Bronte Lagoon - Tasmania's fishing centre
Bronte Lagoon is the most centrally situated water in Tasmania. It fishes very well throughout the year, but one must vary the techniques used. This profile is by Greg French and Rob Sloane and was first published in their book "Trout Guide", which is still available at book and tackle stores. Thanks also go to Harold Cornelius and Denis Wiss for their help.
Bronte Lagoon is situated alongside the Lyell Highway (A10) between Tarraleah and Derwent Bridge, just south of the Marlborough Highway (B11) intersection. This is a little more than a two hour drive from Hobart, Launceston or Devonport. The Surveyors Monument where the highway crosses Bronte Canal is the geographic centre of Tasmania.
Bronte Lagoon is a 562 ha hydro electric storage at an elevation of 666 metres above sea level. It receives water from Pine Tier Lagoon via Bronte Canal and from Laughing Jack Lagoon via the Clarence Weir and Pipeline. Bronte discharges into Bradys Lake via Woodwards Canal. The shorelines are characteristically open and grassy and the water is normally reasonably clear. Bronte is prone to frequent changes in the water level and the 3.65 metre normal operating range equates to considerable distances across the flat shores.
Ideal accommodation is available close by at Bronte Park Highland Village which is only 5 km away via the Marlborough Highway (B11). Alternatives are the Derwent Bridge Hotel, 28 km west, and the Tarraleah Chalet, 24 km south, via the Lyell Highway. Supplies and petrol are available at each of these centres.
Informal lake shore camping is popular around Bronte Lagoon. Favoured sites are near Bronte Dam, in the eastern corner of Bronte Bay, near Woodwards Bay Park and west of Hut Bay. Formal caravan and camping facilities are available nearby at Bronte Park.
The recommended boat launching area is near Bronte Dam. Small dinghies can also be launched at Bronte Bay when levels are high.
Bronte Lagoon is reserved for the use of artificial lures and flies only. Bait fishing is not permitted. The season opens on the Saturday nearest 1 August and closes on the Sunday nearest 30 April. The inflowing Bronte Canal and overflowing Woodwards Canal are also reserved for artificial lures. Bronte Canal is subject to an extended closed season to protect spawning fish; it does not open to fishing until the Saturday nearest 1 November and closes on the Sunday nearest 31 March. The mouth of the canal is designated by two white posts which are visible from the Surveyors Monument.
The flooding of Woodwards Marsh forming Bronte Lagoon created an ideal trout environment, a relatively shallow weedy water with extensive areas of flat grassy banks. Trout flourished and natural recruitment from spawning in Bronte Canal and in the extensive Pine and Nive River catchments beyond Pine Tier Lagoon assured abundant stock. Today, brown trout predominate, but wild rainbow trout are also plentiful. Occasionally brook trout are taken, having strayed into Bronte from Clarence Lagoon via Clarence Weir and Pipeline.
Trout in Bronte are typically 0.5 - 1.0 kg with an average of about 0.7 kg, though larger browns and rainbows to 1.5 kg are taken consistently. Trout size and condition can vary from season to season, depending on lake levels and rainfall.
It is estimated that some 3 500 anglers visit Bronte Lagoon each season for a total harvest of around 23 000 trout. Catch rate is estimated at about 1.5 trout per angler per day and rainbows account for about 15% of the catch.
Bronte Lagoon was established in 1953 by the construction of a 10.7 metre high dam on Woodwards Creek. Prior to being flooded the area was a natural open marshland known as Woodwards Marsh. Despite thorough examinations at the time there were no records of trout taken or seen in the natural system. In an effort to assess the ability of new waters to self recruit.
Bronte was initially left unstocked and consequently few fish were caught during the 1953-54 angling season. However, as was expected, fish migrated downstream from the Upper Nive system, entering the lake via Bronte Canal, and a large brown trout population soon established. During December 1955 some 17 000 rainbow trout yearlings were liberated. Many of these fish were caught during the 1956 but so too were browns to 6 lb and rainbows to 5 lb. Like most of the elder browns, the large rainbows were former residents of the upper Nive. A further 12 000 rainbow fingerlings were stocked during the 1958-59 season and in latter years some small scale experimental releases of adult brown trout were undertaken. However, since its formation, Bronte Lagoon has demonstrated an ability to maintain self-supporting stocks at both brown trout and rainbow trout. In the 1960,s trout of 2 kg were typical of Bronte Lagoon, but in the last fifteen years the average size has fallen from about 1.5 kg to below 1 kg, suggesting a natural oversupply of young fish.
