by Greg French
In Tasmania, summer is the time when trout anglers are most active. This is due in part to the weather being generally pleasant and people being on holidays. But it is also a time when the fish themselves are very active and easy to find (if not always easy to catch).
Although the focus shifts from the estuaries and lowland rivers to the highland lakes, good fishing is to be enjoyed state wide.
Fly fishing - Sea Trout
What a magnificent season it has been!
The runs of whitebait in most rivers were the best for years and the trout were obliging takers. Although the best of the estuary fishing is now over, runs often persist throughout the first couple of weeks of December. The Derwent (from the Tasman Bridge to New Norfolk) remains high on my list of priorities, mainly because it is close to home and I can fish perfect evenings at a moments notice.
More reliable sport is to be found in the West coast rivers (especially the Henty, Little Henty and Pieman) where late runs are common place. The difficulty in committing yourself to fishing the West is that most of us live near Hobart or Launceston and we will have to drive past the highland lakes, most of which will now be offering extraordinary fishing in their own right.
By the beginning of summer most waters on the Central Plateau will offer reliable sport for dry fly enthusiasts. Early December marks the beginning of the famed dun hatches on Little Pine Lagoon, an event which will continue until the end of March.
There has already been good action among the duns at Arthurs Lake and more of the same is to be anticipated on warm overcast days up until the end of summer.
The best fishing is from Jonah Bay to Cowpaddock Bay. The hatches usually peak between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm. Dee Lagoon is mainly a boatie's locations. Warm summer days see gum beetles emerge from the forest. Many drop on to the water, collect in the wind lanes and provide easy pickings for rainbows and browns. The Dee also offers superb early-morning midge hatches, again with the best action confined to the wind lanes. Good beetle falls can also be expected on Lake Echo, while Lake Burbury will feature midge hatches and mudeye migrations. Last year Lake Pedder offered good dry fly action from both boat and shore. Midges, duns and mudeyes all stimulated good surface activity, if only on warm settled days. Spinner hatches on the lowland broad water streams (such as the Macquarie, South Esk and Meander) usually carry over well into December but peter out as water temperatures rise post Christmas. Get in early or you will miss out on this Tasmanian highlight.
When lowland temperatures, do become excessive, it pays to switch your attention from the broad waters of the meadows to the fast waters of the forests. My northern favourites include St Pats and North Esk rivers. In the south, the best waters are the Tyenna River, the Styx River, the Weld River, the Little Denison River, Judds Creek and the Kermandie River. All of these locations fish best when levels are low. Afternoon rises are common place when the weather is mild.
The most consistent way to locate fish, especially when they are not rising or tailing, is by polaroiding. If you have never used polaroid glasses, take my advice and buy a good pair straight away. Polarising filters take away glare and reflection and enable you to see through the water - with out them, most fish escape your notice. Polaroiding is at its best on cloudless days between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. This is also the harshest time to be out in the sun, so make sure you fall into the habit of wearing long sleeves, a broad-rimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen. Even fish which are not feeding from the surface will usually rise to take a dry fly. A Red Tag on a size 12 or 14 hook is the first choice of most anglers, unless of course the trout are obviously feeding on beetles, duns or what have you. If the dry fails, try an emerger or small nymph. While proficient anglers learn to spot fish in water which is slightly tea coloured or turbid, the easiest waters to fish are crystal clear. Accordingly, the best spots to visit are Lake Echo, Great Lake, Brady's Lake, Dee Lagoon, Lake St Clair and the Western Lakes.
For me, summer is synonymous with stalking wily trout in the clear water tarns west of Great Lake. There is always action a plenty in the Nineteen Lagoons (most of which are close to 2WD roads) - and by Western Lakes standards the fish in these waters are relatively big and easy to catch. First-time visitors will find all of the essential elements of the Western lakes fly fishing tradition at lakes Botsford, Ada and Augusta (wade polaroiding) and Lake Kay (dun hatches and perhaps flood-margin trailers), while virtually all nearby waters provide equally memorable sport.
