Beyond Lake Mackenzie

Craig Rist

Open up a 1:25000 series map of Lake Mackenzie and you will soon realise there is a huge amount of water to explore back there. Maps are wonderful things; they inspire the imagination and bring out the explorer in us. In Tasmania we have an immense wilderness to explore and a unique fishing experience that goes along with it.

These lakes do not give up big numbers of fish on a regular basis. The weather and time of year play a big part in this. What they do offer, is the chance to fish many different waters in one day, each with its own special features that can bring fish into the shore line to feed depending on the time of day and wind direction. This allows the angler to first spot the fish and then decide on the best approach. This form of fishing will take you on a hunting and stalking experience that can be very addictive. Each lake has something new to offer leaving you wanting to explore the next lake just over the hill.

Access and Lakes
Beyond Mackenzie there are no roads into these lakes, only walking tracks. There are three main tracks used to access this area, two from Lake Mackenzie, the "Blue Peaks Track" and the "Explorer Track" and the "Higgs Track" that climbs up over the Great Western Tiers from the small settlement of Western Creek, near Deloraine.

Higgs Track
The Higgs track is a popular route, passing through Lake Lucy Long and Westons Lake, before finishing at the Iron Stone Hut on the southern shore of Lake Nameless.
Lake Nameless has a good head of fish and is very fertile, supporting a good mayfly hatch during summer. The lake has a rocky shoreline, like most lakes up there and some high ground to help locate fish. The southern shore is shallow enough to be waded, if needed.
Lake Lucy Long has a steep shoreline to the south and a flat shoreline to the north. The southern shore is hard going, but gives a good vantage point to polaroid fish out into the Lake. The Lake is quite deep, but fish can still be picked up against the light sandy bottoms.
Lake Westons is relatively shallow with shores that can produce tailing fish in low light conditions. The south eastern corner of the lake has a high bank to assist polaroiding during heavy cloud cover.

