their condition well. Lure casters can happily concentrate in the deep but when the water starts to flow in along the south western shores, head straight there! Last season, extraordinary numbers of fish were landed in April. Slowly fished soft plastics on light jig heads have accounted for many fish recently and this tactic will continue to work through April.
The rocky shore in front of the shack drops off more quickly than most and although some strap weed can be found in the area, the combination of depth, weed, rock and prevailing wind direction presents anglers with ideal conditions for holding fish.
Bronte, Bradys, Binney and Pine Tier
During recent trips to this area the fishing has been excellent. Although water levels are low, this can change at any stage. Jassids have been plentiful on the water and inside the fish. Even brook trout have been found feeding on these little insects. Polaroiding has proven very successful and a leaf hopper imitation is all that is needed when the weather is warm. East and South Bay on Binney are worth trying as is the bay just south of the dam wall on Bradys and again below the shacks further south again, The over cast days have not been as productive but again, the area on Bradys into which the ‘Whitewater’ runs held plenty of fish at the start of April and this will only increase over time. As with Woods Lake, spinners are still around lee shores although don’t expect the fish to always be feeding on them.
Shore based spinning is always productive in these lakes and the slightly deeper shores will come into their own when the wind is on shore. This area of Tasmania is one of the rare locations in which we can catch our salmonoid Grand Slam of brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout in one day. This can provide an exciting sidelight to a days fishing and April is a wonderful time to achieve this goal. Bradys and Binney also hold good numbers of redfin perch. Lures with splashes of orange retrieved quickly in the shallows will work well and deep water in front of the canals will also produce brook trout.
Fishing in May is confined to those waters which are designated as rainbow trout waters and those which are open all year round.
Although this lake remains open all year (except Canal Bay), the coming months will prove some of the most productive. The inflow areas such as Half Moon Bay, Brandum, Doctors Rocks and the intake portal in Todds Corner will all hold good numbers of fish. Remember not to get too close to the mouths of the rivers! Drifting around these areas or fishing from the bank in their vicinity will reward persistence.
For some reason, there are fish that don’t go up the rivers to spawn. These fish gravitate to rocky windward shores and release their eggs or milt with the help of wave action. This too is worth taking into account when fishing a lake such as Great Lake and is especially helpful information for the lure fisherman. The Beehives and all of the islands in the main body of the lake will be worth trying. Metal vibes fished with a slow role have been highly successful along these shores.
On the overcast days, lures, soft plastics and wet flies will be very productive but the bright days may still bring gum beetles and those ever elusive jassids. Coupled with wonderful midge hatches which will continue through winter, these insects will still provide excellent dry fly fishing when the weather permits. For the lure angler, bright weather will mean fishing closer to the lake floor. Vary your retrieve and picture what your lure is doing below the surface. Try and annoy the fish into taking it with jerks, stops start retrieves and general erratic behavior.
The front of Canal Bay beyond the white markers will also be a hot spot as all fish heading for Liawenee have to pass through this point. The last time I was there (the end of March) the water was just over sixteen feet deep which is ideal for those wanting to fish near the bottom and when things are quiet, it is a great ‘go to’ spot. Great Lake will continue to produce good fishing through May for those willing to brave the cold weather but this month is also a great time to visit some waters that you might not otherwise fish.
Craigbourne Dam has already received 500 adults (about 1kg) from Great Lake and will get a further 500 over winter. These fish will again gravitate towards the inflowing Coal River and shore based anglers will not be a disadvantage here. While any salmon will end up around the dam wall, the other end of the lake should receive more attention. A high percentage of fish seem to be taken out of Craigbourne when they are caught. For optimum fishing, target the week after a stocking has taken place. That is not to say the fishing won’t be good outside of this time but your chances will increase dramatically.
Meadowbank, north of the causeway, is very productive. This lake will also receive 1,000 trout from Great Lake along with salmon whenever they become available. As is the case with Craigbourne, grasshoppers can produce excellent rises on warm and windy days. These are the only conditions during which I would fish the southern end of Meadowbank. Conditions would have to be ideal for me to choose this lake ahead of the other options.
Dee Lagoon is also open until the 30th of May. Notoriously a difficult water, Dee can produce some huge fish and exciting fishing. I have recently witnessed a ten pound rainbow being landed on a green and gold cobra cast from the dam wall! There are few prettier waters in our state and with clear water and shelter never far away, it should be fished by more anglers, more often. Although wind lanes and beetle falls attract the fly fisherman, lure casters will find enough fish to keep them busy around the north eastern end of the lake. Concentrate on changing your depth and retrieve until you have success and then stick with it. Colourful lures and flies have always served me well at this time of year. If there are reports of Jassids on the water at Dee, I can not recommend it highly enough but as is always the case with this lake, you are chasing quality rather than quantity.
Lakes Burbury, Macintosh, Rosebery and Pedder
Lake Burbury is a favorite water for many Tasmanian fishermen and rightly so. Holding plenty of browns and rainbows, this lake has a lot of fishy water. As is always the case, fishing bays which have inflow creeks will give anglers the best chance of success. Going deep is highly recommended although frosty mornings will bring fish to the surface. Follow the old river beds and you will find the fish!