The truth of the matter is that the actual fishing gets no better no matter how far beyond the Nineteen Lagoons you care to wander. Yet many of us find the thrill of exploring and fishing the wilderness quite irresistible - and December through to late March finds fishing in the back country at its best. Some waters are renowned for their dun hatches (Silver Lake, Christys Creek, Lake Nameless), black spinner hatches (Christys Creek, Lake Naomi) and early morning tailers (Lake Antimony, Talleh Lagoons) but polaroiding remains the main business. In deepish water you can stalk fish from the banks but wherever there are extensive flats (Lake Antimony, Lake Naomi and at many other waters) it pays to wade.
If you do decided to back pack into the wilderness, make sure you are competent with a map and compass and remember that blizzards can occur at any time. You will need a sturdy tent, a four-season sleeping bag, an insulating sleeping mat, a waterproof/windproof jacket, sunscreen and lip balm, and plenty of warm clothes. Don't be afraid to talk to an experienced walker or hiking-gear retailer if you are unsure what to take.
Most fly fishers equate summer with hatches and dry fly fishing. However, the weeks either side of Christmas see lakes shore marshes teeming with tadpoles, providing some of the best wet fly action in the angling calendar. This summer should be one to remember - despite official predictions to the contrary, the Central Plateau has been wet, wet, wet! And most hydro impoundments are nearing capacity. Look for tails and bow-waves in the marshes at Lake Echo (Large Bay, Broken Bay and Teal Bay), Woods Lake (Pattersons Flats) and Lake St Clair (Narcissus, St Clair Lagoon) - I doubt that you'll have to search too hard.
Great Lake has risen to yet another record high and the trout have been gorging themselves on drowned worms. With the water well up into the kerosene bush, break-off's have been a part of the deal but with numerous opportunities it has hardly mattered. Sometimes the trout have been tailing well but polaroids have been vital for consistent results.
Lure Fishing - Lakes
Early summer is always good for spinning and trolling. Dull, rough weather delivers the best results and if things get very hot and calm it usually pays to concentrate your efforts early in the morning and at dusk. With more of the hydro lakes being close to capacity, fishing the outer edges of the marshes is bound to result in good bags of better than average brown trout. Try Lake Echo (Teal Bay, Large Bay, Broken Bay) Woods Lake (Patterson Flats), Lake Sorell (Silver Plains, Kermodes Bay, Robinsons Bay), and Arthurs Lake (Cowpaddock Bay, Hydro Bay).
Great Lake is at a new record high and the trout are feeding on the flood plains. In the 1980s and early 1990s the most successful trollers were fishing the off-shore weed beds using lead core line and down riggers to take their lures deep down to where the best browns lived. Now the best tactic is to troll or spin shallow running lures as close to the shore as possible. Although the water is well up into the bushes and there are plenty of snags to content with, great rewards await the bold.
Another water well worth a visit is Lake Gordon. This water is close to capacity and , since the shores are choked with dense regrowth forest, a sea-worthy runabout is essential. Last year trollers were catching plenty of 2 kg fish as well as some in excess of 4 kg. I doubt that the average size will fall much this year, though it will as soon as the wealth of food on the flood plains is exhausted. Fish this mini-boom while it lasts.
The best of the sea trout fishing is behind us but runs of white bait will persist in many waters until mid December. Try the Derwent, the Tamar and the Trevallyn tail race and the rivers on the West coast.
Fast water streams such as North Esk, St Pats, Tyenna, Weld, and Little Denison will give up big bags, especially when flows are moderate to low. The best lures are small blade spinners such as size 1 Celtas. Use light line (2 kg or less) so that you can deliver a good cast. Don't lose heart if the going is tough in the middle of the day - things always pick up late in the afternoon and especially after dusk. Big bags will be common place.