Once again Tasmanian trout fishers are on the cusp of another open trout season, and as usual we are spoilt for choice. Just where to go on the first Saturday in August?
As all anglers begin to plan their open weekend and the following few trips, it is timely therefore to examine the top prospects for the season opener.
This lake has been the mainstay of Tasmanian brown trout lakes ever since Lake Sorell was closed to fishing by the carp infestation and its subsequent pillaging by irrigators. Last season Arthurs was basically deserted as anglers shunned the low lake levels, when in reality it probably fished the best for at least five or six years.
This winter has seen some good rainfall, and together with no water allowed out for either Hydro or irrigation has seen the level rise quite pleasingly. We still have a way to go to get back to 2006 levels, but it is good none-the-less.
The deep shrimp and scud beds around Phantom Bay and Creely Bay will be the first port of call for many anglers, and the Morass is top of the list for trollers and drift spinners. Up into the Sand Lake and increased water height should see heaps of fish back on the 3m deep weed beds spread along the dead tree line on the eastern side of Brazendale Island. Across on the eastern side of the lake at Flemings Bay the fish should be fattening up on the scud and snails too.
Areas where drowned trees are quite thick is another good early season bet – the timber heats up a bit quicker than the rocks and can bring on midge hatches and early stone flies with the associated warmer water.
In all these areas deep-fished flies and plastics are the go. Flies are best kept to Woolly Buggers with big marabou tails and black/olive bodies. The dependable 3” Berkley Power Minnow is a great plastic along with Gary Glitter Squidgy. The Berkley 2.5” Black and Gold T Tail is also reliable, as are the ever growing number of lipless crankbaits on the market.
Most fish will be well and truly back into the normal feeding places and feeding up after spawning. As to be expected, the best fish will be on the weed beds while the weaker (and skinnier) fish will be forced to eke out a living in more barren areas. If you are catching skinny fish it will pay to find more fertile places – the fat boys are definitely there.
This is one of my favourite all time waters, and is great for the season opener. The water here is at lower altitude than Arthurs Lake and as a consequence the water is warmer and the trout more active. The fish here are smaller for sure, but what they lack in size they certainly make up for in numbers. The best spot is up in the shallow arm known as the Gowan Brae arm. It is here that the Pine River flows into the lake, and if Little Pine is spilling then there will be some awesome action here as the water floods the tussocks and marsh area.
This is where the bigger fish will be, especially on cloudy and calm mornings. The trout will forage along the flooded gutters looking for anything to eat, and well-presented flies and small soft plastics will bring some of the better trout undone.
For the boat based angler the drift spinning and deep trollers will do well down towards the Nive River Arm. There are some massive big cannibal trout in here – not many of them, but we all live in hope.
Perhaps one of Tasmania’s most under-rated waters, King William has the biggest trout population of just about any lake I know. This lake will almost certainly be near full at the opening of the season, meaning that the flooded marsh lands all around the lake will be full of trout. The black mud flats are home to the biggest number of tailing trout I have ever seen – some of these flats are surprisingly close to the main highway. The fish aren’t big, but there are heaps of them.
Out in the boat the drift spinning and trolling around the drowned trees is always rewarding but it is the shore-based flyfishing that really excels here. A rough day isn’t a problem either, the rougher the nor-wester the harder they will tail some days.
Expect rain here, it is on the edge of the southwest region, where rain is measured in metres, not millimetres!
Ok, enough of the small fish waters, this is where you go to get a thumper. This lake near Launceston is at a low altitude and therefore doesn’t chill off like higher waters. This water is fish food soup – they grow fat very quickly. It is common here to catch fish around 5lb, and they are much heavier too! Brown trout are the mainstay, however bullet-like rainbows are often encountered.
Wet flyfishing and soft plastics do best here – the baitfishers can end up battling the weed rather than the fish. This is a shore and boat fishers’ paradise, easy access, no rough water and not too much territory to cover. The main source of food here is quite diverse, but think immature mudeyes and damselflies, snails, frogs, leeches and immature mayfly nymphs. The fish don’t have to go far for a feed, so if it is cold, slow it down a bit. If it is warm with a nice chop them crank the action up and see what happens.
