Return to Rowallan

It had been over 16 years since I last fished Lake Rowallan. As a young man growing up in the rural community of Deloraine, it was a lake reasonably close to home and where I spent many a night camped on its shorelines. My last trip there was 14 December 1994. I remember this as I have a picture of a 14 pound brown trout on my lounge room wall with that date on the plaque. It is my biggest ever trout and the memories of that catch remain with me as if it were yesterday. To see a fish of that size come out of Rowallan’s light tannin coloured depths was something I will never forget but as I was a bit of a “scallywag” in those days, and I won’t elaborate on that, it was a reward that to this day…. I hardly felt that I had earn’t. Many things have changed since then, the most notable is the outlook and respect I now possess for our fisheries and those charged with looking after them. Anyway, with this all in mind, I decided to hook on the trailer, grab a couple of mates and head back for a day’s fishing at a lake that I seemed to have forgotten about . Why it’s been so long between drinks I cannot answer, perhaps it’s just another one of those lakes that are largely forgotten about… and I don’t know why. It is a lake close to many of our major population areas, yet seems to fly under the radar of most of the State’s freshwater anglers. In fact I would go so far as to say that many wouldn’t even know where it is. It is well stocked, has some absolute monsters in it and is very easily accessed, especially to those living in Tasmania’s North and North West. You hardly ever hear of any fishing reports coming from it and those that do fish it on a regular basis seem to like to keep it that way.


How to get there 
Lake Rowallan is a Hydro Tasmania lake in North Western Tasmania. The lake is a 30 minute drive (25 kilometres/16 miles) south of Liena, past Lake Parangana and the Mersey White Water Forest Reserve. The last few kilometres of road to Lake Rowallan are unsealed. From where I live, (in the Longford area), it’s about 1 hour 45 minutes away. I head past Mole creek and follow the signage from there on. Lake Rowallan offers excellent boat and land based fishing with a well stocked population of rainbow and brown trout as well as some native species such as the ever present blackfish that will monster any baits left in after dark. Speaking of blackfish, although there are some very sizable examples in its depths, most are quite small. If bait fishing of a night, expect to catch plenty of these! A quick check on the Inland Fisheries data base showing the past five years stockings, revealed that rainbow trout have been placed in it on a regular basis, the last stocking (at the time of writing) were on the 9th of June 2009 where there were 7500 and 13500 fingerlings of 15 grams set free in its depths. You can launch your boat at the northern end of the lake or follow the four wheel drive vehicle tracks to one of the many sheltered camping areas on offer. Small boats can easily be launched from its shoreline in front of these sites, only metres away. A word of warning, when camping, be aware of the leeches that exist there in their thousands. I remember waking up one morning after sleeping in an open-ended swag with my pillow covered in blood, they took to my head as I slept!! This wouldn’t be a problem to those camping in the “clearer” sites though.

Bait Fishing
This would be the most popular form of fishing on this water and the use of any natural baits such as garden worms, wood grubs, cockroaches and crickets will catch plenty of fish. Probably the most effective bait you can use though would be a mudeye suspended a couple of feet off the bottom with a float. The bail arm of the reel should be left open allowing the fish to run with the line before you strike. I like using this method with all the baits mentioned above when at Rowallan because the “by-catch” of blackfish is significantly reduced. They don’t seem to like to swimming that high in the water column, preferring to ambush baits sitting dormant on the bottom instead. That’s not to say you still won’t catch at least a will!!!

Fly Fishing
As with most of our large still water impoundments, early morning and late evening offers the most consistent fly fishing opportunities here. Smutting fish are quite often found in windlanes cleaning up on a recent caenid hatch. Although the rainbows (quite often on the smallish side) require fast accurate casts, one is often surprised when the rod buckles and line screams off with an angry specimen of 2kgs or more heading straight to the lakes depths as deep as it can. The browns are often a lot bigger (1.5 kgs on average) and easier to cast to, due to the slower direction they take when locked in on a feeding pattern. Corby moths and mudeye migrations in the warmer months often lead to fantastic sport and given the right conditions the bag limit of 12 brown and rainbow trout (combined) over 220 mm minimum in length is often achievable. Small Red Tags are not often refused as would a mudeye pattern twitched amongst timber of an evening. The Lake often sees healthy falls of gum beetles especially in November/ December. The fish we caught were absolutely full of them. Even with the water being a light tannin colour, surprisingly, it still lends itself to polaroiding, especially during Hydro draw down periods when its level is a lot lower. So to sum up, I would suggest any well placed “Beetle shaped” pattern tied on a size 12 or 14 hook will not often be refused but that being said, if there are huge slicks of food on the water like on the morning we were there, it can be very frustrating fishing indeed, as they swim under ,around or in some cases over your line without giving your offering a second glance, in fact I witnessed Mike Stevens put one well placed cast between five fish at one stage and they all just ignored it as if it wasn’t even there, but that’s fishing isn’t it?

