LAKE BURBURY WINDLANES
Lake Burbury is one of the many out of the way lakes which the majority of fly fisherman don't tend to visit. Yet Lake Burbury has some highlight fishing in the form of wind lanes, the likes of which are without comparison for fish numbers just about anywhere in Australia. On a good morning you can find yourself fishing to literally hundreds of fish, freely rising all around you. If you couple this with mountain scenery which on most mornings you have all to yourself, Lake Burbury becomes a very attractive proposition.
Lake Burbury is one of the several fisheries which the IFS have declared open all year. There is no closed season and due to the high numbers of rainbow and brown trout in the lake a bag limit of 20 fish applies. All methods, i.e. bait, lure and fly fishing are permitted.
Burbury is situated about 15 kilometres East of Queenstown on the Lyell Hwy. The Lake runs in a North - South direction and is divided by the Bradshaw Bridge in the middle. The lake is 23 kilometres long , with the main body of the lake being no more than 4 kilometres wide. However there are numerous arms such as the Nelson and Governor River arms which run to the East off the Southern section of the Lake for another 3 to 4 kilometres. The majority of the Lake is surrounded by steep hills, leading to the surrounding mountains. There are numerous Islands, points, and peninsulas which makes the geography of the lake ideal for wind lanes.
Another good point about Burbury is that the full supply level of the lake is only 235 meters above sea level (Compare this to Great Lake at 1039m). This means resident rainbow trout at Burbury will continue to feed in the wind lanes right through winter, only easing up at their spawning time around late August to September.
There are several formal boat ramps and camp sites around the lake. The Eastern shore of the North arm has a camp ground and boat ramp about 3 kilometres North of the Bradshaw Bridge. Amenities are available at this site and the camp site fee is $5 a night. There is a concrete boat ramp here which gives good access to the Northern half of the lake. There is an informal boat ramp on the Western side of the North arm via a road which leaves the highway as you turn away from the lake towards the town of Gormanston.
About 2 kilometres West of the Bradshaw Bridge is a road the to South which takes you to another concrete boat ramp. At this location there is a less formal camp site with a toilet block. This boat ramp gives you access to the Top of the Southern end of the lake and easy access to the Nelson River arm which is almost directly opposite the ramp.
At the Southern end of the Lake is the Darwin Dam, this area is accessed from the town of Queenstown via the Queen River Rd and Mount Jukes Rd. Again there are less formal camping facilities, but a good boat ramp exists here also. This area is about the most accessible area for the shore based fisherman, it is easily accessible by road and is not as steep as the rest of the shoreline of the lake.
Weather is the essential pre-cursor to wind lane fishing. Calm nights and light daytime winds are the best forecast to find wind lanes on any lake. The best weather to attempt to locate wind lanes is as a high pressure system establishes itself over the state and the prevailing West / South West wind drops out. This is a broad generalism however, as the weather is a fickle thing. Most wind lane fishing is a dawn / dusk proposition, this is again due to wind easing and dropping out overnight and wind lanes being able to establish their selves and collect fodder in them.
Wind lanes are best described as long strips of flat water which form on the surface of a body of water during times of nil or light winds. These lanes collect and concentrate food on the surface of the water making them a "swim through" restaurant for trout. They can be little more than a cricket pitch in size up to a three lane highway which runs for kilometres down the middle of the lake.
The key to finding fish in a wind lane is the food. A wind lane can form in very little time once the weather conditions are right, should you motor around a corner and see this magnificent wind lane which has only been formed for an hour or so, the likelihood of finding numerous fish in the lane is very slim.
Look for food in the form of dead midge or other small insects, as well as beetles or any other surface food which may have fallen onto the lake surface. Sometimes the food is very visible in the form of a dirty scum on the water. If you find a good wind lane with food like this the trout will not be far away.
Trout feeding in wind lanes can be visible as small boils in the surface, noses poking out of the water, or as a "porpoise" take where the head, back then tail are visible as the fish moves through the surface. In low light or in glary conditions, fish can be quite hard to see, but can often be located from an audible sip as they take food caught in the surface.
