While the Huon River itself is a fantastic fishery during springtime whitebait migrations, the smaller tributary streams are also well worthwhile. Suitable waters can be found all along the eastern side of the middle to lower Huon. The fish caught in these streams are usually small - really quite diminutive when compared to their lake inhabiting counterparts, but how often have you ever caught 50 fish a day in any of our lakes.
This is something that my fishing mates and I have achieved several times over the past few seasons, most of them on dry flies. While the numbers of fish that you can catch in these rivers certainly adds to their appeal, the scenery that surrounds you and the anticipation of what lies further upstream is what makes me return to these stunning little waters. Sight fishing opportunities are endless and if you can get over loosing the odd fly in trees or bushes, a visit to these rivers will be an enjoyable experience. There's nothing better at the end of a hot day than wading knee deep in a cool river with fish rising all around you.
These streams have good access at the numerous road bridges, but please ask landowners if you wish to cross private land. Regularly you will find that these landowners fish the rivers themselves and are more than happy to let you cross their paddocks; furthermore they may even offer advice on particular "hot spots".
There are four main rivers that I most often choose to fish; Mountain River, the Russell, Little Denison and the Weld.
Mountain River: This is the closest of the four to Hobart and seems to see the most fishing pressure. It contains only browns and most fish caught range from undersize up to about 0.5 kg but very rarely fish over 1kg are caught. I have seen one very large (and stinky) buck brown washed up dead in a logjam, although this fish was presumed to be a spawner from the Huon. There are a number of access points on this river; most noteworthy are the bridges on the roads to Crabtree and Ranelagh. There is also access around the community of "Mountain River" itself. The best fishing seems to be around the local fire station and below the next bridge, three or four kilometers up river. Most of the river is shingly runs and is definitely most suited to fly-fishing. In some spots there are slower pools that can be fished well with celtas and baits.
Russell River: This river is slightly wider than Mountain River with fewer overhanging snags. This makes it easier to fish and on some days I have even caught more trout than trees! The river can be characterised as a series of deep, slow flowing pools with intermittent runs. The fish here are often in better condition than those caught in Mountain River and range up to about 0.6 kilograms but in every bag of twelve or so there is usually one that is close to a kilo. The most convenient access is via the Denison Road bridge, but there are numerous spots all along the river. Just after the first bridge there is a road that leads to the right. There are several ideal accesses on this road as it follows the river path very closely. I urge those wishing to fish here to simply explore. The river lends itself well to all angling techniques and because of the deeper pools it is very ideal for lure fishing. Standard fly-fishing techniques and baits also work exceptionally well.
Little Denison River: Is quite comparable to the Russell, although there are less large pools and more fast flowing stretches. As a result it is most appropriate to fish with flies and celtas, although you can always find enough quite pocket water and slow stretches that are more than suitable for the bait fisherman. Most of the fish caught are just about identical to those in the Russell, but following the introduction of rainbows to Lake Skinner (The Little Denisons source) late in 1978, this species has become prevalent in bags taken at times. The fish farm in the area also contributes significantly to the rainbow population. Most of these fish are around 0.5 kilograms but I have taken some up to 4 kilograms. You can usually polaroid these large fish particularly at the tail of the large pools if they are present, but they are by no means easily caught. The easiest access point is on the Denison Road, where a bridge crosses the river.
Weld River: Perhaps one of the better fast water fisheries in the state. The Weld is set in tranquil wet sclerophyll forest for most of its length and is unique in that wild rainbows dominate it. Most of these are around 0.4 kilograms but there are others up to a kilogram. Most of the larger fish that I have seen are those found midging in the large quiet pools, but a mate of mine was creamed by huge fish he hooked in a very fast run. Access to the best fishing is to say the least difficult, but the trip is well worth it. My favourite stretch is above the "Eddy Rapids', which can be accessed via the Weld Road, unless it has been dry for a few weeks, I'd strongly recommend you take a four wheel drive, even in dry periods the road is a bit marginal.
Techniques: Because the characteristics of a river vary so much along its length, generally all angling techniques can be practiced in these rivers.
