I’d forgotten what it’s like to actually hope it won’t rain, at least for a few days! In 2014 and 2015, no such indulgence was permitted. Our average annual rainfall here around Millbrook is about 800 mm but the last two years each struggled to make 600 mm. The 400 mm deficit really showed and by this year we needed some decent precipitation – and we’ve had it. So far in 2016 the gauge has collected 420 mm, and for the first time in 3 years, I’m thinking about what I call floodwater feeders – the kind of lake fishing that’s generated by water rising over long-exposed margins. The same situation is evolving from the Snowys to Tasmania.
Oddly enough, for quality floodwater feeder fishing, you actually want it dry for quite a while before the big rain arrives – several months at a minimum; a year or two is even better. You need the grass to grow, and the terrestrial bugs to move in. Picture a smiling real estate agent… ‘Floods? Nah, the water never gets up here – perfect place to raise a family of little beetles!’
Ideally, we want the water to rise steadily over this ‘new ground’. Too fast and the trout are spoilt by vast quantities of flooded-out food and they don’t need to brave the shallows right at the edge of the rising tide – there’s more than enough to eat in the safety of deeper water. However if the rise is too slow, most of the caterpillars, worms, beetles, earwigs, spiders etc. can outpace it. The perfect rate of rise depends on things like shoreline gradient, but from a couple to several centimetres a day of vertical rise is handy.
The best chance for continuous opportunities tends to apply to those trout lakes which are large compared to their catchment, and which are designed to store ‘excess’ water during wet periods, then release it when it’s dry. Obviously you need these lakes to have a retained enough water for trout survival during the dry times, and you also want plenty of gently sloping, relatively fertile shores (not sand or rock) that can revegetate well when the lake is low. My favourites include Tullaroop and Upper Coliban in Victoria, Tantangara and Eucumbene in New South Wales, and Lake Echo in Tasmania – but there are dozens more.
Often, true floodwater feeders are quite opportunistic and will take a range of flies fished inert either on the bottom, under an indicator, or dry – though keep an eye out for ‘booms’ of one particular type of flooded bug. These episodes can encourage selective feeding and the need for a correct imitation. Regardless of fly, don’t move it except for perhaps for the slightest twitch to attract the trout’s attention – drowning bugs are basically helpless and by definition can’t swim.
Look for floodwater feeders on cloudy days or at first and last light. In the Tasmanian highlands and occasionally in the Snowys, the shallows may simply be too icy for action very early in the season. Elsewhere winter and right through to mid/late spring can work. Finally, don’t expect the trout to be easy to see. They like the food, but hate the exposure and even big trout will hardly disturb water mere centimetres deep. Scan likely shores until your eyes hurt!