Presented from Issue 97
Before you charge into this article expecting to read about the best trout in Tasmania I should warn you that it relates to the highest ones not the fattest.
It is also fraught with danger to write about something that may not be totally correct as there are still a few remote tarns that I haven’t got to yet and probably never will. There are also some higher places I have found to be devoid of trout that some sneaky specimens may now have swam up into.
Having said all this it is my belief that the highest water in Tasmania to contain brown trout is an unnamed water at around 1290m south west of Turrana Heights. We have named it Lake Australia. It is a headwater tarn on one of several streams that flow into the western side of Pillans Lake. So drag out the Pillans 1:25000 map and follow the stream that runs up through Pencil Pine Tarn to a water roughly shaped like Australia. Now read on about how to get there and what to expect on the way. Maybe it is not for this season, but why not put it on the list for later in the year.
Access to the general area can be made from three directions and are the most common routes onto the plateau. The first and closest to Lake Australia is via the Little Fisher Falls track. A scenic drive to Lake Rowallan on the Mersey Forest Road and a few turns later onto some gravel roads will see you on a now overgrown logging road just short of the Little Fisher River. Its only about 6ks up onto the plateau where the track peters out at Long Tarns. 2ks to your north east lies Lake Australia.
Next route is via Blue Peaks starting from Lake Mckenzie. Its about a 10 k walk with the only real hill being the daunting Turrana Heights at the end. From the saddle on Turrana Heights Lake Australia and nearby waters can be easily seen as can the majority of waters in the western lakes. If you ever drag yourself up the hill away from the fishing on a sunny day it is well worth the effort.
The last access I will describe in detail as there is fishing the whole way. Starting point is Pillans Lake near hut number four which is where the tortuous Pillans/Julians vehicle track culminates. From here you can fish the entire creek system up to Lake Australia as there are some superb spots along the way. The creek in question flows into Pillans a few hundred metres north east of the hut, entering into a convoluted bay. There are always some fish in this area so it pays to put in some time here before starting.
The creek itself is only worth fishing on the larger pools as most will contain one or two small brownies. Fish up to two pound are rare in the creek but average about this size in the first major water about a kilometre upstream. The long skinny outflow neck area and the creek inflow are the best spots. There are large areas of very shallow water around this small tarn which just don’t hold fish. The next 3ks up to Pencil Pine Tarn feature a number of small tarns along the creek. Most feature some deep holes and all hold fish. On a good day there should a rising a compliant brownie in each. Size is still only up to 2 pound.
Best spots on all these instream tarns is where the creek flows in. Pencil Pine Tarn is the first and only named water on this creek system. It’s a magnificent place and one of the first areas I visited and explored in the Western Lakes. The camp site under the Pencil Pines on the north east corner is simply superb and is great spot to base yourself when fishing this area. A complete lap of the tarn is recommended. You should see about 6 fish up to 3 pound. The other two named feature waters in the area are Lakes Gwendy and Lexie, both about 20 minutes away.
Both lakes are deep but again well worth the effort. Expect fish up 4 pound. There are no real hot spots on either lake, you need to lap them both. Within 2ks of Pencil Pine Tarn are some simply brilliant waters holding some of the biggest fish I have seen in the western lakes. Do not walk past seemingly tiny waters, if there is even the smallest gutter connection to the main creek or lakes then they are worth a careful look. Catch and release here goes without saying. I am sworn to secrecy as to exact locations and a quick count of waters within this distance reveals about 50 so my secrets should be safe for a while. For me the thrill of the Western Lakes has always been in the exploration and discovery.
Leaving Pencil Pine Tarn behind and travelling further upstream the creek soon becomes one long tarn at it winds its way up the valley behind Turrana Heights. This is a great section to fish with easy walking along the mainly grassy banks. There are some deeper trenches and holes and plenty of shallow water to polaroid.
This long tarn holds good fish up to about 3 pound. All bays and necks need exploring. The creek becomes quite steep at the end of this small valley and features two more small, very deep tarns just short of our destinations. Both always seem to hold at least one trout and if they are not rising cast out near the inflows anyway. From here it is only a hop skip and jump to Lake Australia, nicely nestled on the rear slopes of Turrana.
Lake Australia is about 300ms by 200ms. There are some nice elevated rocky shores along the northern shores which provide the best polaroiding opportunities as the sun is always behind you on this bank. The rest of the lake is easy to walk around. It is reasonably shallow with some deeper water offshore that cannot quite be fully seen. A large part of the lake is gravel or sand and the fish stand out well. It is hard to estimate fish numbers but a complete lap should reveal 5 or 6 so perhaps the lake contains up to double that number. They range up to about 4 pounds and it was a fish this size on an early visit that remains my most memorable. I just happened to see a tiny rise beside a large rock and a decent trout swim in underneath. I crept up and carefully threw out a very short cast with one hand whilst holding the video camera in the other. As the fly slowly drifted in near the rock on the second cast I was rewarded with what still remains as one of my best bits of trout footage as he rose and ever so gently sipped it down. It is probably why whether I see a fish in the area or not I always cast out near this rock as I past.
So this is as far up as the trout go. There is another nice looking water a very short distance further upstream which has a number of smaller waters flowing into it, however it appears that the steep inflow prevents trout travelling any further as I have never seen any above. Running a close second in top trout is the nearby Daisy Lakes at just a few metres lower and third would probably be the upper reaches of the Nile River on Ben Lomond.
The creek system which features Lake Australia is a delight to fish and explore. It could all be done in one huge day but warrants several days if the fickle Tassie weather allows. Clear sunny skies are needed for best results but if clouds prevail then blind casting into the many inflows along this system should yield some results. Time now to get out that map and head up top and if you find somewhere higher please let me know.