This water is immensely popular on opening weekend, so maybe leave it until the second weekend or even better, during the week.
Flyfishers should make sure they have a clear intermediate line to get a bit deeper, and something that sinks quite fast if the wind gets up. The plastic flickers should look no further than Berkley T Tails and Squidgy Wrigglers. Lipless crankbaits are worth a trundle as well.
The Pine is a Mecca for flyfishers. Last season was a cracker on the Pine and this season is shaping up as a good one already. The secret to a good season on the Pine is a good winter flush with rain and the level dropping low during June and July to combat the weed. Both of those things have happened this winter and we can expect good action right from the start.
Apart from its well deserved reputation as prime tailing water, Little Pine is the highlands best wet fly water. The good old wet fly flog has no better venue than Little Pine Lagoon. Bigger wet flies such as the Yellow and Black Yeti, Green Woolly Bugger and the dependable Bill Beck Cat Fly. Bill Beck’s Cat flies have no equal here, especially the yellow version and the Green Machine. Put two on, 4ft apart on a quite fast sink tip line and pull them hard and fast. Make sure you hang them at the boat though; many fish will have the fly just before you extract it for the re-cast.
The shore is always worth a look too, especially along the Cricket Pitch shore and the Untouchables. If by chance we have a calm morning or a light east to south east wind then head to the Road Shore – a much under-rated place. The tailors won’t be as thick as in October and November, but it only takes one to make your day.
The South Esk had some good floods during the winter, which has nicely filled up the water table. This means that any good rainfall in the northeast will run-off into the river and push water into the many backwaters and drains along its full length. Most of this style of fishing is found in the lower reaches however – coinciding with the easier access. It takes about three days for a good fresh to reach Hadspen, where upon it will often spill into backwaters. Trout head into these backwaters as soon as they can. They feed very quickly as they are acutely aware that the water will recede very quickly indeed.
The tributaries of the South Esk will also produce great fishing in the same conditions. The Meander in its lower reaches will spill into backwaters along from Hadspen to Exton, creating some awesome fishing. Even if the Meander isn’t in flood the water will back up from the South Esk, creating the same conditions.
The Macquarie in the lower reaches floods a lot less now than it used to, not just because of lower rainfall. Much of the Macquarie is syphoned off for on-farm storages even in winter, however the lower area between the Lake River and its junction with the South Esk still produces good flood fishing. Access is now a lot easier thanks to the combined work of Anglers Alliance Tasmania and the Inland Fisheries Service – for more information on access to these iconic lowland rivers visit www.ifs.tas.gov.au
While there are a massive number of other waters to speak about for opening day – these few will just about guarantee a good fishing experience. Some waters involve too much of a crystal ball gaze to recommend, such as the Nineteen Lagoons. Access to this wild area is usually restricted for the first month or so of the season, and the brutal nature of the weather means that is it best left for the spring months. Other waters like Great Lake are brilliant in August, but seeing as it is open all year it doesn’t hold the interest of opening weekend.
So do a bit of research, watch the weather and the lake levels, buy your season licence and join in on opening weekend – it can be cold but it will be fun.
Other waters to consider:
Woods Lake: good early season for trolling, wet fly and drift spinning with soft plastics
Penstock Lagoon: always dependable wet fly water early on. Well sheltered if the weather is rough.
Bronte Lagoon: it is said that you can always find a fish on the shore here. Deep spinning parallel to the Long Shore in a westerly is very productive.
Pump Pond and Mossy Marsh: two small waters near Tarraleah that are good for a giggle in the first months of the season.
Laughing Jack Lagoon: one for the spinners and trollers, always great fish, although it may be a little low to start the season. Quite sheltered if the weather is nasty.
St Patricks River: the upper reaches are always good for drifting a worm or a weighted nymph. If the river is flooded head to the upper reaches and tributaries, which will usually, run clear.
North Esk: the lower reaches above Launceston may have a few resident sea trout that have hung on after spawning. Flooded backwaters are good fun too.
Tyenna River: this beautiful river is prone to big flows coming down the river but is terrific for deep nymphing and lure fishing in steady flows.