by Robert Gott
Lake Naomi is located on Curena Creek and is representative of the myriad of lakes and tarns in Tasmania's Central Plateau Conservation Area (CPCA). It offers the special wilderness fishing experience so unique to this part of the island state.
The extraordinary quality of the CPCA fishery stems from the area's remoteness combined with seemingly limitless fishing opportunities for wild trout. The natural lakes and tarns are the out come of substantial glaciation during the last Ice Age. The resultant sculptured land form supports a range of vegetation types with the area in the vicinity of Lake Naomi characterised by open eucalypt forest interspersed with patches of heath and cushion moss. Fishing this area holds a strong attraction for anglers keen to pursue their interest in solitude, and prepared to walk to reach their destinations and accept that success will often be frustrated by fickle weather and challenging fishing conditions.
This article will explore the typical high summer fly fishing opportunities Lake Naomi has to offer. February and March are traditionally recognised as being prime months in which to fish this area. This is due in part to weather conditions being at their most settled. Another factor is that this time is the period of greatest insect activity. The hatches of mayfly and falls of beetles encourage the trout to look to the surface for food, providing attractive conditions for the fly fisher.
Lake Naomi can be located by referring to the 1:100,000 Tasmanian topographic map -"Mersey" (co-ordinates 480E, 570S). The quickest access to the lake can be gained from the road into the Hydro-Electric Commission catchment of Pine Tier Lagoon.
From there a four-wheel drive track leads across a cattle leasehold to the boundary of the CPCA.
Permission must be gained from the lessee prior to crossing this land. The common courtesies of leaving gates as they are found, stock undisturbed, no littering, shooting or fires, naturally apply.
Vehicle access and land restrictions apply in the CPCA meaning that the remainder of the journey had to be made on foot.
(Queries on any aspect of the CPCA can be quickly clarified by a visit to the Parks, Wildlife and Heritage office at Liawenee.) The two hour, 6 km walk to the lake is easy going and follows an old vehicular track skirting the eastern shore of olive lagoon en-route.
Lake Naomi is populated with a self sustaining stock of wild brown trout. These fish are numerous but not large by some CPCA lake standards, averaging .5-75 kg in weight with bigger fish to 1.25 kg reported. Nevertheless, by mid summer these fish are in peak condition and extremely fit.
Being located around 1,000 metres above sea level, Lake Naomi is subject to capricious weather changes, even during the summer months. For those venturing into this area, warm clothing, waterproofs, a robust tent with fly and quality sleeping bags are mandatory. The fishing can be soured by strong winds and plunging air temperatures. On a recent trip to the lake, our party arrived on a windy, mild afternoon. By evening a cold front had passed, bringing an electrical storm and steady rain. The following morning, the low barometer signalled a strong north-westerly was on the way. The wind lived up to expectations "blowing the dog off the chain" all day until an evening south westerly change heralded a moderation.
On that day it would have been easy to be convinced that the lake was devoid of trout.
Patient observation of the shallows; careful prospecting with a dry along the drop-offs; concentrated probing with a weighing nymph on a long leader, and as a final resort, blind flogging with a large wet fly, all proved fruitless.
At the end of this luckless day, it was the general consensus that a spinning rod should be included to cope with such difficult conditions.
One of our number suggested that a better approach would be to pack a good book!
The conditions outlined above are the down side of fishing the CPCA. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the blue sky days for which the area is legendary. On such occasions, the sky is clear, save for high altitude wispy clouds, the sun shines strong, and the fishing magic of the CPCA lakes unfolds.
The water in Lake Naomi, like many of the Central Plateau lakes, is crystal clear. Combine this factor with a light pebble lake bed and you have the right condition s for outstanding visibility. With polaroid glasses, a wide-brimmed hat and the sun strategically located, the fisherman is able to view the lake's under water features seeking out the trout as they go about their daily business.
