Western Wilderness fishing
I started bushwalking a few years before I started fishing in earnest so it is only natural that I later combined the two and began to explore Tasmania's Western Lakes. One of the first trips I did and one which I have done again recently was the Pine Valley and its associated lakes and tarns. Despite visiting this area several times, I still find it has everything to offer the bushwalking/fishing enthusiast and its somewhere I will probably visit until I'm too old to do so comfortably. It features a number of waters that mostly contain high numbers of moderate sized trout and several nearby trophy waters for the occasional monster. The area is easy to walk through, has tracks leading in from both ends to the valley and the headwaters rise in what would have to be one of Tasmania's most scenic areas, the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
The Pine Valley can be accessed from either Ada Lagoon in the east or through the Walls of Jerusalem in the west. It probably depends where you live in the state as to which end you start from. Ideally get dropped off one end and picked up the other, this will mean you don't have to back track and cover old ground. Total distance for this through walk is around 35 km which equates to a nice three day walk. I'll write this article as if starting from the Ada Lagoon carpark, this seems to be the most common starting point.
Now regardless what you have read about being able to drive further out to Talinah Lagoon, don't bother. The track can be walked in as quick a time as driving as its extremely rough and sometimes very boggy below Ada Lagoon. Simply follow the vehicle track and after an hour's walk (5 km) you will find yourself starting to descend towards Powena Creek. In front of you and to the right stretching up the valley are the three small Talleh Lagoons. They all contain trout up to about 3 lb, the upper most is probably the easiest to walk around and polaroid but hell, they're all on the way so take a couple of hours to fish them. Back behind you nestled in the trees in Theresa Lagoon. This also has fish up to about 3 lb but they are not numerous. If you are already buggered or have spend too much time fishing the lagoons then there are some magnificent sheltered campsites near the western end of Theresa. If you're right to continue simply follow the old track down the Powena valley where you will emerge at the shores of Lake Antimony and the start of the Pine River Valley. Here there is an old hut, which is hardly inviting, what is inviting is the excellent wade polaroiding to be had in the vast shallow sandy expanses of Antimony. At normal mid summer levels this lake can be almost completely waded and due to the perfect sand bottom the trout, all around 2-3 lb ,stand out like the proverbial dogs things.
Now if you have managed to make it this far then you have run out of marked track which ends near the hut but don't despair if your navigation skills aren't up to speed because all that's left is an easy stroll up the valley (That U shaped area leading to the north west). Next lake up only 500 m further on is Silver Lake. Its easy to walk around although you will have to cross the Pine River each end but thats hardly life threatening. Its moderately deep and features clumps of iseotes weed which the trout cruise around. If you strike the right day the dun hatches are great but the fish are hard to spot if they dive deep after each take. Now this is the first place up the valley to venture off briefly to fish a big fish water namely Nearana and Galaxias. Both are about a 20 minute walk south or south west through light scrub and really deserve a whole days fishing. Expect fish above 5 lb but you will only see a handful in each lake.
Back to the valley and another 2 km see you at my three favourite waters, Sally, Sonya and Solveig. All lakes are similar in size, all have good campsites and contain heaps of fish in the 1-2.5 lb mark. Something I have found is that on certain days the majority of fish seem to favour either the north or south shoreline. The inflows on each lake are obvious hotspots. If you simply base your trip around just getting to and fishing these three waters you will not be disappointed. In perfect sun the fish stand out well in Sally and Sonya. Solveig is a bit deeper and probably holds a higher number of smaller trout.
From these lakes the next deviation is across the moors to Lake Ah Chees, the lake of snakes and ants. I'm not kidding, try walking around it on a hot summers day without seeing at least four black tiger snakes and try sitting down for one minute on the southern shoreline without attracting one million ants. The guidebooks will tell you that this lake used to hold some large trout. I think they have mostly been caught or died of old age but once you see the deep southern half it is possible that some still exist, its just a matter of picking the right day.
