Trout fishing in the South West’s freshwater fisheries is a great way to catch beautiful fish in some truly scenic settings and isn’t that hard to do. In this article, Recfishwest staff member and self-confessed ‘trout tragic’, Nick Drummond, takes a look at some of the basics you need to know to give this fun form of fishing a go, as we gear up for our annual Troutfest event on Saturday, August 31.
Have you experienced the spectacular freshwater angling the South West has to offer?
If not, you’re missing out! From chasing radiant rainbow trout in serene Karri-tree lined dams, to casting lures or flys at cunning brown trout in streams, brooks and rivers where the bubbling water tumbles down the bends and stones, to trawling a wriggling lure behind your ‘yak at dawn on a still glassy lake waiting for that electric hit on your rod – trout fishing in WA’s South West has something to offer anglers of all ages and experience.
We have a fantastic trout fishery in Western Australia, supported by a comprehensive trout stocking program, with which Recfishwest is closely involved in, ensuring there is a good distribution of these fabulous-looking sportfish in waters throughout the South West. So, if you haven’t had a crack at trout fishing in WA – why not give it a go?
What gear do I need?
If you’re a little daunted by starting out in an unfamiliar fishery, don’t be. Yes, there are a few considerations to figure out such as where exactly to go, how to fish the area, bite times, lures selection etc and some might be thinking, ‘Don’t I need one of those super special fancy fly rods to catch a trout?’ – no, you definitely don’t. And if you keep it simple when you start out by using a light spin set-up, you won’t go far wrong and this gear can easily be as effective and often more effective then fly rods. The outfit only needs to be light; something you would use for herring, skippy, bream or whiting would be perfect. Using a lighter breaking strain line helps to cast further, especially when you can cast small shallow diving minnows, soft plastics and spinners that don’t have much weight to them.
Where do I fish?
There’s a host of majestic waters to explore in the South West – which is a great part of the attraction of trout fishing – wide-open dams, babbling brooks and rolling rivers – all have their own attraction and different ways you can approach them from a fishing perspective. Dams are significantly more accessible to novice anglers, closer to Perth, and a great place to start when getting into freshwater fishing. Streams, brooks and rivers usually involve much more hiking, 4WD-driving and exploring in order to find fishable locations.
Fishing in dams
There is some damn good fishing to be had in the dams! There are many impoundments that hold good fish, with stand-outs being Waroona, Drakesbrook, Harvey, Logue Brook, Glen Mervyn and Big Brook – all great locations that are stocked annually and hold great fish. Late winter/early spring is generally the best time to be on the hunt in dams, when the water is cooler after winter rains have flown in through their tributaries. Dams can still produce fish all year round, but you just have to work harder for them and find the cooler water where the trout retreat to during the warmer months. Remember when trout fishing, it’s paramount that you fish the early mornings or late afternoon, as this is when the trout are fired up and, on the bite – particularly in impoundments. Yep, this means you will have to brave those ’fresh’ mornings when you can see your breath and feel the chill of the air on the tip of your nose, but this is when you will have the best chance – and it’s amazing how soon you warm up when hooked up to a lively rainbow trout or if you’re really lucky a big brawny brown!
Fishing in streams
The majority of streams and brooks flow through some of the beautiful bush that WA’s South West has to offer. They twist their way through the valleys of karri trees and provide fishers with a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with nature while chasing a trout. Stream locations are mainly around Pemberton, including the Lefroy Brook, Warren and Donnelly river. Closer to the Metro area is the Collie Gorge below the Wellington Dam and the Murray River (Lane Pool area) can also produce good fish. When stream fishing you will often do quite a bit of hiking and cover a lot of ground searching for pools and areas moving on to the next area after a few casts in each of them. Fishing these waterways using a kayak is a really fun way to catch fish and gives you access to spots that you can’t reach from the bank.
What about the stocking program?
Stocking trout helps to sustain the populations found in our waterways. Though the trout colour up ready for the breeding season, doing their best to push up the streams and brooks in late winter, their spawning is very rarely successful.
To ensure an abundance of trout are on offer for fishers, the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development along with the Pemberton Trout Hatchery stocks over 650,000 trout each year! Last year, a trial stocking of 3,500 advanced yearlings into a number of locations into South West waterways was a huge success in the eyes of many freshwater anglers. This year there are 6,500 advanced yearlings being stocked, up by 3,000 fish on last year! These advanced yearlings are larger than the usual yearlings as they’re raised with more space and food to get them to a larger size of around 30cm before release. The increased size gives the advanced yearlings significantly better chances of survival in the South West waterways avoiding being eaten by redfin, birds and larger trout. At 30cm, when caught, they also make for great fishing snaps to show off to your family and friends and on your social media.
What else will I need to fish for trout?
There are some other bits and pieces that can make your trout fishing easier and more effective, but they’re not necessary when starting out. Waders are one of these freshwater fishing tools that you don’t need, but can help you in certain situations. They’re a great way to keep warm and dry when exploring the South West, and help you to reach locations people that want to keep their feet dry cannot. Polarised glasses help in nearly all fishing situations and help you to better spot fish and structure beneath the water’s surface. Spotting fish in this way is something I’ve done in the clear waters of dams on a few occasions, though getting them to hit your lure is a different matter!
A small landing net can be incredibly handy when you’re in the final moments of the fight and trying to subdue the slippery trout! Don’t forget your freshwater angling licence, required when fishing any freshwater body, above tidal influence. There is a licence- free weekend for freshwater fishing on the September 31 and August 1, the same weekend as the Recfishwest’s Troutfest event at Drakesbrook dam. This may be a good opportunity to try freshwater fishing for free and explore the beautiful surrounding in WA’s South West.