Bronte Canal, the major inflow canal which supplies water to Bronte from Pine Tier Lagoon, it itself a very underrated fishery. From the siphon which passes under the Marlborough Highway above Bronte Park, to the Lyell Highway bridge at the Surveyors Monument, Bronte Canal abounds in small fingerling and yearling fish, indicative of its role in supplying natural recruitment to Bronte. But don,t be discouraged, because there are good numbers of larger 0.5 to 1 kg browns and rainbows, and sometimes exceptionally big trout are seen in the canal. Access to Bronte Canal involves parking at the Lyell Highway bridge and walking upstream along the private (locked) HEC road which follows the western bank. Naturally, the canal flow is regulated and varies from time to time. A moderate to strong flow is the best for fishing. An outlet of the canal, just below the road bridge, there is a substantial weir which is most evident at low lake levels. Towards the end of April large numbers of spawning trout often congregate below the weir and make a fascinating spectacle as they struggle to pass upstream.
Please note that fishing is not permitted at this time two white posts at the mouth of Bronte Canal denote the area closed to protect spawning fish (refer to IFC Regs.)
The canal discharges into an attractive weedy bay known as Bronte Bay. The proximity to Bronte Canal leads to an abundance of young trout in this part of Bronte and it is quite common to see small fish rising all over the bay. The canal outflow is a very reliable fishing spot, particularly early and late in the season fish gather and return from spawning. This is a good area for rainbow trout from August to October, though fishing the current can be rewarding whenever the canal is flowing strongly. The current can best be fished from the western canal bank point or from a moored boat.
Trolling is also popular around the mouth of Bronte Bay when lake levels are high. When Bronte is down much of the bay is shallow and choked with weed and fishing becomes restricted to casting a fly in the weed free pockets. The shore from the Bronte Canal to Rainbow End is a lovely piece of water, sheltered from westerly winds. As the name implies, the deeper water along this shore, and particularly off the point itself, yields more than its fair share of rainbow trout, especially when the lake is high and the canal is running strongly. At such times this is one of the lest lure casting areas on Bronte. The sheltered nature of this shore also makes for ideal fly fishing, and caddis hatches are assured on warm evenings.
The deeper, exposed shore from Rainbow End around to Tailers Bay provides ideal spinning water to where the lake shallows of into Tailers Bay. This bay derived its name from the tailing, habit of the trout as they venture into the extreme margins in search of food. Fly fishers head for this bay at first light because tailing is at its best on calm early mornings, though a light offshore breeze can be tolerated. A more direct route to Tailers Bay can be followed by parking just off the Lyell Highway west of the canal and walking along a rough four wheel drive track across the point directly to the bay. Anglers often park their cars near the gate to this track.
At the extremity of Tailers Bay there is a marshy swamp known as the Frog Pond. This pond is connected to the bay by several drains, and trout move into the pond to feed on frogs during spring floods. The drains extend well out across the bed of Trailers Bay, and when the lake recedes trout still favour them when moving in and out of the shallows. These drains are always worth prospecting with lure or fly. The shore that extends from Trailers Bay to the boat ramp near Bronte Dam is steeper, with prominent rocky points and small bays backed by an open snowgrass plain. The shallow bays are good spots to find early morning tailers, and the steeper rocky points are productive spinning areas under most conditions. This shore is reached by following the road from the Lyell Highway that leads to the Bronte Lagoon shack settlement.
Several rough tracks lead from the shack road to various points along this shore, though it is just as easy to park by the boat ramp near the dam wall and walk the shore from there. The immediate surrounds of Bronte Dam and the boat ramp are the deepest parts of the lake. Lure casting and trolling are the favoured methods and deep-running lures can be used here.
Between the dam and the Clarence Pipeline the Currant Bush Shore and spillway area support some of the most consistent rainbow trout fishing in Bronte. The bank here is quite deep and rocky and lined with bushes, providing dependable spinning water. It is a suitable shore to drift a nondescript dry fly on a warm day, or to search with a wet fly on a wintry day. Beyond the dam and spillway the Clarence Pipeline discharges into Bronte just as the entrance to the shack area. When flowing, the current at the mouth of the pipe is an excellent fishing spot. Rainbow trout are attracted by the current and it is also a reliable place to find browns, particularly towards evening.
