Presented from Issue 99
Early season fishing can be very challenging. Too challenging for this mere mortal of a fishing guide so I don’t like to guide before October. You see, I have a problem taking money from clients for what I consider mostly to be sub-standard (read sub- surface) fishing.
My clients love sight fishing on warm balmy days. Whilst early season shallow water tailers can offer great sport on lake margins and flooded river edges the weather is anything but balmy and the sport is particularly unreliable.
If you are Johnny on the spot, you have good local knowledge of water levels and conditions and you are not scared of frosty, foggy early mornings, then by all means be my guest. You may just find some of the best fishing of the season.Read more ...
Many people ask me when the best time to come to Tasmania fishing is. There is only one answer as far as I am concerned – Autumn.
March and April are what I call the wedding months. All the girls want to get married then. Why ? Because the weather is the most settled and they are almost guaranteed a beautiful day.
I like it because the river fishing can be exception and I like river fishing. Grasshopers have been prolific the last couple of seasons with unprecedented grass growth no doubt helping the populations.
Grasshoppers obviously provide a ‘meal in a mouthful’ for river trout – they must be like a Big Mac for them and trout often swim meters to violently scoff one from the surface.
The silver trevally or Pseudocaranx dentex has to be my most favourite and cherished light tackle species in Tasmania. They are just an awesome little fish to catch, especially if you manage to hook one over that magical fifty centimetre mark! Personally, I began targeting the species many years ago on a variety of baits and artificial lures from a small stretch of beach in Georges Bay. At the time, they were the ultimate sports fish, the very thought of hooking up to one of these fish was enough to keep me saving up for more packets of soft plastics. One of the aspects I really enjoy about targeting trevally is their simplicity to catch. Sure, they aren’t as hard to catch as a big black bream, but at the end of the day, I think everyone would be happy with a large, hard fighting silver trevally. Over the years, I have discovered many trevally holding locations scattered along our coastlines, even up around Burnie! With their awesome fighting abilities and overall beauty, I can understand why the silver trevally is one of the most popular species Tasmania has to offer.
The St Helens area offers anglers a real variety of fishing options for those possessing a boat or kayak, Georges Bay, Scamander River, Ansons Bay and various coastal Lagoons are all easily accessed by watercraft. However the angler on foot is often left standing wondering where to go and what to do as the boats motor off in the distance. But there are options for the walking fisherman to target and enjoy some great sports fish.
Most Tasmanian anglers are well aware of the quality and size of the Australian salmon and yellowtail kingfish that are available in Georges Bay, but accessing these fish from the shoreline is sometimes seemingly impossible. However there are a couple of areas and techniques that will allow shore based anglers a chance of tackling these wonderful fish.
Having enjoyed early starts to the past few game seasons this season was looking ominously like it wasn’t going to shape up all that well.
Over the past two or three seasons we have had fish as early as the last weekend in November and certainly here in numbers by the end of December, however over the past two weeks fish have been reported in reasonable numbers down the entire East Coast and appear to be getting thicker by the day and also, starting to move in closer to shore where the smaller boats can get at them – time to pull the lures out at last.
The long and short of it
What is a rodmaker who does most of his fishing with a six and a half foot bamboo doing with an eleven foot graphite Tenkara rod? This was a question I was asking myself as I made my first cast with the no-reel, fixed line, telescopic rod on a small, Snowy Mountains stream.
We are lucky in Tasmania to have the many lakes that are surrounded by gum trees.
There are numerous insects that live in the trees, and on the right day they will be blown onto the water. Gum beetles are one delicacy for trout and they often cruise the shallow margins of a lake looking for these and will slurp them down with gusto. So when the breeze is warm the rod and the flies are put into the car and away I go.
Many anglers know, dawn and dusk are the best times to be on the water to maximise one’s chances of success. But how many regularly get out of bed early and experience the magic of first light—breaking over one of our lakes and rivers. To be in the half light waiting for the sound of a trout slurping a morsel off the top of the water, or in some cases leaving a ring that is barely visible to the naked eye.
The fish are there, and they are there in numbers and more often than not they are feeding hard. They often continue to do so until the sun burns off the cloud cover and puts them down to seek refuge in the depths below. I talk mostly in this article about Lake Leake, but a lot of what I say is relevant around the state.
