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Presented from Issue 104, June 2013

Macca and I were kicking back in my tying room in early January this year tying a few flies, having a beer and talking about the seasons exploits. He was filling my head with stories of his Western Lakes adventures and big golden brown trout. Eventually I couldn’t stand it any longer, the images that were being painted in my head became unbearable.

It had been mid-December since I had been to the Julian Lakes area on a three day mission and I just had to get fishing again. Doing my best to sound polite I said “Macca please shut up with all the stories old pal its killing me, lets just get a trip organised and get out West to polaroid some of those trophy browns”. He didn’t take a whole lot of convincing that it was a good idea, so first things first we got the calendar out to settle on some dates that would work for both of us. Sounds easy, but I can assure you when both parties work and you factor in family, sport etc. it’s not always so.

Eventually we settled on a couple of weekends to choose from that suited us both, only problem being we would have to wait until the middle of March for the trip to happen. It seemed like such a long time to wait, I wasn’t sure if I would cope!.

At least I had plenty of preparation work to do with gear and the like, and of course I would have to have a couple of fishing trips in between just to get back in the rhythm of things again. It had been a while after all.

Preparation

It had been a good while since I had done a backpacking trip into the Western Lakes. On the Julian Lakes trip mentioned earlier I was lucky enough to be chauffeur driven in there in Craig Rist’s Land-cruiser. Let me tell you when you have a vehicle set up as well as Craig’s and you have the luxury of it being as big as a cruiser you don’t exactly have to skimp on gear if you know what I mean!

Anyway, back to the gear preparation. First thing was to dig out all my hiking gear from the various spots it was tucked away — not an easy task when you have my memory capacity.

The four seasons tent was unpacked to check pegs, ropes etc. It was a good thing it was because it had a nice tear in it down low on one of the vestibules. It wasn’t hard to work out how it got there either because my old pointer who was happily laying in the sun in the corner of the tying room all of a sudden wasn’t able to open his eyes and look at me any more!

Sometimes that dog is very lucky we are best mates. So all the hiking/ backpacking gear was rounded up and sorted out. I even found a couple of dehydrated meals that expired in 2008 hiding away. Now it was time to sort out the fishing gear.

Flies

I don’t think I had been broken off by a fish in years, but on the last fishing trip I had two fish bust me off, one after the other. That had left me with only one of my current favourite flies to do me for the remainder of the trip. I wasn’t going to let that happen again, so some long nights were spent at the tying desk stocking up Western

Lakes flies.

Then it was just a matter of sorting out the rest of the gear we as fly fishermen think we need to carry. It is a horrible thought after all that you will be way out in the middle of nowhere and you have somehow forgotten that one thing you really need, especially if you don’t have Craig’s Landcruiser.

Finally everything was sorted and laid out on the floor ready to pack, which left only one key piece of prep work left to do. The pack was stuffed full of rags along with a few free weights to make up twenty kilograms worth and I went for a few training walks.

I don’t think it matters how fit you are it is still a bit of a shock to the system when you throw that sort of weight on your back and head off on a long walk, especially when you encounter some more difficult terrain and changes in elevation.

A couple of weeks out from the trip we had settled on a definite date so the maps were brought out and an area was decided on that would give us a good chance of hopefully finding some bigger fish.

I wrote down a rough plan of where we would be going, times and dates etc. to leave at home with my wife. I always like to do something like that just in case of emergency.

It wasn’t long after this that things started to go pear shaped. I had a trip to Gladstone in Queensland come up for work, which was cancelled at the last minute due to cyclonic weather in the region. Then Macca had something pop up that he couldn’t avoid so the date was changed and locked in firm for the following weekend. Then mother nature reared her nasty, but amazing head. In the days leading up to our trip the forecast was going from bad worse. Finally the departure date had arrived and the forecast was for rain, overnight snow showers and some strong winds thrown in as well.

The decision was made to postpone the backpacking trip and head to the shack at the Great Lake to do things in a bit more comfort.

Plan B

Saturday morning came round and the gear was packed in the car for the drive to Miena.

On the way up the mountain from Deloraine we decided that we would head straight to the nineteen lagoons area and see what was about. Upon arrival at Liawenee we were greeted with the sight of a wall of the blackest cloud you would ever like to see coming at us from the other direction.