Bait fishing: Many local anglers decide to simply cast worms out into large slow pools and leave them on the bottom until unsuspecting trout eat them. While this does work I genuinely believe that you will achieve far better results if you wade or scrub bash up river casting baits into likely looking spots. By doing this you cover so much more water (and hence trout) and at least you're not just sitting there waiting if nothing is happening. Mates have had great success doing this, particularly drifting worms under floats or casting unweighted grasshoppers around later in the season. As soon as grasshoppers are available I would suggest you opt for these as the way trout take them off the surface while they're still afloat gives you a real buzz.
Lure fishing: On some days fishing with celtas up or across stream results in ridiculous bags of fish. I well remember a day when a friend of mine celta fishing alongside me was catching fish after fish. I sat on the bank after not catching a great deal, pondering at how on earth I was going to retrieve my nymph from an overhanging willow. That day I got 6 fish, while my friend lost count at twenty or so. My friend and I have had most success with small red and black style celtas although others prefer the green and black ones. We don't like those ones with the red wool around the treble hook however. We had a couple of old ones that worked heaps better once we got rid of the wool. If you're getting heaps of taps and bumps but no solid hook-ups you may consider replacing the treble with a standard straight eye hook- size 10 long shanks are ideal. It seems that when fish are not taking the celtas aggressively from the side the three hooks simply don't work as effectively - for us anyway. Also remember that most of the trout in a river will be pretty much on the bottom. Therefore your celtas should be in a similar position, simply adjust your retrieve speed and the time you allow the celta to sink to suit each piece of water.
Fly-Fishing: This, to me, is the real draw card of the streams in this region. On most warm days, from late October through until January, caddis hatch during the afternoon and evening. Most fish feeding on these in the evening will be small, but they are sometimes difficult to catch, particularly those in stiller water. Fish that take the emerging caddis (especially stick caddis) have a real liking to thin bodied red tags. The standard red tag is difficult to see at times and so I usually add a set of white wings to remedy this. Later on in the rise, the fish usually start to concentrate on the caddis "moths" themselves, and these fish are, at times, a real challenge. I have had most success with #14 elk hair caddis patterns. Beetles often fall into the water during the middle of the day. Beetle feeders will normally take any well presented dry, but at times they also love a sinking black beetle pattern, particularly if it is splatted down slightly above and to one side of the fish. Most mayflies that inhabit these streams don't hatch like those in the lakes. Instead of floating to the surface to hatch, they crawl out onto rocks in the middle of the river. As a result, the fish don't normally have access to them until they begin laying eggs later in the evening. Although on a couple of occasions I have seen fish picking emergers from rocks, quite an amusing behaviour when you observe this for yourself. Midges frequently stimulate consistent risers in the slower silt lined pools. On a couple of occasions I have encountered good-sized rainbows sipping down midge after midge in the Weld. These fish are normally willing to take a small, insect green, parachute emerger.
If rising fish are hard to find upstream nymphing will usually produce results. In smaller, slower flowing water I usually don't bother with anything more than a nymph, weighted appropriately for the depth and flow, on the end of a six-foot leader. In broader, faster water I always opt for a tandem rig of a dry with a nymph below it. Remember that you usually want the distance between the nymph and dry to be a bit longer than the depth of the water. This rig has a number of useful attributes. Firstly any drag that lifts the nymph off the bottom is more obvious and easier to control with the dry. The dry itself may be taken which keeps things interesting and finally the dry acts as a strike indicator. When the dry skates upstream or dips below the surface, strike instantly. There is normally no need for delay as any take has probably taken place long before the indicator moves. Any non-descript dry fly works well as long as it floats well enough to suspend a heavy nymph. The whole technique is also easier if the dry is highly visible. Most often I use the all time classic Royal Wulff, with a few modifications-see the recipe below. For a nymph, my first choice is always a 007, weighted in slow water and with a bead head in faster water. Others well worth trying are bead headed olive nymphs and bead headed hares" ear and coppers. Just try a few patterns until you are confident the fish are taking your fly more often than not.
These are only four of the rivers I most often fish, reliable sources tell me that Kellaways Creek and Judds Creek, although small, are well worth investigating. Afterall this is Tasmania and trout inhabit just about every gutter, ditch, dam and puddle so I strongly urge you all to go exploring. Each river is many kilometers long and on just about every trip I find some new stretch that really gets me excited, especially when I see that nose poke out of the water, just underneath and overhanging Ti-tree. I put in a side cast, just under the branch... and botch it! Red tags don't really work that well two-foot above the water firmly lodged in Ti-tree branches. Not to worry though, there'll be other fish - just around the next bend.