Presented from Issue 94
The Great Lake is one of my favourite places to fish for trout in Tassie. It supports a large population of both rainbow and brown trout and the vast size of the lake means means that I can hunt for these trout with very few interruptions.
Winter fishing at the lake has been good to me this year; however, many of the fish that I have caught have been in poor or ‘slabby’ condition and have not put up much of a fight. Catching a brown trout that is half asleep and resembles an eel is not my idea of fun. No doubt the availability of food has a lot to do with this.
With the arrival of spring bringing some more favourable weather and many inland water levels at all time highs – Great Lake being no exception – now is the time to get fishing. With more food available, a lot of the trout previously mentioned will start putting on some serious girth. With better condition comes increased energy, which translates into lots of excitement for an angler such as myself! As most enthusiasts know, these fish will naturally become more active as the water temperatures increase. The best time of the year to target trout is now; so let me explain how I go about catching them.
The Stealthy Approach
Kayak fishing is a fast growing sport in Australia. It is suitable for both young and old. It is generally inexpensive and there are many benefits. In addition to the health benefits of engaging is some exercise, you are also doing your bit for the environment. Many inland waters in this State also prohibit the use of powered boats, particularly in conservation areas, a so a kayak is a great choice.
Aside from the health and environmental benefits; the biggest advantage in using a kayak as a fishing platform would have to be the fact that you can fish places that boats normally can’t access. You can launch a kayak from practically any accessible shore and you can get in to areas silently and undetected. I do most of my fishing using a Hobie ‘Outback’ kayak, which has been set up for that purpose.
This type of kayak is perfectly designed for fishing. The pedal powered ‘mirage drive’ system means that you can fish without needing to juggle your rod and the paddle. Using your legs for propulsion also means more power through the water. It also means that you can move about with much less effort. Surprisingly, it can easily be operated in around half a metre of water. While there is a paddle attached to the side, it usually only comes out during launching and landing.
The Hobie also has an excellent rudder system. Steering is easy, with the controls at your fingertips. I have modified the rudder on my mine, fitting a larger sailing rudder. This has effectively decreased the turning time, adding to the kayaks already excellent manoeuvrability. The rudder can also be set to hold your course – a valuable feature when trawling lures.
The other non-standard addition, and perhaps the most valuable, is a sounder. With the transducer installed totally snag-free inside the hull, and the display unit on a removable RAM mount bracket, I have found it to be very user-friendly. You have the same equipment as you would have in a boat, with the only difference being that the unit runs off a small, rechargeable alarm battery. When fishing, I always read the sounder first. Rather than using it to look for fish, I instead use it to locate the bottom and look for anything that might look ‘fishy’. Weed-beds, drop-offs and sunken timber all support life and they are easy to find once you know how to read your sounder.
Find these, and you will often find the fish. Bee Hive Point
A favourite place of mine to fish at the Great Lake is ‘Bee Hive Point’, commonly known amongst anglers as the ‘Bee Hives’. You only need to look at the photos to see where the name originates. The large walls of ‘hive’ like rock formations extend upwards from the water. They are almost vertical in some places and the view can sometimes be a little overwhelming from a kayak - although eith lake levels so high at the time of writing they are now mostly underwater.
The majority of the shore at the ‘Bee Hives’ is made up of several deep drop-offs. These can be as deep as six or more metres, depending on water levels in the lake. I have found that there are several weed- beds located deep and hard up against these rock walls. There are also many large rock shelves located just under the surface, and within close proximity of the walls. A hazard for boats, these are easily reached using a kayak.
To get there, I launch my Hobie at the Swan Bay boat ramp. The boat ramp means no twisted ankles carrying a kayak over the rocky shoreline of the lake. From there, it’s an easy 10 minute pedal across the bay to the opposite shore. The easy part depends on conditions of course. Once you have reached the opposite shore, follow it out of the Bay and you will find the Bee Hives – they are easy to recognise!
Yak Fishing Tactics
In my opinion, there is only one way to fish the ‘Bee Hives’ from a kayak, and that is hard up against them. Target the weed-beds, drop-offs and submerged rock shelves that I have described. Being in a kayak, you will be able to get right up close without the worry of smacking your boat into the jagged rock face.
Anyone that knows me will know that I am a self- confessed soft plastic addict. With the vast array of brands available on tackle store shelves today, there is certainly a lot to choose from. The best type of plastic I have found to fish in these circumstances is either a ‘paddle tail’ or ‘grub’ style. These types of plastics feature an inbuilt tail-action and require little to no user input; unlike other types, like stick or flick baits, which require user input to create action.
