Presented from Issue 107, December 2013

If you’ve managed to get out trout fishing a bit like I have this season then you will probably have been cursing the lousy weather so far and the mediocre fishing that’s gone with it. I’ve sampled most of my favourite waters and can confidently say that the winner is certainly Woods Lake. The following is a brief roundup of some of our favourite locations and a detailed look at Woods Lake itself.

 Lake Echo

My overall favourite Tasmanian trout lake, a place I’ve written about a couple of times before and visited numerous times. Best times are usually mid- April towards the end of the season and September/ October. I had one of my best trips ever this April and found the trout to be concentrated along the northern wooded shore right up to the canal mouth. I did not catch a fish in the normally productive northern bays. Spinning with a Rapala cd-5 rainbow in the strong southerlies and snow showers was a perfect combination. Size of the fish was still down with only two exceeding the two pound mark. Both of these were beautifully coloured pre-spawned males. Returning on grand final weekend in September I would describe the fishing as poor in all the areas I fished over the three days. No real method produced, spinning with the rainbow Rapala just topped the soft plastic fishing. I measured every fish and can report an average size of 36cm. I did manage one nice condition rainbow, the first I’ve caught at Echo for several years. I did not see another angler or boat the entire time.

Great Lake

I make a number of day trips to Great all through the season and some of the best trips can be during the freezing winter months. Not so this year. The ever reliable Berkley t tail plastic and Rapala lure have not been savaged in their usual manner. Condition of the browns has not improved noticeably from last year and several atrocious slabs were sent to the big trout pond in the sky. The only two rainbows I caught were both in good condition but then they usually are. In years gone by I have always seen moderate numbers of galaxias darting around the rocky shallows on the wind-blown shores and the fish caught here often have freshly caught specimens inside. I have hardly seen these small fish during the last two years and have to wonder if this is why the condition factor of the trout is so low.

Arthurs Lake

When most lakes rise or fill the fishing is usually brilliant as the trout quickly clean up the flooded tucker. I have never seen Arthurs as full as right now, it is close to spilling at time of writing and a far cry from the dry and dusty Cowpaddock Bay of a few short years ago. There is now even a substantial lake above the road at the northern end of the this bay. Unfortunately Arthurs has very few clean shorelines and apart from a few select grassy shores the vast majority is scrubby bush and trees making foot access all but impossible along many shores. A boat is essential at the moment to fish these areas.

On the right shores the fishing is very good but again the small average fish size is putting some people off. The average size was 30cm for the bag I took last week. Despite the flooded conditions I would only describe their overall condition as average. Pick an overcast day on a shore that is windswept and spin with small minnows in to the bank. Wet fly fishing if probably even more effective but casting is limited to the more open shores. All the fish I caught were in only 2-3 feet of water and the fishing certainly slackened off as day went on. Try it as early as you can.

107 woods view 
 The view coming to Woods Lake

Woods Lake

So that brings us to Woods Lake, in my opinion the best all round producing water in the highlands at present and perhaps one of the best waters in Tassie now for the last couple of seasons. Fish condition is above average to excellent and they are bright red inside. I don’t normally eat many trout but the few I have from Woods have been great. Average size has been just over 41cm, biggest I’ve taken so far was a magnificent 3.5 pounder found to contain 11 frogs. Although my preferred angling method is without doubt casting a dry fly to a sighted fish I use all methods to suit the conditions or location.

On Woods I troll between spots, spin to the shores or across open water, soft plastic everywhere and fly fish with wet or dry fly. I have taken fish using all these methods recently at Woods.

The northern or boat ramp shore usually produces a trout or two for the trollers and features the deepest water at about 17 feet at present. As the season progresses and the weed grows up this shore remains the best weed free area to troll. The depth is fairly uniform across the whole lake with no real deep holes or gutters as such anywhere. The northern shore also features some good spinner hatches in close, they were thick in patches last week but unfortunately no trout rising to them. I obviously arrived a bit too late for good fly action also last week as I counted almost 40 duns in a calm pocket right near the ramp. Other anglers reported the fish were rising to them but not so when I was there.

