Presented from Issue 99
For most East Coast anglers the thought of chasing a few trout usually conjures up images of an extended trip to the central highlands, hours of driving, cool temperatures and long hours on the water to make the most of the trip.
However there is some great trout fishing options a lot closer to home than many would think with more than enough variety to satisfy even the most discerning of trout anglers.
With a good mix of river, lake and dam fishing there is something for everyone.
If heading to the rivers my early season recommendations would be definitely some upstream worm fishing in the faster water and small Wattyl Grubs and worms in the slower pools for those wishing to bait fish. A big bunch of scrub worms thread onto a #6 bronze bait holder hook and lobbed unweighted upstream into the tail of runs and eddies is a dynamite technique. If there has been some seasonal rain and the river has broken its banks then its prime time for the worm fisherman, take advantage of the water rising into normally dry drains and into paddocks as the Trout follow and gorge themselves on drowned insects and worms.
As the water starts to recede the action will slow dramatically so make sure you jump as soon as the river rises.
For the artificial spin guys there is no better river spinner than the #0-#1 Celta style. Cast upstream and quickly retrieved back down in fast water or cast across stream and let swing down current in the slower water will both produce fish. Small brown trout and rainbow trout pattern Rapala style lures are also a great one to have in the box as are small soft plastic fish patterns, such as 60mm Squidgy Fish in Gary Glitter, and 2” grub tail patters in Pumkinseed colours.
For fly anglers the North East streams are one of the few places you may be able to take Trout on a dry fly on the first day of the season. A Royal Wulff, Red Tag or Elk Hair Caddis are my flies of choice, all high floating, high visibility and well accepted by the fish. For a little extra spice don’t be frightened to hang a small #16 Black Bead Head Nymph or Copper John nymph under the dry, you will be amazed at how much difference this can make. For anglers heading to the lakes and dams baits are the same, plenty of worms and grubs either fished as they are or under a float depending on the substrate of the area being fished. If it’s a clear bottom fish them straight on a hook with little or no bait but any weed at all then a small float os ideal to keep the bait suspended in mid water.
For the lure fisherman standard trout patterns such as Tassie Devils, Ashely Spinners and Wonder Wobblers are all tried and tested patterns and will produce fish. Hard Body lures such as Rapala Max Raps in Brown Trout and Black Gold, Hawk Stick Minnows in AY and BG, Stiffy Minnows in black gold and Yo Zuri Pinz Minnows are all great Galaxia imitations and work great when cast and twitched around weed and reed beds.
For fly anglers early season wet flies will work best in the weedy margins of many North East lakes and dams, the Yeti, Fur Fly, Wolly Bugger, Pedder Parrot and one of my favourites a Fuzzle Bugger are great choices. With some winter sun and warm coastal wind some areas may even see dun hatches early on so keep your eye out and arm yourself with some dun and spinner patterns just in case.
The Georges River
The Georges River is the first stop for most east coast trout fisherman and starts its life high in the mountains 30 minutes west of St Helens as two separate river systems, the North George River and the South George River.
The upper reaches are very reminiscent of an English chalk stream, crystal clear water, dense forest growth all around with areas of highland tarn, rich in aquatic and terrestrial life, the perfect haven for small Brown Trout to flourish. The two rivers meet and converge to make the Georges River proper at a small dairy farming area called Pyengana and flow through a mix of farm land, state forest and lowland plains eventually spilling into Georges Bay at St Helens. During the first month of the season temperatures in Tasmania don’t usually encourage much in the way of surface fly hatches however on the East Coast it is not unusual to have some earlier than the rest of the state and the Georges River is one of the few places in Tasmania where its possible to catch the small river trout on a dry fly on the first day of the season. Although the fish in the head waters are only small what they lack in size they certainly make up for it in sheer numbers however as you head toward the lower limits fish numbers reduce but the sizes increase. Close to town you can expect resident fish up to 5-6lb and monsters up to 8lb have been caught in some of the darker deeper reaches fishing baits at night.
The Ringarooma River
The Ringarooma River begins at the foothills between Ben Nevis, which is part of the Ben Lomond ranges and Mount Maurice to the north. It flows in a north easterly direction through mostly farmland and on past the township of Ringarooma itself. The top end of this river is simply magnificent with some superb stretches of water to fish. It has an excellent population of small to medium sized fish with the odd larger model poking about just to keep you on your toes. By the time it reaches the township of Branxholm, the catchment has grown to include drainage from the Maurice River and Legerwood Rivulet on the west and inflows from Federal Creek, the Dorset River and New River from the east. From Branxholm down it becomes difficult to access and very bouldery and deep, from Derby downstream the years of tin mining have left the river only a shadow of what it once would have been. It’s from Branxholm upstream through Ringarooma that offers anglers the best sport and is a flyfisher’s dream water. Upstream spinning with small no.1 Celta (spinning blade) lures is also a popular and deadly fish catching technique in this water.
