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Fishing on the Wild Side

Fishing on the Wild Side

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.

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Presented from Issue 95
I am lucky enough at the moment to be working a two weeks on, one week off roster. When I switched over to this roster I decided it was time for some midweek trips to places I have not fished a lot in the last few years.

A couple of years back whilst involved in the making of the fly fishing movie The Source Tasmania I had the opportunity to meet some champion blokes. Chris Reygaert flew over from Western Australia to help his brother, film maker Nick and he stayed at my house for a week or so. He ended up moving back to Tasmania to live a short time later, and we have become good mates. I love nothing more than spending a day on the water with Chris. He is a very accomplished fly angler and has a brilliant eye for a great photo, which is something I am becoming more passionate about with every fishing trip.

So with that in mind a phone call was made to see if we could tee up a trip Grand Final week. Our work schedules agreed and we met at the shack at Great Lake on Grand Final eve morning. We had originally decided on hitting the Great Lake in the boat, but I had heard a whisper that the gate out to the Western Lakes might be open. I mentioned this to Chris whilst we were lighting the fire and preparing the lamb roast for the slow cooker. He didn’t even have to speak, I knew from the look in his eye he was keen for a walk, but a quick reply of hell yeah lets do it just confirmed it. Another quick phone call to Parks and Wildlife at Liawenee just to be sure was all we needed. The fire was shut down, the roast turned on and we were away.

The drive out through the Nineteen Lagoons to our chosen departure point was exciting to say the least. All the talk was of us maybe being the first ones out to the area for the season, and how easy the fish would be, yeah right. Don’t we as fisherman have evil minds!. Once at our departure point the packs were loaded, Boags Red cans were stashed to cool down for rehydration on our return and we were off on foot. The walk in to our chosen lake was uneventful but full of more of the same banter as the car ride. Finally we arrived and were happy to find the lake chock full of water. By now it was mid morning, but there was quite a bit of patchy cloud rolling through. Guess what, by the time we got there we had convinced ourselves that being the first anglers to fish it for the season there would be tailing fish everywhere. Well there wasn’t!.

First fish

We had walked a reasonable amount of shoreline and things were not looking promising. The water was flooded right up into some areas of marsh land and it looked extremely fishy, but it wasn’t to be. The tailing fish we had hoped to see just weren’t there.

I decided to move on ahead and make use of the available patches of clear sky to see if I could polaroid some fish around a deeper ledge. Chris made the decision to get out in the water and use the light to his advantage, so he could see back into the shallower edges I had skipped past and it paid off for him. It was only a matter of minutes before I heard a whistle and some yelling coming from back over the bank. I gathered in my fly and ran back to do the duties with the camera if and when required. By the time I got there Chris had the big golden brown well and truly under control and after a bit more thrashing around he slipped the weigh net underneath the fish and scooped him out of the water. At five pounds he was an awesome fish and a pretty good way to open our Western Lakes account for the season.

We ripped the camera out of the dry sack and fired off some photos then Chris gave me the run down on the capture. He was sneaking along just out from the bank when he spotted the fish right in on the edge, flicking out his woolly bugger fly he thought the fish had spooked. When it turned and came straight towards Chris he thought the opportunity was lost but a skilled flick of the wrist landed the fly right in front of the fish again, only metres from where he stood. Then through the magic of polaroiding Chris stood in amazement as the big brownie turned and sucked the wet fly in right before his eyes.

All that was left to do was set the hook and hang on.

Missed chances

After the excitement of the first capture had passed we gathered the gear up and headed off around the lake shore again. We polaroided a couple of nice pieces of water and blind fished some deeper ledges with big heavy fuzzle buggers for no result. The next small bay we came to looked promising, and I cant explain it but sometimes you just get a feeling there will be a fish about.

As I was walking around the edge I happened to look down at my feet and noticed a couple of small brown froglets in a pool of water. This only heightened the expectation of seeing a fish, and wouldn’t you know it. I crept past a low lying bush and there on the other side of it was a fish lying in just a foot of water. He was hard in against the bank, obviously waiting for the unsuspecting food items to fall into the main lake. I froze on the spot and the fish turned and slowly started to swim away. Initially I was thinking he had seen me and had spooked but I flicked the unweighted brown fuzzle bugger out anyway, can’t die wondering!.

