Presented from Issue 113, December 2014
Lake Gordon is truly one of Tasmania’s forgotten waters. Visitation here would be one of the lowest in the state from our 20,000 plus licensed anglers. But given you hit this place at the right time it can turn on some very memorable fishing.
Lake Gordon History
Lake Gordon itself is an impressive piece of water. A 140m high concrete arch dam holding back a body of water with a surface area of 272 km 2 and an astonishing 11.9 cubic million litres of water. At the time of completition, despite a strongly led and backed protest from environmental groups, the Stage 1 Gordon River Development produced the single largest water storage and hydro electric scheme of its kind in Australia, dwarfing Lake Eucumbene threefold.
Please note: there are lots of pictures at the end of the article.
| A 140m high concrete arch dam holding back a
body of water with a surface area of
272 km 2 and an astonishing
11.9 cubic million litres of water.
Adams Bay as very impressive as a spectacle with a towering waterfall entering the lake from the Adams River which runs through the old mining town of Adamsfield where Osmiridium was once mined. Officially proclaimed in October 1925, Adamsfield saw 2000 people living there but by the end of the harsh 1926 winter some 1300 residents had left. At the time Adamsfield was producing the world’s only pen nib quality Osmiridium with £100,000 of ‘ossie’ recovered fetching up to £31 per ounce which at the time was extremely good money in anyone’s pocket. By the late 1940s the last resident, Stan Gerney, who stayed on as Post Master passed away leaving the town desolate.
Rising water levels produces the best fishing as rainfall gathered in countless inflows raise the level of the lake covering long exposed ground. The long arms of the many bays provide good fishing as their reaches tend to slope in to shallow bays that allows a lot of ground to be covered quickly as levels rise. The many inflows themselves providing possibly the best fishing. Another highlight being juvenile perch feeders. Gum beetle falls are relatively good unlike nearby Lake Pedder but it’s rare to see fish up on them sadly. Mudeye hatches are also almost non-existent when compared to Pedder but this can be associated largely due to the dramatic rise and fall of the lake due to hydro power generation requirements.
Popular areas to fish are Ragged Basin when levels allow it, as it can often be empty at low supply. At levels of reasonable to high supply Ragged Basin, easily the most popular area to fish, along with both the northern end of Holley Basin and Pokana Bay all fish quite well. But you have to hit them as it is rising, not months later.
As water levels fall the fish can all but disappear at times leaving you wondering just where they all went. Adams Bay can fish okay, but it’s a long drive by water from any part of the lake and herein lays the problem with many of Gordon’s fishy areas. It’s such a huge body of water with very limited access much of the lake still remains untouched by anglers. Ragged Basin stands as the most fished but largely due to a boat ramp a short drive off the Gordon River Rd.
Your next option is launching at the power station ramp between the intake and the dam wall. Very deep water, largely uninviting but nearby Knob Basin providing reasonable fishing in rising water levels.
That leaves option number three; that is Boyes Basin. It’s a long drive in along Clear Hill Rd but to me it’s the best fishing in the lake and most other devotees agree that fish this water. Launching is directly off the old logging road and can be tricky, both soft and difficult if not impossible to turn at times. I’d suggest two vehicles at most times in the year and NEVER without a chainsaw. Tree falls are a major problem.
I don’t fish it anywhere near enough but the long drive in at around an hour after leaving the bitumen can be well worth the effort. The only warning is it can be under full working load as the region is logged heavily and the gate is often locked. This is not the case at present but can be subject to change at any time. A key can be obtained by deposit from Forestry Tasmania.
Aside from a full Pokana Bay, Lake Gordon doesn’t get any prettier at full supply and is where you will find the mighty Gordon River entering the lake. Very deep water at the neck gives way to a gently sloping shore under the mountain range. The Gordon River extends up a majestic valley snaking between Mt Wright and The Thumbs and hooking north through the flat valleys extending through a huge catchment area starting its flow from just south of Lake King William.
Trolling in Boyes Basin can be very successful and probably produces the most fish for the regular visitors. Devotees state and average size of around 1.3-1.5 kg, a double figure fish also landed last season here to trollers. Both flat line and lead-line trolling can be rewarding.
