September 2015

Hand tied fly’s and lead heads are still the bomb!

Well with the warmer weather finally on our door step it’s time to tie up some fly’s and lead head jigs and head off in search of some flatfish. Targeting Bar tailed flathead and flounder here in our magnificent Swan River is something I have enjoyed immensely over the years. Not only are these fish great sport on ultra light spin and fly tackle they are also not too bad on a plate either. Flathead and flounder are generally not that difficult to catch with most junior and novice anglers beginning their angling experiences targeting these great little fish. The Swan River here in Perth is an ideal location to target these species with plenty of warm, shallow water and likely flat fish haunts. The fly’s and lead head jigs pictured are quite simple to tie up and are one of the most effective flat fish artificials I have tried over the years. They are cheap, quick and easy to tie up and most importantly, blow fish proof. These particular models range from ultra light size 4, bead head fly’s to 3/4 ounce 1/0 lead head jigs and are tied from both synthetic and natural fibers. The fly’s are tied from chartreuse and white deer hair fibers to add extra movement in the water and also help to prevent tail wraps during false casting. The lead heads are tied using synthetic fibers which are great for durability and hold their shape in the water perfectly. The gold flash in the center of them all shines through and represents the lateral line of a small bait fish and the hot pink binding appears as open or flared gills which all panicked bait fish display when being preyed upon. The green or chartreuse and white theme with hot pink binding seems to be the most effective colour pattern for flat fish such as flat head and flounder regardless of their location here in Australia and represents the appearance of most small prey items these fish prefer. Simply hop and drag these lures across some warm, sandy shallows using ultra light spin and fly tackle, flatfish will often lay in areas of broken up bottom such as sand, weed, rock and especially gravel or crushed shell. Their camouflage allows these fish to remain completely undetected as they lay in wait of any small fish or prawn that may make the mistake of venturing too close before exploding from the river bed to engulf their prize. Light 10 – 15lb leaders and tippets are preferred depending on the size of the fish being targeted and are simply joined to ultra light 4 – 6lb braided lines using an albrite knot. Loop knots are also preferred to allow the fly or lead head extra movement during retrieval.

This Friday 2/10/15 the tide is perfect and rises steadily from around midday to late afternoon in the location I have chosen to fish, the water will be warming nicely by that time and the rising tide should see the Swan River flatfish coming on the chew. Wish me luck and I’ll post the results soon.

Calm seas, clear skies

Nick Hocking

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The year that wasn’t

Well after arriving home from a week of solid fishing at Harvey Dam I am sorry to report nothing but bad news. It seems there has been a stocking incident resulting in the loss of the prestigious and highly sought after Brown Trout the area has been so famous for over previous years. Apparently they all went belly up in the release tanks during a hot spell before they could be released into Harvey Dam. Oops! Western Australian fisheries did manage to release around 1100 brood stock, rainbow trout into the dam successfully however these fish seem to be extremely difficult to find and catch this season?

Opening day of the 2015 fresh water season saw Harvey Dam literally covered with competent fresh water anglers of all shapes and sizes, shore based anglers lined every likely location as deep water sections were scanned and searched by all manner of water craft imaginable. With opening day this year falling on a Monday it was extremely surprising to see so many lucky anglers venturing away from their work places to target trout. It seems half of Perth managed to chuck a sickie? It just goes to show you how popular a decent fresh water fishery would be received here in the west. Dare I say it again AUSTRALIAN NATIVES!!!

With many seasoned and competent fresh water anglers now scouring every nook and cranny of the dam it soon became evident that this year’s fishing was going to be poor compared to the previous? After speaking with many seasoned anglers and hearing the same disappointing results it soon became clear that this year’s season was shaping up to be a real dud. Like most other anglers I managed around a dozen yearling rainbow trout from 26 – 30cm and a heap of redfin perch around the same size range during each trolling session but alas no decent sized trout. Although these smaller fish were quite plentiful and moderately entertaining the satisfaction of hooking and landing that one good fish unfortunately eluded me for this trip.