The adjacent shore in front of the shacks is a good one and some shelter can be found her in westerly weather. Don,t be put off by the nearby shacks because this area is often overlooked by the locals. An old fence line is a prominent feature of the bay immediately south of the shacks. The Fence Shore is backed by a high bank and tall eucalypts providing the most sheltered area on Bronte in a strong westerly wind. When the lake is high the trout moves into the shallows behind the fence and forage among the tussocks under the trees. At low levels the shoreline recedes beyond the fence and transforms into a flat weedy expanse, where tailing trout are common in the early mornings and reasonable dun hatches occur on mild days.
As the name suggests, Fly Corner is a renowned fly fishing area. This shallow bay offers more shelter than the neighbouring Long Shore but provides similar opportunities, with excellent early season wet fly fishing among the tussocks, reliable tailing fish and periodic dun hatches during summer. Several minor ditches drain the marshy land behind Fly Corner and extend well out into the bay when the lake is high. These are always good spots to locate trout. Fly Corner may fish well at any time.
From Fly Corner to Woodwards Canal the Long Shore harbours the cream of Bronte,s beautiful fly fishing water. The Long Shore is essentially a broad grass and tussock plain which floods extensively when the lake is high and recedes to a flat, shallow weedy expanse when the lake is low. It offers a kilometre of perfect fly fishing water; superb early season frog feeders among the tussocks; reliable early morning and evening trailers; the best of Bronte,s summer dun hatches and shallow flats for polaroiding on sunny days whenever the water is reasonably clear. Although the Long Shore is essentially flat it is not featureless. Numerous ditches and hollows provide ideal trout lies and the tussocks form a number at bays, corners and points when Bronte is high. The entire shoreline is productive though regulars have their favourite areas. A light southerly to westerly breeze is ideal. Extensive offshore weed beds are a focus for spinning and wet fly fishing from boats, and can be reached by wading deep when the lake is low.
As alternative access to the Long Shore is provided by a steel footbridge across Woodwards Canal at the south eastern end of the shore, otherwise anglers walk around from the shack or cross by boat. The food bridge gives convenient access to either bank of the canal, and vehicular access to the bridge is gained via a 2 km road which joins the Lyell Highway directly above Claypit Bay on Bradys Lake.
The banks of Woodwards Canal extend well out into Bronte Lagoon and the points on both sides are good spots. Trout, particularly rainbows, congregate where the current swings around drawing water and food into the outlet. These are ideal spinning and fly fishing vantages. Significant gutters lead along the outside canal banks and fish use this deeper water to move in and out of Woodwards Bay and the southern corner of the Long Shore. Trout also reside in the deep water of the canal itself and a days fishing along Woodwards Canal with fly or spinner can yield good bags.
At the downstream end of Woodwards Canal an extensive broad water forms immediately above the Lyell Highway crossing where the radial control gates are located - these gates regulate the output from the canal into Bradys Lake. When Bronte is high the canal breaks its banks and Woodwards Broadwater extends into the trees on the northern side, floods an extensive tussocky and grassy bay to the west and is contained within a levee to the south. The flooded margins are perfectly suited to fly fishing, especially when the control gates are shut and the water level is rising.
Frogs spawn among the tussocks early in the season and corby grubs are flushed from the grass if the broad water fills in the summer months. This area has the added advantage of being sheltered from most winds.
The deeper water along the canal bank, and the levee are suitable places for lure casting. On the opposite side of Woodwards Canal from the Long Shore, Woodwards Bay is another outstanding fly fishing corner with similar fishing conditions to those already described for the Long Shore and Fly Corner.
When Bronte is full, trout can be taken right from the rock pile in front of the parking area at Woodwards Bay, but when low, the lake recedes out beyond the island which forms in the centre of the bay. Again, several ditches are noteworthy features of this corner.