The catch is that the improved visibility works both ways. The fish's vision is also increased and the wild trout that inhabit these lakes are extremely wary, fleeing at the faintest hint of anything untoward. The angler must gear his/her approach accordingly. Consideration should be given to surrounding cover to obscure the angler's presence and movements must be kept to a minimum. Successful presentation becomes a function of casting the fly to a position that will attract the fish's attention without creating suspicion. The precise position in relation to the fish will vary according to the prevailing conditions and the behaviour of the fish. Tackle, too, must be appropriate. My fishing companions have adopted various strategies to assist in fly presentation to wary fish. These include dying the end of the fly line in drab, flat colour, removal of shine from fishing rods by a little judicious rubbing with fine steel wool, the use of four metre leaders, and tippets of 2 kg and sometimes less. Small flies tied on size 12, 14 and 16 hooks seem most acceptable to the fish. There are many accounts written by fishing experts extolling the virtues of this form of fishing. To my mind their enthusiasm is well justified as not only is polaroiding a fabulous way to enjoy one's fly fishing but it also provides the angler with a great learning experience. A day spent polaroiding in good conditions will teach the angler volumes about the behaviour of trout, the way they feed and how they should be approached. Lake Naomi lends itself well to polaroiding with the western, eastern and southern shores bordered by the open eucalypt forest previously described. The water along the western shore is slightly deeper than that on the east, and the fish cruise close by looking for food items. Although providing cover for the angler the surrounding scrubs sometimes frustrate endeavours to cast the fly.
One approach to overcome this problem is to team up with another companion. In this way, larger sections of shore can be covered and when a fish is found, there are two presentation options. The effectiveness of this method was demonstrated during a recent trip. My companion spied a fish as it quietly rose in close as we slowly stalked along the western shore.
Unable to cast, he called saying the fish was moving at a leisurely pace in my direction. I promptly despatched a size 14 wet black beetle to the position described to me. Following further instructions, I spotted the fish heading in the general direction of the slowly sinking beetle. A few more feet and I planned to give the fly the smallest tweaks to attract the trout's attention. However, without warning, the fish slowly spun around and headed back from whence it come.
"Coming your way-about 10 feet off shore." I called
My companion had relocated to a position which provided a clear back cast and he immediately flicked a small black spinner to the position described. .
"I can't see it yet. Is he still on the way?"
"Certainly is, about 15 feet and closing."
"Its seen the fly now-steady-"Oh yes, I see him! Here he comes, Bingo!"
The south-eastern corner of the lake forms a distinct arm, and the southern side of this arm offers a very attractive polaroiding location.
Here the lake drops off quickly into relatively deep water, and the fish feel secure patrolling close to the shore under the trees.
In addition, this arm forms a lee shore in north-westerly breezes and therefore surface food concentrates in this area along with the fish. Similarly attractive conditions can be found on the northern side of this northern island. Access to the island is gained by wading.
In very still, bright conditions the trout may become wary of cruising the shallows, particularly on the eastern and treeless northern shores. Meanwhile, they often appear content to rise out in the deeper water to the modest hatches of duns and black spinners which are characteristic of the lake. Wade-polaroiding would be likely to disturb these fish. Therefore a more traditional approach can be tried. In casting to these rising fish, again presentation becomes critical. The problem that faces the angler is that individual trout may rise only spasmodically, providing little indication of a feeding pattern. In these circumstances, patience is essential and the key is to try to present the fly to where the fish is moving, not where it has been. Cast well up-breeze (if there is any) of the rise from in an endeavour to play the percentages, be prepared to wait and hope that the fish is abiding by the rules. The other spots worth a look are the rafts of pin-rushes found on the south-western shore. These areas should be inspected at first and last light and on over cast days, for fish foraging through the shallows in search of frogs, galaxia or small food forms. The lake is only approximately 4 km around the shore, so there is plenty of scope for exploring the whole of the perimeter in a day. In conclusion. If this summary has whetted your appetite for fishing the CPCA, keep an eye on the weather map, fill the fly box with a selection of black spinners, red tags, black zulus and highland duns, a few small nymphs and wet beetles for variation, load your pack with the necessary camping gear and give Lake Naomi a try.