Autumn days on Great LakeJoe Riley
As the days of Autumn shorten, and the brown trout season draws towards an end on the last weekend in April, it is good to know that those with "the affliction" can still pursue the odd trout on a hand full of lakes. Great Lake remains open year round with the exception of canal bay, which by the time you are reading this, will have closed along with all spawning creeks and canals.
Although the majority of brown trout will have moved into "how you doin" mode and made for the creeks in pursuit of a bit of loving, a fair number won't spawn, and those that spawned early will in fact drop back into the lake quite quickly. These fish and the rainbow trout which run to spawn later around September/October are still all available for a fair bit of sport.
This year with the lack of rain and resulting low water levels around our lakes, there promises to be some great sport with sight fishing a possibility right through Autumn and into Winter. The exposed weed beds around the now shallow bays will ensure that fish are able to be located close to shore in many areas right around the lake.
Polaroiding and dry fly
April and May can be a beautiful time of year with some of the clearest days, during this time some superb polaroiding can be found on Great Lake. Fish will cruise the shores looking for stick caddis, beetles which still fall occasionally, galaxia particularly around the rocky shores and other fodder which may makes it's way to the shallow edges of the lake. In the warmest parts of the day it is possible to find tiny midge hatching and the odd fish rising to them, these midging fish are catchable and are a worthy, challenging target. Dry fly fishing is still possible right through this time, with beetle patterns the best option for getting a fish.
Dry fly hot spots
Swan Bay, Todds Corner, Little Lake Bay on the Western shore, Elizabeth, Muddy and to a lesser degree Cramps Bay along the Eastern shore. In bright weather don't overlook the long shores on both the East and West sides of the lake, however if you are covering longer shores you may need to do a lot of walking until you start finding fish. Once you do this you usually find quite a number within a short distance, such is the nature of fishing that most of the fish will be where the food is available at a particular point in time.
Polaroiding with wet fly
This is a great challenge, and being able to observe and read the take underwater is an art worth pursuing. Try fishing a stick caddis under a dry fly New Zealand style, tie the nymph to the bend of the dry fly hook on a dropper about 18 inches to 2 ft long. Watch the trout for a tell tale open and closing of the mouth when he reaches the stick caddis, but also watch the dry for a twitch or pull when the wet fly is taken. A point here, a quick take is required when the nymph is taken, however show restraint when the fish suddenly recognises the dry fly and eases up to the surface and clops it down, this strike takes a little more time in allowing the trout to turn down to resume his cruising depth.
April also holds the promise of one of Tasmania's favoured dry fly events, the jassid fall. When these bright beetles with their red under bellies and black backs fall on the water in numbers they are like toffee apples to kids, irresistable. Trout will rise freely to the jassids and pick them selectively from amongst other beetles and food on the surface. The good oil is that a few have already turned up on Great Lake in late March, and with the warm year we have had, this season could well be a good one for the jassid.
The occurrence of Galaxia in Great Lake means that trout will always be susceptible wet flies fished around the shore, or deeper over weed beds. Fishing larger wets is better on overcast days or morning and evening when fish will chase Galaxia close to shore. Once again action is localised and fish tend to be found in patches. Drifting along the shore in a boat is an excellent way to find the fish, initially set up without a drogue drifting quickly, then drop the drogue once fish are found and slow the drift down to make the most of the area the fish are located. If you are walking the shore, don't stand and fish in one area, move along the shore as you fish, cover plenty of water with plenty of casts and you will pick up more fish. Don't be afraid to cast hard against the shore as fish will get in close looking for food in amongst the rocks. Hot spots; The road shore on Swan Bay, Todds Corner, Reynolds Island.
The fishing at this time of year can also really turn on when the weather gets dirty. Strong westerly winds drive waves onto the Western Shore of Great Lake, stirring up the bottom and pushing food adrift. Although this type of fishing is cold, hard and uncomfortable, the rewards are great, plenty of big fish, mainly hard against the shore, gorging themselves on all of the food turned over by the waves.
This fishing is not without it's challenges, trying to cast out diagonally across a screaming wind, in 2ft waves is not easy. Shorten your leader to about 6ft and use one big wet fly like a Black Woolly Bugger, you won't spook the fish with a sloppy presentation here. If you are confident wade out a short way as this will make casting easier, but be prepared for the waves hitting against you. Takes are savage and the quality of the fish in these conditions is usually fantastic, bigger fish making the most of the available food. If you find you are having some difficulty casting into the wind try side casting low to the water, there is actually less wind effect here as the force of the wind is broken by the water surface lessening it slightly.
The areas to concentrate on are patches of dirty water along the shore where the waves hit the bank, fish on the outside edge of these dirty patches and "down current" from them. Lakes are no different from a beach in that where the wind pushes a wave onto the shore the water has to go somewhere, the water will always push along the shore one way or another until it meets a point or another current, creates a "rip" and pushes the dirty water out into the lake again. Along the current is where the food goes so this is where the fish will concentrate.
Excitement in the Shallows
Probably one of the least mentioned but most exciting forms of fly fishing on Great Lake is trout charging Galaxia in the shallows on calm mornings. This really is heart in the mouth stuff, big trout charging into schools of bait fish hard against the shore in the shallows nearly beaching their selves, then swinging their tail wildly to get back into deep enough water to swim again and pick up what they've stunned or killed in the charge. This action probably occurs all year round, but I have seen it from about March onwards in Canal Bay (now closed) Todds Corner and Little Lake Bay. These fish aren't easy, although they are fixed on prey the charge in and out quickly and can move about a great distance, they are in shallow water and as a result are quite spooky. A slim olive Woolly Worm is the best I've come up with so far, although in March and early April, some of these fish will also take a dry fly if they happen across it in their travels.
Great Lake continues to be one of the best lakes in this amazing Island State we are fortunate enough to populate. I recently experienced some of the fly fishing in South Australia at a National Fly Fishing Championships and let me tell you, by any standard we've got it good.
The bag limit for Great Lake is 12 fish, of which only 3 are allowed to be rainbow trout. There is a minimum length of 400mm for rainbow and 300mm for brown trout. All angling methods are allowed except for Todds Corner and Canal Bay which are artificial lures only.
Have fun, fish safely and make the most of Great Lake in Autumn.