Trouting as winter approaches
Greg French takes a look at the trout fishing opportunities as the season comes to a close.
The most significant thing about the trout fishing in April is that the brown trout at many highland waters are well and truly geared up for spawning. In March there may well have been males gathering in bays fed by major spawning streams, but by now plenty of females will have coloured-up and there should be intense congregations of both sexes.
If there is a sudden fresh any time in April then major spawning runs are likely to get underway. Even if there is no rain there is likely to be a trickle of fish up the main creeks.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the stream mouths are hot spots to fish in April. Remember, though, that at many waters it is illegal to fish within 50 metres of where the stream enters the lake - check the Angling Code for Inland Fisheries. Remember too that trout on the West Coast spawn late (sometimes as late as early August) so concentrating on the stream mouths of the local hydro lakes (Burbury, Roseberry, Mackintosh, Plimsoll, etc.) offers no special benefit.
Despite what lure manufacturers would like you to believe, colour is rarely the major obstacle of catching fish. Choice of venue and getting your lure to where the majority of he fish are the critical elements. Nonetheless, trout seem to have a natural aggression response to red and fluoro colours, especially at spawning time. This may well have something to do with the colour of competing fish and/or the colour of trout eggs (which are a convenient source of food for many trout). In New Zealand and on mainland Australia, Glo Bug flies (basically weighted balls of yellow, orange, pink or red fluoro yarn) are the preferred lure for catching pre-spawned trout running up the big rivers. I can vouch for how effective they are. Although Tasmanian's don't target trout in spawning streams, it makes sense to use red and fluoro colours when trying to tempt pre-spawners in lakes.
New Zealanders who fish at night around the river mouths at Taupo and Rotorua use luminous flies almost to the exclusion of anything else. These ties usually involve nothing more than a sleeve of glow-in-the-dark plastic slipped over a long shank hook, with the portion overhanging the bend cut into a skirt like a squid. They have to be charged up with a torch or camera flash every now and then but they stay reasonably bright for twenty minutes or more. Apparently they work best on rainbow trout - but they fool enough browns to make me think that they will be dynamite in Tasmanian lakes during mid Autumn. I am certainly going to try them this year and perhaps you should too. Still, if it all sounds too radical, unlikely, or plain unsportsmanlike, you will do well enough with traditional flies such as Craigs Night-time.
The mouths of the spawning streams are especially well suited to lure casting, and the extended season (to the end of May) enhances this benefit. The best sites are Halfmoon Creek, Doctors Creek, Brandum Creek, Sandbanks Creek and Breton Rivulet. Liawenee Canal supports the main spawning run but Canal Bay is closed early and late in the season. Nonetheless, the area immediately outside the white post on Clarks Point id extremely popular with bait fishers and the shoreline is often lined with camps. Lure enthusiasts, too, can expect excellent catches of pre-spawned browns from this sea.
The Hatchery shore from Powells Bay to Murdochs Point is rocky and bordered by think tea tree in places. It is sheltered in northerly weather and provides excellent water for spinning, trolling and fly fishing. Brown trout begin to congregate off the mouth of Mountain Creek from about late March and can often be seen milling about and leaping for no apparent reason. Trolling and spinning are especially productive at these times, but remember not to venture into the 50 metre exclusion zone.
Hydro Creek is one of the major spawning areas for Arthurs fish. The Bay into which it empties (Hydro Bay) has long been one of the most popular stretches of water on the lake, especially when strong northerly winds are blowing, and it is at its best during April. Spinning, trolling and wet fly fishing are all worth while.
Equally well utilised by Arthurs spawning trout is Tumbledown Creek, though the drowned trees along Tumbledown Bay restrict shore-based sport and the best results are gained by lure casting and wet fly fishing from a drifting boat.
Cowpaddock Bay is now easily accessible by 2WD and the mouths of its three main spawning streams (Scotch Bobs, Buchanan and Cowpaddock creeks) are well worth inspecting. If you are lucky there will be fish showing in the adjacent, offshore shallows. If not, don't despair. The flooded creek channels and associated ditches create perfect holding areas and pathways for the trout and these are perfect areas to prospect with a wet fly or small lure.
Among the very best places to fish, especially for lure casters, will be at Bradys near the two inflows (the Whitewater and Tunnel Bay) and t the outflow. At this time of the year big bags of brown trout are common place.
Are the other lakes worthwhile?
