Once regarded as a trophy fishery, the status of Lake Crescent slowly declined after the discovery of carp (Cyprinus carpio) in 1995, and repeated extreme drought and low water levels caused a significant decline in trout populations. The establishment of carp in Lake Crescent not only posed a risk to the trout through the destruction of suitable habitat and decreased water quality, but also had the potential to outcompete the threatened Golden galaxias (Galaxias auratus).
Once a prime trophy water, Lake Dulverton has suffered significantly from periods of drought since the 1980’s and has dried up on several occasions since then. Most recently, only the small ‘coffer dam’ – the small section at the base of the main lake – remained as an aquatic refuge.
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.
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 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!
For many southern anglers Lake Sorell has been one of the most popular, accessible and productive brown trout fisheries. Its shores were home to private shacks, club shacks, and hundreds of campers.
That is until the sudden infestation of carp, a problem that continues to plague this water. Despite continuing efforts since 1995 by the Inland Fisheries Service to eradicate the pest, the Spring of 2009 saw an increase in juvenile carp which, according to IFS Director, John Diggle, was “the biggest spawning event we have had.”
It is estimated that around 5,000 carp are now swimming around Lake Sorell where as prior to last year’s spawning, numbers were less than 50.
According to the Director, “The good thing is that these fish are all juveniles and as they are unable to breed for a couple of years we have a window of opportunity to wipe them out.”
IFS staff have already taken out over 14,000 carp from Lake Sorell last summer, and it is vital to eradicate mature carp as soon as possible as a four kilogram carp has the potential to lay one million eggs.
John Diggle believes Lake Crescent is now free of carp and that, in itself, is quite an achievement. No juveniles have been found since 2000, and no adult females have been detected for nearly three years. According to Diggle, “It is a clear demonstration that we can and will eradicate carp from Lake Sorell.”
Although carp do eat some macro-invertebrate species that brown trout also enjoy, they are not predators of trout fry or fingerlings. The issue is what carp can do to the food chain and to the water quality.
Compounding the presence of carp in Lake Sorell is the issue of poor water quality resulting from drought conditions. This is also impacting on Lake Crescent. Both waters have high levels of turbidity – colloidal particles in suspension which don’t settle to the bottom of the lake bed. According to Diggle, “It’s a bit like a farm dam that doesn’t clear, and that just isn’t attractive to anglers.”
Whilst this is a result of drought conditions in this part of the island, low water levels back in 2000 also contributed, especially in Lake Sorell where there has been some erosion of the lake bed.
Currently the water management plan for the Clyde catchment area is under review, and there will obviously be some discussion around critical minimum water levels necessary to sustain both trout fisheries, and especially for the protection of Golden Galaxias in Lake Crescent. No doubt other stakeholders – irrigators and local town water supplies – will be seeking their share of the resource. But there is no doubt that the IFS is putting a strong case for critical minimum water levels so that this fishery can once again be a prime destination for trout anglers.
If water levels can be sustained, the carp eradicated, and water turbidity controlled there is no reason why Lake Sorell can’t regain its former status as one of the state’s top fisheries which used to attract 50% of the state’s anglers in any one season. Afterall, there is a very good head of fish in Sorell resulting from excellent natural spawning conditions, albeit dependent upon variable rainfall patterns.
According to the IFS Director, “That’s what I want … that’s what I have been working on for years. However, our problem may not be so much about carp or water quality but climate change. If the things people are saying about climate change are true, and it is only going to get drier than we are now, the future may not so promising for either lake, or for most of the eastern part of the island.”
Then again, Lake Dulverton is now full and has been stocked; Tooms Lake is spilling and has also been stocked; and Craigbourne Dam should again deliver angling delights for southern family expeditions to this water.
So it looks like at least two years before Lake Sorell will again be open for anglers, although the IFS will assess the situation at the end of each summer.
Connor caught this cracking 7.15pound 680mm Brown Trout from Lake Leake today.
Biggest I have seen from the lake in a very long time!
Thought you might like the pictures!
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Fellow Anglers Scott and I would personally like to thank the persons who helped us with our broken spring on our boat trailer...(trailer is 5 years old) Norm for his knowledge on how to get us home and his rope knots...thats obviously why not too many fish escape him. Bert for his knowledge and the whole roll of duck tape.....the repairer is going to love you :) Gerry for his wire, Neil for his nice piece of fence post.
This 2 kg trout was caught on mudeyes at the Guide Reservoir today.
Background Information on the Guide Reservoir
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Fit healthy fish having a devil of a time on a cool evening
With the lake waters still around the 20°C and a cool evening with a north easterly wind, we decided to take my sister’s boyfriend Joe out for a fish on the lake, as he had never caught a trout before.
Lakes with only a few articles ...
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