Presented from Issue 95
The tip of dorsal fin momentarily cut the glassy surface of the lagoon followed by a slight swirl over the iseotes weed mound. This was the signal I had been waiting for, he was back. An accurate long cast placed the little Montana Nymph a few feet ahead of the slight ripple caused by this activity. This was met by a huge bow wave and swirl in the vicinity of the fly.
I quickly tightened and an enormous golden sided brown trout leapt skywards in a spectacular gill rattling response. Hitting the water again the fish put on the afterburners and headed for what seemed like the other side of the lagoon with the reel screaming in protest, a universally wonderful sound for all flyfishers. Another head shaking leap further out in the lake this time resulted in the desperate feeling of slack line. Despondently I reeled in the line and inspected the broken tippet. Maybe the 4lb tippet was a little light…..
After gathering myself I looked around to Todd, my companion for the day’s fishing in the area collectively known as the Chudleigh Lakes in Tasmania’s Central Plateau region. He had been watching the exchange closely, having landed a large fish himself only minutes before. My questioning look was met by a shrug of his shoulders. A few unprintable comments followed and then we were off again with eyes peeled looking for the next potential candidate.
This day’s fishing adventure had began, as many others had before it, a few short hours before. The alarm clock had played out its screeching tune at 01:30am. This din signalled the end of a fitful sleep. A quick shower and bite to eat followed before Todd arrived to pick me up. We were then on the road for the 1 ½ hour drive up to the road terminus at the foot of the Lake Mackenzie dam wall. With backpacks and headlamps on we then set off on the 2 hour mostly cross country walk to the lagoon described above for a dawn raid on its tailing brown trout.
By approximately 08:00 am the tailing trout action had quietened off. Both Todd and I had a landed a solid fish each and I had also managed to break off the big one mentioned earlier. The action had been solid with just enough trout showing to keep us both interested and alert. Most fish had been working slightly offshore among the iseotes weed that dotted the bottom of this shallow lagoon, their position being betrayed only when they moved up over the weed mounds, most likely feeding on the abundant population of amphipods that these areas hold.
Tactics for Tailers
On day trips into the western lakes we will often walk in with the use of headlamps or torches to a pre-planned destination so that we can be on the lagoons, a little closer to the vehicles, was going to be the afternoon’s destination.
Almost immediately actively feeding trout were polaroided in these waters. Once again there were quite a few refusals but enough accepted our offerings to make it a great afternoons sport.
One particular trout sticks in my memory. Walking along a high bank we found a large fish cruising within a few inches of the edge. Being my turn on “strike” I quickly got into position but found that at low level the trout was invisible to me. Relying on my companions direction I was able to deliver a long cast which placed my little dry ‘Bruisers Bug’ on to the water just off to the side of the trout. Immediately out of the glare came the large brown, looking from my angle like a big grey submarine and inhaled the dry. It was difficult to delay the strike long enough and not lift too early due to the chorus of whoops and hollers coming from above me! Somehow I timed it right and a furious battle ensued, much of it in the air. Alas the hook pulled on this fish before it came to hand, more so it seemed to my companion’s disappointment than mine, but I’d had my fun with him by that stage.
It is really this type of fishing that has made the Western Lakes district famous not only amongst local anglers but worldwide. Fishing to large brown trout cruising sandy or silty lake shores on blue sky days is what anglers flock here for starting from late spring and through the summer period.
Sunny days with little or no cloud are the best conditions to get the most out of the WL polaroiding. As soon as the sun is high enough in the sky, usually around 09:00 am in the summer, it is time to get the ‘roids’ on and start searching for trout.
Waters preferred for polaroiding are the shallow sandy or silty bottom lagoons and bays that are common throughout this part of plateau. In good conditions you can see virtually all of the bottom of these lagoons. The shadows of the cruising trout will stand out like the proverbial!
Take advantage of higher ground, such as elevated banks, big rocks, etc.. This also helps to be able see across more water.
Fly patterns suitable for polaroiding are very seasonal dependant but in the summer at least this fishing is generally dry fly based. Once again the Red Tag is a popular choice as are Black Spinner patterns and foam flies such as Chernobyl Ants, WMDs and my own Bruisers Bug have their devotees For days that the trout won’t look up small nymphs, fur flies and woolly worms are good fall backs.
