Presented from Issue 111, August 2014
With the opening of the trout season on us it’s time to review the good old trout diary and look back at what has worked and where with the new season in mind. I know each season is different however most of us will be suffering the cabin type fever associated with our winter closure and itching to get back into it.
I have reviewed the past few years and narrowed down the best waters and techniques.
Although I live for the warm days of high summer when trout will rise freely to my rather scrappy homemade dries, the fly rod rarely leaves its tube in the first two months of the season so this article will concentrate on the lures, locations and methods that have served me well.
Huntsman Lake, although it’s open all year round, still receives an influx of anglers in the opening weeks. As the lowest in elevation of the waters I will mention, the arctic conditions of the plateau do not quite extend this low and it is often one of the most pleasant places to fish early on. The often snow lined highlands around Huntsman make this a very scenic place to visit and fish. By early august it is usually rising and or spilling and this makes for exciting fishing around much of the western and southern shorelines.
A boat is a definite advantage on Huntsman, however the entire western shore is easily reached from the road or the BBQ area. The flooded marshes here are one of the most productive places on the lake. Fish size has remained on the small size as you would expect on a lake with many spawning streams. Numbers have fallen over the past 12 months with many locals blaming the cormorants. If they have been to blame then the remaining fish should put on some weight this year so let’s all be content with the fat one pounders that may come to the net.
Fish size in this lake has changed the way I fish it. Firstly with soft plastics and my old favourite the Berkley T-tail in black and gold or green. After numerous nips and taps I started to pinch about a centimetre off the top of the plastic before threading the jig. This resulted in a better hook up rate almost instantly so I have adopted this technique in all waters I now fish where the fish are small. I still fish with fairly heavy jigs, around the 4-5g weight and allow about a foot per second of sink time.
Along the western BBQ bank on Huntsman about 100 metres out is all about 3-4 metres (10-12 feet) deep and the 10 second count works well. I usually stick with plastics until the weather starts to blow and then opt for small hard bodies along the entire southern shore, particularly if the wind has stirred the shore up. Cast in shallow to those muddy corners, the fish can often be found in only a few feet of water. I have tried any number of lures but still come back to the ever reliable rapala in a CD 5. The jury is still out on whether the rainbow, brook trout or hot mustard muddler works best. Suffice to say I have a good stock of all three. A quick stop start retrieve has always proven effective, the trout often grabbing it as it stops and you start winding again to feel instant weight.
My favourite ‘early water up top’ on the plateau for the past three years has been Woods Lake.
The fish last season were in excellent condition right from the outset. I’m told that their condition and size only increased right through till April. Due to the size of Woods I usually troll to my chosen location before resorting to spinning or plastics. The water clarity will probably never improve so this is a lake where bigger can be better. Last year just to be stupid I trolled a 12cm floating minnow and still caught trout. I regularly troll CD 9 Rapalas here, rainbow pattern seems to work best. This size lure can run to 8ft and even early season the weeds beds can foul the lure.
All along the northern shore a few hundred metres out should see a constant depth of 15 feet and a weed free troll with these larger lures. Around most other shores I use the CD 7. The only exception is the bay at the southern end. This is really exceptional water when the wind is blowing from the north. I fish a CD 5 or floating hard body here as the water in close to shore is only a few feet deep. Again fish the stirred up water right to the bank. It pays to land the boat in the trees on the western side and slowly walk the entire bay. Beware the deep creek channel that flows through the dead trees, good spot to cast a lure but bad spot to step as I discovered last year.
Very early last season the soft plastic fishing was brilliant and I caught most fish in the 12-15 ft mark and all down near the bottom. Strangely the eastern side was the most productive, an area I previously had not had much luck. So no guesses where and what I will be doing the first reasonable weekend in August. The same two colours of the T Tail work best. The gary glitters in black and gold also produce.
One of Tasmania’s favourites, Arthurs Lake has really been the talk of many anglers for the coming season. The fish condition slowly improved all last year — and how could they not, with all that flooded ground. I had great success on this water flicking small hard bodies into the extreme flooded margins. Again the best shores were the ones exposed to the weather or where pockets of muddy or stirred up water mixed with clear. This method produced well right up until November.
I had poor results on the plastics, however, but generally only used these out deeper and probably away from the majority of fish in the flooded margins. There are patches of shore that can be fished on foot here but Arthurs is better suited to boat fishing, particularly around the flooded bushes. It’s a huge lake and can cut up quite rough making progress slow. In these conditions it always pays to troll some lure along behind. For me it’s still the ever reliable Rapala however many locals swear by their cobras. As has always been the case with fishing whatever you catch the first fish on will probably make its way back onto your line by the end of the day no matter how many lure changes you make.
Best places to fish Arthurs early on are numerous. At 64 square kilometres there will always be some quite corner with no other anglers. Fish according to the weather and select the shore that is windblown and stirred up. For me last year is was the three kilometre stretch from the dam along the western shore in the prevailing north westerlies. The lake level will probably start about the minus one metre mark where it did last year. If it rises quickly like it did last year then that’s the time to go.
My favourite water though is Lake Echo — another reliable early water and often just below the snow line making access possible. I have traditionally fished this water several times early on, and rate September as the best month. I particularly like the third weekend as a non football fan and often have the lake to myself. This year will see the lake very low to start the season so quickly flooded ground will be a feature from opening weekend. The three Bays on the northern and western shores are best. A boat is now needed for Teal Bay access with current shore restrictions. The three kilometre journey south from the Large Bay ramp is well worth the trip with rising levels. Spin the wooded shores right to the edges. The tree choked creek mouth leading right out into the lake is the hot spot. Use Cd 5 or 7 Rapalas. Perch pattern works very well at Echo due to the resident redfin perch population.
Away from the trees the deeper areas of all the bays are reliable plastic areas. Best depths in August/September have been the 15-20 foot mark. I have had best success with the green T tails, perhaps due to the perch. The absolute hot spot at Echo is the Monpeelyata Canal mouth which is usually running flat out for the first two months of the season. A boat is necessary to reach the mouth and fish it. Beware the horrendous 5 kilometre journey back across if the weather gets up. Hard bodies are the only way to go at the mouth.
Start where the water drops off into the depths and slowly work in to the mouth. Carefully fish the edges of the main current lines, these are great fish holding areas. The biggest fish on most trips to Echo come from the mouth. Plastics would probably work here but it is snag city so keep them high in the water. Fish size was down last season at around 36 cm, the rainbows are scarce.
Although Great Lake is open year round it is again visited by many on opening weekend. I only fish Great Lake after a careful weather analysis. 15 – 25k winds from the north/ north west are best. Head straight to the windblown shores which in these conditions include the Beehives, Dam shore, Becketts Bay and McLanachans Point Island. Fish the waves with hard body or soft plastic and hang on. Takes on hard bodies will often be at your feet. Flog any small inlets or bays that are particularly stirred up, they nearly always hold trout in these early months. Becketts Bay is a complete dog to wade due to the uneven rocky bottom but is well worth the effort with a very shallow running hard body. Don’t forget the start stop retrieve. McClanahans Point is worth the bone jarring 4wd trip out from Todds Corner. Park nearest the water and then do a complete lap of the point. The last 12 months has seen the demise of most of the slabs that have frequented Great Lake for the last two years. The spawning streams had good numbers of smaller better fish. Great Lake will certainly be on my list of early visits.
So leave the fly rod in the tube, pack the winter woollies, select your water, sharpen those lures up and get fishing. It’s all about to start again.