It’s 4 am and the alarm goes off breaking the nights silence, my wife sighs and mutters something that sounds unfavourable. I am pretty sure I heard the words ‘you’re bloody mad’ in there somewhere and for a few fleeting seconds.. I agree.
Then the thoughts of feeding trout invade my head and in no time at all I find myself in the car heading to one of my favourite fishing destinations—Lake Leake.
In this article I would like to share some information on this ‘early morning water’ that will hopefully lead to some success for you.
I hold few secrets when it comes to sharing experiences and information because as far as I am aware no lake or streams have ever been ruined by doing so and as we all know just because one witnesses success one day, it doesn’t always translate to the next.
Lake Leake has had some very ordinary reports written on it of late with people saying that the fishing there is very challenging.
A couple of my mates and I disagree with that line of thinking, as recent trips to this water have resulted in us catching our bags in a very short period of time. If I was a betting man, I would envisage that those not fairing that well there are probably arriving well after all the action has happened....dawn.
This water is an amazing fishery for early morning midge feeders, in fact I would go so far as to say you would be hard pressed not to find feeding fish on top at this time of year if the conditions are right.
A perfect morning here is a light southerly and an overcast sky, and I emphasise the overcast sky, for without that, it’s all over by around 8.30 am, but sometimes that’s all you need as the five fish bag limit is often taken by anglers ‘in the know’ by that time anyway.
It is a cocky feeling one gets when talking to someone who has just arrived at the boat ramp as you are packing up to head home. They admire your catch and you know they will probably have to work very hard to achieve the same results.
They might ask us what fly we used, where we went etc and I am happy to tell them. I even give them a couple of the flies, but unfortunately most of the action is over.
Early morning methods
Right, you have done all the right things and arrived at Lake Leake as daylight is breaking What to do now? My suggestion is to engage the electric motor, and slowly move around the lake until you spot a wind lane with a bit of insect life in it, then just sit there........for they will come.
Unless you have an experienced eye, you may not notice feeding fish at first, as many just sip their tucker from under the surface, the only giveaway is the slightest ring left on the water.
Even when you do pick up the path of a feeding fish, they can still be very hard to follow; this makes for very challenging and sometimes very ‘frustrating’ fishing indeed.
That being said, every trip is a new adventure, last time we encountered fish charging past the boat with their heads out of the water and mouths open like one of those ‘whale sharks’ you see on the discovery channel.
If you’re a long accurate cast, you hold a distinct advantage as this gives you more chances at the fast moving rainbows before they spot you.
As for myself, I am not the greatest of casts therefore I improvise by sitting down low in my boat and by picking the direction a particular fish is heading in, I position myself far enough in front of that fish so as to set a trap by casting my fly in wait for it a couple of meters ahead.
When one is poised ready to strike as the fish works its way closer and closer, it is a magical feeling, especially when the fly is taken,.... the reel screams to life and it all comes together, now that’s worth getting out of bed for!
Early morning flies for this water need only be as simple as a team of two or three size 12 to 14 black seals fur fly’s with a brown hackle, in fact anything small and ‘red tagish’ like a Zulu dry will work.
Presentation is more important than the fly itself, in my opinion. Sometimes though they seem to ignore it and go under your dries, if you witness this happening, after a couple of times, I suggest you tie a small nymph or stick caddis to your dry fly’s hook shank and hang it six inches under it, this technique usually brings the fussy fish undone.
Dusk is another great time to fish! Minimal effort for maximum results (in theory anyway) and I am all for that. As the sun disappears over the hills that surround Lake Leake, the fish, especially in the last half hour of daylight start to look up consistently again, quite often a persistent angler will be greeted with a huge swirl appearing from nowhere next to his boat as a fish charges to the surface, grabs whatever was on top at the time and heads for the bottom again.
An Elk Hair Caddis is a great fly to put on now, especially if there is a good hatch flying around you, beware though as quite often there is no warning of an impending take, they just want to smash it!!
Other great flies to try are the Johnny Dekkers’ “Purple People Eater” (a purple woolly bugger with an orange tail) or a buoyant mudeye pattern pulled along the top of the waves in short sharp strips.
It might appear like lunacy casting blind in the dark to noises or the glimpse of a ripple that didn’t look quite natural, but if you’re going to get a big fish, now is the time. You don’t have to ‘see’, you only have to ‘feel’ when the line goes tight and you hook up.
