Autumn augers well
  |  First Published: March 2012

I bumped into an old timer (older than me anyway) on the river just last week, fully decked out with vest and tweed-looking jacket.

He wasn’t fishing but rather observing the water. He was the sort of character that didn’t even glance sideways at me when I rolled up and said g’day, but simply commented on the lack of activity and abruptly informed me that I ‘shoulda been here yesty’. Not deterred, I questioned him on the likelihood of a hatch and without hesitation he piped up and said that if I wander upstream a couple of hundred yards, I’ll happen across three anglers fishing to a massive hatch of Red Tags.

Classic! If only he smoked a pipe...

Summer is now but a thing of the past and I’m happy to report that overall, it was a corker. Most rivers played host to fit and feisty fish and some of the caenid and mayfly hatches have been truly epic. Grasshoppers, midge, tea-tree beetles, stoneflies, willow grubs and caddis have all played their part at some stage.

I was even lucky enough to experience a localised cicada hatch and witnessed a trout scoff one down – Something that I hadn’t seen on a Tassie river until now. Their deafening presence is often heard but this is the first time that I had seen them hit the water.

As previously mentioned, another critter event I watched was tiny little green willow grubs drifting down the bubble line. It was interesting to watch to subtle snout of the fish barely break the surface to enjoy this snack. I had read somewhere before that fish feeding on willow grubs were notoriously difficult to fool, but I can only assume that the water contained various food sources because some of these fish couldn’t resist the Royal Wulff.

The mayfly hatches seemed to taper off around mid-January as they often do, but generally kick off again for a brief stint sometime in March. Given the wet summers over the past two seasons, grasshoppers had been patchy and even non-existent during those seasons, but many Northern paddocks really became dry this summer allowing the ‘hoppers to make their way to the water’s edge where the hungry trout await.

It has been great to experience the hopper action again as the trout move a long way for a wayward ‘plop’ on the water!

More recently, the rivers in the north have been a real delight to fish. Snowflake caddis have been fluttering in large congregations on settled days with the trout in close pursuit. I remember one day a few years back when I watched as one brown trout continuously leapt after these little moths.

I resisted the temptation to cast and attempted numerous times to nail a photo as the fish grabbed its quarry mid-air. A point and shoot camera was all I had but I did capture that moment finally and then went on fool, hook, land and release the fish. The photo was out of focus but I always look back fondly at that whole experience.

Mudeyes (dragonfly larvae) are creating some hectic activity at Four Springs but the action is a brief window of opportunity just prior to sunset. Although the activity no doubt continues well into the night on some balmy evenings, you are only permitted to fish this water one hour after sunset.

Many of our waters have size limits, speed restrictions and specific time regulations to suit that water so be sure to check the IFS website before venturing to a new waterway (www.ifs.tas.gov.au ).

Lots of anglers think of trout when it comes to our rivers, but don’t forget the tidal reaches and the saltier sections of these waters, as they can hold; Australian salmon, sea-trout, bream, mullet, flathead, roach and some other species depending on the location. Some suggested spots to try are The Mersey, Leven, Great Forester and Pipers rivers. It’s a pleasant surprise when targeting trout and pulling tight on a non-intended by-catch. Especially when it’s another species to add to the list of things to do!

One species to keep an eye out for is the native Australian grayling, which is protected and must be released. They don’t grow very big and look a bit like mullet, but have a distinctive aroma and often referred to as ‘cucumber herring’. They tend to school up and will snatch dry flies quite easily so be sure to crimp those barbs if you manage to stumble across them - this will make for an easier release.

Looking forward, we can expect those mayflies to become active again, and March can often bring hatches of ants. Seen as a delicacy to trout, the ant fall is one event to savour and to keep a close eye on. In an ant hatch, you will sometimes see tiny swarms of insects hovering above bushes on the side of the road, this is an indication to get rigged up and head to the nearest river my friend!

Our little chums the grasshoppers will still be flickering about, and even as the numbers wane towards the end of the month, trout will still remember the plop they make and act accordingly.

The start of autumn is a sensational time to fish, where hatches are still available and the weather can be slightly more predictable. Fish are often thinking a couple of months ahead and will be looking to feed slightly more aggressively to put on condition prior to spawning. It would be rude not to give them a helping hand.

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