Lake Augusta - an underfished gem
At the entrance to the Nineteen Lagoons, behind a Hydro Tasmania build rock dam wall lies one of the most versatile fisheries in the Central Highlands, Augusta Dam. This water was created by Hydro Tasmania in 1953 as a means to control the flow of water into Liawenee Canal, by building a large rock wall, and a smaller concrete levee West of the dam.
Augusta Dam forms part of the larger Augusta Lake, however in these dry times the two rarely join during the warmer months of the year when fishing is available in the 1150m altitude around the Nineteen Lagoons. Augusta Dam itself is fed from the Ouse and James Rivers and sits fair over the flood plain where the two meet. The deeper section of the dam runs North West from the rock fill dam wall along to the Ouse river, while the James River arm runs out over grassy flats to the West, behind more notable waters such as Carter Lakes and Howes Lagoon Bay.
Managed as a brown trout fishery, Augusta Dam is open from the first Saturday in August to the last Sunday in April each year. The dam holds populations of wild brown and rainbow trout, which average between 1lb and 2lb, with the odd larger fish turning up every now and then.
The are opportunities on Augusta Dam to suit nearly any fly fishing method. There's tailing fish along the western shores, wade polaroiding all around the edges of the lake, drift polaroiding from a boat along the flooded grassy flats, great prospecting with dry fly around rocky ground and the river channels and gutters. There's loch style fishing as most of the dam is less then 4 metres deep, and good wet fly fishing pulling bigger wets with intermediate and faster sinking lines. There's rainbows to catch around the deeper sections of the lake and browns all around the shallow regions. During calm weather there's midge hatches and free rising fish in the slicks and calm patches that quickly form as the window drops out, and on sheltered shores a bit of a black spinner fall. If you are a river buff, you can even walk the banks of the Ouse and James for trout which hold in the rivers, these can be a good challenge and are often found sitting along the undercut banks.
Augusta Dam holds a nice head of both brown and rainbow trout, which are self sustaining and until recently had never needed stocking. In mid summer 2003, the HEC unexpectedly drained Augusta Dam. This was bad news for the resident trout and a fish kill estimated to be about 500 occurred. Up to this point, when boat fishing around the deeper water 6ft or greater, or over one of the river beds my bag typically contained about 40% to 50% rainbow trout. After the draining of Augusta, on 19/6/2003 the IFS stocked 500 adult brown trout from Great Lake. (Source IFS Web Site) http://www.ifs.tas.gov.au/ifs/IFSDatabaseManager/WatersDatabase/lake-augusta/water_stocking_view
Since that date rainbows have made up no more than 30% of my catch. I sincerely hope these beautiful rainbows, which have olive backs, silver sides and magnificent white fringes on their fins, make a recovery to pre 2003 catch rates.
Tailers and Polaroiding
While you need a traffic cop to work out who gives way to who on waters like Lake Botsford, with just a little walking you can have long sections of shore on Augusta Dam all to yourself, with plenty of brown trout cruising the shallows to cast to. At any stage of the day in the right place a tail can suddenly appear, as these fish feed heavily on nymphs and scud. The browns cruise the shallows both around the grassy bays and along the shallow water of the rocky shores in search of food, anything from duns, nymphs, beetles can be on the menu. A couple of seasons ago a mate of mine from Melbourne caught a nice brown of about 3lbs on the rocky shore between Worcester Bay and the Pillans Track. When he cleaned the fish much to his surprise a whip snake dropped out of it's stomach. Now that's a hard dry fly to imitate!
Hot spots for wade polaroiding and tailers are the grassy flats to the West and Worcester bay when in flood, the rocky shores in from the levee wall and on the back shore. Brown trout will also work the sheltered shore for black spinners on warm bright days with a consistent, light wind.
Like any addictive substance, this comes with a warning, Augusta dam is not forgiving on propellers and skegs. There are numerous large rocks right through the lake, and although the water is generally gin clear, care and attention are really needed when pottering around shallow bays looking for trout.
The feature of boat fishing on Augusta Dam is drift polaroiding and prospecting with dry flies around the gutters, holes and river beds that constantly appear around the lake. While on many other lakes prospecting with dry flies is a matter of chuck and chance in featureless water, on Augusta there is endless structure to keep you anticipating the figure of a trout rising out of the depths to gently suck down your parachute emerger.
When drifting over the grassy bays to the West, brown trout are quite often clearly visible against a green background as they cruise looking for food above or below the surface. In calmer weather rising fish are often seen taking off the top right through the lake.
Wet flies and Loch Style techniques are also very successful around the deeper shores, fishing around submerged boulders for trout lying in wait for unsuspecting prey to swim past. Quite a few years ago when I was first introduced to Augusta Dam, a friend of mine gave me a touch up one evening fishing his secret fly around these shores. He was fishing a Cortland fast sink tip line (by the way this is not an endorsement they are shocking to cast), and his secret fly. He cast from the boat towards shore and then ripped the fly back flat out! The browns he caught came out from the rocks and hit the fly two or three times before they hooked up. It was an eye opener for me as I hadn't seen such aggression in trout taking a fly at that stage. He caught 3 browns all around 2lbs in under a hour while I managed one. The secret fly, a size 6 black woolly bugger with a massive grizzle hackle. I saw them work, I tied some the minute I got home that night, but they are such a monstrosity that to this day I still have not been able to bring myself to fish them.
As far as flies are concerned, a good mix of your favourite dry flies will do, Carrot fly, Bibio Hopper and parachute duns do well for me. The usual suspects in the form of bead head Woolly Buggers, and traditional wets like Dunkeld, and Invicta will catch their share below the surface.
Being at altitude Augusta Dam is subject to wind. When I intend to fish Augusta, if I'm going to use the boat I wait until the wind is forecast below 20 k.p.h, that way I know that getting around the dam will not be too hard. Even when wade polaroiding using a boat will assist you getting to the out of the way shores where you will not be bothered by any other anglers.
Augusta Dam is limited to 5 fish per day, and the size limitations on the trout are the usual 22cm for both rainbows and browns. I do encourage as much catch and release with rainbows as possible so that these beautiful fish can again increase to pre 2003 numbers.
Being a Hydro storage, Augusta Dam is subject to large fluctuations in lake levels. If there is a good rain overnight, the lake will rise considerably in a short period of time. I like to fish Augusta Dam if it is 2 metres down or more, the less water between the fish the better. If the water level come up beyond 2 meters there is a vast expanse of water for the trout to move out over making them harder to find. The Hydro Tasmania lake levels are available on the internet at: http://www.hydro.com.au/home/Tourism+and+Recreation/Lake+Levels.htm
Augusta Dam does not share the pressure that other waters in the Nineteen Lagoons area do. It is a magnificent piece of water which offers a multitude of fly fishing opportunities.
As always respect the fish and respect the sensible bag limits imposed by the IFS for this beautiful piece of water.