Mike Fry doesn’t only live on the Wild Side of Tasmania, but also goes fishing in probably the wildest boat ever to troll for trout—certainly in Tasmania.
When your mate says ‘What are you doing tomorrow, want to come up the Gordon for the night?’ it would be pretty hard to say anything else except “you bet” and start checking out your tackle box and packing your overnight bag. But if your mate was Troy Grining and he wanted to give his new 52ft, high speed cruiser a run across Macquarie Harbour, test the new onboard dory with a chance of landing a nice Gordon River Brown you would have to feel privileged. I didn’t say anything about getting on my hands and knees and kissing his feet…just having a lend of ya’ but I did feel very appreciative.
I had around two hours before the wife came home before I had to take her up to the daughters at Cradle Mountain, so I decided to get in a quick session on a small river 10 minutes from home.. Once there I started flicking the little black fury around in the tannin coloured river and had a hit & miss on the second cast. The next little stretch gave up three nice little river browns with the best one going around 290gms and beautifully conditioned too.
Rain & thunder storms were the forecast for today and I was unsure whether to go fishing today or not. At 5.20am I decided I'm going and hopefully get a couple of hours in before the weather sets in. I headed on over to the Meander River once again as it's been the river that's been fishing well for me so I'm sticking with it. I was in the river by 6.35am and picked up a small (270gm) brown on the very first cast. Can't beat that for a start to the session that's for sure. Today I was back to using the black bladed black fury as it did the job for me the last time I fished this area on the Meander.
This three kilometer run of river has a mix of fast and medium/fast water so I'm hoping it will fish as good as my last trip here when I caught & released 21 browns back on the 6th January.
With ideal conditions forecast for the Australia Day holiday I headed on over to give the fast water a go on the Meander River. This time of year it usually fishes pretty good so I'm hoping it will fire up today. I was in the river by 5.45am and started off with a black bladed black fury and had a nice little brown on within the first three casts. When I went to slip the net under it the fish made a quick head shake and was gone. The thing is it didn't toss the lure at all but the swivel that is attached to the anti-kink broke. This is the first time that I've had an anti-kink fail. It was on with another anti-kink set up and back into the spin fishing. I had put a new black fury on and it worked a treat as I had six hook ups in quick time but lost every one of them. I decided to change from the black blade to a gold black fury to see if that may make a difference. I have done this in the Meander before when the same thing has happened and it worked.
Still feeling pretty stiff and sore from yesterday's five hours in the Meander River I wasn't right to go fishing again until around 1.00pm today. Even then I was still feeling sore in the back and hips but popped down a couple of Panamax and headed of back to the Meander River at Montana. I thought I would try different stretch of river that I haven't fished for a couple of seasons. The main reason is because it's one of the toughest stretches of the Meander River to fish because the bottom is very rocky and quite often slippery too. Being a bright sunny day the good thing is that by the time I get there around 2.00pm it will have some shade along the western side of it.
With the cool change finally here I headed off to fish the Meander River this morning at 5.30am. The forecast was for gale force winds but it wasn't too bad when I left Sheffield and headed off for the forty minute drive. I was in the river just before 7.00am in what was ideal conditions with it being overcast and a light South Westerly breeze. The first section of river I had just the two hooks up from small browns, they just didn't stay on the Rapala lure. I'm hoping this is not going to continue as the last trip here back on the 4th January when I lost the first four browns before I finally landed one. Well it only took me just on thirty five minutes before I had my first brown on this time and I only lost one other brown before I caught and released this 460gm trout. It's always good to get that first fish into the net that's for sure.
From Issue 87
The anticipation surrounding the start of the fishing season seems to increase every year. We have had three months to decide where we will go on opening day, changed our minds ten times and finally decided that we will wait and see what the weather is doing. The highlands and the lure of big fish is ever present but this year it could be time for a change.
Often overlooked in the early part of the season, the rivers of Tasmania’s north and north east provide excellent fishing for fly, lure and bait anglers. The exact location of your chosen spot should be determined by your chosen technique and the height and colour of the water.
For the fly fisherman, the Macquarie River has not fished as well over recent years as it has in the more distant past, but it looks better for this season. This difficult fishing is definitely due to low flows and warm summer weather. The best of the mayfly hatches will not start until October and dry fly opportunities will be limited. However, there is a silver lining! The high rainfall of recent weeks has swollen the river and backwaters have appeared down its course. These provide excellent fishing opportunities for all fishing styles. Fish have already been seen tailing throughout the lowland sections.
A burst dam further up the system a couple of years back had a negative impact on the river and the best fishing was further down the water course. Good Winter rains over the last couple of years should invigorate it again though. Although the height of the water around Woolmers Estate is usually determined by the amount of water being released from Brumbys Creek, backwaters will still fill if enough rain falls around the source. Water quality in spring will not be as good as that coming from Great Lake but this will not deter the fish. Finding the best backwaters can often mean driving up and down a river looking for just the right spot. On the Macquarie that can mean from well above Ross to Longford.
