Christopher Bassano reviews last season and gives some tips for the upcoming season.
Presented from Issue 117, August 2015
Every season I am asked about various ‘fishing events’ or changes that occur through different months of the year. Many people are surprised to hear about the different options that we have. You may be surprised, but some of the best fishing over the last seasons has NOT been during summer.
Last season, the early season was the best I have known and generally I find pre-Christmas is better than after. The timing of your fishing may be determined by when you can get the time, in which case, the presence of tailing fish or sea trout or massive trout will not affect your fishing dates.
For other people, the option of doing something different, going somewhere new or trying a particular style of fishing or fish may require a change in their fishing schedule.
Here is a two year summary on how I have found the fishing in Tasmania.
The opening of the trout season is the first weekend in August and the highlands are cold. Hatches are non- existent and river fish are eating nymphs. The water is cold and many fish are inactive.
There is still a chance of getting some river dry fly fishing but the weather would have to be mild; having said that, the early weeks of the season produce excellent streamer and sink line fishing. Large numbers of good fish are usually caught at this time as fish are trying to put weight back on after spawning. They are not fussy as they have received no angling pressure for months.
For those who enjoy or want to learn more about pulling wet flies, this is a good time. We have many lowland lakes that are too warm in summer months, but perfect early season.
A great time for trophy hunting
|Early season is a time to look for monsters.
Think sea trout, Lake Crescent and others.
August and September are good times of year to chase the big fish - fish in excess of ten pounds. Of course, these fish are not common, but have become more so over the past seasons.
Sea trout are around at this time of year too, but they can be fickle. A very wet August does not make for good sea trout fishing but a dry end to winter and start of spring brings the best possible conditions. As this takes place around estuaries at sea level, it is the warmest fly fishing option. Sea trout only hang around for a few months at best so waiting until summer to catch these is not an option. The unpredictable nature of these fish makes them less sought after but those who have caught them know that there is no trout species that fights as hard. Large fish are also common enough, but it is always worth remembering that sea trout are the most fickle of all salmonoid species. For those of us who love them so much, this adds to their allure.
Brook trout are at their least difficult to catch at this time. They are a fish from the colds of the northern hemisphere and therefore do not feed in warm weather conditions. Cold is essential for these fish. Although we have world record sized fish in Tasmania, they are not easy to catch. Getting hold of one however is a real possibility and a brook trout is likely to be the next fresh water world record caught in Tasmania. They are rarely seen on the surface and catching these is a matter of patience while wet fly fishing.
This month requires an angler who has good casting ability and can cast a reasonable distance to make the most of the fishing.
Traditionally, the middle of this month has been the best sea trout time. This depends on the amount of rain and therefore the whitebait run, but this is the time we normally get the most consistent fishing for them. Good brook trout fishing is still possible in September and we have had many fruitful trips at this time. Again, streamer fishing is best. In the lowland lakes, mayflies can start towards the end of the month but again, fish are looking for large flies and wet fly anglers do well. If you want trophy fish then this month is probably the best. More huge fish were caught in September than any other month last season.
Wet fly fishing options in September are numerous. If “different” is what you are looking for, this is your month.
The highlands are still quite cool but given a settled weather pattern, good polaroiding can also be had at this time. The road into the western lakes also opens around the middle of September if there’s not been too much snow. This makes for wonderful backwater fishing and sometimes tailing fish. For those wanting to fish from the shore, September is another good month. While bad weather means blind fishing, good weather can produce exciting fishing.
This has recently been the most productive of just about any month of the season. Mayflies on lowland lakes and larger rivers are common from the middle of the month onwards. Wet fly fishing is superb but it really is the mayfly that excites everyone. Fish are very hungry for these morsels and dry and nymph fishing is outstanding. This has probably been my favourite month of the past few years.
Bright weather brings excellent polaroiding in the shallows and a lot of time can be spent out of the boat wading in the sunshine. This can be exciting fishing. Caenids are also starting to hatch in many places (some places start in September) and if you would like an enjoyably frustrating time casting to rising fish, then these tiny ephemera will do it for you. You need settled weather for this.
|Tasmania, probably holds some
World record sized brook trout.
Early season and cold water
is the time to search for them.
Brook trout are coming to a close by now as the weather is warming up. Cold snaps can prolong their activity and they are still an option but the best months for these have probably past.
The river fishing is slowly improving and if water levels are receding, fish are normally very eager. The flatter lowland rivers can be at their best at this time but even the faster waters are beginning to kick in. With the correct water levels, we start to do some float fishing down some rivers at this time.
Going between the highlands and lowlands in October is common at this time. In all but the worst conditions, the fishing is usually very good. Tailing trout are more prevalent than in previous months and given the right water levels and weather, this and the next month are perfect.
This has always been a popular month and remains as such. In 2015 we have Czech superstar and multiple world fly fishing champion, Martin Droz, coming to Tasmania to run some river fly fishing seminars. Mayflies are hatching this month in the highlands and the fish are usually very active when they are. Nymph and dry fly fishing is coming into its own and all of the usual lakes are firing. This is the best time to fish some of the highland lakes for mayfly feeders.
Beetles can be found on some lakes in bright, hot weather which means that polaroiding is also possible. Wade polaroiding on some shores is exceptional as you cast to fish in a few inches of water.
Sea trout are still able to be caught in some parts of the state and last season, some of the best sea trout action occurred in November even although this would traditionally be too late.
