Dam Wall Fishing

I said to the missus the other day "I'm going dam fishing", she said " you can either rephrase that statement or you can please your damn well self". I rephrased it, after all the work done during the off season building up brownie points I couldn't afford to blow it.

I love my Hydro dams, every one that I frequent have resident trout that patrol up and down; mostly alone, but sometimes in pairs nonchalantly sipping at the goodies that lie trapped against the dam wall.

The ones that I visit the most are Lakes Rowallan, Parangana and McKenzie, McKenzie being my favourite.

Rowallan and Parangana are both rock faced and quite tricky to negotiate, the rocks being pretty big and slippery when wet, but they still harbour nice fish.

Lake McKenzie is the jewel; its wall is made of concrete and of such an angle that a sufficiently keen [or stupid] angler can walk down to the waters edge, albeit with safeguards described later. The wall lies in a NorthWest - SouthEast orientation with a dogleg in the middle. It has a proper roadway all along the top and an Armco safety rail throughout its entire length. The underwater concrete surface being light of colour stands out very well when the sun is in its optimum position, and the quarry can be polaroided from a considerable distance away.

My general procedure is to get geared up before going onto the wall; the fishing gear is the same that I use everywhere including a landing net, one that can be carried and handled comfortably, for me that is one that hangs on my back on a retriever. My boots are rubber soled walking boots, any footwear that will grip on concrete will do, the only unusual item of equipment is a rope of sufficient length to reach the water line, this rope is attached at one end around my waist and the other end has a running loop formed and the whole rope is coiled up and stowed out of the way in my pocket.

A patrol is then begun along the wall, I walk along well back from the barrier; far enough to still see into the water and to keep my moving silhouette as far from the fish as possible, because contrary to all our straining to see rise forms off shore somewhat, the fish that I look for are right under my nose. When a fish is spotted I freeze and pull my neck in even further until I can size everything up in order to make a calculated and well ordered attack on the quarry. What a load of cobblers! It's usually a quick duck then a snap look and with all extremities flailing and gyrating and snot flying everywhere; the fly is propelled downwards to the fish that I can usually see sliding into the depths making his escape with dignity and contempt. All this ridiculous behaviour from a bloke who's just got his Seniors Card. But not any more I've at last got my act together and now make proper and successfully studied attacks, often chatting to myself the while and conducting a running commentary on progress. I did this recently and had just knocked a fish on the head when a mainland tourist asked me what I'd caught it on. I almost fell over the wall, as I had no idea that I was been observed. I think I heard a chuckle as he walked away.

The quarry as previously mentioned patrols the wall with aplomb sipping at the surface like a gourmet. He stays close to the wall often no farther out than six inches to a foot; sometimes heading out across deeper water then sounding like a whale after taking something from the surface, but before long he's back to the wall and resuming his patrol. If there's a surface ripple one can get a relatively comfortable look at him and usually get a cast off to him from behind, I've found that if a frontal attack is attempted he usually sees either the top part of myself [often well illuminated in the sunlight] or the movement of my casting paraphernalia or most likely; both.

The fish invariably appears to be at least twice the size that he actually is, and it is quite surprising to land the four pounder to find it to be no more than two. I reckon that this is caused by the view of the fish from a high and almost vertical vantagepoint. Similarly the cast down is also often misjudged and falls short, much like a child throwing a stone out into a gorge, with the stone falling short by a long way. Another problem can be the wind turbulence against the wall being so confused that the line seems to have a mind of its own. To digress; I once cast a line into the Bronte canal on an extremely windy day and the line actually floated for a couple of seconds before falling to the water, that was quite eerie but then again so is my casting; ask Haysie!

I find that when observing the fish take the fly all sorts of problems occur, I often tighten to find no contact, fair enough I struck too fast, so then the next time he takes [the same fish if not spooked can be fished for all along the dam],I wait for him to turn down then tighten; again often no contact. I always seem to do this when I can see what's happening from above.
But eventually even I hook one and then the fun starts because when old Spotty takes off you can see nearly all of his moves from on high. You can see him twist and gyrate and often see that odd phenomenon of a fellow fish in attendance behaving like a stroppy Jack Russell ducking and dodging wanting to nip in and interfere.

And then the culmination of all the hunting efforts both mental and physical, the netting, and believe me this is one time that a net is indispensable especially one with a rigid frame and not one of the cranky ones with a bit of cord across the top end.
The rope that was carefully coiled and placed in your pocket is now removed and untangled from your torch and around one leg, the sliding loop is slipped over one of the Armco stanchions, a quick step over and without any hesitation bold strides are taken down the dam wall to the water's edge, here the fish is played out and netted quite comfortably. One then turns and retraces one's steps back up the wall; without the need to touch the rope at all as it is merely a safety precaution in case ones slips in, because if one does things could get decidedly "iffy".

What flies to use? Well quite frankly I don't think it really matters too much because these dam wall fish are not rising to a specific hatch so much as collecting whatever food has been blown or has drifted to the wall. I'm not sure whether insects in these waters actually lay eggs on the concrete walls or indeed rocks due to the water levels being unstable. I generally use a Sedge imitation; Elk Hair Caddis, a beetle like the ubiquitous Red Tag and a hopper type fly; all legs and wings straggling everywhere. I hesitate to mention the Dog Nobbler but it can be a sensational fly to try if there are no signs of fish, and coupled with a brown Mayfly nymph on the dropper the action can be fast and furious.

I've always toyed with the idea of fishing the walls from a small easily manoeuvred dinghy, it being guided along the wall by a confederate up top behind the Armco.
Well that's what this dam wall fishing is all about and I'm sure that there must be dozens of similar sites around the state, so why not put your dancin" shoes on, grab the wife's spare clothes line and give it a go. A cautionary note here to Southern anglers; don't try any of the above on the Gordon Dam as I suspect there would be a problem with grip!

However if some day you should go to Lake McKenzie dam and see a figure on high patrolling the wall, come up and join in the fun, we can tie one on together.
But be warned sometimes......

Bob Cooper.
Trout Tasmania.

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