Presented from Issue 103, April 2013
The months of April and May can offer very good trout fishing opportunities. Brown trout are well aware of the need to put on weight leading up to their annual spawning cycle. Now that many of the hatches are coming to an end, they are becoming more opportunistic feeders, once again.
As the brown trout season nears its end on the Sunday nearest to the 30th of April, male brown trout become very aggressive as they begin to pair up with potential females. Big wet flies, plastics and lures are often hit, just to get them out of their territory. Rainbows on the other hand, usually spawn later in the year with their closing season reflecting this by finishing one month later on the Sunday closest to the 31 st of May. So rainbows are mostly unaffected by the urge to spawn and continue to feed as normal right through to May.
Meston, Youd and Junction Lakes
These lakes are located in a visually spectacular area of the Walls Of Jerusalem National Park and sustain a truly wild rainbow trout fishery. The lakes are kept free of invading brown trout by the impassable waterfalls on the Mersery River flowing from these lakes. Access to these lakes isn’t easy, as it requires a lengthy walk (approximately 4 hours) up onto the plateau from numerous walking tracks down at Lake Rowallan. Lake Meston is a very deep lake with limited shore access around much of the lake. The shallow sandy shore at the northern end of the lake is a very popular place to fish due to its shallow, wadeable, sandy shore that gives easy access to some deeper water. This Lake holds the largest rainbows of the three lakes with many fish up to and no doubt, beyond the six pound mark.
Lake Youd is a very small shallow lake located on the Mersey River between Lake Meston and Junction Lake. It holds many small rainbows and the occasional larger specimen. The Mersey River between these lakes holds mostly small juvenile rainbows that provide an entertaining alternative to chasing those elusive monsters swimming in Lake Meston. Junction Lake has a good stock of fish around the 1½ pound to 2 pound mark with an open grassy shore on the western shore of the Lake that makes it very easy to fish from the shore compared to the thick forest growing right down to the lake on the remaining shoreline. A float tube would be a great asset to fish Meston and Junction, that is, if you were keen enough to carry one up over the mountain.
Lake Skinner in the Snowy Ranges is situated in the Southwest national Park and is another wilderness rainbow lake that is open until the Sunday closest to the 31st of May. Like the lakes in the upper Mersey Lake Skinner is accessed by foot on a hiking track that takes approximately 2 hours to reach the lake. Shore access is also limited, making the use of a float tube or similar craft a very helpful tool to reach rainbow that are often beyond your best cast.
Lake Rowallan and upper Mersey River
Lake Rowallan and the upper Mersey River flowing into it, are also designated rainbow waters but unlike Meston and Junction Lakes, this lake holds brown trout as well. The lakeshore is easily accessible via the gravel forestry road running alongside the eastern shore of the lake, with a more challenging four wheel drive section on the road along the Western shore. There is one designated boat ramp located just past the dam wall on the eastern shore and some opportunities to launch a small boat on some of the other tracks leading down to the lake if you have a four-wheel drive and the lake is full. Best to assess these possibilities with your own discretion after visiting the Lake.
This lake is full of structure with a large area of the lake being covered by dead free standing and fallen timber. Boating through this maze of trees is done by following the old Mersey River bed that was flooded to create this hydro Lake. The rocky shores provide more structure and sight fishing opportunities from the shore. The Lake is open to all forms of fishing, including bait. One such bait that has proven deadly throughout the season on this Lake is the black cockroach, which can be found under loose flat stones and dry timber in the area. When fished under a bubble float or actively cast and retrieved, there is no denying the effectiveness of this bait in lakes such as this. For the fly fisher, the Lake can have a midge hatch and beetle falls to keep fish looking up late in the season.
The last kilometre of the Mersey River flowing into the Lake holds a small population of brown and rainbows with the occasional sighting of a large spooky brown that has entered the river in May. Fishing the main body of the Lake is usually much more productive to fish, than the sometimes barren part of the river that enters the Lake.
Dee Lagoon holds both rainbows and browns and is highly regarded as a wind lane fishery with midge hatches and beetle falls. Jassids are always a chance late in the season if you strike it on the right day. Dee Lagoon is mostly fished from a boat to have easy access to all corners of the Lake. Pataon bay can be accessed by 2wd vehicle and is a good late season shore based destination.
Apart from the upper Mersey, there are two other rivers in the state with the same name that are classified as rainbow waters. The Weld River in the South of the state and the Weld River in the North east. Both rivers are open until the end of rainbow season, just in case you want to squeeze in a little more river fishing.
Waters that never close
For anyone who can’t get enough trout fishing, there is no need to stop with a handful of Lakes and sections of rivers that are open all year.
The lakes that are managed like this could be put into two categories. Lakes that are stocked “put and take fisheries” with no or very limited natural spawning facilities such as Brushy Lagoon, Meadowbank Lake and Craigbourne Dam. Then there are the other lakes, such as Great Lake (excluding Canal Bay), Lake Burbury, Lake Pedder and Huntsman Lake that are capable of maintaining a large head of fish that is naturally replenished each year by their own productive spawning rivers. The sections of rivers that have been put on the open all year lists to take trout, are limited to the lower tidal sections. These areas are down stream form a nominated bridge such as the Bridgewater Bridge in the Derwent, Lower Charles St Bridge on the North Esk, West Tamar Bridge on the South Esk and Allison Bridge on the Leven.
|Large stoneflies are great trout food|
Come the month of April the water temperature has started to cool off again and we’ve usually had a bit of rain to lift the water levels up a bit in the Western Lakes. Many big fish that live in those shallow lakes are often hidden under rocks during the hottest part of the day in late summer. During April things start to change and those fish that are normally hidden are often out and ready to feed on large protein rich food items such as small bait fish and any large terrestrial that finds its way onto the water. The Giant Stone fly is still present at this time of year, so a large foam fly is still a nice dry fly option during this time. The chance of a Jassid hatch is always possible so a small red and black Jassid pattern, which there are many, is one of my favourite go to dry flies late in the season, even when there are no Jassids present this little fly makes a great impression on these late season trout.
When the weather turns wet and cold it’s time to revert back to those early season tactics and fish a nymph or big wet fly like a Woolly Bugger or fur fly. The fish are usually in close so I like to fish the edge first before searching further out over those large submerged rocks.
It almost goes without saying that bibbed lures and soft plastics are going to get eaten at this time of year. Trout are looking for small fish to eat and that’s what these represent. The vibration from a lure or the scent, fishy profile and jigging action of a soft plastic make them a very efficient and productive way to cover a lot of water in rough conditions.
In the last few weeks’ trout can often be seen swimming in pairs as they begin to feel the erg to spawn. There are also times when you can see tails and fins in the shallows or boisterous bow waves rippling out from the shallows, as males jostle over the right to pair up with a female. This phenomenon is usually seen on lakes that have no spawning river for these fish to group and spawn. Because these fish are not feeding at this time, lures or flies may only be taken out of aggression in an attempt to remove it from their territory. With that said, I have had these fish sip down an EWB (Emerging Woolly Bugger) like it was a dying or distressed bait fish, which it is intended to represent.
So I think the need to eat is still there, it just needs to be worthwhile. If there was ever a time to catch and release, this is it, big pre-spawn Brown’s kept for the table this late in the season are never any good for the table, it really would be a waist. Smaller maiden fish that have not gone through the body changes of the adults are a much better option for the table. Of course, you could always fish a rainbow water to take one home for dinner, which is less likely to end up feeding the cat.