Stalking with a dry fly to big wild brown trout over sandy bottoms
It’s December, summer in Tasmania. Visiting from the UK, Alec Tarrant is an experienced fly fisher, frequenting salty waters for species such as bone fish and tarpon. Alec is keen to find out if Tasmania’s wild trout fishing offers the same heart thumping excitement.
Alec is staying at Ross in the northern midlands. I meet him at his accommodation, Somercotes, and we head east to Lake Leake.
Lake Leake’s current water level is around 200mm below spilling. This time last year the lake was very low. Fortunately the winter/spring rains that sent the largest flood in 16 years down the Macquarie River has brought many of Tasmania’s waterways back to respectable levels.
Weed growth and insect life are healthy. There is a smattering of gum beetles from around midday onwards yet very few fish are showing on top. Around 2.30 we find an accumulation of beetles deposited around Gallows Point by the prevailing NE wind 5 – 15 knots. Once again only a couple of single rises are seen.
Earlier in the day we have practiced minimal false casting techniques; short, accurate casting in the 20 to 40 foot range. A good casting warm up and putting the fly to the target in one, two or three false casts. This is what we are focusing on for the highest chances of hookups on fish that we see.
We spot a good sized jack brown cruising over a sandy bottom, close to an undercut bank, tree branches hanging over. He moves at a leisurely pace – around one foot per second in water about one foot deep and only a couple of feet from the bank. The fish heads from our right to left, into the breeze, sips from the surface film and glides into shadow.
There is a fallen tree in the water with room under and behind the root ball for the fish to move through. I call the cast. Alec lays the dry fly nicely in the path of the fish, a few feet ahead. At that moment the fish is distracted by a morsel elsewhere, but resumes course and looks like he will swim straight under and past our fly. “Twitch” I say. Alec twitches the fly, the fish turns, rises and shows us the roof of his mouth as he clomps down the Christmas Carrot.
Alec holds back for a moment drawing any slack out of the line, keeping the rod low. “Lift!” I say. Once hooked the fish performs a couple of violent rolls then heads out towards deeper water, away from the underwater snags in the shallows. Good side strain and changing rod angles brings the fish to the net after a few minutes. A quick photo in wet, cool hands and back he goes into the water.
The sandy bottom extends many metres from the shoreline. As clouds roll through and the light changes, we drift, polaroiding, our eyes free-scanning on the lookout for another wild brown trout cruising the margins.
A few minutes pass by and another fish approaches. Swimming up between a tangled mass of submerged tree branches, our Parachute Wulff is plucked from the surface without hesitation. In the opening moments of the battle this hen brownie spends some time airborne then comes back towards the boat trying to drag a small tree along with her. Good rod handling and a little luck as the fish takes fright at the sight of the boat and tears off the way she came, miraculously clearing the snag she had collected. Alec is on his toes, high sticking the Z-Axis with arms at full stretch skyward, urging the fish up over another snag and out to relative safety.
Although this hen is not quite the size of the previous jack she has twice the pulling power and still manages a couple of good short runs through the weed beds. Another worthy photo to capture the moment and off she swims into deeper water.
The light changes dramatically as cloud covers the sun and we set off in search of mayfly hatching on Kalangadoo Bay. It’s pretty quiet so we pull into a protected shoreline and swap a few stories over lunch.
Says Alec, “This is better than bone fishing”.