As per the notes above on tailing trout 4, 5 and 6 weight rods are standard equipment for this fishing. Weight forward lines will give the angler some scope in the quite often windy conditions. Polarised sunglasses as the name suggests are an absolute must for this type of fishing. Amber or brown tints are generally preferred, although the yellow tinted glasses are gaining a following, especially in low light conditions. Photochromatic glasses are also handy as they darken or lighten in their tint dependant on the available light.
By the time we had completed a circuit of just a few of the lagoons in the system it was time to leave. The hours tick by so fast up here, there was some heavy cloud cover starting to roll in from the north as well and the threat of getting fog bound made the decision easier. Faced with a 3 ½ hour walk back to the cars we sadly packed up our gear and headed back off down the hill, vowing to return again in the near future to do battle with these wonderful trout in an amazing setting. All up it had been a typical Western Lakes day, challenging and sometimes frustrating fishing mixed in with some absolutely memorable moments.
Accessing the Chudleigh Lakes
The Chudleigh lakes region and its world class polaroiding for Brown Trout can be accessed by either the Blue Peaks or Lake Explorer tracks both of which leave from Lake Mackenzie. Both tracks are clearly marked on the Mersey 1:100 000 Tasmap.
The Blue Peaks track is a relatively easy 6km walk which can be negotiated in 1 ½ to 2 hours. This track arrives on the northern shore of the water named Middle Lake. From here there is easy cross country access to all the main waters including Blue Peak Lake itself, Little Throne Lake, Harry Lees Lakes, Shark Hole and Grassy Lakes. There are also many side waters within easy day trip access from this location.
Note that the Blue Peaks track can be difficult to find in marginal conditions such as fog and or snow. Walkers should come prepared for all conditions .
The Lake Explorer track leaves from the foot of the Mackenzie Wall and follows an old vehicle route around the shore of the lake. At high lake levels this track can be become quite difficult to access and if Mackenzie is full almost impossible. At these times it is best to either boat across Mackenzie or use the before discussed Blue Peaks track. Once you have negotiated around Mackenzie and crossed the Fisher River the track is well defined, albeit quite wet at times.
The track as the name suggests arrives on the shores of Lake Explorer after a 1 ½ hour walk and continues on to Lake Nameless. Other main lakes best accessed by this track are Lake Lucy Long, Westons Lake, Snake Lake, Lake Ironstone and Lake Halkyard. Similar to the Blue Peaks lakes area there are many smaller waters worth investigating as well within easy cross country access.
Another couple of points of access worth mentioning here are the Western Creek and Higgs tracks. These tracks lead up onto the plateau from the foot of the Western Tiers. They offer a serious alternative to anglers wishing to mix some bushwalking to the trip as they are very scenic alternatives. The Western Creek track comes out on the plateau in the vicinity of Lake Ironstone and the Higgs Track at Lake Lucy Long and continues on to Lake Nameless.
Once again anglers accessing this area should come prepared for all possibilities. Weather conditions can change rapidly; we have had days up here where full sun was exchanged for thick fog within minutes. Extremes of temperature are also commonplace on the plateau so warm clothing is a must even on days with high temperatures forecast.
Gear Checklist for Day Walks
- Good quality backpack or daypack which distributes weight evenly across the hips
- Comprehensive area maps, the Mersey 1:100 000 or Lake Mackenzie and Pillans 1:25 000 series
- Compass and / or GPS unit, especially if intending to do any cross country walks
- Quality waterproof coat, even if fine conditions are predicted.
- Strong walking boots that give good ankle support in particular. A lot of the cross country walking is across rock scree. This is not the place to roll your ankle or worse.
- Gaiters for protection both from the thorny scrub and resident tiger snakes.
- Layering clothing, including thermal underwear, mid weight fleece and windstopper jacket.
- Well stocked First Aid Kit, including blister pads. (There is nothing that ruins your day quicker than a blister!!)
- Spare socks
- Plenty of food to keep energy levels up. Muesli bars are a personal favourite to snack while fishing.
- Beroccas, to give you back the b, b, bounce !!
The Chudleigh Lakes area is a wonderful fishery within easy reach of anglers with average fitness levels. The fishing, as is the case with much of the Western Lakes, is very rarely easy but if you are up to the challenge is a great destination. Every fish successfully fooled up in this country brings a great level of satisfaction.