It’s officially spring and with the right combination of conditions – being rising water flooding long-exposed ‘new ground’ – the tailers appear. If the rate of rise isn’t too fast, the trout will brave the ultra shallows, risking predators for first crack at flooded terrestrials like worms, grubs and caterpillars. And given that the freshly-flooded grass is also nutrient-rich, it doesn’t take long for aquatic critters such as midge larvae, stick caddis and water beetles to move in as well, adding to the lure.
Yes, given just a tiny bit of warmth to keep the shallows from freezing, the trout just can’t resist the offer. It’s endlessly fascinating to watch the behaviour of these fish with their split personalities – half greedy marauder, half scaredy cat. Easy meal versus danger.
That’s why first and last light is usually best for tailers. Once the sun is on the water, they usually retreat to the safety of the depths. So when you’re late down to the lake, expectations are low. At first, as you cast your eye along the flooded shore, you’re convinced there can’t possibly be any trout. Perhaps at dawn they might have snuck in under cover of half light. But it’s mid-morning now and the sun shines overhead, only slightly muted by high cloud. The bay is sheltered from the wind and glassy, and you can see through your polaroids that large parts are only centimetres deep. Yep, if there were any trout present, you would have seen one already. But wait, what’s that? A puff of wind, or something else?
You stare at the spot, and a dark shape slowly pokes out of the water. A tail!
Watching more intently now, other shapes and swirls appear.
Like a 3D puzzle coming into focus, your mind and eyes adjust, and you start to see what is not meant to be seen.
There’s not one trout, but several.
Soon, you glimpse a dorsal and tail simultaneously – 10 inches between. So, these are good trout, browns of at least 3 pounds. Mostly, they sneak through water that’s hardly deep enough to cover their backs, with barely a ripple.
But then occasionally, a fish can’t help itself and lunges for some escaping food item, alerting anything within 100 metres to its presence. Almost as if realising the potentially deadly mistake, the trout then turns and heads sheepishly for deeper water.
But wait… there he comes, sneaking back in. Maybe the trout can’t stand the idea of others enjoying the gourmet dining without him.
Is the fishing easy? Not at all. Even if you can manage a cast without spooking them, the trout this day won’t so much as acknowledge a dry fly – the easiest option to fish. So it must be a wet, yet if it sinks before the trout notice, it’s soon lost in the thick flooded grass. Move the fly? Ha! I wish. Excited stop/start follows, but never a take. On Tasmania’s Little Pine Lagoon, trout behaving this way are called The Untouchables. Maybe these fish are related! Still, you could do this for hours. And sooner or later, a tailer is going to make a mistake… isn’t it?