Small wet flies worked in eddies on long leaders over newly flooded ground can be productive. For the spin fisherman, shallow running lures and soft plastics will have the same effect. Although fish numbers may not be as high as those in other rivers, the quality of the fish can often make up for the reduced opportunities. Most fishing will be ‘blind’ but when light levels are low, trout can be found swirling in shallow water up adjoining ditches and channels.
For those who prefer to use bait to chase their fish, an unweighted worm and light spinning gear is all you need at this time of year on all rivers – including the Macquarie. Expect the river to be running a little discoloured which will hide you from the fish but do likewise for them.
Running into the Macquarie is the Lake River. This river always runs with a ‘milky’ hue but expect it to be more muddy than milky if heavy rains persist. For those who have not fished the Lake River, it holds larger fish than you might at first think. Access is not always easy but if you are willing to walk from the obvious public access points, back eddies and side gutters are not hard to locate. The best techniques to use are similar to those outlined for the Macquarie.
Junctions of inflowing side creeks can provide a colour change and although not quite as productive for trout as they are for barramundi in the north, fishing these areas can be productive on an otherwise fishless day.
The same can be said for those areas where major rivers meet. Remember that trout do not have eye lids and when all else is equal, they will choose to stay in clear water where they can hunt and see danger with relative ease.
Brumbys Creek is another water which suffered badly from low levels during last season. It is regularly frequented on opening day by local anglers hoping to catch larger fish around the bottom weir. Trout often escape from the fish farm and present anglers with a better than average chance of a three pound plus fish.
Trying to predict what the water level will be is almost impossible and it can also change very quickly. Rising or high water levels will bring fish into the shallows and provide the best fishing conditions. Sight casting to fish foraging in gaps in the weed is a real possibility. This is especially so above the top and bottom weirs where the flow spreads out and structure provides a break from the current. As with all of the rivers, stay away from the main flow and concentrate on slower moving back waters and ditches. The base of the weirs is also a reliable fall back as the turbid water provides currents in which fish can hold.
If water levels are low and less than ideal, deeper undercut banks are worth prospecting. Since the ‘settling dam’ was built at the base of the Western Tiers, water quality has reduced alarmingly. Although you would be unlucky to see it, there is potential for a huge volume of dirty water to come thundering over the weirs. If this happens, go elsewhere!
Near by, the South Esk is one of my favourite destinations for early season fishing. There are many backwaters in very accessible spots that hold catchable fish. The water around Longford is under fished and has been flooding over paddocks throughout July. Fat fish will abound. The Mill Dam area is well worth prospecting if there is not too much water.
A clear summer flood is prime time fishing in the South Esk due to the numerous depressions that join the main river channel. When water rises into these areas along the entire lower course of the river, fish will move in to feed on drowned worms, spiders and grubs that were too slow to evacuate. Although it is difficult to polaroid these fish in the dirty waters of August and September, they are still there and very opportunistic. It is worth staying back from the edge of such areas and observing. Many fishermen feel as though the “dilution factor” is against them when there is such a large volume of water. This would be true if it wasn’t for the fact that fish will always gravitate towards a spot with the most food, plenty of cover and with no need to fight the current. Instantly, this rules out 99.9% of what is in front of you and often reduces the dilution factor to a better average than during summer.
For the fly fisherman, the headwaters may provide the pick of the sport. If fishable backwaters are hard to find, water levels are too high or in fact too low for flood water fishing then the upper reaches are where you should go. It is very common to find dry fly fishing and certainly sight casting in the region around Mathina at this time. Look for clean water and start fishing. Even those fishing with unweighted worms will have success with long casts upstream. Slowly real in the slack line as it comes towards you while holding the rod to the side. If the line stops, quickly point the rod at the worm, wait a second and strike. If you wait too long, the fish will have the worm too far down its throat and you run the risk of damaging or killing a fish that you had no intention of keeping. If this does occur, cut the line and tie on another hook. Do not go looking for it!
The Meander River has been touted as the premier back water fishery during early season rains. There are plenty of run off channels, creeks and even storm water drains that enter the river down it’s course. Since the Meander Dam went in, the days of huge floods around Deloraine are gone. I suspect that fishermen are the only ones who shed a tear. What the dam has done however is to maintain more consistent flows. The further from the dam we look, the more influence run off creeks will have on water quality and height. This tells us that unless we can find that wonderful slack water as the river spills into the paddocks, we should look a long way up river. Walking from the Westwood Bridge and searching in amongst the tussocks is reliable. Look for flat country surrounding the river bed. The further up river you venture, the rockier and steeper it becomes making it less attractive if you are wanting backwaters but they can be found in smaller numbers up to the dam itself.
Before Huntsman Lake was built, my brother used to fish that exact stretch of river on opening day, never tie on a wet fly and always catch his bag. The fish were not big but all ate dries. The river upstream of the dam still provides the same quality sport. If you are looking for a feed, this is not the spot for you. The fish are tiny and best left to those who are there for the sport, intending to catch and release.