Jim DAVIS, or Jimmy as his mates know him, is a wind lane and all round fly fishing guru. He has fished Dee Lagoon for more than 25 years and about that long ago he developed a nymph pattern called "The Minkie.' This fly works well with midging trout anywhere in Australia, and has consistently caught trout since he first tied it. Jimmy once took 17 Rainbow trout at the Australian Fly Fishing Championships in a three hour session at Jindabyne in NSW on the Minkie. This was much to the disgust of fellow competitors who managed no more than 3 or 4 with the same fish feeding on midge in their beats. This is the current record for the number of trout caught in a session.
The Minkie is a dull grey coloured nymph tied from a mink tail. The fly has a cock hackle tail and numerous guard hairs from the mink tail sticking out of it giving the fly a somewhat scruffy appearance. The fly also has a fine wire rib which can be any colour and the head can be finished in black or red, red being Jimmy's favourite. The fly sinks readily once wet, but hangs near the surface film probably due to the guard hairs trapping air bubbles, and the light nature of the fly dressing. The fly is not commercially available so unfortunately it is a matter of tying them for yourself.
How to catch wind lane feeders.
Wind lane feeders are tricky little buggers, the aim of the game is judgement and accurate presentation. These trout are surface feeding and staying fairly high in the water column, this means that you have to present the fly to them quite accurately, and keeping it just below the surface, not sinking too deep.
Setting up; The most consistent way I have seen to date for catching "wind laners" is a leader of about 18 to 20ft with two minkies or other small fur nymphs attached. One minkie on the point and another on a dropper about 2ft to 3ft above the point. The nymphs need to be dressed so that they will sink when cast, but not so heavy that they will sink too deep, a medium gauge hook is ideal. Size #14 is normal, but you may need to go to a #16 in brighter conditions or if the fish get in "one of those moods'.
Approach; Approach fish so that they are feeding travelling in your general direction. Avoid boat noise as much as possible, not the talking kind of noise but banging and clattering on the hull of the boat. Noise will transfer from the hull to the water very easily, while voices in the air will not. Cast slightly too long across the path and about 5-6ft in front of a fish as he moves forward. Hold the rod tip fairly high, about 3 to 4ft off the water and draw the flies across the trout as he gets to where the flies are. You will quite often see a boil when the fly is eaten but avoid the temptation to strike, instead watch the loop from your rod tip to the water and wait for the line to straighten out and tighten as the trout pulls the line away from you. If your rod tip is too low and the line too tight, you will most often just feel a pull on the line as the hook comes free of the fish. If this is occurring to you in most of your nymph and slow wet fly fishing, try holding the rod tip higher, watch the loop for the take and see the change in your hook-up rate. If the trout is moving directly towards you, judge when he may have the fly, and still watch for signs of movement at the end of your fly line in the water.
Some days you will be able to put the fly right on their noses, other days you will need to put it twenty feet in front of the fish to avoid spooking them. The movement of the fly line through the air will spook fish quite easily if they see it, and you will generally know this by the massive boil where the trout just evacuated the area as you put the flies out in front of him.
Judgement and practice are the keys to success.
Why not Dry Fly
Dry fly tactics in wind lanes will work at times, but they do not consistently produce fish like the nymphs do. Like most forms of dry fly fishing, if there are a hundred insects in a square meter of water sitting static on the surface and you put a dry fly amongst them, there are 101 options for the trout to eat. (With midge at Burbury it would be more like 1000 per square metre). A slowly moving nymph just under the surface is far more likely to stand out to the fish, and as long as it looks edible and does not act too erratically it is likely to get eaten.
Points to Remember
Calm mornings and evenings are the best to find wind lanes.
Find food and you'll find fish.
Two minkies about 2 to 3 ft apart on a long leader
Accuracy and judgement.
Hold the rod reasonably high and watch for your line to tighten.
Avoid the urge to strike, let the line start to tighten before you tighten on it.
Lake Burbury is a magnificent piece of water surrounded by post card scenery and full of rainbow and brown trout. If you enjoy fishing a lake that you're not sharing with 20 more boats, and you wish to sharpen your wind lane skills on big numbers of fish, pick your weather and make the little extra effort to go to Burbury.