Given the amount of timber standing, Tassie Devils are by far the most popular lure, still relatively inexpensive they are very effective but don’t hurt as much to lose as a $25 minnow to a submerged tree or branch. Trolling the old river bed is very popular and at low levels is easily followed through the drowned timber that covers much of the lake. The shallow sloping bank under Mt Wright and it’s mountain range is relatively open compared to the remainder of the bay and in rising levels provides exceptional fishing. Looking at it under low levels you would swear the black clay banks would hold yabby beds galore much like Pedder but again that hydro draw down basically eliminates life that can sustain beyond a season or two such is the dramatic change.
Regardless of any time of the year one thing that never changes is the Gordon River inflow. This produces fish. Massive boulders are strewn across the valley floor some as big as houses, many siting in the river making for dramatic pools, eddies and back waters in the usually reliable flow. Some of these you can imagine probably fell a million years ago. Some very recent leaving a visible scar through the forest as they crash from the mountain face several hundred meters above leaving a bright pink scar on the granite rock face where they once sat through the eons.
It’s where the river directly enters the lake that can be the best fishing. Both casting lures here or fishing soft plastics deeper through the 2-5 metre range leading up to the faster flowing water can be extremely effective. The trout usually take without refusal and don’t be shy on bright colours. Did someone say Nuclear Chicken. Fishing lures, something with a rattle doesn’t hurt. The water is dark and tannin stained such is all of the west coast storages. On my last visit I chose to tie on a 70 mm Zipbait in a trout pattern. Several quick fish later, the reason for its success was soon revealed. A fish coughed up some very fresh perch fry around two inches long and they lay beside my lure on the boat floor. It was an unintended but perfect match the hatch. Still one of the best ways to fool the trout in any water.
We proceeded to pull half a dozen fish from the fast flow throwing lures beside the big boulders. No doubt missing many fish lying deeper in the holes beside many of the rocks. They hit incredibly hard and in the fast water put up a great fight before tiring quickly. Disappointing was the condition of the fish. While a couple were in good to very good condition the rest were left wanting. One large fish around 3kg rolled on my lure swinging across current and never connected.
Despite repeated casts with lures and plastic it couldn’t be raised again nor sighted the following day. A similar fish over 2 kg was lost after a brief but aerobatic display. Some friends fished this lake last year taking some serious fish to 3.5 kg all caught lure casting. An even bigger fish at an estimated 5 kg was lost after a brief encounter with a giant boulder.
The redfin perch in Lake Gordon grow pretty big too. There’s a massive population of stunted small fish but here you can find some genuine trophy redfin. We managed a best of just under 30 cm this trip but in the past I’ve landed them close to 4 lb in the old scale. The second crew we travelled with landed several well over a kilo while we were there this time around and they were in exceptional condition. We even finally tried one in the camp oven and I must say they were right, they do taste pretty good.
Given its current level of 33.2 m below full supply and even more to fall it’s not a pretty place with a huge perimeter scar marking the entire lake edge. But this will give way to rising water levels at some time in the not too distant future. And this will see the fish grow. Condition will pile on and the average size will soar. Such is the massive catchment area of this huge lake in recent July rains that saw floods in some areas of Tasmania, Lake Gordon rose 1.1 m in 8 days. If you can fathom that amount of water over 272 km 2 surface area, then factor in that Hydro Tas were drawing 100 mm per day at the same time it makes it even more extraordinary. This lake can add water unlike no other in the state.
It can be a very daunting water given its size but the rewards can be great. They also can be few if you take it on at the wrong time. But that‘s part of life and fishing, sometimes you just have to try it. It’s a very beautiful and special part of our world, in our own backyard. Combined with a visit to the majestic Lake Pedder it’s well worth a look if you have a few days to spare in our wild and rugged South West Tasmania.
Google map of Lake Gordon Area
A map for a PDF supplied by IFS - It links to the PDF
Tree falls on Clear Hill road are common.
Launching can be a test.
The results can be spectacular.
Matching the ‘refin’ hatch.
Monster stoneflies are on the menu.
Plenty of trees to navigate.
Fishing amongst the boulders can be rewarding.
A stunted redfin from Gordon.
Tannin coloured waters hold plenty of fish.