Explorer Track
The Explorer Track takes you around the southern shore of Lake Mackenzie, across the Fisher River, and then up to Lake Explorer. Crossing the Fisher River is limited to rock hopping your way across during low water levels in summer or by wading across the river when it is flowing fast and high after a lot of rain in spring.
Lake Explorer has a silty bottom that can discolour the water during long periods of strong winds. When the lake has cleared up, this same silty bottom lets you see fish easily against the light coloured bottom.
Blue Peaks Track
The Blue Peaks track is used to access the Blue Peaks Lake, Middle Lake and Little Throne Lake. This track is not well marked and is easily lost when trying to navigate after nightfall, or in thick fog.
Blue Peak Lake is set in amongst the flats beneath Blue Peaks. The Lake is a good place to find fish tailing along the shallows in the early morning and in the flooded margins when the water is high.
Middle Lake has a deep rocky eastern shore, while the western shore offers a shallower silty bottom where fish can be seen cursing the edge.
Little Throne Lake has a maze of shallow bays in the west that offer good sight fishing and flood fishing conditions. The eastern shore has slightly deeper water with channels used by the fish to move in and out of the shallow bays.
Early Day Trip
Late one night in October I was studying a map of the area planning a summer walk. It just so happened I had the following day off so I made the late decision to see what these lakes had to offer in spring. A quick look at the weather sealed the deal. Light winds and overcast, that would do me. I was out of bed the following morning at 2:45 am, on the road by 3:10 am and walking the Explorer track by 4:30 am. I made my way around the shore of Lake Mackenzie. The night was still, with only a light breeze blowing from the southeast. I could hear the sound of the Fisher River in the distance and wondered how high it was going to be flowing today. As I reached the river it was flowing hard with the row of rocks I usually jump across, now completely submerged. I found the shallowest section and removed my trousers and shoes. The water came up over my knees and was icy cold. Using my headlamp to find a way around the large slippery rocks, I slowly made my way across, taking the time to find a solid foothold in-between the rocks.
Back on the track, my feet soon regained their feeling as I continued up towards Lake Explorer. My headlamp was no longer needed by the time I had reached the Lake. I took the route to Lake Nameless via the northern shore of Lake Explorer. Surprisingly, I hadn't seen a single fish along the way. Leaving the Lake I crossed over towards Lake Nameless to pick up the Higgs track to make my way down to Westons Lake. Once there, I immediately found a fish tailing in the shallows amongst the pin reeds. I put a small nymph on and made the cast. The fish continued feeding towards the fly. I waited and watched the leader floating on the surface for any movement that would suggest the fish had taken the fly, but nothing happened. The fish kept feeding with its back out of the water. I put another cast a little closer, but again nothing. I quickly changed to a size 14 Red Tag and made yet another cast. I watched its exposed fins track over towards the fly through the shallow water, and then out came the snout over the tag and it was gone. I lifted the rod and the shallows erupted as the hooked fish charged out through the pin reeds, leaping clear of the water. The fish took line off the reel as it headed out into the lake but quickly settled down with a little side strain as it turned back towards me. A stubborn tug of war followed until I could finally persuade him into the net, I took a few shots and let him swim away. I continued around the lake using the high banks and shadows to see into the water in the overcast conditions.
I fully expecting to see a few more fish but nothing showed, I couldn't even spook one. I had a quick look at one corner of Lucy Long before deciding to cover a bit more ground and head back up to Lake Nameless. As I walked the western shore of Nameless I could clearly see two or three metres out into the water. The only fish I saw along here had already seen me, as it swam out from under an over-hanging kerosene bush at my feet.
With the thought of what the fish might be like at Lake Halkyard, I made the late decision to walk another kilometre further back over the hill. I walked down the eastern shore line of Hawkyard into a southeasterly breeze. I hadn't walked very far before I came across a fish facing into the wind close to the edge. I crept in behind the fish and punched the Red Tag up into the wind. The fly drifted back with the wind towards the fish. I watched the fish move from its stationary position and slowly rise up to inspect the fly; it paused briefly under the fly before taking it from the surface. I lifted and the rod bent into a solid fish. I managed three more fish along this shore, all off which were facing into the wind within a metre of the shore's rocky edge. I had covered a lot of ground and experienced a small insight of what each lake had to offer at this time of year and in these conditions. Things like-which lakes have the right shores for tailing fish, and a mental note of the high banks and trees that cast a shadow across the lake, allowing some visibility into the water on an overcast day.
On my walk back out, I cut across to the southern shore of Lake Explorer to pick up the track back to Lake Mackenzie, bypassing Lake Douglas, Lake Chambers and Lake Johnny along the way. After walking approximately 25 kilometres, I was back at the car by 6 pm. I had just squeezed in another day trip into the Central Plateau and didn't see a single person all day. That's one of the great things about this place, some days you'll have it all to yourself.

Gear to take - Keep it light and simple
- 5 or 6 weight fly rod
- Some 4 and 6 pound tippet.
- One box of flies containing both wet and dry flies
- Wet Flies:- Black Wooly Bugger, Wooly Worm, Montana nymph, Stick Caddis, Fur flies.
- Dry Flies:- Cocky Bondu, Zulu, Red Tag, Black Red Tag.
- Some Gink to float the dries and leader
- Polaroid sunglasses and a hat.
- Waders - optional
- Camera - optional

A GPS or a map and compass are a must when you venture back here. You just never know when your once familiar landscape will be covered in a thick fog or a heavy snowstorm. These conditions can leave you so disorientated that you can easily become lost. Another good reason to carry not only a Map and compass, but a torch as well, is when you have not allowed enough time to walk out in the daylight. The late evening cadis hatch is hard to leave, and I have walked out in the dark more that once because of it. Carry some basic survival items, even on a day trip. Waterproof matches or a lighter for an emergency fire, a pressure bandage for snakebites and sprains, an EPIRB if you are travelling alone and a waterproof jacket.
Dress in layers, with thermal gear that will dry out easily and will not take up too much space in your daypack. A pair of gloves and a neck gator will keep the cold wind off your skin.
Before taking on these walks, consider your level of fitness and do some walking before you make the trip. Even if it's only to try out those new walking boots to see how your feet hold up. There's nothing worse than feeling a blister coming on within the first kilometre. By the end of the day you will be wishing you had never set foot back there. Like anything, be prepared and you will give yourself the best chance to enjoy the surroundings, and the fishing.

Craig Rist

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