Presented from Issue 107, December 2013
For the last few years I’ve been a bit of a lake fishing fanatic. Almost every chance I got I’d zip off “up top” for a chance to attack a stillwater. It could be a few hours of an evening, a dawn patrol tail session on the Pine, or a couple of hours through the middle of the day between jobs. Free fuel and a work bus made it easy to take off on a whim. Sessions were short and travel times were often pretty long, and increasingly the travel with a young family has become just a bit more tiresome.

Not that it was at all bad - the lake fishing time has been a lot of fun and taught me a lot, improving various techniques, allowing flies to develop and evolve, and I’m always learning something new on weather, insect life or particular conditions up top to love or loathe. Every trip to the plateau was enjoyed, but it really meant I’d neglected something I’d very much enjoyed only 5 years or so back - those lovely summer sessions on the meadow streams. I guess it’s just that I had lost touch and had a different focus rather than purposely ignoring these local river gems.

Funny really, as being a Launceston lad through and through the meadow stream magic should be front and centre in high summer. I’d meant to get there to our meadow streams a few times early season the last couple of years after the Horan team (Pat, Will and old warhorse Terry) along with the indefatigable Graeme Frankcombe had regularly mentioned some great flood fishing sessions on the South Esk and Meander when they had chased the rising waters. But timing and work had conspired against me and I’d missed all but a few scraps of said rising fresh!

So when Terry Horan mentioned to me at our December meeting of the Fly Fishers Club of Tasmania last year that “the caenids are on!” I was reminded just how long it had been since I’d hit the meadow streams in any way at all. It piqued my interest, time was short and work was too busy for long haul missions - why not rectify my wrongs immediately!

Lining up the following dawn Saturday a few days later I got up in good time and bee-lined it straight for Westwood Bridge on the Meander. It’s twenty three and a half minutes from my place, whether I go via Rosevale or Launceston, which I learnt over the next visits in following days and weeks, testing how I could get there quicker and earlier! Nine minutes back to work also helped.

Having rarely fished mornings on the streams, often in the past being an evening rise regular after work, I found the millions of spent caenids drifting down the stream surface on these beautiful foggy mornings intriguing (at least I assumed they were caenids on Terry’s advice!). Where did they all come from? And they were so tiny, why were the trout all over them as though they were their last supper?

The dimpling on the surface from the rising fish was everywhere at times, but the fishing to these “dimples” was anything but easy, despite their obvious numbers and regular consistent feeding, they were just zoned in on the tiny tucker.

I fished hard, but often ended up with just one or two fish to hand for my trouble, with the best score at three and only one blank morning on a slightly quieter windier day during the 8 or 9 times (or more) I called in for my couple of hours on the water trips for a month and a bit over December and January. The fishing was BLOODY CHALLENGING in fact, but very rewarding when it all came together. Initially I thought the fly was being refused time and again by some fish, and from my lake experiences (probably spurred on by reading plenty of Greg French) I had become schooled in moving lots and covering lots of water to find fish, and compliant ones at that to try and achieve maximum success!

But here I eventually worked out that I needed more patience, and to focus on a fish for a lot longer. Perhaps it wasn’t necessarily refusals outright, but a real presentation game that fish required, and for that presentation to be spot on. A fly had to land at exactly the right moment or it received nil interest. Timing a cast so that you placed a fly when a fish had risen, with enough delay so they were coming BACK UP for their next morsel was the key I think. With so much tucker on the water they were mostly rising with regularity anyway, but some had a more consistent rhythm than others. This helped with some success but still most were tough!

Flies varied, and anything small and dark or in plain natural colours seemed to work okay for me, getting most interest on my narrow size 16 black spinners and some home-tied 16 and 18 “midge things” with a bit more brown/grey in the body that I thought looked something like the caenids I was seeing on the water, and with a little wing tied in. They all seemed to go okay, but I’d be interested in other readers thoughts on their killer flies for the caenid feeders, to try some new ideas out on the water in future.

Challenging fish as usual made the all-too- infrequent successes much more rewarding, and I really developed a great respect for the meander trout during my regular visits there, despite many being reasonably small fish they seemed pretty cluey to me and not easy to take. After all the spot does get fished a bit I am told, and the tracks seem to indicate a bit of traffic. However I didn’t see anyone there on my dawn visits from memory (which was surprising).

Having had some great dawn sessions there during that two month window over Christmas, and just the one evening session which also produced with some lovely black spinners nearer to dark, I got sidetracked with other commitments during February and beyond and unfortunately by the time I returned just the once in early April there seemed to be stuff all tucker on the water and only one fish sighted in the distance. Perhaps it may have just been a dog day too though, and I should have been looking for other methods instead of the same old conditions.

Regardless, I’ll be back to the Meander a lot this December and January - starting early. We are lucky to have such accessible streams so close to home (and thanks go the Anglers Access and IFS for formalising some of the access points, providing stiles, etc), and I’d encourage fellow anglers to get up in the dark and enjoy fine caenid action too, as I certainly did last year. In many ways it made the season for me, despite other great trips some with bigger fish and larger numbers it was the river sport that has me excited me most for next year. I wonder how the new Zero weight Sage will go on the Meander too.

Many thanks to Terry Horan and the boys once again for the hot tip!

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