The prominent point between Woodwards Bay and Red Rocks Shore features an attractive complex of humps, hollows and ditches often hold trout throughout the day. In the summer months consistent dry fly fishing can be found by wading deep of this point where wind lanes are often blown onshore. It is an ideal lure casting area in rough weather but this involves wading deep to get out past the tussocks when the lake is full. Sheltered behind the point, Red Rocks Shore offers respite from cold westerly and southerly winds and is a reliable favourite for fly fishing and spinning.
Towards the point the grassy shallows attract tailing trout in the early mornings, and produce excellent summer hatches. The deeper rocky edges further around towards Hut Bay are most popular with spin fishers and many good rainbow trout are taken in this area.
The Long Arm in general yields plenty of trout to boat anglers, either trolling, drift spinning or fly fishing.
Access to the Red Rocks area is via a rough track which branches off the road to Woodwards Bay. The conspicuous feature of Hut Bay is a deep drain which is always a reliable fish producer. When the lake is high the bay swells and extends underneath the trees and among the logs and tussocks providing exceptional fly fishing. When Bronte is low the drain is all that remains. The sheltered nature of this corner makes it very popular with fly fishers and access is gained directly from the Lyell Highway.
There is an area along the highway, opposite the bay where cars can be parked off the road and from here it is only a short walk to the lake. From Hut Bay to Rowallan Bay the Eastern Shore of Bronte provides ideal spinning water among flooded bushes and occasional logs. This is also an excellent dry fly shore during warm easterly weather as gum beetles swarm around the surrounding eucalypts.
It is a particularly good late evening shore as it faces the setting sun, and on balmy evenings trout can be seen rising against the after glow of sunset. Anglers walk to this shore from Rowallan Bay, Hut Bay or directly from the highway at various points.
This is not one of the more popular shores on Bronte but it can be one of the best when weather permits. Likewise, Rowallan Bay is not as heavily fished as many other parts of Bronte though this attractive bay is quite sheltered in southerly weather. Tailing fish are found here when water levels are high and reasonable dun hatches take place in summer. Rowallan Point is a worthwhile lure casting area, as is the point between Rowallan Bay and Stile Corner.
A small parking area alongside the Lyell Highway is convenient to Stile Corner. Like Rowallan Bay, evening rises are a feature of this corner in settled weather and warm easterly days produce beetle falls. From Stile Corner to Bronte Canal the eastern shore of Bronte Bay is an attractive fly fishing shore. Tailing trout are often found along the weedy margins in the early mornings and excellent caddis hatches and beetle falls produce quality dry fly fishing on warm days. Again, small fish are a feature of this shore because of its proximity to Bronte Canal.
Bronte Lagoon is the feature water of the Bronte system. Its grassy shores hold particular attraction for fly fishers, especially when water levels are stable or rising.
Fly Fishing during the spring months, from late August to October, frogs move down to spawn among the tussocks in the flooded shallows around Bronte Lagoon. The best time to visit is shortly after heavy rain when the lake level is rising or when the lake is at a sustained high level. The flooded tussocks in Tailers Bay (north to west winds), along the Long Shore and Woodwards Bay (west to south winds) and Woodwards Broadwater are the most likely places. Whilst tailing trout are most active early in the season when frogs are about, rising lake levels may stimulate trout to tail along the grassy shores at any time of year.
Floods during the summer months flush all manner of worms, grubs, caterpillars and spiders from the inundated margins and trout gorge on them. Even so, there is a reasonable chance of finding a tailing fish or two on Bronte at any time of year no matter what the lake level.
Dawn is always the best time to find them
When the trout are in the tussocks chasing frogs or tadpoles, the Rabbit Fur Fly, Mrs Simpson and Yeti (size 8-10) are standard patterns, whereas a buoyant floating nymph or dry fly is more effective when the trout are fossicking for grubs and caterpillars flushed out by summer floods. When lake levels are low, tailers feeding on snails are far more choosey. Then small nymphs and (wet) beetle patterns fished inert are more readily taken. The Black Beetle, and Fiery Brown Beetle, are good standbys in sizes 10-12.
The best dun hatches occur across the southern shores from Fly Corner to Red Rocks Shore and January is usually the best month. The Highland Dun, Parachute Dun, March Brown and Greenwell Glory are the best patterns. The heaviest gum beetle falls occur along the Eastern Shore on hot summer days. The Red Tag and Plastic Gum Beetle are standard dries and the Black Deer Hair is an excellent nondescript on Bronte. Dry flies in sizes 10-14 are appropriate. In general Bronte Canal and Woodwards Canal are good fall backs if trout are hard to find in Bronte Lagoon. During the summer months fish rise freely in the canals and can be taken on a variety of dry fly patterns.