Soft Plastics too
With the huge advances in soft plastics that have come forward in recent years, this is another method that produces fantastic results in the darker hours.
Today we are spoilt for choice and the variations of softies in different colours and scents, pre rigged or unrigged, nowadays, seem endless.
I love to fish with plastics early and late in the season especially at dawn as these are the times of the year when the fish are eager to put on condition and they seem to be looking for something a bit more substantial in their diet on a more consistent basis. The fishing can be fantastic, especially if your after that monster!
The big advantage with this form of fishing is depending on the level of water you are fishing in and the size of the jig head you are using, you can cover a lot more territory with the added advantage of longer casts, enabling the angler to reach the depth’s required when necessary.
I have caught many fish with soft plastics in early morning wind lanes , (especially rainbows), after spotting a boil or rise and then casting a couple of meters in the direction upon which I think the trout is heading, I then try to retrieve the plastic past the fishes nose.
Once again, the strikes can be very aggressive, morso before full daylight.
My personal favourite plastics are Berkley gulp pumpkinseeds and the Tassie Yep “Red rascal” and “Flapper” range in both the pre rigged and unrigged versions.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve used Lake Leake as an example in this article, mainly because it is one of my favourite waters, but the same techniques and tips could be applied to Burbury, Huntsman, Four Springs, Brumbys Creek etc, etc with equal success, these methods work for me and work well, I am just an everyday angler with no great skill set to fall back on, just a fair bit of experience collected from over four decades of fishing our fantastic Tasmanian lakes and rivers.
By making the effort to get up early or by heading out after tea to fish the evening until dark, I do catch fish regularly and so will you.
Mike Fry doesn’t only live on the Wild Side of Tasmania, but also goes fishing in probably the wildest boat ever to troll for trout—certainly in Tasmania.
When your mate says ‘What are you doing tomorrow, want to come up the Gordon for the night?’ it would be pretty hard to say anything else except “you bet” and start checking out your tackle box and packing your overnight bag. But if your mate was Troy Grining and he wanted to give his new 52ft, high speed cruiser a run across Macquarie Harbour, test the new onboard dory with a chance of landing a nice Gordon River Brown you would have to feel privileged. I didn’t say anything about getting on my hands and knees and kissing his feet…just having a lend of ya’ but I did feel very appreciative.
In Tasmania, trout have found their way into just about every trickle of water around the state. Many of these are very small tributaries of larger more popular rivers. The majority of the fish in these smaller streams are by no means monsters, with the average fish being somewhere between half a pound and a pound. Small brown trout dominate most of these small streams with the exception of a few rainbow only waters that are isolated from the dominant brown trout population.?The upper Mersey River between Lake Meston and Junction Lake is a classic example of this with its huge impassable waterfalls preventing any further migration of brown trout up stream.
The highlight of any season usually revolves around the best days sight fishing. Memories of the hunt, approach, cast and hook set will remain in your mind long after those of another ‘flogged up’ have gone. The main prerequisite for this style of fishing are sunshine and cloudless days – two things that should become more plentiful from now until the end of the season. Good polaroiding water is not hard to find but some places are easier than others in which to find fish while others are simply better.
The Christmas season is now upon us, many anglers will begin to pursue popular inshore species such as East Australian Salmon, Silver Trevally, Black Bream and Sand Flathead. Fishing from the shore has been one of my favourite methods of targeting specific species of fish for some time now and the very thought of discovering a new location is enough for me leave the boat at home. With Georges Bay and some North West hot spots being my favourite places to fish, many other destinations have either been discovered or successfully fished. Typical locations such as Red Rock on the North West coast has been producing many different species for a while now with the captures of good sized Silver Trevally, Gummy Sharks, Elephant Fish and Southern Garfish becoming more common. Some people worry and stress about not being able to access a kayak or boat in order to venture out onto the water but in reality, most anglers will have at least two great fishing spots that they can easily access from the shore.
