Even though I am a very passionate a fly fisher, I do dearly love casting lures for trout in lakes.
The windier and dirtier the weather, the better I like it. Flyfishing can be very successful in these conditions, but it can be a lot of hard work too. Casting lures isn’t just a throw and hope exercise though, there are many subtleties to making the most of your opportunities.
While soft plastics are my preferred option when chasing a trout on plastic, I do like casting hardbodied lures, especially into those rocky nooks and crannies on Great Lake.
When soft plastics hit the scene in a big way back in the mid to late 90’s the suitability for trout fishing was immediately apparent. I remember when Bushy and Starlo did some seminars in Tasmania to explain their new range of Squidgy soft plastics and the massive numbers of anglers who turned out – there were about 300 people at the Launceston Football Club to hear what they had to say.
Many anglers found the transition from the ‘traditional’ Tassie Devils and Ashley Spinners to plastics quite hard, as soft plastic lures required a subtle approach, with plenty of pauses and flicks. Tassie Devils were always a cast and retrieve proposition, and work very well like this, but plastic lures aren’t so hot fished like this.
These days we are all quite comfortable with myriad colours and shapes, different jig head weights and hook sizes, scents, fluoro colours and just about anything else you can think about.
All of this is no substitute for getting the lure in the right spot at the right time – the old saying that the “wrong lure in the right place is better than the right lure in the wrong place” is very apt indeed.
Early in the season in weedy lakes like Arthurs Lake and Bronte Lagoon, most anglers do very well by fishing their plastics deep over weedy areas. In Arthurs Lake these places can be up to 6m deep, especially around noted big fish areas like Phantom Bay. Mostly though the best areas are 3-4m deep. Trout in these areas are feeding on scud, stick caddis and shrimp with some galaxia thrown in. On the eastern side of the lake along Paradise Plains there are huge amounts of native yabbies, and it is here that some very large fish live.
As these fish are accustomed to feeding on slow moving items, it pays to make the best part of your retrieve slow as well. It probably goes without saying that you also need to be on the bottom too! Jig heads need to be matched to the rate of drift, fast drifts require a heavier jig head to get you to the bottom quicker, while calmer conditions will need a lighter jig head to aid presentation. On windy days I use an 1/8th oz jig head, calm days I’ll use a 1/16th oz. When it gets really rough and nothing slows the boat then a 3/16th oz or even a 1/4oz jig head is needed.
Match the hook size to the plastic. A 3” plastic like a Berkley Power Minnow or T Tail needs a #1 or 1/0 hook, while plastics like the Strike Tiger 2” Hawg probably needs a #4 or #2 hook.
I use braid matched with a longish 2-3m 6lb fluoro leader, and this helps immensely with take detection.
Cast the lure as far down wind as you can once you are over the weed. Let the lure sink to the bottom – watch the braid slink down – as soon as it pauses you are on the bottom, (or a fish has taken it). Take up the slack and give it a few flicks, and then let it pause. Mostly these fish take gently, and the bonus of brown trout is that they will hang on to a plastic, so you can almost feel your way into a strike.
If you have a take and it drops the lure, open the bail and let the lure drop. Often the trout will come back again, and again, and again. Always watch the lure right up to the boat; you will be amazed how many fish will take it at the boat given half the chance.
On very rough days on waters like Great Lake and Lake Echo, trout feed hard on the wind swept rocky shorelines. Echo and Great Lake are ringed by rocky shores, whereas Arthurs at its current high level really only has rocky shores on the southern shores from the Morass round to Pumphouse Bay.
While rocky shores look barren and lifeless, nothing could be further from the truth. These shores have loads of stick caddis on them, masses of galaxia in spring and plenty of other bits. When the wind blows onto these shores for more than a day or so the trout really stack up on them feeding on anything that gets washed out. Galaxia are also in there for the feast as well as for spawning in the months leading up to November.
In all that tumultuous white water, trout will grab the first thing that zips past their eyes – hence the term reaction bite. These fish will be in extremely shallow water – any rocky shoreline that has some dips and hollows will be perfect. In the prevailing north westerly winds look for shores between the Dam Wall and Tods Corner on Great Lake and the rocky islands around the Morass in Arthurs and Brocks Bay on Echo. In a northerly on Echo the shores all the way down the western side are the go, with the southern shore running out of Teal Bay a personal favourite.
The technique is simple – drift with the wind and cast your lure right into the shallows and rip it out and then it pause once you reach water around 60cm deep. Use a decent jig head around 1/8th oz to give you casting distance. On the way back to the boat keep pausing and allowing the lure to drop into deeper water, but always give it plenty of speed in close. The best wind is one that blows along the shore, creating a parallel current along the bank.
I love the way hardbodied lures look – they are such wonderful pieces of technology. With the exception of the Tasmanian designed Cranka range, pretty much every Japanese hardbodied lure touted as bream lures are in fact trout lures. So it comes as no surprise to know that they catch trout very well indeed, particularly the suspending models.
Most hardbodied lures are designed to be fished in shallow water to about 2m, so most hardbodied lure action takes place in the shallow rocky areas or around stands of submerged dead trees.
Like soft plastics, these lures often take most fish when paused. The beauty of the suspending lures is that when the lure is paused it stays stationary in the water column, rather than sink like a plastic. This perfectly mimics the behaviour of galaxia, and means that heaps of fish take them on a the pause.
I don’t really like treble hooks much, basically because I like a quick release for fish to be let go and so I don’t get hooks stuck in me! I swap them out for singles, and I’m yet to lose a fish because of that.
The technique is pretty much the same as hard and fast plastic fishing – pitch them in close, rip them then pause them. The beauty here is that you can pause and drift them over nice looking pockets along the shore without snagging. If you do get stuck they will often ‘wash’ off on a slack line.
Colours are myriad, but black and gold is ultra-reliable. Lures like the Daiwa Presso and Double Clutch, the Jackall Colt Minnow and the Cranka Minnow are good places to start, but there are heaps more to choose from.
It is a fascinating branch of trout fishing, and while some tend to brand themselves either fly fishers or lure fishers, I am a fun fisher, and that means throwing lures for trout when conditions are right.Reads: 2521