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By Todd Lambert Presented from Issue 93

I have been fishing for as long as I can remember and my passion for this sport is still as strong today as it was way back then, when I was a young boy.

I grew up in the rural township of Deloraine, with the Meander River flowing through its heart. Many hours were spent along the river banks with a tin of worms and infinite patience. Sometimes I would be rewarded for it, many times I wouldn’t, and upon reflection there were far too many times when I arrived home with an empty creel and nothing to show for my efforts.

That being said, and ‘once again upon reflection’, with every trip I ventured out on, I think I learned a little more, soon my luck began to change ‘dramatically’ for the better. I had learned the “basics of fishing”.

Getting started

Fishing tackle has never been cheaper to buy and getting started is as easy as going to your local tackle store and telling them what you want to do.

As most tackle store owners are fishing enthusiasts themselves, you will have the benefit of their free advice and experience to help you. Most people in the industry are more than happy to give this information freely, if they don’t, my suggestion is to get back in the car and go to another store!

Some major department stores offer tackle for sale, but unfortunately due to them selling everything else ‘in the free world’ alongside it, they rarely have people on hand needed to offer specialist advice. This crucial ‘one on one’ first step, is often absent.

Tackle wise, all you really need to get started is a basic 6’6” rod and a 2500 reel (preferably with two spools). You can get a pretty good setup, with some warranty for $80, but please spend as much as you can afford. Load one spool with 3 to 5kg monofilament for bait fishing, leaving the other spool to be loaded with 4 pound braid for soft plastics should you wish to give that a try as well. By taking this option you can use the same reel for both types of fishing and it is as simple as just swapping the spools over as required.

Other than that, all you need are some small ball sinkers, swivels, number 4 ‘bait keeper’ style hooks and some grub hooks, (your tackle dealer will be able to show you all of these). A set of waders (the best you can afford) are also a great addition when getting started.

The best rig is a simple running sinker rig as shown below. The sinker does two things; it allows you to cast further, and also hold the bait in the current. The swivel acts as a stopper and stop the sinker running right down onto the bait. When a fish takes your bait the running sinker offers no resistance. However, if you can, fish without the sinker at all for a more natural presentation.

Another easy way to learn the basics is to join a club. Your local tackle store will give you their details or email anglersalliance@gmail and they will let you know the nearest club.

Stream craft

Streams are a great place to start your trout fishing. Tasmanians are never far from a stream and virtually all have resident trout. You will probably notice that many people, regardless of where they fish seem to cast their lines as far as they can. The truth is, this is not at all necessary, as many of the trout you are seeking are more than likely right under your feet on your side of the river.... so stealth is important.

Upon arrival it is always a good idea to stop and look at the area you wish to fish for a couple of minutes before you do anything. Study it and look carefully at all the backwaters and pools that are out of the main current. This is where you will more than likely find the big fish laying in wait for an easy meal to drift into them.

If you find one of these areas, cast a baited ‘unweighted’ hook so that it drifts into the pool naturally with the current and then just let it just sit there, you may be pleasantly surprised! Tip: always use the lightest weight possible. No sinker is best if you can get away with it.

When looking for a likely spot, walk ‘upstream’. Trout always face into the current and are less likely to be spooked if you approach the area you wish to fish, from behind.

Always walk softly, and if wading, move slowly, being careful not to make any unnecessary ripples or vibrations within the area you are fishing.

Always keep a low profile and sit well back from the river bank if setting up a bait rod from the shoreline. It’s the little things like this... that all add up.

Worms

The humble earthworm is probably the best bait you can use when it comes to fishing freshly flooded paddocks and backwaters; they are also dynamic bait at lakes like Arthurs and Four Springs early in the season.

These little protein packets are eagerly sought by trout keen to put condition back on after the rigours of spawning and given they are relatively easy to find early in the season whilst the ground is moist, it makes sense that they are a natural inclusion to their diet.

There are literally hundreds of worm species in this country alone, but for me the best ones to use are the common garden worms that have a pink almost ‘red meat’ colour to them, I tend to steer away from the tiger worms that are also common, as the trout (in my humble opinion) don’t seem to respond as well to them.

The big scrub worm that is often dug up and is about 150mm in length is also good bait. Simply thread a single worm through the hook so that it is completely covered and leave one end wiggling about, this is a more natural presentation. If possible, leave the bail arm of your reel open allowing the trout to run with the line before it swallows the whole bait, when the fish has ran once with the line and stopped, simply click the bail arm over and strike by lifting your rod sharply upwards, and you should be on. Always remember to test the reel drag beforehand though, or you may just get a snapped line for your troubles, especially if it’s a big one!

Wattle grubs

Although I am using Arthurs lake as an example below, most lakes that allow bait fishing will no doubt provide similar results, please be aware though that there are quite a few rules in regards to this type of fishing so it pays to read the regulation booklet you receive with your licence very thoroughly beforehand, otherwise you may catch a fine as well as a fish.

Look for drop offs and not too many snags as there is nothing more frustrating than fishing for a long period of time, only to hook up and lose your fish around a submerged tree or rock. Let me say again, if you can get a hold of a pair of waders from somewhere, they are a great asset to have.

Any of the shorelines in front of the Pump house Bay or Jonah Bay camping grounds are great places to use wattle grubs, especially of an evening. Wade your line out as far as you dare go, (hopefully it’s not too muddy as this depends on the lakes level at the time). When you find a suitable spot, put a long cast out with an unweighted bait and free spool the line back to shore.

Set your rod (or rods if you have a licence for two) off the ground with a rod holder or rock, and leave the arm of your reel open, the fish will take the grub, run, stop.. and run again. At this point if it feels any resistance, it will most likely drop the bait. After the second run, click the reel over and strike as the trout should have swallowed your bait right down.

Once again make sure your drag is set loose enough so that your fish doesn’t break the line. Wattle Grubs are quite expensive at around three dollars each but are great bait. If extracted carefully from a fish, you can quite often use them a couple of times, a good tip is to top the hook up with a worm after catching a fish on one.

As also mentioned earlier, you can buy proper hooks designed especially for wattle grub baits. When purchasing them, ask the tackle seller to demonstrate how you go about threading the grub on, they will be more than happy to show you. I like to put the hook right through the grub, threading it head first onto the hook with the ‘barb end’ of the hook to the tail, I then put a small half hitch over the top of the head to save it coming off. Best times to fish are evening through until dark and the first hour of daylight.

Always store the grubs in an individual compartment; otherwise they will kill one another. A plastic tackle box with separate compartments will suffice for a day or two, but after a while they will eat through the plastic. A tin with dividers is the better option for storing them long term and they are best kept in a fridge with a sheet of newspaper placed over the top of them, under the lid. Don’t worry about air holes, they don’t seem to need them and can live from one season to the next if you’re lucky.

Synthetic baits

Over the last few years, a range of synthetic baits have become popular and run under the names of ‘Power Bait’ and ‘Gulp Trout Dough’, they are specially formulated to smell attractive to trout.

Purchased in a convenient resealable jar and looking like putty you would think no self respecting fish would eat it, but they do! That being said, these baits seem successful on rainbow trout more so than the browns. This is floating bait and you will need a sinker or small split shot to keep it below the water. A lot of people use it with great success on waters such as Four Springs and Tooms Lake.

Conclusion

I hope these ‘back to basics’ in regards to bait fishing that I have attempted to relay onto those of you that are new to the sport are of some help as we look towards what promises to be one of our best seasons in many years. To all anglers and campers, please remember to take your rubbish home with you and help to keep our wonderful Lakes and rivers as pristine as when you found them.

Todd Lambert