Continuing around the lake to the right takes you to the Patterson Marshes which extend up to the inflow of the Upper Lake River. In favourable conditions these marshes provide good fly fishing from early September. I was lucky enough to strike such a day and caught some great fish including the frog feeder mentioned earlier. The skies cleared, the water visibility was well above average and the chorus of frogs right up the shore all looked promising. After nearly stepping on the first two I slowed down and swapped to a possum nymph and had a ball. Two fish even sped up to engulf the nymph and hooked themselves. The flooded dead trees about half way up the marsh contained the most fish, lurking quietly in and around the logs and emerging right at your feet from the shadows. It was real under the rod tip fishing.

107 woods trees 
 Trout among the trees

The flooded trees and strap weed areas around the inflow of the Upper Lake River is the next area reached and probably the best place to find rising fish when conditions prevail. The whole area is generally only 6 ft deep and features lots of floating strap weed which the fish seem to rise in amongst. Word has obviously got out about this location as I shared the marsh with four other boats recently. Despite seemingly great conditions we all blanked. I did spend some time trying to sneak in close enough to photograph the albino black swan that has now lived in this area for at least the last two years. Check him out next time you’re there, he does stand out somewhat.

The southern hut shore is another very popular shore for anglers as it begins in a lovely shallow grassed corner for the fly fishers and extends past the shack to a deep rocky shore great for spinning or soft plastics. The shallow corner is home to the white swan and his extended family and on approach they often disturb the water in front so not every visit here is successful.

The southern bay is my overall preferred location on Woods Lake, particularly if it is blowing from the north. I usually start with soft plastics out at the 15 ft mark and swap to small minnows spinning or wet fly as I approach the bank. In such conditions it pays to walk the whole shoreline from the bushline right past the inflow creek in the dead trees to the far rocky southern bank. I use an unweighed black woolly bugger. Sometimes the fish are right in amongst the breaking waves in only a couple of feet of water. The water visibility in these rough conditions is minimal but it pays to persist. The fish caught here are usually some of the best in the lake. The entire southern bay is also good trolling water with the weed only becoming a problem as you approach the eastern bank.

This eastern side produced good fishing early this season for trolling, spinning and plastics however as the season has progressed the success rate has fallen. In and around the only real bay was the hot spot.

This brings us back to the northern shore and dam area. This corner usually produces a fish to trolling or spinning. The dam is a common place for shore based angling.

 107 woods weeds
 Working the weed beds

I believe Woods will continue to fish well for the remainder of the season although with summer just around the corner the trolling, spinning and plastic fishing does drop off. The rising weed beds also restrict these conventional methods. Early mornings and late afternoons become the best times and all these methods are best practised in overcast or rough conditions. As temperatures rise the insect life increases making fly fishing the preferred option. I haven’t mentioned bait fishing in this article as I simply don’t bother with worms, grubs or mudeyes anymore. The lake is open to bait fishing and all these baits would have their place at the right time.

The new and improved boat ramp and car park caters well for the huge increase in anglers this lake has seen over the past few years. Scattered camping is available around the northern shore although there are only a few suitable tent sites on the rocky shores. Smaller boats can still be launched at several crude ramps along the shore. Rubbish is becoming a problem, I still can’t understand why people don’t take it home with them. Perhaps a few well placed bins would make the difference. The road in from Arthurs is holding up reasonably well but the pot holes still give the boat trailers a work out. I can’t recall the last time I saw so many threatening property signs on a country road. Dangerous snakes and spiders, really? There is patchy mobile phone service along most of the road in and on one small stretch as you descend to the lake. Woods Lake may well become the new bird watching hot spot in Tasmania. Sea eagles, wedgies, cormorants and a huge raft of coots (lost count at 500) are all seen across the lake. Don’t forget the albino swan.

Shane Flude