North Esk and St Patricks Rivers
The North Esk and St Patricks are influenced by rain falling in a different region. If other rivers are flooded out, this area (along with the Forrester) could be far less affected unless it has fallen in the east. Even still, it provides very consistent early season fishing. With Forestry plantations in the head water regions of the North Esk and St Patricks, neither river clears as quickly as it used to after rain. As I write this, the water running under one of the bridges of the St Patricks near my home has remained high and dirty for weeks. Both rivers can be fished in a very similar manner. Again, backwaters behind willow trees and ditches will produce plenty of fish for the worm fisherman. These are a little harder to fish with the fly and those using this method should venture upstream looking for clear water. There is nowhere better than the headwaters which provide kilometres of polaroiding water. It is tight but a small nymph placed in the right spot will elicit an aggressive take. As the fish are generally very small in these rivers, sight casting in dirty water is not easy. The fish need to be in centimetres of water in order to make a disturbance and although it does happen, it is not consistent sport.
When the rivers are running just inside the banks (a ‘banker’) fish will sit right along the edge waiting for the river to spill over. The target area for landing your offerings is small but as there is less water these fish could possibly sitting in, your chances of success are very good. This is where celta fishermen really clean up! Before my fly fishing days, I learned about trout and their behavioural patterns fishing these exact rivers with a red and gold celta at this time of year. It is a great way to recognise good trout habitat through success and failure.
All fish at this time of year are likely to be in less than ideal condition after spawning. They are generally a little bit ‘slimy’, out of condition and their flesh is less than perfect. Unless you really, really want a fish to eat, their table quality can not be recommended and I would advocate catch and release. This will see them there for you and everyone else during the summer months.
In a Nut Shell
Basic Facts about fishing northern rivers in August and September:
It was early start once again on the Meander River this morning and it was one of those beautiful mornings too. No wind, overcast and 5 degrees, absolutely great conditions for another session on the river. Today I'm fishing a different stretch of river, one that I haven't fished for around four years at least. I felt that with the way the river has fished below the bridge then perhaps it's time I gave the four kilometres of river above it a go. I was in the river at 5.40am and started off with the black fury today because the first one hundred meters was all shallow fast water. I was onto a small brown on the second cast but lost the little fella. That was the only hit for the first twenty meters, after that is when the fishing really picked up. Over the rest of this fast water stretch I caught & released seven nice browns from eight hook ups with the best brown going 540 gms. This was a great start, one I haven't had like this for some time.
Mainly overcast conditions plus a forecast with the chance of a shower or two I decided I would try a section of river at Weegena that I haven't fished for close on twelve years. The reason I haven't been near it is because I had completely forgotten about it. Once there I soon remembered why I had wiped it from my mind, it is one of the toughest sections that the Mersey River can throw at you. It is very rocky and always as slippery as an ice skating rink. It was no different today either, as soon as I hit the river it all came back to me.. The last time I fished here I went in for three dives during that session up here. Back then I only had the old waders with the rubber soled boots and they're a death trap in any river that's rocky and slippery. But today is another day, besides I now have the proper wading gear with the Korkers spiked felt soled wading boots, it wasn't going to be as bad as twelve years ago.
Well wasn't I a fool today as I forgot it was a holiday weekend here when I headed off this afternoon for a session on the Mersey River in what were perfect conditions for trout fishing. It was a very dull humid overcast day, conditions that I love to trout fish in. My first stop was at Kimberley just ten minutes from Sheffield. Once there I saw there were campers set up next to the river, that's when it hit me..''HOLIDAY WEEKEND.'" that meant most access areas are going to be busy for the next three days and won't be worth fishing at all. So I headed on up to Weegena only to find both access areas had cars parked there as well.. I knew of one more spot that may be okay so off I went once more in the hope of finding a spot to fish.
Well at last I had a day when I managed to be on the water by 9.00am in what was absolutely beautiful conditions. The Mersey River was much lower up at Weegena than my last trip four days ago, it was also crystal clear. There were quite a few large browns surface feeding in several slow flowing sections of the river too. These fish were all in the 1.5kg – 2.5kg range which was nice to see as there's been plenty of little browns around of late. I started of flicking the black fury (1.5gm) into the shaded areas along the opposite river bank and managed to get a few follows from some decent sized browns, but not one hit to go with it. It's always going to be tough getting into a few browns when you see others surface feeding, this is when I will often pick them up in the fast water runs.
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Hello everyone, I thought it would be a good time to introduce myself.
My name is Stephen Smith and I have been managing the website tasfish.com since May 2009.
It has been an epic journey of learning and discovery and I am indebted to Mike Stevens for his help, support and patience.
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The first Atlantic salmon eggs used to begin Tasmania's Atlantic salmon aquaculture industry were introduced into Tasmania in 1984. From these humble beginnings a valuable Tasmanian industry has evolved with a worldwide reputation for having a premium disease free product. This industry provides a spin off to all anglers in the form of regular escapes of salmon from the farms.