Tailing trout are around (especially early in the month) and caenids are at their thickest on many rivers in the state. Caddis hatches are now underway and the rivers are in top condition.
More anglers are now present around Tasmania as locals and interstate fishermen like good weather (sometimes over good fishing). You can expect to be sharing the lakes with other fishermen but sometimes the fishing is such that you don’t realise they are there.
Lowland still waters have now slowed and most of the best action on still waters is in the highlands.
Bright weather means polaroiding while overcast brings mayflies. Unless you are river fishing, the highlands is the best place to be. Although there is often a period of a few days in December where mayflies have slowed on some lakes and not yet kicked in on others, this month has traditionally been seen as the best time to fish for mayfly feeders. There are plenty of fishing options as beetles are also falling in warm weather and “shark fishing” starts in earnest.
Rivers are basically all good. The week between Christmas and New Year is always a brilliant period to fish the rivers but basically the entire month is good. Sometimes we can have a few days of bad weather in December and this can adversely affect the fishing. This is a good time to fish in Tasmania and although it may not be as productive as November on the lakes, the rivers are always full of hungry fish.
Traditionally the best polaroiding month, January is a month in which bright and warm weather produces the best fishing. Wind lanes, polaroiding and dry fly fishing predominate. However, the fishing is rarely easy. Good casting and a stealthy approach is still necessary.
The western lakes are fishing well and although they have received some pressure by now, this month often has the right combination of good weather and water heights for fishing in these lakes. Overcast weather is not common in January but mayflies are still around when conditions are good.
This is the prime month for “shark fishing – especially Great Lake”.
River fishing is excellent in January. Fish are looking up and dry fly fishing doesn’t get much better than this month on the rivers. Nymphs, however still play their role but fish are usually eager to rise and good casting is rewarded. A top angler can catch a lot of fish in the rivers in January. I can’t think of one day in January when the river fishing has been bad.
The number of fish caught in January is not normally as high as October, November and even December because the weather is better and the fish are not as easily fooled by bad presentations. Lower and clearer water also contribute to this. It is a month on the lakes where quality usually over rides quantity.
|Once the Western Lakes
gate opens it is ‘game on’.
This is the hottest of all of the summer months. Beetles and polaroiding are what we strive for. Mayflies are still around but in diminishing numbers. Sometimes, February can start to become too warm. This was not the case last season as a cold snap reduced water temperatures, and they never did get too high for the remainder of the season. Two decades ago, this was the prime month as the beetles would fall in enormous numbers. In recent times, the beetle falls are more spread out across summer. In some lakes, February is a little too late to get good fishing but the clear and deeper lakes fish well. Shark fishing is still going although the sun is beginning to get low in the sky late in the month.
Grasshoppers are on the menu for river trout but really, the river fishing has been good for a few months now and it continues through February. The end of this month usually signals the end of the big caddis hatches but day time fishing still relies on terrestrials and this is why it remains good. As with the lake fishing, low and clear water means that presentation is all important (it always is). Don’t expect to catch fish if your presentation is sloppy. Dries are the main food item but as always, nymphs are successful too.
For many years I have thought that this is the hardest month to fish the lakes. After the heat of February, March provides another warm month which can send water temperatures too high and shut some fishing down. This was not the case last season when we were blessed with excellent fishing in March due to an unusual cold snap earlier in the season.
If temperatures do not get too warm, the beetle feeders continue to impress and sometimes small mayfly can also keep trout feeding. The wade polaroiding is exceptional and probably the best of the season whether it is a warm month or not. Fish are still spooky due to the water height and clarity. Some fish start to make their way into spawning creeks at this time which means they have become quite aggressive before heading up for their annual ritual.
If bad weather does come late in the month, it is not inconceivable to get mayflies starting up again on some lakes.
On the rivers, small mayfly appear and although many rivers are low, good anglers can expect to catch plenty of fish. Grasshoppers are normally still around until the first major frost. River fishing and lake polaroiding are the things we try and do a lot of at this time.
This is my favourite river month for the entire season. The days are shorter by now which is the down side but the weather is normally post card perfect and mayflies are hatching well on the rivers. It is all about the dry fly and gentleman’s hours on the water. You can expect to get plenty of shots at rising fish on the rivers under clear blue sky days although temperatures are not high.
On the most perfect days, wade polaroiding is still possible in the lakes but you need to have keen eyes. Shark fishing is well and truly over but general dry fishing from a boat is very productive. In some locations, pre spawning fish are not hard to locate and their aggressive nature means that they are receptive.
If you have missed out on the early season trophy fish hunting, April is your opportunity to get hold of them again. We had some very consistent fishing to large trout in April last season probably due to their change in behavioural patterns.
Bad weather is good for lake fishing while good weather is good for everything.
The fishing opportunities are limited this month but those that we have are still good. It would be hard to recommend a trip in May over one in April (I wouldn’t) but if for some reason you were to be in Tasmania, there are enough very good fly fishing options to make it well worthwhile. Wet flies are more regularly used due to the locations that remain open for the month of May, but again, this would be quite different to the fishing throughout the more popular times of the season. May has produced some extremely memorable fishing for me over the years and is under rated.
June and July
Yes, there are fishing options and sometimes they turn out to be very good but I can’t recommend anything at this time unless you are here and want to catch a fish! Dry fly... not likely!
So there is a rundown on the best times for different types of fishing.