The Frome Dam
The Frome Dam sits atop Kent Hill just south east of the small hamlet of Moorina. It was constructed in 1908 as a water source for the Moorina Power station to supply power to the tin mining schemes in the area. It holds approx 2500 mega litres of water when full and offers east coast anglers a close small waterway to chase a Trout. This water is dark tannin in appearance and has a bottom laden with fallen tree stumps and logs so care needs to be taken when boating. Unfortunately it offers very limited access for shore based anglers and is also surrounded by dense forest which makes wading almost impossible apart from a couple of areas where vehicles can be parked. At lower water levels more shoreline is exposed but much care needs to be taken when wading due to the sandy substrate and the possibility of sinking in the sand. The water has a good head of small fish and with spawning facilities available has a self sufficient population. During the summer months this Dam can be host to some remarkable beetle, caddis, spinner and mud eye hatches offering some fantastic fishing.
The Cascade Dam
The Cascade Dam, originally called the Briseis Dam until the infamous flood of 1929, when it burst and killed fourteen people in Derby, sits 350 metres above sea level on the Cascade River about 4 km upstream of the Ringarooma River junction. The dam was rebuilt in 1934 to supply the Briseis Tin Mine in Derby and has a capacity of around 3600 mega litres. The Briseis Tin Mine closed during the mid-1950’s and the storage was virtually unused for about 20 years. In the mid-1970’s plans to utilise this asset for agricultural irrigation emerged and this storage is now used to supply the Winnaleah Irrigation Scheme, which services 45 irrigators. The track into the dam is certainly not for standard cars; whilst most of the time 4WD is not needed a vehicle with decent ground clearance is needed to drive to the dam. During periods of high water shoreline access is almost non existent so the use of a small dinghy is a must and will certainly see a dramatic improvement in fishing ability. The water is deep, dark and very tannin stained with areas of standing dead timber, thick scrub shorelines and sunken timber everywhere so care is needed. Mixed reports come from this water however there is a good head of wild brown trout as it has a river and two creeks that constantly flow in it. Small to medium sized Trout are caught throughout the season on Fly, Bait and spin gear and is well worth the trek into.
Pioneer Mine Dam
The Pioneer Mine Dam, or Pioneer Lake, is a small water just north of the township of Pioneer. It is basically the old Tin Mine site, which was a big hole in the ground, which was then flooded with water. Surrounded by white sandy banks it is a very clean water although dark and tannin coloured with rich aquatic life and a solid population of small Galaxias fish. This water is stocked every year by the inland fisheries service with brown trout fingerlings and adult rainbow trout. This is an easy water to drive to and offers quite a bit of shoreline access for anglers. There are also boat launching facilities for those wishing to boat fish however anglers need to be aware that throughout the summer months many water skiers also use this water. All methods are allowed on this water, fly, bait and lure and during the last few years there has been a Trout Fishing Competition held here as part of the North East Rivers festival. During the competition rainbow trout up to 8lb have been caught and all throughout the season quality fish up to this size and larger are regularly caught.
Big Waterhouse & Little Waterhouse Lakes/Blackmans Lagoon
All three of these lakes are situated roughly 20km’s north east of Bridport along the coastline and are inside the Waterhouse Protected Area. They all lay just a couple of km’s inland from the coastline and sandy shorelines with sand dunes in the background are the only give away that you are near the ocean. All have the distinct dark tannin stained water colour endemic of coastal lagoons and rich weed growth all around the shoreline. It is this rich weed growth that promotes a massive amount of aquatic life in these lakes and in turn provides the trout with a veritable supermarket of food items to feed on. Blackmans Lagoon and Big Waterhouse Lake have some of the fastest trout growth rates in the state and are considered state-wide as Trophy Trout waters with double figure fish coming from them nearly every season. Shore access can be difficult at times of high water with the massive weed beds proving to be a hindrance, a small boat is a definite advantage here. Both of these lakes have prolific Galaxia populations and have huge mud eye hatches during the summer months and usually well before many other lakes around the state. Little Waterhouse lake is just a couple of km’s north of the Big Lake but is much much smaller in size. This water can suffer badly to low water levels during the summer but offers anglers more shore based angling than the other two lakes. All three waters are stocked every year by the inland fisheries service with both brown and rainbow trout and during the last year triploids have been introduced, this coupled with the high growth rate should offer anglers some fantastic fishing in the coming season. All methods can be used on these waters, bait, fly and lure however all three lakes seem to reward the bait fisherman with some of the better catches. So as you can see for east coast trout anglers there is no need to travel for hours and head to the highlands in order to grab a Trout fix as some of the states best freshwater fishing is much closer than you think.
A choice of lures