Trout fishos are a funny lot
  |  First Published: August 2013

I was reflecting recently on the trout season just past and came again to the same conclusion that I have arrived at in past years, namely that trout fishos are a funny lot.

Fly fishers for example like to fish on their own or with a good mate. They don't like crowds and don't like to see anybody else on their stream during an outing. They happily fish day or night in the most atrocious weather and consider catching just one fish, as long as it was caught on a fly they had tied themselves, as a success.

Trollers are the same. They like plenty of room, usually the whole lake, to themselves and take a dim view of anybody else who gets too close to them, either behind them, in front of them or just plain anywhere near them.

Lure fishers are the great solitary walkers of the world, striding for miles along streams just to see what's around the next corner, drinking in and enjoying the simple beauty of nature as they hunt for a fish. They have no interest in seeing anybody else, just fish!

Bait anglers are the sedentary folk, squatting on a deep hole in the river drowning a worm or enjoying a warm fire and a cuppa while they soak Powerbait, bardi grubs and scrub worms in the hope of attracting just one more of those fat browns or rainbows they know are out there. They too don't like anybody near them, although you are welcome to use their fire to get warm while you are passing.

This all came to mind recently when I was sorting some photos of the activity on the Thredbo and Eucumbene rivers during the last few weeks of the 2013 trout season, now closed until the October long weekend.

Hundreds of anglers, shoulder to shoulder, crowded along both banks, all feverishly casting lures and flies into the gin clear water, hoping to hook one of the tens of thousands of brown trout making their way upriver on their annual spawning run. It's the one chance of the year of hooking a trophy trout, the big one that has eluded you all these years and which now is tailing in the current just a few tantalising metres in front of you! The fish are mostly hugging the bottom, their mouths opening and closing as they sense the current and the movement of all the other fish around them.

If you are a fly fisher all you have to do is manoeuvre your weighted nymph, Craigs Nightime, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Woolly Bugger or whatever into one of those giant mouths. If you are a lure man, it’s a Glo Bug and trailing nymph, weighted with split shot, which you work in the current to tempt your trophy critter into snatching it. If you are a bait man, you stay home – this is spawning water and only fly and lure is allowed.

The bag limit is one fish per person per day, and to keep it, the fish must be 50cm in length or better. Most fish caught are returned to the water after the mandatory photos are taken, but occasional outstanding specimens are retained, headed for the taxidermist and a $600 fee. Occasionally some poor soul, unaware of the soft, slabby, unpalatable nature of the flesh at spawning time, takes one home for the table for what must turn out to be one of the worst dinners of all time. The weather is typical, -10ºC overnight. Most of the diesels won't start because the fuel has frozen into a jelly; they'll start later in the day when the temperature creeps up to about -5ºC. The ground is frozen and rods and reels freeze up if you don't keep dipping them in the water. The anglers are well rugged up to withstand the cold but there is an occasional shriek of pain when some newcomer enters the water and discovers the leak that he put in his waders three months ago is still there. Time to break out the Aquaseal!

I write all this because these are the very same anglers that would kill you if you invaded their fishing water at any other time of the year. Now, here they are, cheek to jowl or at least wader to wader, enjoying each other's company. Tangles, lures being hooked up, lines being crossed and hooked fish entangled in three different lines, are all events that are resolved with a joke, good humour, a wave and a sense of camaraderie that is a delight to behold. Welcome to the wonderful world of trout fishing, at spawning time.

Winter Lake Action

After the spawning run madhouse finishes, some anglers hang up their rods until the season reopens. Others, however, happily fish the lakes, which stay open all the year round; some of them do very well, too.

Trollers working some of the quiet bays have a good chance of browns and rainbows on Tasmanian Devils, minnows, Celtas, blades and spoons.

Flatlining can be effective, but lead core line is eminently worthwhile. Work on the basis that the colder it is the deeper you go.

Fly fishers commonly have to work hard for a fish. They can usefully fish dry on occasions such as when there is hatch of small winter mayflies, midges or occasional moths. Small nymphs sometimes pluck out a fish during the day and there is always a chance of a big brown on Mrs Simpson, Craigs Nightime, Hamills Killer or a Stimulator around dark.

Bait fishers probably have the best of it. They can toss out a couple of rods with bardi grubs, scrub worms or Powerbait and relax alongside a warm fire with a cup or three of rum or similar soothing insect repellent.

In winter, the golden perch and Murray cod are sleepier and perhaps harder to catch than during the summer, but they can be tempted to take a big deep diver, a slowly worked spinnerbait or a yabby, scrub worm or bardi grub bait.

It's a good time of the year also to test out some of the newer techniques such as fly fishing and using splashy surface lures. There is no rush during winter. You expect the fishing to be slow and just one fish may be all the reward you need for a day out.

The main thing is to understand that you don’t have to put the rods away just because it’s cold. You just have to vary your techniques and your expectations.

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