Trout in the waves at Great Lake
Polaroiding on the Great Lake Jim Allen explains his technique polaroiding trout in the waves of Great Lake.
The requirements of polaroiding on the Great Lakes are a big northerly wind and a blue sky. Quite often in the warmer northerlies a lot of terrestrial insects get blown onto the water - particularly after Christmas. When you get the beetles on the water the fish get up in the waves.
Sometimes though I think they just like cruising in the waves. The waves can be quite big, you need a decent sized boat - although mine is only 13 ft long it is quite safe, but I never test it too much. I have a few years fishing in me yet and I don't want to mass out on any. Be careful because the bigger the waves, the more fish seem to be in them, and they are like sharks - you can see them from about 30 yards away.
10-15 knot winds are ideal and the number one requirement is the blue sky day and a beetle pattern. I use a Red Tag or a John Fox Battleship (size 10 Red Tag). You don't get all the fish that you present to because the waves are so large it drags the fly on the top of the wave so when the fish comes up to take the fly he sees the fly move unnaturally because the leader is being dragged back over a wave. The fish will spook and be off. So you do get quite a lot of refusals - not because of your bad presentation - "some days are diamond, some days are stone'. You know, some days they are so spooky, other days they seem to eat everything you put in front of them. The bottom line of it really is good accurate casting and the fish must discover the fly. I find if the fish sees the fly land, he will spook off straight away. Some days you get more rainbows than browns. Recently I was there and got five rainbows and two browns. That is pretty unusual for the Great Lake because the ratio of fish in there I reckon would be 4 browns: 1 rainbow if you were to take a population survey.
Sometimes there are more rainbows up on the surface than there are browns, and particularly this year. You seem to find the fish in patches. You do long drifts and, say you were fishing in one of the bays, you start up the top end of the bay and just drift down. I don't use my drogue unless I run into a patch of fish, so I am usually drifting quite fast and sometimes I will even set the motor up and zigzag across the bay - back and forth looking for fish. If I find a patch of fish, I cut the motor, pull the drogue out, and quite often you will find six-eight-ten fish in a five or ten minute drift - then you don't see a fish for an hour and then you find a patch of fish again. I'm not sure whether that is the fish coming up and feeding for a period at a time and then going back down, or whether the fish are actually in pods.
It's all quite new to me. I have only really fished this way over the last season. I do remember Peter Wilson, who used to be the licensee of The Great Lake Hotel fishing a similar way. He used to fish around the wall of the Great Lake late afternoon in big northerlies and have the fish up on the surface too. I found fish to be on top at any time of the day. Sometimes though, they are not there, so what I tend to do is have a look for an hour and if I don't find fish I give it away and go somewhere else such as the Western Lakes and polaroid out there.
If I do find them at Great Lake, then I will hang around for most of the day. The best time, of course, is late morning to the middle of the afternoon, from say 10 - 11 o'clock although to about 3:30 - 4 o'clock at the latest and then the light becomes too oblique to the waves and you have difficulty seeing the fish in the waves. I fish all the bays from Liamenee all the way back to the dam wall, but I suspect every bay on the Great Lake would have fish in it.
I suspect the weed beds, the old weed bed areas of the lake when it was low, would be the best spots to try because those old shrimp beds are still there and I know that they are prolific in Todd's Corner, but I suspect they are all over the lake. Everywhere I fish they have been. The fishing seems best after Christmas when the weather has warmed up a bit, but I think in any warm patch of weather from spring onwards you will find fish there. I think that the real test is whether the insects are being blown off the shore and occasionally, if it has been an overnight still night with fog in the valley and the northerlies getting up at day break - which often happens, the midges that have hatched overnight drift down the lake and the fish get up on those. I have found a lot of midges in their stomachs from time to time. Really it is the beetle feeding situation and I am sure it is not limited to the Great Lake. I suspect that if you were to go to Bradys or Dee Lagoon or Bronte, or any of the big lakes in Tasmania, you would find the fish the same way - right up on the surface. I don't think it has to be rainbows. There is no doubt about the rainbows liking it better on the surface better than the browns in that fishing situation, but the browns do it too. Some days I have caught more browns than rainbows. It can be any lake in Tasmania.
Whilst the Great Lake is good when the rainbows come up because it is just a change in flavour, the browns do it too. I am sure that some of the waters, like King William, if you got out into the middle on a hot northerly you would really find some quite nice fish there and we know King William to be a small lake fish, but I am sure you would also find big fish out there as well.
I haven't tried this method at Arthurs because I found them at the Great Lake and every hot northerly I get I am on the Great Lake. The only thing is that with Arthurs, the water isn't as blue and as clear as it is on the Great Lake. The Great Lake is an extraordinary clear lake and I'm sure Lake St Clair would be another classical clear lake. They just have that sort of gin clearness, where Arthurs has a sort of opaque colour. It's not dirty, but it's not as clear.
The secret is to be out in the middle of the lake a bit too. We have usually found far more fish out in the middle of the lake than around the shore, although there are days when you fish close to the shore and they are there collecting the insects as they are blown in. Other times they are right out in the middle of the lake and there have been times when I wished that I could have got further out into the lake but I am inhibited by the fact that my boat is small and I literally cant go out into 4 ft waves.
In the Great Lake the fish have been in a bit better condition tis year because it has been at record high levels over the last couple of years which has helped put a lot of condition on the browns. There is a whole lot less slabs this year and the fish are in much better condition. The fish have averaged 2 ½ lb and I have had a 4 lb brown and a couple of rainbows in the 3 lb class. Very good fish and a great way to catch them.