peaks and troughs in local summer sport
  |  First Published: December 2012

It’s hard to keep up – one minute the fishing is quite good with great hatches and enough fish caught, seen or missed to result in a pleasurable outing.

Then you get back to reality and sneak out soon after with the highest of hopes and are disheartened by the lack of activity and left questioning your ability!

The Bird is the Word

On the positive side, I don’t appear to be on my own in relation to recent poor outings so maybe I’m not that ordinary after all. On the other side - the number of people who I’ve spoken with lately about the lack of fish numbers in reliable rivers and stretches around the Northern region and further afield has been surprising. Add to that, the input from social media and Tasmanian fishing forums and the topic becomes concerning.

Sure, weather patterns come and go in boom and bust cycles and will have an effect of a variety of systems while others escape unscathed, yet sometimes the reverse is the case. To have an across-the-board population decline forces the conversation to move towards a root cause and many anglers keep coming back to one thing: plague proportions of cormorants.

These poaching little peckers seem to have moved into many areas without a licence and we are not happy. Of the four cormorant species in Tasmania, two are allegedly protected but I wouldn’t be able to tell you which are likely to be the culprit. They look pretty big and given their widespread presence I would guess that they’re the great cormorant (very scientific of me hey?). The trout are robust and although I have no evidence, I can only assume they have experienced this many times before and will again.

I recently fished a reliable section in the middle reaches of the St Patricks River, where you could normally expect quite a reasonable cricket score tally, with my highest score being 34 not out. I fished this section hard a few weeks back for a total of 5-6 hours and was relieved to finally find a patch of five fish in a sheltered rainforest section. It seems I was one of the lucky ones as I spoke to one cobber who fished nearby on the same day without seeing a fish, and then another who fished several stretches including the headwaters and finished with a big fat donut. You guessed it – Not one fish seen.

Weather or not...?

At a recent fishing club meeting, we had local weather guru Brendan McMahon as a guest speaker and I was surprised to learn that the Launceston region has experienced rainfall just above average in the three months from August-October.

I might be ignorant but when you compare it to the flooding downpours from the past few years, we seemed to be a bit light on in the moisture department. In contrast the east coast and in particular, the South Esk catchment is well below average. My theory that lower river levels provided ideal hunting conditions for the cormorant was sort of blown out of the water, so to speak. I’ll leave it to the experts to figure out what’s going on – half the fun of fishing is in the hunt!

Although many waters seem to have experienced a feather-induced fade, one waterway that has remained pretty good is Brumbys Creek: perhaps due to consistently high levels with the help of man? The spinner hatches have been a bit on and off at times but quite special on the right day and when they were, the fish were all over them. I fished one warm and overcast day only to arrive as the wind blew in and though I remained fishless, a few isolated red spinners told me that it could have been good earlier.

I poked around the Angler Access section on the Lake River to find some shelter and while the wind was absent – so were the fish. Spooked two tiny fish in a fair distance and the level was very low. Also, I think they have turned off the tap out of Woods Lake while working on the irrigation pipeline.

If stalking some farm fish tickles your fancy, Brushy Lagoon continues to receive chubby Atlantic salmon and rainbows with the latest stocking consisting of 360 salmon averaging 3kg each. Probably too much of a feed for the cormorants but ideal for one of Jamo’s many salmon recipes!

It’s not all doom and gloom – There are still plenty of fish out there to catch, it just means that sometimes we have to work a bit harder to find the fish and adjust out techniques to suit.

Hopefully this month will see the arrival of the famed grasshopper fishing - an epic event on the hatch calendar that has to be experienced, where trout will react to a wayward ‘plonk’ on the water and the fly technique rules.

Good luck and remember; a bird in the hand is worth two fish in the water.

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