Spinning and Trolling
Spinning or trolling flatfish and cobra wobblers continues to take many well-conditioned brown and rainbow trout here. If launching a boat from the Dam wall (Northern end) of Rowallan, the best place to head is for the other end — in a westerly direction. Once you negotiate your way through the old river bed, (marked with assorted beer cans and bottles in the trees above your head), the water opens right out, especially as you reach the top end of the lake. If the water level is very high, you won’t have to worry about this as it’s then just a matter taking it slowly and working your way around the remaining tree tops that you will see sticking out of the water. Having said that, a word of warning, a lot of submerged timber exists in this lake ready to take out a boat propeller or worse, so please be very careful as you negotiate the timbered sections of the lake, no matter what its height is at the time. Once through, look for the junction where the Mersey River runs in. This is a great area to work especially early and late in the day as the fish push up into the marshes that exist there in anticipation of a feed washed down by the Mersey’s inflow, if the level is high, the marshes are virtually non existent to the land based angler, but in a boat , you will still be drifting over them in a depth of around 15 ft. Please be aware though that there are fifty metre permanent exclusion zones placed on all waters that flow into this lake so don’t get too keen …or your liable to end up with a fine as well as fish. Best colours have always been, yellow and green, yellow, black and green and gold. The winged cobras (in all sizes and brands) are definitely the stand out lure used amongst the locals here, use these in the colours mentioned above and you shouldn’t return disappointed. As you may have already picked up on, the water level you are fishing in at the time will largely dictate as to how you will need to fish, if full, you will need to use lead lines in the majority of the lake with a couple of colours out to help you get your lure down to where the fish are, if the level is low, you will only need to “flat line”, (run straight monofilament line.) Important/ Before you plan your trip, look up the Lake Rowallan’s current water level either on the internet ( or in the local paper as this will dictate to a large extent as to how and where you can fish on this water to help maximise your chances of success.

Soft Plastics
Soft plastic fishing in Lake Rowallan is another method which, on its day, can be very productive, especially early morning and at last light. As stated earlier, I hadn’t been back to this water for many years and “to be honest” had never fished it with plastics , as way back then , they were largely unheard of, but as with most methods when given half a chance, they “will work” and they “work well” here. Fished around the shorelines or “slow and deep” when out in the middle, I suggest you use at least a 1/8th jig head, as the average depth of this lake when approaching full water level is forty five feet…… so your plastic needs to be down there with them. There is plenty of structure in the form of submerged timber to fish around and if you stick close to the lakes shorelines you will often pick up a cruising trout around it’s sharp drop offs and ledges. Another option that we found worked for us, even if you’re not a fly fisherman is a well placed cast next to rising fish in wind lanes or food slicks as they will often induce a take from a fast moving and aggressive rainbow intent on taking a bite out of the new found morsel that has seemingly just dropped out of the sky. A word of warning, be prepared for the strike as soon as the plastic hits the water as they seem to love taking it “on the drop” and the chance will be lost if you have too much slack in your line when this happens. Soft plastics in the Yep - Smoke Cloud colour or black and gold Yep Flapper, or Gulp Pumpkinseed colours are proven fish takers (well they were to us, as that’s what we caught ours on!!).
16 years on – Is it as good?

In short—yes! The fish still remain in large numbers, they are in fantastic condition and the scenery there is magnificent. It is a lake that will appear different virtually every time you go thanks in large to it’s forever changing water levels. That said, it may well look at its best when full, but if its fish you’re after, I believe your chances of success will be greatly enhanced by waiting until it’s at lower levels. This will allow you greater access to its weed beds and submerged structure. Don’t expect it to be easy when fishing here because more than likely it won’t be, but perseverance will reap rewards in the long run. Someone said to me the other day, many people who rate themselves as good anglers only fish Arthurs Lake. Are you one of those? There are so many other waters out there to explore close to home such as Lake Rowallan. Your reward will be that you will have uncovered a great fishery and camping area for yourself, friends and family to go to, and you will have it largely to yourself. But, keep it quiet please. It won’t be another 16 years before I will be back this time around, that’s for sure!

Todd Lambert

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