Presented from Issue 97
When people refer to the Western Lakes they are talking about a vast area of the central plateau that contains hundreds if not thousands of lakes. This area is made up of the central plateau conservation area and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. This area and its fishing is truly unique in the world. The crystal clear waters and the ability to sight fish predominantly brown trout, at close range, amongst a unique landscape, is something that inspires many people to go to great lengths to explore and fish this region. Interestingly, the Western Lakes is not a place where you would go to catch a lot of fish in Tasmania. This is a place where less is more, with the ability to catch a large number of fish per day being gladly replaced with the chance of only catching a few quality fish. This is a place where there is a lake over every hill and where you get that rare opportunity to count the spots on a wild brown trout as it slowly swims past your feet.

As the brown trout season nears its end in the month of April, the productive life cycle of the adult mayfly, that draws so many fish to within metres of the shoreline, is also coming to an end.

The days are becoming shorter and the sun is now much lower in the sky, but in the month of April you can still get those blue sky days where you can polariod every corner of these lakes.

One of the great things about the Western Lakes is that you have the choice of fishing lakes that have a large population of fish in the two to four pound range, which increases your chances of actually seeing a fish throughout the day, or seeking out one of those trophy lakes, where if you’re lucky, you may just get a shot at a fish over six pounds.

Dry Fly Opportunities

At this time of of year fish, will continue to respond to a dry fly. With jassids, stone flies, grasshoppers, beatles and the odd mayfly still present. Fish respond well to dry flies that represent some of these larger insects. Flies such as WMD Hopper, small Chernobyl Ant, Bruisers bug (see TFBN issue 96) and my Craigs Hair Chernobyl, are a good choice. There are many other variations available, but one thing they all have in common is that they all sit low in the water and have those buggy rubber legs.

Smaller, more traditional dry flies such as the Red Tag, small jassid patterns, mayfly spinners and the list could go on, will all take fish at this time of year. Dry fly fishing and sight fishing in the Western Lakes often go hand in hand. Even on those dull overcast days it is still possible see into the water with the aid of polaroid sunglasses. On days like this, your vision is often limited to within a couple of metres out from the shoreline, with the exception of the view you get from a high elevation or looking into the shadow of a tree, large rock, high bank or mountains.

With any form of sight fishing, a stealthy approach is needed. Simply jumping up onto the highest rock before you have had a chance to scan the foreground will often result in spooking any fish in the area. I say this with confidence, as I, like many others, have learned this the hard way. Seeing fish is one thing, the hard part is often converting your limited opportunities into a fish taking your fly.

There is one of my late season day trips, that stands out from all others and that was with Peter Broomhall fishing the Chudleigh Lakes. Our day, or you could say night, started at 4:30 am in the morning from the Lake McKenzie dam wall. With our head lamps we could see the water level in the lake had risen from the recent rains and from the sound of the Fisher River off in the distance, crossing this river onto the Explorer track was not going to be as simple as jumping across a few rocks when it’s running low. We arrived at the River and shone our headlamps over the water to see all of the usual exposed rocks fully submerged.

So in the dark, we removed our shoes, socks and trousers to make the slippery and painful crossing, wedging our feet in between the large rocks to stay upright. We should have known then, that today was going to be a tough one. We covered a lot of water that day, walking approximately 35 km or more and only seeing four fish between us, despite a reasonable polaroiding day. Admittedly, we did bypass many of the more populated lakes to allow enough time to seek out some potential trophy waters. Even so, we did manage to convert two out of the 4 fish we saw. With one around the five pound mark, taken on a size 16 Jassid and the other slightly larger fish on a WMD Hopper.

Our day finished with both of us tired, and sore walking the last hour of the blue peaks track in the dark. This day, often reminds me of just how hard and unforgiving the fishing can be back here and that you have to make every opportunity, count.

Wet Fly Opportunities

When the weather turns bad, or those fish just refuse to take a dry fly, a wet fly is often the answer to what could otherwise be a fish-less day. A small size 12 or 14 Montana Nymph is often one of my “go to” flies at this time of year. These highly visible flies are a great option when it comes to close range

sight fishing situations when you need to see your fly and the approaching fish. Being able to keep track of your fly as it slowly sinks in front of a fish can be a big advantage as this allows you to see the exact moment when that fish has eaten your fly and not something else nearby that may cause you to lift the rod prematurely.

When you’re in a situation, where you can’t see your fly during an inert presentation, for whatever reason, watching your leader for any signs of it drawing away is a very good indication that the fish has taken your fly and it is time to strike. Other signs to look out for will be the sight of a fish opening and closing its mouth, which is often identified by a white flash as you see the white interior of a fish’s mouth. When the white flash disappears that’s the time to set the hook. When all else fails you can always start to slowly raise your rod or begin to retrieve the fly and strike when you feel any resistance.

Large wet flies, such as woolly buggers and fur flies, are also effective at this time of year when fish are on the lookout for a large protein hit by way of a small fish and are often territorial as they begin to pair up in readiness to spawn. Flies such as my EWB (Emerging Woolly Bugger) that represents a dying baitfish at the surface, can be a lot of fun to use as you get yet another chance to see a fish take a fly at the surface. The EWB is also useful when you see a fish hunting small Galaxias (small baitfish) and their exact location after their last disturbance is not always known. This is where the EWB can be used to set an ambush in the area a fish is hunting these small baitfish, just like floating an emerging nymph amongst fish feeding on a dun hatch. The EWB can be brought to life with a small twitch, which is often all that is needed for a fish to respond from many metres away.

The trout in the Western Lakes are no different to any other trout, in that they need food and shelter to survive. In these lakes, trout will often shelter under the very rocks and undercut banks we fish from. Fish sheltering under these undercut banks are very sensitive to the pressure waves given off as you walk along shores such as this. A careful approach while casting your leader and fly over these banks, well back from the shoreline is a great way to present a fly to a fish that may be holding or swimming along these undercuts.

Large rocks that provide an overhanging ledge or allow a fish to take refuge under them, are always worth sinking a nymph or large wet fly down to their level, to see if anyone is home. The large rocks out wide in the deep water are also worth an exploratory cast, allowing the fly to sink well down before initiating a slow or fast retrieve.

Fishing the Western Lakes this late in the season is not for everyone. The days are short and they are starting to cool off. But for those who just love being out in this environment, as I do, the last month of the season can be very rewarding if you allow yourself to change with the season and align your expectations with that time of year.

These Western Lake Browns will often take on a magnificent pre- spawn coloration with deep golden brown flanks, that will make a beautiful photo, to remember a great season.

Craig Rist

Go to top
JSN Boot template designed by