Trout in the central highlands in April is really a mixed bag.
On one hand you can have wonderfully mild weather, sipping trout and sight fishing the equal to any summer month.
On the other hand you can get tearing sou’westers, snow, rain and general tempest.
Both of these weather conditions can bring excellent fishing, but as you would expect, the techniques and approach are vastly different.
Sight fishing in April is very diverse. Some lakes still have a few remnant mayflies, such as Penstock Lagoon and Little Pine, but for the most part it centres on beetles, midges, caddis and if we are really lucky, jassids. Throw in a few ants and a smorgasbord is set for surface fishing.
While midges will hatch every day regardless of the weather, it is calm mornings and evenings that will see the best opportunity for trout to start sucking them down. Look for the frothy slicks – it is here that you will find the most midges. Slicks with no froth or foam tend to be quite barren of midges – the foamy ones are definitely best. Even if it is totally flat calm, cruise around till you find a concentration of foam.
Once found, then just sit for a minute or two and look around. Don’t worry about casting just yet, just try to find a feeding fish. They will be very hard to see initially, often just triangle shaped dimples in the surface.
These fish in the flat calm are pretty hard to snatch, but think smallish flies, long tapered leaders and accurate and delicate presentations.
If you can’t cast 50 feet with accuracy and delicacy then you are going to struggle in these calm conditions. This shouldn’t stop you from trying though! Once the breeze gets up you will be in a better position, but keep plugging away.
Beetles are a consistent food source in April, especially on the top end of Great Lake, Dee Lagoon, Lake Echo, Lake St Clair and maybe Arthurs Lake. We used to get fantastic beetle falls on Arthurs in April, but I haven’t seen a decent fall here for years.
On the warmer days with a northerly wind the beetles will fall on the water in good numbers. You really don’t want a massive fall, just a good sprinkle to get the fish feeding consistently. The good thing about beetle falls is that the trout are used to a nice ‘plink’ as the fly hits the water, so novice fly fishers are in their element.
If the beetles are in slicks then the fish will feed up-wind, making presentations a little easier as the fish will come quite close to the boat – much closer than in summer.
The best flies for the beetle falls are the Bruce Gibson Foam Gum Beetle, if there is a better gum beetle imitation I’d like to see it! Generic flies such as Glister Tags and Red Tags will also work very well too, so don’t feel you have to have one specific fly for the beetles.
Caddis will still be fluttering around the shores right up until the season closes at the end of April, especially on Great Lake. Caddis love the rocky/silty shores on the big lake, and are convenient to most roads (and the Great Lake Hotel). Afternoons and evenings are best. Just keep an eye on the shore lines where the wind is drawing off – caddis don’t like a wind in their face. Bays such as Haddens Bay, Swan Bay and Dud Bay are good bets.
Flies such as the Elk Hair Caddis are probably the best bet, but don’t overlook a really big black fly like a Dunny Brush or Black Muddler as the sun sinks over the western horizon. These big flies twitched on dark (and after dark if you can keep the chill out) can yield some thumping browns.
Jassids are an enigma. When they hit the water every fish in the lake will look for them, as they must be a very tasty morsel.
Jassids don’t require warm weather either, they are quite comfortable on the wind in dirty southerlies. Flies with plenty of red in them are recommended, and specific jassid patterns are many. I like a Bibio Hopper, as it can work as a jassid but is a good general April pattern even if there are no jassids at all.
Like gum beetles, the best place to look for a jassid or three is in slicks and wind lanes drawing off treed shores and points. Over time the best spots to look for a jassid fall are Penstock Lagoon, Dee Lagoon, the eastern and southern shores on Arthurs Lake, and the shores on Great Lake close to cider gums.
If there is one aspect to April that I love, it is the wet fly fishing on rough days.
In April the brown trout are getting ready to spawn, and as such they are getting as toey as a Roman sandal. Expect heaps of aggressive strikes, boils follows, bust offs and some quite large totals.
The shores leading to the main spawning areas will have plenty of fish hanging around waiting fr the right conditions to head up the streams and do their procreative duty.
Be aware that just about all lakes in Tasmania have a 50m exclusion zone around stream mouths, but outside that you are good to go.
The best lakes are Great Lake, Arthurs Lake, Little Pine Lagoon and Augusta Dam.
The ideal weather you are looking for is a cloudy day with 5-20knots of wind, preferably from the south. This will mean that it is cold and uncomfortable, and fishing sessions will often be short or interspersed with shore-based breaks for a cup of tea and a quick warm up.
I generally used a fast action 9’ or 10’ rod matched with a sink-tip or medium sinking line. This is brutal stuff involving fast retrieves and lots of casting, and while the floating line will be easier to use, it won’t get your flies down enough to maximise your strikes.
The leader needs to be a level one of 10’ in length, with two flies attached. The first fly is five feet from the fly line, and the second, or point fly is tied to the end. I usually use 8lb leader, with the dropper around 12’ in length.
Flies are big, brash and black! If you use shop bought flies get them with a bead head and some red or orange in the tail. I am talking about Woolly Buggers here, although the Bill Beck Cat Flies are a great pattern as well.
If you tie your own, the the Muz Wilson style Fuzzle Bugger is the best fly I’ve come across, just tie the marabou tail in nice and long and put some flash in as well.
Essentially the technique involves casting as long a line as possible, let it sink while keeping in touch with it. Once you are confident it is near the bottom, the give five long and fast pulls, followed by a pause. Keep the line tight on the pause as this is where 70% of your takes will come.
Do this until you are nearly back to the boat. Don’t just rip the flies from the water to recommence your next cast; rather hang the flies at the boat and tempt any ‘window-shoppers’ that may have followed you in. Look for the line tightening while you hang the flies – the takes can be subtle.
This isn’t so much about which lakes, but about which parts of the lake you should be fishing. Look for water that has plenty of wind/water movement near in-flowing streams. These areas will have heaps of fish waiting to run to spawn, and they will be quite aggressive. The rougher the day, the harder they will hit.
Calm days will be hopeless for the wet fly, but those days when burning firewood back at the shack looks good are also tops for this style of fishing.
April is a wonderful month. Apart from the great fishing, it is also the last time Tasmanian anglers can fish for brown trout in most waters till August.
It is a terrific month, make the most of it.
Best dry flies
Bruce Gibson Foam Gum Beetle
Elk Hair Caddis
Best Wet Flies
Bill Beck Cat Flies
Muz Wilson Fuzzle Buggers in black, brown, emerald and black/gold
Black/Orange Woolly Bugger
Red and Black Matuka
Black Woolly Worm
Bead Head MKII Woolly Buggers