There were however plenty of good trout to be found around the local feeder streams and rivers leading to and from the dam itself but unfortunately I was there to film a trolling for trout segment and these fish were not going to help my cause. Stand out lures for the trip included Halco RMG Scorpion 35 and 52 in classic rainbow trout and gravy train patterns. These two lures out fished anything else I put in the water during the week long period by far and are now my go to trolling lures for Harvey Dam, thanks again Halco.

These lures were fished over short, ultra-light graphite rods coupled with 1000 – 2500 class SHIMANO spin reels loaded with 4 – 6lb braided lines attached to around 1 – 2 rod lengths of 6 – 10lb fluoro carbon leader material. With local fresh water anglers restricted to trolling with one rod per person it helps to also have a mate in the boat to allow the use of two separate outfits. One is usually set back at around 30 – 40 meters with a small, shallow running lure (HALCO – RMG Scorpion 35, 1.6m sneaky suspending diver in classic rainbow trout pattern) and another closer to the boat at around 20 – 25 meters with a larger, deeper running lure (HALCO RMG Scorpion 52, 2.5m diver in gravy train pattern). Staggering lure distances not only avoids tangles during strikes and turns but also allows anglers to cover much more of the water column in search of their prey. This technique has worked extremely well for most fresh water anglers over the years with most rainbow trout taken on the smaller, shallow running lures and larger brown trout and red fin perch preferring the deeper running lures closer to the boat.

Harvey Dam is strictly an electric motor only option and does not allow the use of petrol engines at all! Most electric motors have around 5 speeds with the most popular speed for trout trolling proving to be the number four setting which produces a boat speed of around 2-3 knots depending on the vessel to which it is fitted. It does sometimes help to vary your boat speed to induce strikes when fish become lazy due to extremely calm or warm conditions.Gel cell batteries are a key factor in maintaining motor power for a good days trolling and need to be charged with a specified gel cell battery charger run by a decent 1 – 3 KVA generator system.

Echo sounders also help in locating fish and structure; once you have located good showings of fish in a certain area simply troll your lures around and through them until you start achieving results. Echo sounders with temperature readings are also handy for finding thermoclines; trout will often sit in a certain temperature of water rather than hanging around structure. Once the favoured temperature of water is located simply attach a lure capable of swimming at this desired depth/temperature range. Landing nets are also handy when fishing for trout from a boat and not only aid anglers in the landing of their fish but also prevent hooks in fingers, a fairly common occurrence when trying to hand lift lively trout attached to treble hooks.

Barometric pressure plays a very important role in fresh water angling and generally determines whether fish will be feeding of not. High, steady barometers are preferred for most fresh water angling situations, this generally occurs during warm, sunny conditions. Fish will often sit deeper in the water column or in shaded areas during these conditions. However calm, overcast conditions are also ideal for tempting trout into shallow cooler waters.

I’ve been fishing Harvey Dam for quite a number of years now and have enjoyed watching the fishing steadily improve to the point it was at a couple of years ago. Large, healthy brown trout to the magical 10lb mark used to be a real possibility back then and after having released so many of those beautiful fish over the years I am now left to wonder what became of the fish I was once so hopeful would remain there thrilling anglers for many more years to come? Now I do fully understand that Harvey Dam like most of our south western fresh water impoundments is stocked with brood stock trout and that it is respectively a put and take fishery system only. But it still to this day leaves me wondering where do all those trout go each year? Surely some must survive the angling onslaught and remain, grow and become semi wild? Why would this ever improving fishery suddenly take such a downward spiral? These are the questions that need to be addressed to ensure our Western Australian freshwater fisheries remain protected and improve. Perhaps some funds invested into building fish ladders to retain our trout in the dams to which they are released would be a good start? Rather than having them take off up the cooler, oxygenated feeder streams running into and out of the stocked dams to end up in areas totally inaccessible to most anglers paying good money for a freshwater fishing licence.

Trolling for trout is a relaxing and enjoyable form of fishing that is slowly growing more and more popular with the fresh water angling community, fingers crossed our fishery here in the west improves with age offering Western Australian anglers the diversity of fishing for some of Australia’s most popular and iconic fresh water species. Fingers crossed!

Calm seas, clear skies

Nick Hocking

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