Great Lake in SpringLets face it, Great Lake at first glance is not the most inviting of waters. Barren rocky shores and drawn down bays do little to invite the fisherman to try his hand. But this lake offers good sport right through the season for both the boat and shore angler alike. October and November see the onset of warmer weather as Spring pushes on. Midge start to hatch more regularly making morning wind lanes inviting, and the gum beetles and other terrestrials around the lake begin to offer the dry fly fisherman a taste of things to come. However around the shore there is some excellent wet fly fishing to be had, and this also boons during the late spring to early summer period.
Open the stomach of a trout on Great Lake and you never really know what you are going to find. With shrimp, limpets and other small molluscs turning up in autopsies these fish really do have a varied diet. However around the shore of the lake there are two aquatic food items which are nearly always present either singularly or in tandem. The presence of Galaxia and stick Caddis around the shoreline and the trout's taste for them makes the trout a very catchable prospect, particularly morning and evening when light levels are low and the trout are willing to cruise in close and ambush unsuspecting prey.
I am a big believer in the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). Fishing at dawn or dusk around the shoreline of Great Lake trout will use available light from above to silhouette prey which they can attack, sometimes quite fiercely. A simple two fly rig on a floating line in the right weather conditions can be genuinely deadly.
Here's an example, in November 1999 a mate was staying at my shack at Miena. I had been telling him for a fair while about this method using two particular flies, and as it was just before dark I suggested we go for a quick drift on Swan Bay and give it a go. There was a stiff northerly blowing which made for a good drift along the road shore in the boat. We quickly geared up and headed out. Once the boat was in the water we caught 13 brown and one rainbow trout in 1½ hours!
The Set up
Both of the flies for this rig were originally tied for use in low light or darkness, they have origins in Tasmania and New Zealand and fished together in the right conditions they are a formidable team. The Sunset fly is the Tasmanian contribution and the Taihape Tickler is the New Zealand .
I mentioned Galaxia and stick caddis earlier. Although they are markedly different in size, they both present a slim tapered shape in the water, the Taihape Tickler and Sunset Fly when wet present just the same shape. The flies don't have a lot of natural movement like flies with a marabou tail, but again it isn't necessary due to the fodder I believe they are taken for. I don't claim to be educated enough to know what fish see about colour after dark, but both of these patterns will catch on the darkest of nights.
A floating line coupled with a leader about 12ft long, a 9ft standard leader with an extra 3ft tied on so a dropper is produced at the end of the original leader. The Sunset fly on the dropper and the Taihape Tickler on the point (both #8).This set up works in low light from opening day right through the season and is successful on numerous lakes including Great Lake, Arthurs Lake , Little Pine Lagoon, & Lake Burbury.
It pays to be adaptable and fish to the conditions on a given day. The right wind conditions for this style of fishing is a nice breeze blowing, preferably along the shore you choose to fish. Work down the wind, this makes casting a breeze (sorry about the pun) and lets you work towards trout which are generally working up the wind. As this is type of fishing is all about low light it really does not matter whether the weather is clear or cloudy. Moonlight is the $64 question, I know blokes who swear by fishing the full moon on a cloudless night, however they generally use dry or static flies. For this style of fishing I don't have a preference for the phase as long as there is not a big bright moon shining on the water. Using a floating line with relatively big flies which are moving on a bright moon lit night usually adds up to a relatively empty bag.
There is no doubt that mixing up retrieves pays dividends in most styles of fly fishing. For this type of fishing however, a pull pause retrieve works best. Speed is not essential as long as the flies are given short jerky pulls through the water then a visible pause. A good rule of thumb is the calmer the water, the slower the flies should be fished. Takes can come at any time from the moment they hit the water to the final lift of the flies to cast again. Takes can be in the form of a feeling of resistance in the line or a "pull the rod out of your hand' grab. As you are fishing floating line and unweighted flies, takes are quite often visible as a swirl out where your flies are. Learn not to strike when you see a take, just continue to retrieve until you feel a solid resistance and then set the hook. Trout are hunters and will often take two or three times if the fly is still in the vicinity, so if you get a visible swirl that does not hook up, fish the flies out then cover the area again, at least you know there is a fish there and you are definitely still in with a chance if you cover him once more.
Another daunting thing with Great Lake is the sheer amount of water there is to fish, there are so many beats which fish well in different conditions. On the Western shore hot spots include, the shore around Reynolds Island, and the shoreline down to Rainbow Point. Canal Bay, Christmas Bay and Swan Bay are all good fishing and offer some protection from strong Northerly, Southerly and Westerly winds. Heading around the Southern end of the lake, Maclanachans Island is a good bet for the boat fisherman and Todds Corner is always reliable. On the Eastern shore Muddy Bay (depending on water levels), Elizabeth and Cramps Bay are also very reliable. I seldom fish North of these spots so I won't say any wonderful things about those areas. Fish with the wind blowing along the shore, if you are wading walk down the shore casting in an ark working from right on the edge, out to 90 degrees from the shore. Target large rocks, stumps and logs as well as gutters as brownies tend to hang near cover waiting for dinner to pass by. In a boat set a drift parallel to and within comfortable casting distance of the shore.The trout along the shore of Great Lake, and in most other places for that matter always seem to be found in patches. Drifting in the boat with a partner it is not uncommon to fish for some time without any success then bang, one, two, three, or four fish boated in a short distance. Always note a spot like this and shortly after drifting off the area go back up wind and work it again. The fish will still be there and will usually still be willing to take.
Safety & Equipment
Definitely practice wader safety around Great Lake, the rocky terrain can cause definite problems when wading any time let alone dusk or after dark. Wear a belt just below the top of your waders to prevent water getting in if you do have a fall. Try to fish with a mate where possible and let someone know where you are going, should you fail to return home it gives anyone looking for you a definite starting point. Head torches are one of the million or so "accessories" the well prepared fly fisherman can have on board, they are a great piece of kit giving you hands free light. Like most things you can pay as much little as you want for a head torch, they all basically do the same thing and quality wise you get what you pay for. Most camping stores have a reasonable range covering most prices.
Great lake is a tremendous fishery day or night, right through the year. It is an underutilised fishery and I have only touched one technique which works well in certain conditions. A few points to remember when stepping out to catch one of the resident brown or rainbows using this method are; Fish confidently, knowing you are going to catch trout. Don't battle the wind, let it work for you.Don't just fish blind, work likely holding areas thoroughly and fish systematically.If you hit a patch of fish, note the spot and work it again.Most of all, fish safely, and tight lines.