Soft plastic grubs and t-tails are a perfect option for fishing the Bee Hives due to their enticing action. I start off by flicking these soft plastics directly at the face of the rock wall. I then let the plastic sink down the face of the wall. If you are using the soft plastic style that I have recommended, you will get some excellent action during the drop. There are weed beds at the bottom and trout will often lay there in wait.
It is important, during the drop, to keep in touch with your lure. If you have too much slack in your line, you may miss any takes. There is a fine line between just enough slack and too much tension. It takes practice, but watching the line for any sudden movement will help you to identify any takes. I have often caught trout like this without even feeling the strike through the line or rod.
If you are not getting any takes, try a few short, but subtle twitches of your rod tip. This will give the plastic more action as it makes its way down the wall. The key is to be very gentle in your execution. Avoid sudden, hard or jerky movements that can scare away your target. Just a short, subdued, flick of your rod tip every few seconds can do wonders when things are quiet.
Another tactic at the ‘Bee Hives’ is to target the shallow submerged rock ledges. If you wear a good pair of polaroid sunglasses, you will find them easily. Approach slowly while still keeping some distance between you and the ledges. Cast your plastic directly onto the rock, as if you were throwing food on a plate for the trout. Let it sink briefly and proceed with a few short and gentle twitches of your rod tip. You are aiming to make the plastic ‘hop’ slowly along the surface of the rock. I have pulled many fish from these ledges using such a method. Many of them have been in only a metre or so of water.
Most importantly, the key to any of these tactics is the visibility of your fishing line. You must remember that the trout that lay in wait in those weed beds have a lot of time to assess your offering. Using a good-quality low-visibility line is the first step in ensuring that the trout are not spooked. I use 4lb Berkley Crystal Fireline - the breaking strength of this stuff is incredible and usually almost double to the rating on the packet. It is still visible enough on the surface to detect any strikes, while remaining fairly neutral under the surface.
If you are one who prefers to use brightly coloured braid as a main line, then make sure you use at least a rod length of good quality fluorocarbon leader. Tie your leader on using a strong leader knot connection – the ‘slim beauty’ is a personal favourite of mine. Just google ‘slim beauty knot’ or go to www. netknots.com and it even has animated instructions.
Soft Plastic Lure Selection
There are hundreds of different soft plastics brands including the American ‘Berkley’ and the Tasmanian ‘Strike Tiger’ which offer good options for plastics that have a built-in tail action - great for this style of fishing. The 2.5 inch Berkley ‘black n gold’ T-tail and the 3 inch Strike Tiger ‘black n gold’ curl tail grub, are both good. Drop one of these down the wall of the ‘hives’ and see what happens! I normally rig either of these plastics on a bullet style jighead. I have found that a 1/12 weight with a 1/0 hook size is a good all-rounder. Of course you could go lighter to a 1/16 weight (which I sometimes do when conditions are calm).
Also, the lighter you go, the more time the lure has on the drop. Besides paddle tail and grub type plastics, you can also try an insect type presentation, particularly as the weather begins to warm up. A good alternative lure, is a Berkley ‘bulky hawg’ plastic. If you want to go even smaller in your presentation, then try a one inch Strike Tiger soft plastic ‘nymph’. Both of these lures can be fished light and very slowly, in much the same way that I have described with the paddle tails and grubs. I have concentrated on soft plastics in my selection because I can personally vouch for the results. However, I am sure that good results could also be achieved by using sinking hard-body style lures and blades. Experimenting with the lures that you are comfortable fishing with is the best way to find out what works at the ‘Bee Hives’.
With a kayak being even more vulnerable in rough weather conditions, it is important not to forget safety. Before going to the Great Lake, I always check the weather several times. If you are deciding whether to go, remember that conditions are invariably worse up the top! Invest in a good quality PFD and dress appropriately. Take gloves, warm clothes and always pack your wet-weathers. The water temperature at the Great Lake can get down to single figures, so if you do happen to fall in, your body temperature will drop very rapidly. Take a mate with you, or if you are going by yourself, fish close to the shoreline. Always take a change of clothes tucked away in a dry bag and have some food stored on-board, along with a thermos containing a hot drink.
It’s a good idea to take a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch, but reception out there can be unreliable. I always pack a couple of marine flares for good measure. With the Great Lake Hotel and several shacks close by, the chances of someone seeing a flare are better than your chances of finding reception. Finally - don’t take any unnecessary risks.