Presented from Issue 97
The opening of the 2011/ 2012 trout fishing season had many anglers excited, rainfall had consistently inundated the state for months prior, and our inland catchments realised levels not witnessed for many years. That being said, the overall condition of many fish landed in the central highlands disappointed anglers, Arthurs Lake and Great Lake being two of the biggest offenders when it came to not “reaching expectations”. One Central Plateau fishery that seems to have bucked the trend this season was Lake King William, where if anything, the average size and condition of its inhabitants has increased quite dramatically. Todd Lambert, John Cleary and Mike Stevens recently took a trip up there to see if the rumours were true.


Lake King William was created in 1950 when a 70 metre dam was built across the Derwent River, a quick look at the Inland Fisheries fact sheet also states that a further 6 metres was added to its height in 1966, increasing the storage capacity of the lake. Although it was stocked initially with 100,000 yearling rainbow trout and subsequent stockings continued for a short while thereafter, it was the brown trout already present in the many feeder catchments such as the Upper Derwent, Navarre River, Middle River, Rufus Rivulet and Guelph River that ended up as the dominant species within this fishery.

Because of the many waters flowing into this lake, its natural recruitment level is extremely high which explains why this water has the highest catch rate of any water in the Central Plateau region, (almost 4 fish per angler, per day).The bag limit at King William is also very generous with a daily allowance of twenty fish, per person, per day. The fish size is not large, but they are in great condition and good fun to catch by all methods.

How to get there.

Lake King William (Butlers Gorge end) can be accessed via the Lyell Highway (A10) in approximately 2 hours if you’re coming from Hobart. The best way to travel to King William from Launceston would be via the Marlborough Rd that runs between Miena and Bronte, this trip takes approximately 2 hours 40 minutes and access would be via the Derwent Bridge end of the lake. Whichever end of the state you are heading from, a 7 am start from home would have you on the water by 10 am giving you plenty of time to explore some of what this fantastic lake has to offer.

Angling Methods

Please note: all legal angling methods are allowed “on the majority” of Lake King William, but as the Western Shore from Long Bay to Guelph River is within the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, this area is restricted to the use of artificial lures and fly-fishing only.


This method is without doubt the best way to catch big bags of trout within this fishery. The sheer population of aggressive inhabitants residing here ensures that anglers covering enough water on the day will witness consistent action. Although you could use lead lines with success in the deeper regions of the lake, flat lining around the edges is just as productive.

Quality Tasmanian made cobra wobblers such as Wigstons and Sting lures would no doubt serve you well here; suggested colours would be green and gold and black and gold. A thinner diameter leader of no more than six pound breaking strain would also help with your catch rate given the waters clarity.

Soft Plastics

Light jig heads cast towards the shoreline or amongst trees and drop offs will produce big bags and whilst a boat is definitely an advantage, anglers walking the edges will also do well but will find the silty mud left by receding water levels a bit of a turn off in places. The more rocky shores thogh are a delight to fish from the shore. Lake King William fish love to hit the tails of soft plastics, resulting in many missed opportunities; a good option is to shorten the length of the lure, bringing the hook further back towards the tail end. Recommended plastics are Yep Black n gold flappers and Berkley Black n gold t tails. Once again, leaders should be light and the use of 2 to 4 pound breaking strain line will result in more action.

Fly Fishing

Small wets, beetle patterns, jassid patterns, dun patterns, I don’t think it matters as the fish here just don’t seem fussy. Three flies fished Loch Style or the humble nymph hung under a dry will also do the trick. If it’s on the water, they will come up to it, if it’s stripped past them aggressively, they will also grab it. That applies to both wets and dries. So when your static dries aren’t working give them a good pull - the action might surprise you. This water also lends itself to fantastic wind lane fishing and polarioding given the right conditions. Its weedy shores are excellent for tailing fish, especially if the lake is rising.


As this Lake is subject to rapid fluctuations in water levels, it rarely looks the same on each occasion you visit. The best areas for fishing are the northern end of the lake and at the Guelph basin. If you wish to camp, there are ample spots around Lake King William where you can pitch a tent or alternatively, if you seek accommodation, nearby Tarraleah Lodge, or the Derwent Bridge Chalets can service your needs.

As stated in the introduction of this article, the size and quality of Lake King William fish has improved markedly this year, no doubt due to the continued higher water levels that came with increased rainfall. In seasons past the average size of fish caught from this water ranged between half a pound to 1.5 pounds in weight, this year the average weight is between 1.5 pound to 2 pounds and their quality is outstanding.

When cleaned they are also great eating with the “very deep orange coloured flesh”, Central Highland trout are renowned for. As our season draws towards its conclusion, this lake has something to offer the dry fly angler right up until the very end of the season, I think, as it is showed little sign of slowing down on our recent visit. We witnessed duns, smut and jassids enticing fish to the top, time and time again.

Lake King William is water where, once visited, will keep you coming back time and time again. Now is the time to see it at its finest.

All legal angling methods are allowed on King William.

Todd Lambert

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