Before heading down to Tassie I met up with my mate Gary in Melbourne. We went down to Southern Fly Fisher’s casting pool where Gary set out the hoops and showed me the basics of the Australian dry fly, wet fly and skish competition casting events. It’s very interesting and something we don’t have in the UK. The only thing I don’t like is splash down techniques for accuracy casting. I wholly get it for the purposes of competing but it just doesn’t do anything for fishing skills (although it’s not going to make your accuracy any worse!) Whilst not liking that aspect, I’ll definitely be using some of the ideas in future practice and hopefully set up some fun competitions at home. Afterwards Gary treated me to a delicious seafood meal and a few beers, cheers Gary! Great to catchup, hope the fishing in NZ treats you well.
Rainbow Lorikeet in Melbourne:
Bad conditions are always a risk on a short fishing trip and unfortunately for me (and Ben!) that’s exactly what we got. I only had 10 days to play with due to other travel commitments but you’d usually fancy your chances to find some good fishing within a 10 day window. The plan was to fish a couple rivers and hammer a few lakes across the Western Lakes area. I’ll detail a story or two from the trip and the trip as a sum as to be honest there’s not a great deal of fish action to talk about.
My First Tasmanian Trout
The first trip started with some disappointment; the rain was absolutely thumping down when we woke up. Obviously with me being on a tight schedule and Ben very keen for a fish too we pushed on but quickly hit another obstacle. A locked forestry gate. I don’t think there are many access problems that cause as much annoyance as a locked gate. The problem is you don’t know when they’ll be open, you don’t know when they’ll be closed, it all purely depends on the logging operations being carried out at that time. We had planned to fish this river for a day or two but fortunately we had a plan B; hike into a remote lake and give it hell.
As we left the car it was dark overhead, a somewhat low lying mist, although that is not strictly accurate considering we were walking at 1200m! It was dry though. About 30 minutes into the hike and we stumbled across this fine view and since it was still dry I thought it was definitely worth a photo.
There was something about that mindset that the clouds didn’t like. Perhaps just Sod’s law acting with swift vengeance but what followed was absolutely torrential rain that did not let up once. Our walking track became a river with waist deep unexpected plunges every now and again. The light was fading fast and indeed by the end of the walk it was as good as dark, visibility was very poor. Now rain in itself I have been told is quite a promising thing in Tassie as it leads to a number of gutter connections pouring into the lakes and carrying all sorts of delights for the hungry trout. Beetles, earthworns, hoppers… you name it. But of course, torrential rain was not enough for this weather pattern and it didn’t take long before a powerful gale whipped up. We sat around that evening, talked some nonsense, made dinner and got off to sleep with the alarms set for 6am to try and find some tailing fish.
The horrible noise of an alarm ringing at 6am echoed around the hut along with the noise of incredible rain and wall shaking gales. The gales had the whole hut shaking. Ben and I let out a collective “Fuck going out in that!” We ended up spending around 16 hours in the hut before the weather let up enough to justify venturing out. Incredibly the weather fully calmed for a few minutes allowing this picture to be taken. It looks quite nice but I can assure you this didn’t last long!
Most of the time there was a large swell making its way down the entire lake but there are always a sheltered bay or two to be found and that is where I found my first Tasmanian trout. There he was working a calm bay fully sheltered by large trees right on the waters edge. This was an educated trout. I know this because he strategically positioned himself and an area where the only way to cast was to invent some sort of cast butchery and hope for the best. All the best trout have this talent. He was cruising very quickly around a significant area stopping only now and again to pick up food from the lakebed. I nearly lost hope at one point as he cruised out of sight and it was a long time before he returned. I was waist deep in freezing cold water wading precariously around some tree roots just praying to catch this fish; it would make the cold, the wet and the downright miserable day bearable. I saw him cruising back towards me, I cast out my two fly team – the trusty claret/black sedgehog up top with a tiny olive spider hanging below. I saw him come towards the fly, his head started to take on that squashed look as he rose through the water column coming underneath the dry. I held my breath in anticipation then he turned. For a split second I thought the bugger had refused my offering but he swerved down and took the spider. “You beauty!” The fish kept me entertained for 10 seconds or so before snapping me off from what looked like a poor knot. Bloody cold fingers! And that was that, I saw no other fish for the rest of the day but it did give me some promise of what the future fishing would be like. “If I sighted a feeding fish in such crap conditions then what will good conditions bring?” The following day was another truly absymal day that resulted in two fully sodden fisherman sitting in the car following the hike out, trying to think when the last time was that they endured such crap weather.
The Western Lakes
The weather forecast was better for the Western Lakes than our previous trip, that wouldn’t be hard right enough! We had planned a six day trip, following a rough loop and covering a huge network of lake systems from big to small. We were putting the emphasis on just getting out and exploring water which is very possible here as the majority of the fishing is casting to sighted fish. There’s not a huge amount to report on as regardless of the weather forecast we were once again absolutely thumped by the weather. We did get good overhead conditions on a couple of days but when it was sunny overhead it was blowing a hoolie and not the kind of wind that makes uniform waves on the surface that you can see into but rather the kind that blows up any old kind of pattern that completely kills visibility. We fished hard for 4 days, I saw one feeding fish gorging itself on gum beetles (amazingly the only fish doing this!) Usually this would have been a banker but I spotted it from a high bank and as so often happens I couldn’t see it at water level. Ben was on the other side of the lake so no spotter option either. I could see it rise and it was following a very rough beat around a fallen tree. I saw it rise a few times and when I thought I’d worked out its path I Iet a cast fly. It looked good but after a short time I still hadn’t seen another rise. Next thing I see is a set of jaws appear about 15′ from me to the right of my fly line. He rose, he saw me, he spooked. Why on earth he had to take that particular route I don’t know but that’s trout. Always expect the unexpected! I saw two more fish for the entire trip – two tailers. One which disappeared in the waves and one which tailed once and that was that. A tailer as they call them in Tassie is a trout feeding either in very shallow water with its tail poking through the surface or feeding hard on the bottom in shallower water with its head down and tail up.
At times the evenings showed a lot of promise but just didn’t deliver.
On day 4 we had some excitement when I woke up in the morning to find my tent was now in the lake, it obviously rained a fair old bit overnight! We made the decision after catching nothing that morning to hike out and try and save face on a river elsewhere over the next two days. We didn’t.
It was bloody hard fishing and I do think the weather was a big factor in that. When I couldn’t sight the water I was fishing hard and contacted nothing. It was very strange, we just could not see or find many fish at all and that included tiny streams that are supposed to hold very dense populations of small fish. Whilst the fishing was crap it was still a great trip, lot of fun fishing with Ben and an amazing network of fishing possibilities exists there. I’m sure I’ll go back in summer sometime and see what it really has to offer.
I did see my first wild venomous snake, that made me excited!