Lakes Macintosh, Rosebery, and Pedder have been underfished for many years. A trip to these waters is always an adventure and they hold excellent numbers of fish. Inflows are a great starting point. Slicks and wind lanes are worth fishing with lures or fly and early mornings are the best times to find these fish highways. On Pedder, midges provide the most consistent action and the large slick which regularly appears around Mt Solitary Island towards the southern end of the lake is the best spot to start searching. Macintosh has equally good water at the northern end. The slicks which frequent the area in the mornings often turn into foam lines by mid afternoon and surface action is common. Further north many spawning creeks flow into the lake and although access is difficult through dense trees, careful navigation can give access to this area. A pipeline also flows into the lake towards the south western end. When the turbines are on, a large plume of water produces a current in which food is trapped and fish can be found sitting in this flowing water feeding as if in a river.
Nearby, Lake Rosebery produces some enormous fish at this time of year. When the hydro is running water out of Macintosh, large browns sit in the deep hole below the dam wall and eat the minced up fish from the turbines. During May, other fish will also move into this confined area from the lake. Local anglers choose to fish soft plastics very deep to counter the current although they concentrate on the backwater area.
Beetles abound on all of these waters but again, this is weather dependant and should not be relied upon during May.
For those seeking a real escapade, lakes Meston, Junction and Skinner are all open until May 30th and only hold rainbow trout. Although catching these fish will require a different strategy to the brown trout, inflows are always worth visiting. Lure casters will want bad overcast weather while fly anglers will find beetles on all of these waters if you are there on a bright warm day. It is important to note that at this time of year I have never found great beetle fishing to occur after the first snow dump no matter how warm the subsequent weather is. All of these waters are very clear and have restricted access to the waters edge. Skinner is more suited to the lure angler as back casts are difficult to achieve for fly fishermen but warm weather will bring beetles and a much more comfortable one and a half hour walk from the car.
Parts of Meston are similar although the lake is large enough to find plenty of good spots to catch fish. Midges are usually on the trout’s diet and often rises occur further off shore than fly fishermen would like. With rivers flowing into the northern end and out of the southern end, there is a long way between the two. Both are popular spots for lure casters although I have had more success to the south. Don’t neglect the western shore all together as rainbows can be found very close in wherever smaller creeks enter the lake through the dense scrub. The eastern bank is rather inaccessible and is hard to recommend during May as is does not seem to fish any better than those closer to the walking tracks.
It may be the end of the trout season for many but the fishing is far from over. Brown trout are congregating around river mouths in large numbers providing unparalleled opportunities to catch large bags of fish. Although their eating quality is less than perfect, sport can be fast and furious. When in doubt, go deep and think silver. Rain will bring more and more fish into the bay areas and numbers will rise with time. For the boat angler, now is the time to get the best out of your sounder. Look for riverbeds and fish holding deep and remember to mark in the spots where you have success for future drifts.
Don’t be afraid to travel to lesser known waters as success at this time of year may just give you confidence to return during the middle of the season and add another water to your favorites list. With days drawing in and fishing options being reduced by the month, now is the time to ‘make hay’. Even with the advent of year-round fisheries, the winter months seem to drag on. April and May provide us with the opportunity to prolong the agony. The fish are accessible, plentiful and often in large schools. What more could anyone want?
Lures, flies and tactics
I have deliberately not mentioned which lures or flies I would recommend for the various lakes because I would find myself repeating everything.
Silver is by far the most successful colour during this period of time. Whether it be on lures or flies, silver seems to drive the fish wild. Don’t get hung up on one colour though and keep ringing the changes. Orange is also never far off my rod.
Green over burnt orange, green and gold and all grey spinners are worth carrying as are soft plastics in Gary Glitter, brown trout, rainbow trout, Wasabi wrigglers and Black and Gold T Tails. Black and Gold or silver Vibes for deep water fishing will also be successful.
Ecogear and Rapala both make excellent hard bodies that trout love to eat but my most successful pattern over the last season has been the Brown Snake pattern made by Stiffy. Using an olive permanent marker, this lure can be turned into the spitting image of our native Galaxia and the trout seem to agree.
Fly fishermen will have worked out that Gum Beetle and Jassid patterns are needed on the bright warm days but that sort of weather is not guaranteed during April and May. Cloud cover will mean big flies and loch style wets with the possibility of having to use sinking lines. Woolly Buggers and Cat Flies on the point in combination with a Pearly Wickhams or Silver Invicta will fool most of the trout. Even Pearl Pheasant Tail Nymphs and Black Nymphs with silver bead heads are readily accepted.
Because of the schooling habits of trout at this time, multiple fish hooked on the same cast is not uncommon. Nine pound Flurocarbon is my standard tippet strength while pulling wets in order to give me a better than average chance of landing two, three pound fish at once.
For up to date information on stocking of all Tasmanian Lakes, visit the Inland Fisheries web site at www.ifs.tas.gov.au
It is also recommended that you check your fishing regulations book to make sure that you are not fishing in an illegal spot paying particular attention to how close to river mouths you are allowed to fish.