On a sunny day the better trout can be polaroided quite readily but a stealthy approach is paramount as there isn,t much cover on the banks of the Bronte Canal in particular. If trout are not rising then a weighted Pheasant Tail nymph (size 10) does the trick, cast across the current and allowed to swing slowly with occasional encouragement.
Lure Casting and Trolling
Because Bronte is essentially shallow, drift-spinning and trolling are effective all over the lake. Trolling is mainly restricted to shallow swimming spoons, Wonder Wobblers and Cobras. Early in the season the best areas for lure casting are the currents around the mouth of the inflowing Bronte Canal and Clarence Pipeline. The mouth of the out flowing Woodwards Canal can be productive at any time. Rainbow End is also a favourite spinning shore as are the Current Bush Shore and the small points between Tailers Bay and the dam. Fairly rough weather is best and early mornings and evenings account for most fish.
Green fin and Redfin Wonder Wobblers have always been Bronte standards and small Devon Spinners and Cobras are also popular, particularly in black, red, green and gold combinations. Whether spinning or trolling it always pays to use a fly dropper in Bronte. A Red Black Matuka is as good as any. A small Celta is the perfect lure for Bronte Canal and Woodwards Canal areas which are often overlooked. Dull, overcast and drizzly conditions are best.
A wander around Bronte Lagoon with local guide Harold Cornelius
While Rob Sloane and Greg French have done a great job with their summary of Bronte lagoon. I sought advice from local guide Harold Cornelius. Harold lives on the shores of Bronte and here he gives some tips for extracting late summer fish.
"We,ll start at the currant bush shore. This area around the dam is the deeper part of the lake and apart from the middle of the lake this is the only part of the lake that can be trolled. After a winter with high levels the weed growth was prolific as it pushed it,s way to the surface, now that the water has dropped, the pond and strap weed is prolific. This, as I said before, makes spinning and trolling difficult.
The next area to look at is Tailers bay. At this time of the year with all the weed growth this area is pretty much fly fishing, with beetles, duns, damsel flies, black spinner and caddis. This area can be fished from both shore and boat.
We now move on the Bronte, or Monument bay. Late evening and early mornings will bring the best rewards here using a beetle. Off Rainbow point there are often some very good wind lanes, these can be vary rewarding when fished from a boat.
We'll deal with Stile Corner, Rowallan Bay and But Bay together. These are good in Easterly weather with beetles, caddis and jassids (rare but welcome) coming of the shore out of the trees.
The Jassids are supposedly cyclical and explode in numbers every few years. We hope they,ll be back this year. Then we move on the Red Rocks shore. This is a dun, black spinner and caddis shore. Like a lot of the lake lure fishing disappears as the weed appears with the dropping water level.
If the lake is up some spinning or trolling can have a resurgence. Woodwards Bay. Last year there were some good hatches in this area and fell off as we move down the Long Shore.
The Long Shore fishes best in light Southerly weather. Over the last couple of years, in my opinion it has not fished as well as previously. There are good hatches of damsels, caddis and duns. The breeze coming of the marsh is a real bonus. A westerly breeze is probably the best of all winds but no matter what there is always a good shore. At this time of the year my suggestion is that it is poor for trolling and lure fishing with low water levels, but excellent for fly fishers, unless of course the water level is up.
My top flies and lures are as follows
Flies: Zulu, Red Tag, Alder, Beetle and Duns. For Lures: the Ashley Green/Gold and any of the frog pattern or Green/Golf cobras.
Facilities at Bronte Lagoon
Bronte Lagoon and the surrounding area is one of the best serviced fishing areas in the state.
Informal camping is utilised around the lagoon, while more formal camping, caravan and tent sites are available at Bronte Park Highland Village. The village also offers dormitory style accommodation, self contained cottages and even a spa cottage. Meals are available from breakfast at 7:30 am along with counter meals for lunch and dinner. Bar and bottle sales go through until late. Souvenirs, fishing supplies and fishing licences are also available.