Approximately 16 kilometres long and rarely more than half a kilometre wide, Lake Barrington is a deep clear lake with mostly steep tree lined shores. The Hydro Electric Commission built three dams on the Forth River to form Lake Cethana, Lake Barrington and Paloona Dam. Lake Barrington is best known for its international rowing course and is a popular water skiing destination during summer. Over recent years the Inland Fisheries have transformed this lake into a viable fishing destination with it's extensive stocking program. The lake has a healthy population of rainbow and brown trout. Small rainbows up to 0.5 of a kilo can be very active, dominating the catch at times. The browns on the other hand can be a bit more elusive, but generally larger in size, some reaching well above double figures. Over the last five years, large ex-brood stock Atlantic salmon have been introduced into the Lake, some up to 30 pounds, testing the nerves of even the most seasoned anglers. The lake is one of the few in our State that is open to all forms of freshwater fishing throughout the year. A five fish per angler bag limit applies to Atlantic salmon, brown trout and rainbow trout with a minimum size of 300mm.
Shore Based Access and Fishing
The steep tree lined banks that surround most of the lake prevents much of it being accessed by land. There are four main access points, three in the east and one in the west.
Devils Gate Dam
The dam wall at the northern end of Lake Barrington is about a 20-minute drive inland from Devonport via Devils Gate Road. The steep tree lined shores here limit most of the shore based fishing to the boat ramp area located a few hundred metres up from the picnic area at the dam wall. The boat ramp is used by the Hydro and has a locked boom gate midway down the gravel road leading to it. The water level of the lake usually dictates how easily the shore can be negotiated along from the boat ramp. For the more adventurous, the high banks between the Dam wall and the boat ramp can be a good place to see brown trout and Atlantic salmon patrolling the edges. Once spotted, they can be ambushed with a well placed fly, bait, lure or soft plastic. This visual form of fishing is very addictive and just seeing fish is often enough to bring you back for more.
Midway along the eastern side of the lake via West Kentish Road, is Kentish Park. This area is a very popular water skiing area with two good concrete boat ramps. Despite the roaring engines, fish are still caught here from the shore, especially early morning and late afternoon when things have quietened down. I'll never forget the time I returned to this boat ramp after an afternoon on the water to find trout rising to a midge hatch only metres away. For the shore based angler quite a bit of fishable shore is accessible at Kentish Park.
Rowing Course and Weeks Reach Flats
The rowing course at the southern end of the lake would have to be the most picturesque part of the lake and the most accessible for the shore based angler. Here the lake's shore has been cleared to view the rowing events. Unlike the remainder of the lake, this area has a gradual sloping shoreline that extends into the lake forming a series of relatively shallow bays. A good concrete boat ramp and parking area is located towards the finish line of the rowing course. The rowing course and Weeks Reach Flats are accessed via a boom gate at the junction to Staverton Road near "Tasmazia". The boom gate is opened from 6 a.m. and closed again at 9 p.m., restricting this area to day use only. This boat ramp is where the majority of the ex-brood stock Atlantic salmon and rainbows have been released into the lake over the past few years. The highest catch rates of these fish are within the first few weeks of their release. Keep an eye out on the IFS web site to see when the latest truckloads of salmon have been released. Within a couple of weeks the salmon quickly disperse throughout the lake and can be caught anywhere from the road bridge at the southern end of the lake to the dam at the northern end of the lake.
Access to Lake Barrington from the west is via Barrington Road from the town of Wilmot. At the end of Barrington Road there is another good boat ramp and a few more places to cast a line. This boat ramp is also a popular launching site for ski boats with Kentish Park on the opposite side of the Lake.
Bait fishing is a very popular past time on Lake Barrington. Many small rainbows are caught here with a simple running sinker rig and a bunch of garden worms for bait. Power bait is also popular, as is a single wattle grub. The native Black Fish in the Lake can be caught after dark on both worms and grubs. Many people with a two rod trout fishing license will fish one bait on the bottom and the other under a float to cover fish feeding near the bottom and at the surface. A small running float can be used with a grub, worm, mudeye or cockroach suspended a metre below the float.
A single grub under a float has taken many big Atlantic salmon from this Lake over the years. Fishing a shore with the wind behind you will help keep the float and bait at the depth you want to fish. Fishing a bubble float just off the drop off is a great place to intercept fish patrolling this edge. Fish feel safe swimming here and can easily swim up into shallower water to search for food and then back into the deeper water. The edge of submerged weeds at the rowing course is also a good place to suspend bait under a float. When using a float it is a good idea to coat the length of line between the float and your rod with a line floatant such as "Gink" dry fly dressing. This will stop the line sinking where it can become snagged on the bottom and will also have less resistance when a fish swims off with the bait.
