The Break O Day's Magic MayflyThe orange mayfly spinner danced up and down within a balmy and gentle breeze. Every so often it would pierce the water with its tail - releasing more eggs, then return back to its dance. As the seconds turned to minutes more of its kind joined the action until before me hundreds of spinners lined the silver coloured surface of the river.
There I sat amongst the tussocks on the grassy banks of the river, watching intently for the first rise of the day. With so many spinners laying their eggs I was amazed no trout were feeding, but like every year on the Break O'Day River it never lets me down. Soon I sighted the very first rise; it occurred within a large, pin rush crowded, pool that had a thin channel of water and floating spinners entering it, creating a smorgasbord for the lone wild brown trout.
I had already selected my fly; a size 14 Macquaire Red, but my first tactic was to work out the trout's feeding pattern. After creeping closer to the edge of the pool I discovered that the trout had a beat and was patrolling from the bottom of the pool to the top, then returning to the bottom as a new amount of spinners floated in. My plan was to wait until the trout was at the bottom of the pool then cast my fly to the top of the pool with the naturals; then wait.
Looking down to the bottom of the pool the soft flat surface gently dimpled at the appearance of the trout's snout as it sipped in a spinner. Every time a natural was taken my anticipation built. My fly was next in a line, I hoped, just sitting there waiting its turn. Eventually there was just my fly, the trout and deep silence. Then the trout rose to take my fly, porpoising well out of the water and onto my fly. Almost instinctively I lifted the rod, setting the hook, which produced a fury of power at the end of my line. Throughout the fight I hoped everything would hold, and it did, landing a beautiful Tasmanian trout of three pounds from this beautiful stream - the Break O'Day.
The Break O'Day is located in northeast Tasmania. Starting its journey in the Fingal Valley and fed by side creeks on the Break O'Day plains, it travels slowly through lush farmland to join the South Esk River at Fingal. Like many other streams in the area it is rain-fed and free of obstructing dams, erosion and undue human influences and yields a rich streambed insect life that has to be seen to believe.
Today it was the mayfly's turn to hatch and they were certainly making the most of the opportunity. Representing insects from the family of Ephemeroptera many species exist, but the main one that hatch is called Atalophlebia australis and nothing can be better than to sit on the banks of a river and watch the spinners at play; reflecting on fishing days gone by. The writings of David Scholes initially attracted me to this and many other streams in Tasmania; a master fly-fisherman, but more particularly a master of highlighting the important things in fly-fishing. In my mind I began to picture all the happenings from David's words, the stories, the characters and of the lessons learnt. The main lesson for fly-fishing the Break O'Day was about reading the weather.
The main enemy of the fly fisherman on any river during a mayfly hatch is the wind. On the Break O'Day a wind from the east can spell disaster and in turn stop the trout from rising. Of the many days I've fished the Break O'Day, ninety percent of them have eventually ended with the wind blowing the spinners away. It is usually just a matter of when it starts. Hopefully it will stay at bay for long enough so the trout catching joy can continue.
From my position on the river I could see both the pool in front of me and also down stream for a good hundred metres. The calm conditions were still with me and trout now began to rise downstream in a long, slow flowing, reed lined section of the river.
Slowly walking down I positioned myself just behind the knee-high reeds; perfect cover from the now consistent rising trout. With my plan of attack worked out I retrieved my Macquaire Red from the fly holder applied some floatant and gave the rod a few casts away to the side to gain the required distance. Then, judging the time to be right I made my presentation, landing all as one above the last rise seen. The Macquaire Red with its body and main hackle floating it high, drifted momentarily, then in a wink the fly was gone.
Lifting the rod made a solid connection and a spritely trout of a pound in size fought hard seemingly spending more time in the air then in the water. After its release I again positioned myself behind the tussocks. Looking upstream I saw a leviathan of a trout; from the dimensions of its back and tail I estimated it to be around four to five pounds.
As I watched the trout I began to work out my next move I felt a slight breeze hit my face, which produced immediate concerns. As the breeze became consistent I knew my fishing time was limited, and I had to hurry if I was to have any chance in deceiving this big trout. Out went my line and fly landing nicely, but drifting past the mark untouched.
Then the breeze, momentarily, turned into a short gust, blowing the spinners off the surface. When this happens it just a matter of waiting, with hope, for the calm and hopefully back the spinners will come. The breeze dropped and the spinners came back, but the moment I began to cast another gust came just a little harder and a little longer blowing away the spinners that had enticed that all-to-rare big trout to the surface. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement but it is just part of fishing.
Without going in to the details I spent more time on this trout using different tactics and flies, but nothing worked and it really wasn't the way I intended to fish. So I began the long walk back to the car wishing the now strong wind would go away.
One of the great things about rivers and nature is that nothing stays the same. The wind was a factor that would change the fishing success of this day and to many more ahead.
The vegetation both in the Break O'Day and lining its banks is varied and plentiful.
Some sections are reed-lined, flat and unaffected by soil erosion, other sections have lush grassy green farmland and some have high banks or are lined with thick tussock grass.It happened by chance on my way back to the car; I sat down to watch the water; the wind blowing hard into my face. I notice on the opposite bank a strip on calm flat water about a metre in width, formed by the high tussock grass that block the wind.
To my amazement, there within the calm strip, a small number of orange spinners were hovering, egg laying above the surface. Then to my delight a little half pounder leapt into the air taking a spinner. Yes I was back in the game, but casting directly into a stiff wind wasn't going to be easy and this was further complicated when presenting the fly. With half the fly line in the ripply wind affected water, and your fly and leader in the calm section the end result was drag. To combat this I had to mend the line more, but this was no easy task. Cast after cast fail to give the right presentation until finally one worked well and the small trout engulfed the fly, quickly coming to hand, then released.Disappointment turned to delight in the space of an hour. The rest of the day was spent searching for sections of the river that blocked the wind - creating calm water and small congregations of spinners.
It was a great day searching until the gentleman's hours had ended at around 3.00 pm.I had learnt a lot, the main lesson being that all is not lost, and that if a fisherman is observant and endeavours to continue on he will be rewarded.More importantly though is the Break O'Day, many have said that the Break O'Day isn't like it used to be, and maybe that is true. For me it has been a magic experience through the years I've walked its banks; an experience in mayfly hatches, trout captures and of the lessons learnt by nature.