by Greg French
Tooms lake has always been a very good, if underrated, water, but over the last six or seven years it has fished extraordinarily well and visitation has increased dramatically. Greg French profiles this remarkable fishery.
Tooms Lake lies in dry woodland behind a small concrete dam (which keeps the water 3-4m above the old level of the natural marsh). Full-supply is 464 m above sea level, and while draw-downs are significant, there is no ugly littoral scar. The water is usually moderately turbid.
While many banks are rocky and deep enough for practical spinning, there are weedy shallows in Swamp Bay, Wet Bay, Wilsons Bay and the Neck Inlet.
There are relatively few stands of drowned trees.
The first dam across Tooms River, a crude low-profile structure, was built in 1842 and washed away in 1863. A new dam was built in the mid-1860s, and the last major works occurred in 1892.
According to NTFA reports brown trout were well established by 1903-04, when association members took four fish of 6-7 lb. There have been many liberations of brown trout since then, though these probably have done little to enhance stocks derived from natural recruitment.
In 1908 the NTFA recorded that 1000 rainbow fry were turned out in 1907, but that a total of 1500 rainbow fry had been released since 1904. There have been regular liberations of rainbow fry and fingerlings ever since. The rainbow population fluctuates markedly with changes in stocking regimes, and it is doubtful whether the species could be maintained by natural recruitment alone. In recent years the IFS has provided large consignments of fingerlings and yearlings, and the species has been common in anglers" bags.
Historically most trout taken by anglers have weighed 0.5-1 kg. Brown trout to 1.3 kg have always been reasonably common in the marshes, and experienced locals have always landed a few fish up to 2 kg. However, in recent years the number of big fish seems to have increased quite dramatically, with browns and rainbows of 2-2.5 kg being taken in greater numbers than ever before. Nowadays there is even a reasonable chance of taking something in the order of 3-5 kg.
The water is generally too murky to permit good polaroiding, so anglers rely heavily on tailing fish and risers.
Frogs and tadpoles
Feature fishing occurs when levels are high from mid-spring to early summer and the trout move into the marshes to forage on frogs and tadpoles. Generally late evening and early morning are the best times to fish, though under dull conditions you may find a few tails and bow-waves throughout the day. The best places are in the Neck Inlet (thick weed and submerged logs make wading arduous at times), Wet Bay (don't forget to cover the gutters), and Swamp Bay.
Fair rises to red spinners occur on hot summer days. All shores can be productive, but when stiff breezes blow in from the north and west, it is best to concentrate on the sheltered water in the Neck Inlet.
Mudeyes can trigger exceptional rises during muggy evenings in January and February. The hot spots are where there are emergent rushes and/or timber.
There are often very good rises in autumn too, especially on mild evenings.
Daytime sight-fishing is fickle at any time of the angling season, and the truth is that most regular anglers do a lot of blind fishing with traditional wet flies, the favoured places being the marshes and over the rocky/grassy reef in Wilsons Bay.
These areas are also ideal for English loch-style fishing, and I have taken extraordinary bags using the three-dry flies rig.
The best places for shore-based lure casting are the deeper banks at Axe Handle Bay, the White Rocks Shore and near the dam.
Drift-spinning along the edges of the marshes in Swamp Bay and the Neck Inlet is very effective when the frogs are about in spring.Trolling
Trolling is best in spring and autumn, though reasonable catches are made on dull and/or rough days in summer. The White Rocks Shore and the outer edges of the marshes are favoured in spring, while the middle of the lake is preferred in summer and autumn.
Cast-and-retrieve fishing with cockroaches and grubs is very effective, especially when fish can be seen moving in the marshes. The best times and places are mentioned above in the notes for fly fishers. The use of live mudeyes is increasingly popular.
Access and facilities
There is 2WD access from the Midlands Highway to the shack area near the dam, and a 4WD track extends to the Neck Inlet. Several boat launching areas exist near the shacks.
Informal campsites can be found on the grassy banks at the dam end, most of which are well sheltered from prevailing winds.