Lake LeakeMatt Byrne has fished Lake Leake consistently over the past 15 years and finds that despite its relatively central proximity to Launceston and Hobart, he rarely shares the lake with more than one or two other fishers! Here he gives a bit of incentive for anglers to explore this underrated and picturesque east coast water.
Lake Leake is situated approximately 30 minutes drive to the east of Campbell Town, with access via the Lake Leake Highway. Boat ramps are located just past the Lake Leake Chalet and also at Kalangadoo, the latter ramp being recommended for smaller boats only. Formal camping is available near the Chalet boat ramp and there are toilet and shower facilities available for use - contact should be made with the caretaker before using these facilities. At the time of writing, the Lake Leake Chalet and the Kalangadoo store are closed so visitors should not rely on utilising these services.
The lake itself is relatively shallow throughout but has an excellent mix of thick weed beds and drowned timber which sees that a thriving aquatic life is present. At the time of writing, Lake Leake has benefited from the big winter rains in the Macquarie catchment and is now at full capacity. This has ensured that this fishery, that was only months ago at risk of almost being completely lost, has now thankfully been restored to its former glory.
Fishing on Lake Leake is reserved for artificial lures only and a changed bag limit in recent seasons now sees that anglers may take a five fish limit with a minimum length of 300 mm. Brown, Rainbow and Brook Trout are all available, with the average size of fish being quite consistent around the 2.5 lb mark, although a growing number of fish around the 3.5 lb mark are being caught in recent seasons. Redfin Perch are found all over the lake and although the majority are stunted and often a pest to fishers, they can attain similar size to that of the trout - making them a welcome target for some anglers.
Lake Leake is very well suited to all forms of fly fishing. Early in the season during August, fish respond well to a wet fly, fished slowly in Kalangadoo Bay, Chock "n" Log Bay or around the Island. Although I don't really enjoy "flogging" wets that much anymore my favourite patterns have traditionally been the Cat fly, Green Machine and Black or Brown Woolly Buggers. Due to the shallow nature of the lake, weight forward floating lines and long leaders are all that is required to reach the required depths in just about all situations.
Provided water levels are up (as is currently the case), September normally sees a few fish foraging and to a lesser extent tailing, early morning and late in the evening. These fish are usually worm or frog feeders and they literally gorge themselves silly on these morsels! The marshes in Kalangadoo Bay and Slaters Bay are normally quite reliable locations with a small black rabbit fur fly or a stick caddis pattern suspended under a buoyant dry fly normally all that is required to trigger a take.
A quick session early this season late one afternoon when fishing over newly flooded ground saw me catch three nice browns and lose a couple of others all in under one hours fishing. A close inspection of the fish saw that they were full of wood grubs, worms and frogs showing that these fish are now getting very well fed indeed. As expected, fish condition can be variable at this time of year but it is great knowing that this side of things will keep getting better as time progresses!
As with most waters, October - November really sees the fishing fire up big time on Lake Leake and keen fly fishers can expect to encounter the first of the dry fly fishing normally by mid October - albeit weather dependant. As the lake is at a lower altitude than the highland lakes, the Duns start hatching earlier and this produces some excellent sight fishing over most of the lake with the pick of the areas being Kalangadoo Bay, Chock "n" Log Bay, and the whole length of the Big Timber shore. Once insect activity becomes more regular and water clarity improves, fishing on blue sky days will result in memorable dry fly polaroiding opportunities and can easily rival that found any of the highland lakes on such days. All the usual patterns will work, with my favourites being the deadly Claret and Black Seals Fur "Bobs Bits" style dries in size #12 - #14 when the fish are on top or a team of Brown Seals Fur nymphs if the fish are hanging deeper. Traditional patterns such as the famous Barry Lodge Emerger also work very well and that pattern was pretty much born on this lake, with the late Barry Lodge being a devoted Lake Leake expert.
Any calm morning or evening from October onwards will produce good fishing to midge feeding fish and if you get the conditions right, don't be surprised to see literally hundreds of midging fish on this lake. As usual, hunting out the windlanes and finding the concentrations of food will guarantee that you also find the fish!!! Again, I really can't go past the seals fur dries as mentioned above as rarely have they failed but I would class good boat positioning with an electric motor and precision casting accuracy as being far more important than fly choice here as just about any small dry or nymph will do the job. Getting the casting and boat positioning side of things right is quite simply the difference between catching a couple of fish or catching big numbers.
After Christmas, the dry fly fishing is quite consistent but normally due to some quite significant rises in water temperature and a drop in water level from downstream irrigation, the fishing seems best early morning and evening. For some frustrating and exhilarating sight fishing look out for the Redfin Perch fry that hatch all over the lake at this time of year. Trout can be seen smashing into these small fish everywhere, even in open water and I now find it quite entertaining to watch other fishers throw everything at these voracious feeders to no avail. As it took me around ten years to figure out how to consistently catch these fish I will leave it to others to take up the challenge but a big hint is to only bother targeting these fish during overcast weather conditions that coincide with a bit of a chop on the water - too brighter conditions and your imitation often isn't good enough to match the selectiveness of the hatch!
Spinning and Trolling
Trolling is only permitted on Lake Leake with the use of electric motors and rowing. This means that if you don't have an electric motor and you enjoy this style of fishing then you will have to do some work for a change!!
The standard old 20 gram and 7 gram hardware such as Tassie Devils, Lofty's and Tillins Cobra's with a combination of Black, Gold, Green and Red do typically well and are popular in getting most lure fishers onto a fish or two. The runs along the Big Timber shore and the circuit along the old Elizabeth River bed near the back of the Island are as good areas as any to focus your trolling efforts on. August to November are really the best months to troll on the lake due to the prolific weed growth becoming a problem as the weather really warms up post Christmas. Trolling is also advised towards the end of the season in April when weed is also less of a problem and fish regain a renewed aggression to attack lures.
Drift spinning along the Big Timber shore often produces the most consistent catches for those that enjoy casting and drifting, with most locals using the older traditional lures such as small Ashley green and gold spinners or shallow running Redfin Wonder Wobblers. As is the case in most places, soft plastics work very well with Berkley three inch Power Minnows in Pearl Watermelon, Pearl Olive, Smelt and that old faithful Pumpkinseed being hard to beat. Not surprisingly, soft plastics outfish traditional lures ten to one!
For those anglers that wish to target some of the big Redfin Perch that reside in the lake, the months of January and February seem to be a time when these big Perch get active and regular captures are made of fish between 2 - 2.5lb. All of the above methods will work and good areas to try are along the shack shore and near the dam wall not far from the camp ground. If you are lucky to catch one of these fish try cooking one up - you will be pleasantly surprised!
While Lake Leake might not have the known reputation of some of the more popular central highland lakes, it can provide some memorable fishing. The lake is well stocked and the weather is generally quite settled from spring onwards, making it an ideal venue to take the family. The really great thing about the location of Lake Leake is that Swansea is only 20 minutes away, meaning that if you want a change in fishing for Trout, you can be fishing for trophy sized Bream on the Swan River in next to no time at all!
So, why not give Lake Leake a try this coming season - the fishing is good and the scenery isn't too bad either.