Another method of bait fishing is to actively cast and retrieve a single bait such as a cockroach or mudeye. This is a very effective form of bait fishing, be it in a lake or river. The sunken timber and deep drop offs at Barrington are ideal places to fish one of these baits from the shore or from a boat. With a good pair of polaroid sunglasses, it is possible to locate the submerged trees at the lakeshore and fish a cockroach or mudeye around these fish holding structures. Let the bait sink down close to this structure until it's just off the bottom. Watch the line as the bait sinks, if it suddenly starts to speed up, a fish has already taken it on the sink. If not, retrieve the bait slowly along the timber to draw out any fish that may be present. When a fish takes the bait you will feel, or see the line pull away. As soon as you feel or see the line pulling away quickly lower your rod and let the fish take one or two metres of line, before setting the hook. This method of casting and retrieving of bait can also be used to systematically search water with a series of casts or placed in front of a fish that has been spotted cruising the shallow edges.
Rods and reels used for this type of bait fishing can vary. A threadline or spincast reel can be used with quick reflexes. Cast out the bait either unweighted or with a small split shot clamped onto the line next to the hook eye. After the cast, hold the rod almost straight up when you are slowly winding in the line. The instant any resistance is felt or seen, quickly lower the rod tip and release the bail arm to allow the fish to take line before setting the hook.
A fly rod and reel can also be used with great affect and is one of the best ways to deliver and retrieve unweighted bait, unlike the threadline and spincast reel that require light line to enable them to cast unweighted baits. A fly reel is spooled with 10 or 12-pound line to make the line more manageable and reduce tangles when retrieving line by hand. The line is gathered in using long slow strips. Each loop of line is held in your line hand. To make a cast the line is allowed to flow freely off your hand as the bait is lobbed out using a single casting stroke. When a fish is felt taking the bait it's simply a matter of allowing the fish to take line from your hand until you are ready to set the hook.
Surprisingly good midge hatches can occur on the lake and the use of a boat will allow you to find the largest concentrations of these insects early morning and late afternoon. Small rainbows usually dominate the wind lanes and calm slicks, feeding on these small insects. Steve Hambleton and I struck a big hatch of midge one afternoon at the northern end of the lake. The small rainbows were all around us sipping down the adult midge almost in a feeding frenzy. There was actually too many fish rising at the one time making it difficult to choose which one to cast to. Steve was the first to hook up, landing a small rainbow on a tiny "Griffiths Gnat" dry fly. A few more of the same size followed, then Steve hooked into a fish with a bit more weight. Mixed up with all those rainbows was a nice brownie that eventually showed itself after a strong fight down deep.
Red, and black mayfly spinners can be found along the sheltered shores in the warmer months, as can falls of gum beetles. Small rainbows are the most active feeders near the surface on this lake, but any sized fish caught on a dry fly is a lot of fun. Traditional wet fly fishing can be very effective on rainbows, browns and Atlantic salmon. Intermediate sinking lines do come into their own when fishing a wet along the deeper edges of the lake.
Steve Hambleton and I were fishing for Atlantic salmon at the rowing course from a boat using big wets on clear intermediate sinking lines. I was already up to my tenth fly change of the morning and had just discarded a big black and red woolly bugger with white rubber legs. I was mumbling something like "that fly wouldn't catch a thing" , when Steve promptly picked it up off the deck and tied it on. A short time later, with Murphy's Law on his side, Steve was hooked up to something big. Ten minutes later he had boated a ten-pound Atlantic salmon. The fact that Steve had just caught this fish on a fly that I had only just rejected made the catch even more memorable. Needless to say I don't leave too many flies lying around the deck anymore, although it is always great to see one of these big fish landed.
Fly-fishing for salmon is basically blind flogging, but it can turn into sight fishing if you're lucky. One late afternoon I was fishing a steep shore at the dam end of the lake with an intermediate sinking line. I had scaled down the bank to fish around a submerged tree. A back cast was out of the question, leaving a roll cast as the only way to deliver the fly out to the sunken tree in front of me. After about the tenth cast I watched a salmon followed the fly up as I was raising the rod for another cast. I immediately stopped the fly dead; the salmon ate the fly virtually at my feet. I struck hard to take up the slack and all hell broke loose as the fish made a charge for deeper water. A few tense moments followed as this fish had full control. The loose line I had gathered in my hand had shot back out through the rod eyes in seconds. The drag on the reel started to slow the fish up allowing me to gain some control of the situation. After a couple of spectacular leaps and a few surging runs I managed to grab the fish by it's tail at the small ledge I was standing on. The salmon was about seven pounds and still in relatively good condition. A short time later the same thing happened, as another fish of similar size followed the fly back in at my feet and took the fly. The third fish was hooked up out wide just on dark, but quickly gained its freedom with the hook pulling free after a series of spectacular jumps. The fly was a red and black yeti and all three fish were caught within sight of the dam wall.
Barrington by Boat
The steep surrounding hills that plummet into this Lake ensures that it stays relatively calm for most of the year. On the down side, these same hills restrict access by foot around most of the lake. Even a small boat can open up parts of the lake that are rarely fished. Trolling or casting bibbed lures close to shore is a very popular method that has accounted for many trout and big salmon. Fit a boat with an electric outboard and these steep shores can be fished quietly at close range with bait, soft plastics, lures or flies. Wind lanes and slicks of insects that seem to accumulate out in the middle of the Lake, out of reach from the shore-based angler, suddenly become a viable option when you have some sort of watercraft.
Regardless of what type of fishing you enjoy, Lake Barrington can offer a change of scenery out of the wind, and a chance to land one of those big salmon.