For years ago no-one seriously thought that there was any worthwhile sight fishing in winter. However there has been some awesome fishing going on in Great Lake, right under our noses!
Great Lake is a year round fishery that delivers some of the best summer fishing around. But it also has this ‘not so’ well kept winter secret. Every winter in late June and all through July and August, the native galaxia head to the rocky shores to spawn in their countless thousands. This in turn attracts the trout – and don’t they love it!
While this sight fishing happens pretty much all around the lake, one of the best spots is Swan Bay, which just happens to be right next to the road, boat ramp and Great Lake Hotel! When the westerly blows you really want to be fishing on the eastern side – this way the wind pushes the galaxia up onto the shore and gives the trout a little bit of camouflage to allow sneak up on the tiddlies.
It isn’t as frenetic as a dun hatch or a school of Australian salmon busting up – more like individual fish stalking groups of galaxia and then smacking them up. Look for swirls and surges – they won’t be too hard to find once they are on the job. Once located then cast your fly or soft plastic lightly into the swirl and leave it to sink for a second or two. Then give it some good rips and then flutter it back to shore. If Mr trout sees it he will wallop it – make no mistake.
Soft plastic fishers do well in July with the Berkley Power Minnow in 3”, the Squidgy Flick Minnow and the Berkley T Tail in black and gold. Black or dark olive lures do well in this situation, as the galaxia will turn dark green or black when they get stressed.
The same goes for flies: dark green or black Woolly Buggers with long marabou tails and a little flash in them. Fly fishers might find it easier to fish across the wind rather than into it, and places like Swan Bay, Dud Bay, Boundary Bay and Christmas Bay are all good, and easy to access. If fishing from a boat in slightly deeper water it can pay dividends to lighten up the colour and fish yellow and green Yeti flies and Pale Watermelon hued plastics. The good old Green and Gold Ashley does very well at this time of year, as do green, red and gold Tassie Devil style lures.
While the midge hatches are nowhere as prolific as spring, summer and autumn, they do occur and they do pull up some good fish, especially maiden rainbows. The best mornings are always calm and overcast – we don’t really want those big frosts. The better spots to find winter midging fish is around Becketts Bay and MacClanaghans Island, with some exceptional fishing being found up around Alanvale Bay and across to the Sand Banks. This is a massive stretch of water and plays host to all number of floating goodies.
Look for the consistent windlanes and approach them gently – just because its winter doesn’t mean they aren’t shy!
In closer to shore and there will be heaps of post spawn browns looking to fatten up quickly. These fish mostly take a right hand turn out of Canal Bay and feed up big on the weed beds that go all the way south to Swan Bay. Generally these fish are feeding in one to two metres of water, so while you don’t need the heavy gear, you will need to get down a bit. Eighth ounce jig heads and medium sinking fly lines are advised, as is a little patience – let the thing sink! On warm sunny days you could even try to polaroid a few fish, and yes if you can find them they will take a dry fly – sometimes!
Lake Burbury is also open all year round and offers some awesome fishing if the higher altitude Great Lake is snowed out or just to darn cold. Burbury is just outside of Queenstown, so accommodation is pretty easy to come by if you plan on more than a day here.
Midges are the big attraction – the windlanes here are the stuff of legend. Calm mornings and a little wind to follow is the best recipe for collecting up the fish into predictable lines. The drift spinning and trolling is pretty good here during winter as well – it will pay to concentrate around the river mouths and reaches either side as brown trout collect here prior to spawning, and the rainbows (which won’t spawn till September) hang around to see what all the fuss is about.
Trollers and drift spinners generally are well advised to use fluoro pink lures such as the ever-dependable Tassie Devil. There is no real need to troll too deep here, even though the water can be over 100m deep. As the water is dark with tannin the light doesn’t penetrate very deep – meaning all the trout food is no deeper than three metres. By concentrating around the creeks you should be able to come up with a few nice fish.
While all the brown trout waters are closed until Saturday August one, we have had plenty of rain during June, which has lifted many lakes. Arthurs Lake is rising nicely and while it probably won’t get back up where we want it this winter, it is none-the-less better than all of last season. There have been plenty of spawning fish heading up the creeks and getting the job done efficiently.
Great Lake has also risen a lot, thanks mainly to plenty of water coming down from the western lakes. The western lakes have plenty of water in them as well, and we should start the new season with full marshes and fat trout.
While for many July is ‘that’ month before the brown trout season opens, it does also offer some excellent fishing for the intrepid angler who dresses warm and thinks like a trout.Reads: 2595