It was obvious that it was bringing with it a mother lode of rain so we changed plans again and headed for Little Pine Lagoon to see what was about. I have had some really good fishing to late season tailers there over the last few years so it was definitely worth a look. By the time we got across the plain to Cameron’s Lagoon the rain had started and it was heavy. We got to the dam wall car park at The Pine and the rain didn’t look like stopping, so we did what any normal fishermen would do. We sat in the car for a while and moaned our guts out about how it is always fine weather during the week when you are at work then it turns to crap of a weekend when you have a fishing trip planned!

After we got that out of our systems we got some gear on and headed for a look up the back shore. Macca was fishing his four weight and he decided to try a dun pattern with a nymph dropper to start with. I had a sage TCR five weight rod that I had only taken delivery of on the Thursday morning. I was very keen to get on the water and have a cast, even if it was at nothing. I opted for an orange foam bug. What else do you do when its pouring rain and blowing a gale but stick on a big dry fly. A couple of hours were spent on the back shore with no fish seen, but I got myself nicely acquainted with new rod and took some photos. Then in a moment of madness we decided why not have a look at the Nineteen Lagoons anyway, yep good idea that was. We headed for Second and Double Lagoons and what a site it was.

Second Lagoon was roughly the size of half a footy field and ankle deep at best. I waded right through the middle and across it to see if I could spook a fish but nothing was seen anywhere. Macca stumbled across a platypus that looked like its eyes had been pecked out trying to find its way to safety. For two keen fly fishermen like ourselves it was disturbing to see and like a scene from our worst nightmares.

We then headed further down the track to Double Lagoon. The weather had by this stage eased off a touch and there was a tiny patch of blue sky coming past every now and then. Macca headed around the shoreline to look for a tail but I decided to stay back and wade the sandy beaches to see if I could polaroid a fish in the brief moments of sun that were passing.

The wind was blowing hard into the shore and I just thought maybe there might have been a fish cruising in close picking up anything that was being blown in or stirred up by the wave action.

With this in mind I opted to tie on a small brown fuzzle bugger to present in front of a cruising fish if the chance arose.

I also changed to a thicker butt tapered leader and shortened it down in length quite a bit to around eight feet. The chances of spooking a fish in these conditions were going to be minimal and the shorter length would help me greatly to turn the fly over if I needed to make a cast at a fish into the teeth of this wind.

After an hour or so with no fish seen we got sick of the conditions and decided to head for the warmth of the shack and its wood fire. We settled in for a warm by the fire and big plate full of steak and kidney stew for tea. After the stew had settled we came up with another genius idea, let’s hit Swan Bay and pull some wets on dark.

When we arrived on the eastern shore of the bay it was again pouring with rain and the wind was ripping up the lake from the south west corner. Macca decided the best option was to stay put in the car but I decided to have a quick cast anyway.

I did have a new rod to play with after all. It didn’t take long though, half hour later and no fish touched and I was back at the car to be greeted by a very happy looking Macca, who was very quick to point out that he had made the right decision. At least we would get a nice sleep with the rain on the shack roof and the wind howling.

The alarm was set for five o’clock the next morning just in case conditions improved somewhat and we could still sneak a nice long day walk somewhere. I remember still hearing rain at 3.30am then it was five and the frog alarm from my mobile phone was croaking in my ear.

A quick look out the window revealed sleety showers so we again opted for Little Pine to see if there was any tailing fish in close. As the sun began to rise in the east in didn’t turn into a bad morning for tailing conditions. But in keeping with the bad run of luck we were having for the weekend only one fish was spotted. We saw him twice in the shallows but the second time he was about thirty metres from where we first seen him which makes it a bit hard to track them.

On the plus side we had plenty of time to play around with our cameras and take some different styles of photos. We even managed to practice undoing some casting knots which is always good fun.

Last chance....

We decided to try one last thing to resurrect the weekend. We headed back to the shack packed up our gear and cleaned up, then hit the road. What managed to save the weekend for us I hear you asking, the good old Mersey River. We had driven nearly three hundred kilometres around the country side and now we were five minutes drive from my back door polaroiding and catching trout on foam grasshoppers within a few minutes of leaving the car.

I have to say though deep down I was quietly happy that I broken in the new TCR rod — on the Mersey that has been so good to me. So I guess that’s what can happen when you love to fish on Tamania’s Central Plateau, sooner or later the weather will derail even the best laid plans and you will have to resort to your plan B to keep on fishing.

After all a weekend of bad weather at the shack is still better than being at work.

I have to mention two other things in finishing up this story. Don’t forget to put the new batteries in your GPS when planning the backpacking trips! Secondly thanks to my great friend Sally for the home made spring rolls.

Gavin Hicks