Great Lake - Fishing the waves

Shane Flude
As we go to print many of Tassie's rivers are still in flood, most of the major storages are filling nicely and a number of those dams on the Mersey/Forth and Derwent river systems have been spilling for two months. What all this means to the avid trout angler is that we are simply spoilt for choice of locations at the moment. Great Lake is one storage that has risen dramatically this year coming up almost four meters.

I have fished here a number of times this year with great success but am still amazed at the apparent lack of anglers. In fact I am yet to approach my favourite shoreline and turn away due to someone already fishing my bank. This article covers the very productive surf fishing that awaits the keen angler on one of Tassie's best waters. Knowing exactly when and where to go, what to use once there and how to fish it properly will unlock some excellent fishing.

Spinning and wet fly fishing are my two preferred methods with the fly rod being replaced by the spinning rod as the wind speed increases above about 15 knots. Anything above this and back casts become troublesome and the waves that are created as they are blown across the lake simply form surf like conditions to rough to fish into. Huge waves pick up the fly line and wash it down the shore, dragging the fly to quickly through the water to fish it effectively. Up to 15 knots however the shore based wet fly fishing can be fantastic. I use a six weight rod and line with a simple short floating leader and six pound tippet. Short casts on a 45 degree angle downwind along the shore is best as the fish on these rough days patrol the shoreline just behind the breakers. Any steamer type pattern that loosely resembles the native galaxias should be used. These small fish abound in the shallows and surf on rough days and are the prey of choice for the trout. I tie a no six or eight Rabbit Fur Fly in black, brown or olive. The majority of galaxias are around 50mm in length so use flies around this size. A stripping basket is essential when fishing the Great Lake surf as each wave will tangle up and wash away free floating line. There are a number of these overpriced gadgets on the market but my $3.50 plastic Kmart laundry basket does the job very nicely even if I do look like an idiot wading along the shores with a white laundry basket in front of me.
When spinning I use a standard seven foot graphite rod coupled with braided line. In fact I now use fireline for all my fishing whether it be inland or sea fishing. I still tie a short mono leader so any serious snag will break here rather than half way down the expensive braid line. A small snap swivel or rapala knot is attached to the end to tie on my favourite and most productive lure namely a Rapala CD 7 countdown. At seven grams and seven centimetres I find it's the perfect weight and length to fish the conditions. I've experimented with most colours but it's a tossup between the muddler minnow and the rainbow trout pattern. The muddler is a great lookalike of the spotted native galaxias and the rainbow pattern perfectly depicts a small rainbow trout. This year the muddler has outfished the rainbow, probably due to the large number of galaxias on the shoreline. From the stomachs of the first five fish last trip I counted 27 galaxias.

Best locations and weather conditions
Fishing the surf at Great Lake is all about choosing the best time to go and unless you have the right weather conditions the other factors I've mentioned in this article will not come into play. It is essential that you fish in rough and windy conditions and overcast is always better than sunny. A perfect wind is around 15 to 20 knots as a general rule whitecaps start to form around 15 knots. Great Lake often experiences howling gales and I've found that much above 25 knots makes fishing impossible. The weather determines the relevant shore to be fished as it is the shores where the waves are breaking that are the best locations. Southwest to northwest winds are the most common wind directions on Great Lake, however I've experienced the best fishing in northwest to northerly winds. These conditions usually see me fishing the southern shores of the lake at either side of the main dam and the headland around McLanahans Point. These shores also shelve away deeply into the lake and the most productive fishing I've experienced has been from these deeper shores. I mentioned earlier to fish from a 45 degree angle to the shore; this is very important as the trout patrol just behind the waveline and fishing at this angle or even less puts you in the strike zone for longer. When spinning with rapalas a rapid, start-stop retrieve is best, with many fish grabbing the lure as it stops. The overwhelming majority of fish will grab the lure in the last couple of metres, many taking it right at your feet. Despite fishing in atrocious conditions sometimes in the middle of winter, I always wear polaroid sunglasses and often see the fish bite the lure at the end. Some trout will almost beach themselves to grab the lure at the end of a cast, making for very exciting fishing. I don't bother with a landing net, just slowly roll the fish in further with each wave until they are fully beached.

Best times
I've caught my bag surf fishing at Great Lake from May through until November, the exact weather conditions seem to be more important than the specific time of year. Trout condition however is usually better later in the season. Large male trout are more frequently taken than females.
As you can imagine, wading and fishing in a 20 knot surf at Great Lake in June is not for the faint hearted. To say it is cold is a ridiculous understatement, it is absolutely bloody freezing and three or four thermal layers and full wet weathers are needed. Nearly all the shores are rocky and difficult to walk along, so decent footwear is essential. I've just purchased my fifth pair of Horns waders and although not the warmest the boots are very grippy on the rocks.
So now you're fully briefed on how to fish Great Lake, don't just sit there. Buy some rather expensive rapala lures, drive to the dam at the southern end overlooking the lake and walk down to the face of the old arch dam. If it's blowing into your face and the water is rough and stirred up, cast onemetre out from the dam and catch the big one that often lurks there, because this is probably the most productive spot on the whole lake.

Shane Flude

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