As soon as the fly splatted on the water the fish turned in an instant and charged it. He came straight for it, stopped with his big brown snout right behind it and sucked it in, all within a rod’s length of me. I set the hook into a solid weight and let out a shout of excitement. The fish which was another good brown, but not quite as big as Chris’s first one gave two big head shakes and the fly pulled out, then it was him giving the shouts of excitement as he swam away from me. Oh well, you win some and lose some, still hurts though. I regained my composure (some would call it finished crying) and we set off again. We walked over the bank into the next bay and straight away another fish went unsighted due to the glare on the water. When I was nearly up beside him he took off in a cloud of silt. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse so we decided on a new approach. By now the sun had changed position behind us and when it broke through the clouds we were at a bad angle to see into the water with the glare from the cloud cover. We got well back off the edge and walked the shore for a bit with the intention of coming back up with the sun behind us to help get a better view into the water.

Second fish

When we got to our intended spot to turn around the sun had come out slightly and visibility was pretty good so I decided to have a look in a small bay that was on a slightly different angle. I waded into about knee deep water and started to fan a few short casts around as I walked and scanned the water. After a few minutes I thought I noticed something behind my fly. As it got closer and into full view I could clearly see a fish tracking the fly. I would give the fly a few strips and he follow only a few inches behind it. When I stopped stripping he would sit dead still on the bottom, again only inches from the fly. This continued till the fish got so close that I think he seen me and turned and left the shallows at full noise. Whilst not doing a lot for the stress levels it did turn on my senses and make me concentrate on the task at hand. I had only waded a few more metres when I noticed a swirl in the shallows ahead of me. A quick back cast to change direction and the fly was landed in the area where the fish was spotted. I only had time for two strips and the water erupted. I lifted the 4wt to set the hook home and knew straight away I was into a good fish.

He headed for the deeper water with a big, slow powerful run that I could do nothing to stop. Then all of a sudden the line went tight and stopped moving, he was snagged on a rock. I yelled out to Chris to come over and grab my pack off me, I was preparing for a swim as I knew it was a decent fish. I started to wade out as deep as I could to try and reach the fish when all of a sudden the line went loose. Thinking the fish had come off I let out a few choice words and started to wind in. Wouldn’t you know it the line came up tight again and the fish was away on another surging run. This time things went my way and after a few minutes Chris slipped the net under a cracking buck brown which pulled the scales down to 6.5 pounds. When I got him out of the net the fly was already out of his mouth, so he was a bit unlucky. Once again the camera got a thorough workout before the fish was slipped back into the water to fight again another day. It was now back over to Chris as I really didn’t care whether I cast another fly all day.

Third fish

Chris had decided by now that another change of tactic was in order and tied on a big black dry fly he had been playing with at the tying bench. We were working our way along the final piece of shore having done a full lap of the lake. Chris was searching all the likely looking spots with the dry and I was wandering behind him prospecting the deeper water offshore with my fuzzle bugger. I wasn’t really concentrating, still thinking about the previous fish when Chris brought me back to reality when I heard him yell “I’m on again”. He had been drifting his dry fly around some rocks right close to the bank when a big brown snout came up and gulped it down. This fish was bit nicer to us and put up a determined but clean fight. It was only a matter of minutes before the weigh net was once again slipped under a fine Western Lakes brown. The handle was released and Chris had his second 5 pounder of the day, a truly magnificent sample of the fish I love so much. As we watched him slowly swim back into the depths we both looked at each other with the realisation that it was time to start the walk out.

Gear and Celebrations

We both used 9 foot rods for this days fishing, Chris a 5wt GLX Loomis and me a 4wt TCX Sage. Weight forward floating lines were all that was required as we just used heavier flies with bead heads or lead wire when needed, or not fishing dry flies. Six pound tippet on the end of our tapered leaders was all we used for the day. I always carry a clear camo intermediate line on a spare reel in my pack for extra depth, but it wasn’t used on this day. One of the most important pieces of equipment for this type of fishing is, I believe the weigh net. These types of net have a set of scales in the handle that you release and it weighs your fish for you. If your going to spend some time and serious leg work chasing bigger fish its nice to take the guess work out of it when you finally land one. By the time we got back to the car the cans were nice and cool, and tasted just like we had hoped. That night back at the shack we enjoyed a slow cooked roast and celebrated the days fishing,hard. When I woke up the next morning I realised the celebrations were probably a bit to hard. Oh well you don’t have a day like that on the water every day, do you!.

Gavin Hicks

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