Back to the valley and a final 5 kilometre slog to the headwater of the Pine River, Lake Ball set against the most scenic backdrop in Tasmania, the Walls of Jerusalem. There are excellent campsites just west of the outflow in amongst the huge pencil pines. The flat marshy shoreline that runs around the northern side into the park is an excellent area to fish, devoid of any vegetation that inhibits fly casting. The remainder of this Z shaped lake is largely forested right to the water and probably does not receive much angling pressure. The fish are not huge, around 1.5 lb but there are plenty of them. What this area may lack in fishing quality however is made up for in scenic beauty. Looking north into the Walls Of Jerusalem National Park from the back shore of Lake Ball is simply breathtaking. This has got to be THE area where fishing and backpacking really come together. Once the sun is too low to fish, lay down the fly rod and walk up along the western wall ridgeline to the top of Halls Buttress. The views which take in most of Tassie from Mount Wellington to Cradle are fantastic. You also get full service from a next G phone in the park via the tower near Lake Echo (according to my phone bill).
Walls of Jerusalem and beyond
Now if you have walked in the 12 km from the Walls carpark near Lake Rowallan then your trip to this area is just beginning. I hope you have removed all your belongings from your vehicle and left your empty glovebox down to show the local car burglar there is nothing left worth smashing your $200 quartervent window for. Note that broken glass in the carpark is not accidental. The first 5 km in this way is a bit of an uphill slog but the walk through the park down to Lake Ball through the Jaffa Vale is worth it. Once you have fished Lake Ball I'm sure you will be eager to explore the lakes further south namely Nugara, Penah,Toorah and Three Arm. All four are a great day walk using Lake Ball as a base camp. Nugara is deep and slightly murky with light scrub and marsh around the entire shoreline. It does not hold a huge head of fish but they are all between 2-5 lb and in good condition. Its about a 25 minute walk from Lake Ball. Next straight down the valley is Three Arm and as the name suggests it has three main parts. Three Arm contains heaps of trout around 2-3 lb but many of the banks are very thick scrub and impossible to fish. The recommended shore would be the southern and eastern areas. Once you've lapped the lake come back up the eastern side and visit Penah on your way out. Stay on the eastern side and fish your way around the shallow bays, most are shallow enough to polaroid the 2-4 pounders that inhabit this lake. Toorah is the headwater up this system but generally quite deep. It probably contains some great trout but if they aren't rising from the depths they will be hard to spot even in the crystal clear water. Up and down two small valleys puts you back at Nugara then back over to Lake Ball.
If you are just starting out with this backpacking/fishing thing then this area is a perfect place to start. It offers easy walking and cross country navigating with plenty of fishing locations and scenery to boot. The Ada 1:25000 Tasmap covers the whole area from Ada Lagoon to the Walls. These are excellent scale maps to navigate with, the lighter areas depict the grassy marsh areas which provide easier walking than the lightly forested areas. If you study this map in detail you will see that south of the Pine River Valley there are a number of these marsh areas marked on the map which will lead you to most lakes. Even if you end up in the forested parts don't panic, most of the scrub is light enough to walk through with little effort.
I don't care how badly you fish, float a dry fly long enough on the main waters in the Pine River Valley and you will catch fish. I haven't gone much into fishing methods in this article but you can probably guess that when it comes to Western Lakes angling for me it is now the dry fly above all else. I certainly didn't start this way however and my first three trips into this area I was armed with the ever reliable collapsible spinning rod coupled with celta and cobra wobbler. I caught heaps on these lures but only when the weather was rough or overcast. I now only fly fish the Western Lakes with fly and red tags, black spinners, dun patterns and floating brown nymph will suffice in the valley. Best times are obviously mid summer with sunny skies.
I will mention bushwalking equipment briefly as there are three items that you must choose wisely, boots,pack and tent. For boots I keep coming back to full leather scarpas. Yes they cost a fortune and will only last 3-4 years depending on use but for comfort and rugged construction they are hard to beat. For pack and tent look no further than Macpac. Their packs come in a number of different styles and sizes and are simply the most comfortable you can carry. Their tents are easy to put up and hard to blow down. Again like the Scarpas you will pay big money for these items but in the long run they are worth it. And no I'm not sponsored in any way by these companies, simply trial and error over the many years I have explored this area. By the way did I mention the huge trophy trout waters further south below the Pine Valley, I guess they will have to wait until next time.