Learning to love our great non-native sport fish.
Being born and raised in a country with perhaps a higher ratio of native sportfish to anglers than any other comes with its own particular parameters.
Namely, you’re not supposed to take kindly to introduced species. At least, that is, if you’re raised on the coast chasing saltwater fish, with only occasional freshwater forays chasing native bass and barramundi.
I guess the thinking goes something along the lines of, ‘why would you want to go and spend time chasing a northern hemisphere fish that’s been transplanted and stocked here, when you’ve got such a bounty of wild, native fish to choose from?’
I certainly subscribed to that way of thinking for a long time, and gave no thought to chasing the brown and rainbow trout that have been stocked in Australian sweetwater since whitefellas first arrived here.
But what’s the point of having a position on anything if you’re not prepared to defend it, or at least think about it? Sometimes shining a light up to a long-held prejudice is enough to underscore its inherent silliness.
It’s probably got something to do with getting older, but it was a liberating feeling to first realise that I could apply myself to the complexities of trout fishing, and still get my usual kicks out of chasing native sportfish.
TROUT IN AUSTRALIA
Both brown and rainbow trout have been stocked in Australian rivers and impoundments for generations, and both fish happily coexist in many waterways. They are, however, quite different species from different parts of the world.
The brown trout is native to Europe and some parts of Asia and was originally introduced to Australia by the English a little over 150 years ago.
Rainbow trout are native to North America and were introduced to Aussie waters a little later than their European cousins, via the successful stocked fishery that had sprung up in New Zealand.
Both rainbows and browns are widely distributed in streams and impoundments in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, and there are also some stocked fisheries in the south of West Oz.
Depending on your preferred angling style, the type of trout you’re chasing, the waterway you’re targeting and the time of year that you’re fishing, there are quite a number of different ways to get your trout fix.
TROUT IN STREAMS
The most stereotypical image of the trout angler is one roaming the banks of a shallow mountain stream, plucking wild trout from pristine pools against a postcard backdrop.
This is the romantic ideal that converts so many new followers to the way of the trout, and if you’re any sort of aesthete, you’ll agree that there’s a little more magic to it than the idea of a bloke soaking a bait out of a dinghy on a pond somewhere.
A lot of fly fishing purists tend to feel that theirs is the only true way, while plenty of onlookers consider those people wankers. The truth is probably a little of both. Tricking and capturing a wily trout by way of the dry fly is an art form, but there are other ways to skin a cat.
Most of the knowledge and lore developed and honed by flyfishermen can be appropriated by lure fishos and used with great success. Trout tend to hide out in the slightly deeper pools and eddies in fast moving water, waiting to ambush prey that’s moving with the current or falling from above.
Once you’ve figured out the sort of spot that’s an ideal trout hangout, it doesn’t really matter what sort of tackle you’re using, you just need to be able to offer some sort of presentation – be it a fly, lure, soft plastic or bait – in a convincing manner.
TROUT IN IMPOUNDMENTS
Trout, like pretty much all stocked fish species, tend to behave differently in impoundments than they do in rivers.
Wild river trout need to battle the current and use stealth and their wits to ambush and stalk prey. As such a lot of them work hard for little nourishment, and are not able to grow very big.
The majority of river trout are usually quite small, with the odd larger fish staking out the best bits of territory.
The paradigm is flipped on its head in stocked impoundments. Trout don’t have to work very hard for a feed in stationary bodies of water that are often stocked with baitfish supplies and as such they can grow very large.
Plenty of oversized trout are regularly pulled from lakes and impoundments, although the methods used to target them are very different to those employed in the streams.
The methods used to snare trout in big impoundments can be very effective, if somewhat less skilled than those used in moving water, and as such are well suited to newcomers to the game.
For anglers targeting trout from the bank of a system, presenting baits either on the bottom or suspended under a float is a prime method to get some runs on the board.
Anglers will often set up multiple rods with different types of baits presented at different depths in the water column until they can figure out an effective pattern.
For anglers chasing impoundment bound trout from a boat, trolling a spread of lures can help divine where the fish are holding.
Popular lures include diving minnows, Tassie Devils and metal trout spinners, and it’s a great idea to troll a couple of different types of lures at once in order to figure out what’s working.
One of the great things about trout fishing is that it’s possible for almost anyone to get involved. All you need to give it a try is a simple spin rod, similar to what you’d use to fish for bream, whiting or bass, a couple of lures and a handful of basic tackle.
For those that really get hooked, trout fishing can become as complex as you want it to be, and can end up all consuming.
It’s never necessary to use heavy tackle when targeting trout, so load up your reel with 4 or 6lb bread and match with a length of fluorocarbon leader of around the same breaking strain.
It’s possible to use slightly heavier leader to gain a little more control over hooked fish, but remember that the thicker your leader, the less bites you’ll get.
A great starting selection of trout lures would include a couple of classic metal spinners plus a handful of Tassie Devils in different colours and sizes as well as a few different small diving minnows like the ever popular Rapalas.
Bait anglers will use the same sort of hardware as above, but need to add some small gauge hooks, swivels and sinkers to their arsenal, as well as a couple of different sizes of floats.
Effective baits include grasshoppers and crickets in summer, earthworms and synthetic baits such as Powerbait and Gulp! Trout Dough.
Basic trout fishing is simple enough for novice anglers and even kids to pick up over a couple of sessions, but there’s plenty there to enthrall the most discerning angler.
If you’re ambivalent about trout fishing or even dislike the idea of it, you should really give it a go, even if it’s just to prove to yourself that you were right all along!