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Huntsman Lake

This year’s brown trout season is already half over and it does not go down in my diary as one of the best. I have been lucky enough with time off and holidays to fish all my favourite waters including Echo, Great Lake, Woods and Arthurs but all have disappointed so far. One water however that stands out as being consistent is Huntsman Lake at Meander. I have had a great season here so far and eagerly anticipate the start of the dry fly season of this hopefully gum beetle encircled lake. 
Huntsman Lake was in the planning stage for decades and after the many issues which delayed it, including the local quoll populations swimming abilities, the lake was finally completed and opened in 2008. The lake has flooded the upper reaches of the Meander River about 5 kms south of Meander. It is encircled almost completely by native bush and forestry plantations. It is an extremely picturesque lake with magnificent views of the surrounding Western Tiers, Ironstone Mountain and Mother Cummings Peak. Apart from the upper reaches of the Meander River it is also fed by three large inflowing waters namely Warners Creek and Dunning and Sales Rivulet. With this year’s high rainfall the lake has maintained a very high level and has spilled several times. 
Only a few hundred metres off the boat ramp the lake plunges to just over 110 feet deep but the majority of the western and southern shorelines feature extensive areas of shallow water. The water has not been as clear as expected but the high rainfall and constant wind has not helped. Despite this the lake has visibility of around 6ft which has remained fairly constant all season.
Trout stocks
The trout stocks in Huntsman Lake were initially supplemented by 1000 Great Lake 2 pound brownies which were stocked into the Lake just prior to its opening in 2008. These fish would have supplemented the already sizeable number of half pounders that already existed in the Meanders upper reaches. Only brown trout exist in the lake and a bag limit of 12 trout over 220mms applies. For the first 12-18 months a number of fish of 3-4 pound were taken, most in excellent condition. This season has only yielded a few of these larger fish with the vast majority being around the one pound mark. The biggest I have personally seen taken was a well conditioned two pounder. With numerous spawning streams, Hunstman Lake was never destined to be trophy trout water.
The Huntsman Lap
Beginning at the Meander Dam and boat ramp it does not take long to appreciate the excellent amenities that are on offer. There are several excellent viewing areas around the dam which are well worth a look when the lake spills. The boat ramp is dual lane concrete construction with parking nearby for around fifty cars and trailers. A convenient toilet is situated a short distance from the ramp. 
Once the boat is launched the entire northern or road shore is fishable from the boat or shore. There are several small side roads which lead to the water’s edge but for the most part the water is only casting distance from the road. The lake plunges deeply along most of this shore, there are some shallow areas at the obvious points and these have produced trout on most outings either spinning or trolling. A particular hotspot is the small bay about half way along the northern shore where a small drain flows into the lake. Do not drive or boat past it without a few casts. The other hot spot along this shore is the western most 300 metres of timbered shoreline. It features several sharp drop-offs and many sunken stumps and needs to be fished thoroughly. Wet fly fishing from the boat is productive here, back casts from the shore are difficult. Spinning here from boat is probably the best method.
The western shore or Paynes Landing is within walking distance from the Huntsman Road and many anglers have chosen to park at the Dairy BBQ area and walk either north or south along the shore from here. There are four angler access points along this road providing easy access to this most productive shoreline. The entire 1.5ks of shore has ample unrestricted casting available with only a few sunken fences being the biggest obstacles. For boaters the entire shore is relatively shallow, snag free and very productive. This is a stand out area for fly fishing on the lake with some perfect flood plain fishing available when the lake spills. The high water mark is quite obvious along the whole shore and reveals the tussocks that are inundated when the lake rises. This shore has also been a productive soft plastic area as the snag free water enabled the lure to be dropped right to the bottom. A hot spot on this shore has been the small inflowing creek on the northern side of McNeil Bay. The sounder has revealed the creek channel to quickly drop off into over 15 feet and continue into the lake. We have caught trout around this channel on ever trip. It can be fished from the shore or boat.
The forestry road which runs into the southern end of McNeil Bay effectively ends the grassy unrestricted shore fishing around Huntsman. From here the southern forestry clad shore make up the rest of the lake. This shore includes the inflows of the four major feeder streams including the Meander River, Sales Rivulet, Dunning Rivulet and Warners Creek. The Meander is the first encountered and from a boat is actually quite easy to miss as it flows in via small bay. On our most recent trip however after 75mm of rain the inflow was quite pronounced with the current extending visibly into the lake for several hundred metres. We caught fish spinning all through the faster water with the largest specimen, a slightly slabby two pounder nailed hard up against some trees on the edge of the current. The Sales Rivulet mouth is smaller but still worth several casts. The next and possibly best hotspot in the lake is the mouth of Dunning Rivulet situated about half way along the southern shore. The distinct creek channel shows up clearly on the sounder and needs to be explored fully. Our best fish including a nice two pounder have been taken from this area. Beware some notable snags on the eastern side of the inflow which already support a number of my soft plastics and lures. This southern shore is productive its entire length and with the prevailing westerlies that sweep the lake boat anglers are able to fish the whole shore without much repositioning. We have concentrated on the 8 -15 foot mark using plastics and rapalas for best results. The remaining shore from Warners creek back past the dam to the boat ramp is deep an unproductive.
Fishing methods
I would describe Huntsman Lake as an ideal all round water with scope for boaters and shore anglers alike. Spinning, trolling, soft plastic fishing and fly fishing all have their place here. Remember the Lake is artificial only. A boat is an obvious advantage as all the areas described can be more easily reached. At a little under an hour’s drive from either Devonport or Launceston it is conveniently situated for many anglers. Despite this it is certainly not being overfished, 7 boats the most I have yet seen at once. Stand out lures have been the ever reliable CD 7 rapala in Hot Mustard Muddler colour. Having caught his bag on this lure last trip I’m sure Roger will back me up on this recommendation.(I still haven’t worked out what repellent he placed on mine) As always a fast twitchy retrieve will yield better results when spinning with these lures. Soft plastics in the form of 50mm Gary glitter have accounted for most other fish. I’m not a keen wet fly fisherman so I can’t recommend a favourite pattern here. Others I have spoken to have caught reasonable numbers on fur flies, woolly buggers and nymphs. Our best days by far have been in the worst weather conditions when lake has been filling or spilling. Like most waters when the levels start to drop the trout quickly retreat from the shallows. I now just wait for the hopefully great dry fly action that may occur on Huntsman Lake if we ever see the sun this season.

Shane Flude