When I began fishing from Red Rock on the North West coast with my good mate Jeremy Shaw, the possibility of encountering a Draughtboard Shark or Eagle Ray was enough to keep us coming back each weekend. Many days were spent fishing at Red Rock with colossal amounts of burley and junk food. Back then, captures of small East Australian Salmon and Sand Flathead were cherished and we never thought of leaving the rock for any reason other than the occasional trip out in the boat for a Mako Shark. During at least five years of fishing from Red Rock, we caught numerous and memorable fish including that of a rather large Seven Gilled Shark. It wasn’t until I began to seriously fish around the plentiful beaches and jetties of Georges Bay that I realized that fishing was the thing for me. Like the many hobbies that people enjoy, I got better at the sport and eventually became unstoppable. I believe that every angler needs to start off somewhere, land based fishing is a great way to begin the life long journey.
There are a number of Whiting species found throughout Australia, and many Tasmanians would be surprised to learn that recreational fishing surveys report around 10,000 Whiting are caught in Tasmanian waters every year. These would mostly be sand whiting though.
The King George Whiting is the prize. It is the largest and most well renowned species and is considered one of the best table fish around.
Normally South Australia is spruiked as the KGW capital of Australia but in recent years Tasmanian waters have started to produce some regular numbers of good quality, well sized KGW.
This year’s brown trout season is already half over and it does not go down in my diary as one of the best. I have been lucky enough with time off and holidays to fish all my favourite waters including Echo, Great Lake, Woods and Arthurs but all have disappointed so far. One water however that stands out as being consistent is Huntsman Lake at Meander. I have had a great season here so far and eagerly anticipate the start of the dry fly season of this hopefully gum beetle encircled lake.
It’s Christmas time again and that means dry fly fishing is well underway. There are not many fly fishers who don’t look forward to fishing the dry. Seeing the fish take the fly really starts the adrenalin flowing.
The fly this time is a very well tested emerger which I suppose is nearly a dry but does sit rather low in the water surface. The entire fly except for the tail is tied out of CDC feathers. The cul de canard, or CDC, feather comes from around the oil preen gland of the duck it is this feather fly tyers love to use.
What is it about catching bream on lures, or any fish for that matter, which makes an angler, buy all kinds of weird and wonderful lures to try and trick them? After spending the winter re organising and sorting out the tackle box, (numerous times) I discovered that there were lures in my collection, which have not caught a fish let alone seen a drop of water. There were hard bodies of all types, deep diving minnows, shallow water minnows, shads, surface lures and assorted soft plastics.
Tasmanian Bream are a fantastic sports fish that offer the Tasmanian angler a challenging and rewarding day on the water. Black Bream, in Tasmanian waters, have been able to grow to impressive sizes due to the limited angling pressure they receive and the healthy estuary systems they live in. Bream up to 2.5 kg are not uncommon in our waters and these very old fish are often seen and caught amongst schools of bream in the upper tidal reaches of a river during the spawning season.
The Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is the most streamlined, spindle shaped member of the Mackerel Shark family. Along with its distinctive long and conical snout and triangular dorsal fin, this species has short pectoral fins and a crescent shaped caudal fin. Their slender teeth, which curve inward and have no cusps at their bases or serrations along their edges, are easily separate from Great White, Blue, Thresher and Porbeagle Sharks. There is evident countershading on this particular species of shark; dorsally, they are a metallic blue colour whilst ventrally, they are a snowy white. These sharks are pelagic, solitary and fast swimming and have been known to travel vast distances of water in search of breeding grounds and prey. One individual shark is known to have travelled 1322 miles in 37 days with an average of 36 miles per day.
Shortfin Mako Sharks thrive offshore in both tropical and temperate waters, from the surface down to depths of over 150 metre. These sharks are potentially dangerous and have attacked people on some occasions, most of which have occurred when a shark has jumped and landed in a boat after it has been hooked by recreational game fishing anglers. Whilst breeding, litters of 4 to 16 pups are common. Older embryos eat some of the eggs while still in the uterus. Female Mako Sharks usually reach sexual maturity once they attain a length of over 3 metre s. It is believed that large female specimens may rest for up to 18 months before the next batch of eggs are fertilized by a sexually mature male.
Overfishing of the Shortfin Mako Shark, mostly in the northern hemisphere, has seen it listed on the world’s endangered list, making this species more vulnerable than ever before.