You bet! While none are likely to offer better sport than the four I have outlined, all of the major waters on the highlands are well worth visiting in April. Use the general advice about inflows and lure colours and you will be off to a good start.
Is there anywhere trout will be feeding normally?
Trout don't normally spawn until they are at least three years of age, and two-year olds, which can be quite sizeable, will feed as long as the water stays reasonably warm (which should be until the end of the season). Fish which have the spawning urge in a big way do feel less inclined to feed properly, hence our pre-occupation with triggering an aggression response but, even in lakes where there is a big early run of spawners, many adults will not migrate away from the normal feeding grounds until after the season has closed. If, like me, you are most interested in locating risers, tailers and cruising fish, all the usual stalking practices are viable throughout April. Don't expect red letter fishing but, believe me, the effort will be worthwhile - especially when the air is warm and /or the sky blue.
Not many Tasmanians bother to go looking for sea trout during April yet these fish will be getting ready to spawn and moving in from the oceans. Sea trout often delay first spawning until they are four or even five years old and so pre-spawners migrating upstream are often relatively large, average fish being much bigger than those found feeding on whitebait early in the season. The problem with these fish is that they tend to stay deep in the main channels and currents and, by the time they have reached the upper estuaries, they have usually lost interest in feeding. They aren't easily detected and more anglers don't know that they are about.
T don't know much about the runs in the north of the State, and I suspect that the fish on the West Coast run late (as do their lake-dwelling counterparts) but sea run trout can certainly be taken during April in the Derwent and Houn rivers. For the fly fisher, the Derwent estuary from the Tasman bridge to Dogshear Point (Cadbury Point) is the best bet. It is the prospect of battling a big pre-spawned sea trout which tempts me at this time of year, and every now and then this dream becomes a reality, but I concede that it is only the certainty of catching other fish that makes these trips truly viable. There are plenty of natives (mullets, flathead, cod etc) which eagerly attack flies and ensure that there is usually something to cast at. In addition the big, dark, resident browns, not to mention the silvery pounders, become much more receptive then they were in summer and early autumn. I know several trollers who flare very well in the upper Derwent and Huon estuaries during April. They fish reasonably deep (at least 1.5m) in the channels (not over silt flats or in marshes) and use silver or red and black lures. The best action occurs early in the morning and at dusk. They catch far more true sea trout than me, but still take a big percentage of river-resident fish.
If there is rain sometime late in April, big trout (sea runners and river fish) move up the tributaries and fall easy prey to spin fishers and the wet fly brigade. Hot spots include the mouths and lower reaches of the Tyenna, Styx, Russel and Little Dension rivers.
Keep an ear out for reports of damage to the salmon pens along the south-east coast. Often enough damage caused by seals, storms and human error result in large scale break outs by fish which commonly average 3-4kg (and can be 9 kg or more if they are brood stock). The hot spots are in open water adjacent to the holding cages (you need a boat) and in sheltered areas such as Port Esperance (where there is scope for fishing from the bank). Often you will see fish breaking the water and sometimes they can be polaroided. Most are easily tempted with a lure or wet fly. Although the best activity occurs within a few weeks of a major escape, the escapees are beyond smelting and, since they have no particular urge to migrate away into the oceans, many hang about the sea cages all year around. Come spawning time these fish migrate up stream into rivers such as the Lune and Huon, where they can be taken by anglers in the usual sea trout hot spots. Perhaps some successful salmon spawning occurs but it seems that any resulting smolts migrate off the continental shelf and never return.
In the south Esk system (including the Macquarie and Break O'Day rivers) mild weather in April may result in a secondary hatch of mayflies. On the other hand, very bad weather often causes the trout to become bold and savage, making them easy targets for anglers armed with a nymph or small wet. Try fishing upstream in pockets of clear water.
Fast, shingle-bottomed streams such as the Tyenna, Styx, St Patricks, upper North Esk, Weld and Russell all continue to fish well until the end of the season. If the weather remains warm and the flows low, upstream nymphing and dry fly fishing should result in big bags. If there is a late fresh, bigger fish from the arterial rivers will begin moving up to spawn and will prove to be suckers for a lure and big wet.
Fishing in May
Only a handful of waters are open to fishing in May These include Dee Lagoon, Lake Rowallan, Lake Skinner, Lake Burbury, Lake Roseberry, Lake Machintosh, Lake of Islands, most of Great Lake and the lower Derwent estuary. Fishing in these waters has been described in detail in Tasmanian Fishing and Boating News No 9 (April-May 1997) and No 10 (June-July 1997).