Too windy, not windy enough, wrong wind direction. Too bright, too dull, too wet, too dry: excuses—or are they? Farmers and fishing guides have two things in common: firstly, they’re both in the weather everyday, working with Mother Nature. Secondly, both groups will tell you that the animals in their lives all react differently according to subtleties and vagaries of wind direction, atmospheric pressure and lunar cycles. In the case of fishing guides and experienced anglers, you can add a list of hatch and water level factors to the nuances of Mother Nature, vagaries which become plausible excuses at the end of a tough day. After the question of weather patterns and their affects on fishing came up on the FlyLife internet forum, I thought it might be a good time to do a bit of myth-busting with the aid of my fishing diary.
It had been over 16 years since I last fished Lake Rowallan. As a young man growing up in the rural community of Deloraine, it was a lake reasonably close to home and where I spent many a night camped on its shorelines. My last trip there was 14 December 1994. I remember this as I have a picture of a 14 pound brown trout on my lounge room wall with that date on the plaque. It is my biggest ever trout and the memories of that catch remain with me as if it were yesterday. To see a fish of that size come out of Rowallan’s light tannin coloured depths was something I will never forget but as I was a bit of a “scallywag” in those days, and I won’t elaborate on that, it was a reward that to this day…. I hardly felt that I had earn’t. Many things have changed since then, the most notable is the outlook and respect I now possess for our fisheries and those charged with looking after them. Anyway, with this all in mind, I decided to hook on the trailer, grab a couple of mates and head back for a day’s fishing at a lake that I seemed to have forgotten about . Why it’s been so long between drinks I cannot answer, perhaps it’s just another one of those lakes that are largely forgotten about… and I don’t know why. It is a lake close to many of our major population areas, yet seems to fly under the radar of most of the State’s freshwater anglers. In fact I would go so far as to say that many wouldn’t even know where it is. It is well stocked, has some absolute monsters in it and is very easily accessed, especially to those living in Tasmania’s North and North West. You hardly ever hear of any fishing reports coming from it and those that do fish it on a regular basis seem to like to keep it that way.
Jim Schofield, Steven Hambleton and I had made an early start to the day with a dawn run on the wind lane feeders on Great Lake. As the morning progressed and the midge feeders disappeared we moved onto some boat polaroiding. There was a northeasterly wind blowing as we punched our way into chop from Swan Bay towards the southern side of Howells Neck Island. The water level of Great Lake had dropped so much that Howells Neck Island was no longer an island and was more like an extension of Elizabeth Bay. As we moved into the shallows, fish were spotted almost immediately. Big buggy Chernobyl Ants, Red Tags and stick caddis all took fish. Further along the shore the wind was blowing into the shoreline stirring up the water along its edge. A closer look saw fish appear and then disappear in amongst this band of discoloured water. The fish were also patrolling the clearer less turbulent water. A single hookup quickly turned into a double hook up, then a triple hookup as all three of us made the most of a steady run of fish as the boat continued to drift down this productive shore. Fish numbers started to drop off, as the features of the lake started to change. In an attempt to seek out similar water we crossed over to the western side of the lake into Canal Bay. With the wind and sun at our back we drifted in and along the southern shore. Conditions were perfect, with blue skies and a light wind to conceal our presence, we had fish swimming right up to within a couple of metres of the boat before they would spook. It was just one of those days when everything came together. We stayed for the evening rise in Swan Bay as usual, before finally calling it a day. We had fished from dawn to dusk and had done it all from the comfort of Jim’s mobile viewing platform. Far too civilized for me, now where are those walking boots!
The surface is just about the most fun you can have as an angler. Whether chasing giant trevally in the coral sea, bream in the estuaries, or dry flying trout here in Tassie you can’t help but get excited watching something come up and slurp or smash your top-water offering. Although they have been around for many years, surface hardbodies for trout have never really hit a spotlight but with the new methods and gear being developed at the moment it’s only a matter of time before people begin to look more seriously at top-water options. It takes some time to perfect your technique but it is essentially easy to get started and can be a very effective tool in your trout fishing arsenal.
How many Flathead are caught in Tassie? Flathead are the most commonly caught recreational species in Tasmania, accounting for almost two-thirds of all fish caught. Over 1.8 million flathead were caught by Tasmanian recreational fishers between December 2007 and November 2008. 1.07 million of these flathead were kept and 745 000 (around 40%) were released, showing an increasing trend toward fishers doing the right thing by releasing undersize fish.
Interesting Flattie Facts
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