Trouting Destinations - part 2
by Neil Grose
Sick and tired of going fishing to get away from the rat race, only to find them all out fishing as well? Guide and author Neil Grose lets you in on a few destinations big on fishing, and small on people.
Apart from fly-fishing, I also take a passing interest in cricket. Not a serious interest, but I follow, watch, and take mental note of what transpires. A few years ago in the one day series festooned upon us every summer, the Australian selectors fielded two sides, Australia, and Australia A. The thing I loved about that year, as did plenty of other Australians, was that the second eleven, Australia A, beat the top team on most occasions.
It was at the same time that I was becoming less than enthused about fishing in Tasmania's popular destinations. So, taking a leaf out of the cricket selectors book, I went in search of the trout equivalent, the second eleven, so to speak. And, perhaps not altogether surprising, there was some excellent fly-fishing to be had. Some of these places are a little of the beaten track, some right next to the unbeaten track. Others require turning left at the fifteenth black stump past the shearing shed on the right, while keeping the broken fence on your left except when going down the hill, when it should be on the right. But they can be found easily enough for those prepared to look.
The second eleven are not simply waters ignored by the well read cognoscenti, but also side streams, forgotten bays and inlets on major lakes, and little visited parts of well known rivers.
The great thing about these 'second string" waters is the peace and quiet. Places that offer great fishing also offer great populations of people chasing an ever-dwindling variety of catchable trout. I say ever dwindling because the trout do get smart, they wise up to what is going on, and change their habits. There is an intentional distinction between people, and anglers - people crowd other anglers, but rarely do anglers invade the personal space of other anglers!
This summer consider a break from the Arthurs regulars and the Little Pine stalwarts, and explore a few of the forgotten gems, Tassie's second eleven.
Pine Tier Lagoon
Pine Tier Lagoon is a wonderful little lake, tucked away above the much busier Bronte Lagoon, and at the end of the now skeletal PineRiver below Little Pine Lagoon. This is really a lake in two parts, the top end is a wide and shallow bay nestled amongst the Gowan Brae property, while the rest is a narrow, deep twisting lake that has the Nive River entering at the southern extremity. The northern bay is a sensational fly-fishing area, especially from a drifting boat. With exceptionally clear water the polaroiding is fantastic around the mouth of the Pine River. There are some big weedy mounds there, the trout, mainly browns, cruise around searching out spent spinners and other wind blown goodies. In summer the leaping antics of the trout as they pursue dragonflies and damselflies is spectacular. They can be hard to catch though. Dun hatches are a feature in December and January, and while not usually of the magnitude of Little Pine Lagoon, are also less populated with people chasing the trout feeding on them.
The southern arm of the lake is a great place to escape high winds that can terrorise the rest of the plateau. Drifting a few nondescript dries will usually lift plenty of trout to the surface, amongst them some nice rainbows. Polaroiding amongst the drowned logs in the Nive arm can also be quite exciting on bright days.
A very rough boat ramp exists off the Gowan Brae road, good turning skills are necessary if you have a bigger than normal boat. Shore anglers are well catered for around the northern bay, as good marshes exist, as well as grassy banks and tree lined shores- gum beetle heaven.
Lake Augusta Dam
Lake Augusta is the first lake that anglers find as they head out to the Nineteen Lagoons area. The water immediately behind the dam looks a bit like a moonscape on first glance, and on second glance for that matter. However there are some great angling opportunities here, both for the ardent polaroider and the drifter of dry flies.
The lake is quite deep just in front of the dam, and gradually shallows up as you move further west. Some seriously big boulders mark the delineation, so heading over here at full plane is not a good idea. On the western side of the lake the polaroiding can be very good at times, and while these trout are not of the same proportions as better known western lakes, you shouldn't have to dodge people to get at them.
Wade polaroiding is very good on the edge of the original Ouse River bank; mostly the water is shallow enough to see them properly. There are also a reasonable population of duns on Lake Augusta Dam, so don't be too surprised to see trout chasing duns and spinners.
The deep water in front of the dam plays host to some very good rainbows that just love to cruise up the foam lines - any juicy dry fly will do. Strong westerly and northwesterly winds often buffet this lake, but if you can keep the casts simple and the flies in the water you should do ok.
Cascade Dam and Frome Dam
These two waters are hidden away up in the north east of Tasmania, and should be fished more than they currently are. The northeast is a hidden gem, hardly anyone ventures up there, yet there is some magnificent fishing to be had. Both of these waters have good falls of beetles in spring and summer, and also good midge hatches on dawn and dusk. All methods of fly-fishing work well; from slow fishing nymphs and small wets to stripping larger wets and drifting dries. The Frome Dam is Tasmania's second power station water supply, and has been continuously running since around 1920. As a result, the water race that goes between the dam and the power station holds some impressive trout, and some very impressive snakes.
The Cascade Dam fluctuates quite a bit in water level, as this is now a water source for irrigation in the Winnaleah and Derby area. Originally a water source for the Briseis tin mine at Derby, it has been a consistent producer of brown trout for nearly seventy years. A small boat can be a major advantage here, although if the level is down a metre or so the shore fishing from the dam around to Tin Pot Creek can be quite good. The Frome Dam is accessed via Moorina, and the Cascade via Derby. There are also plenty of great little streams in the area as well, so keep your eyes peeled for trout and running water.
Ringarooma River, above Branxholm
This river system is fantastic. Below Branxholm the river suffers badly from the after effects of intensive hydraulic tin mining including major silting and other pollutants. However as the river winds up from Branxholm towards Ringarooma, the natural appearance is once again found. Ti Tree is lined along much of its length, and plenty of brown trout live in the charming runs and riffles. Predominantly a freestone and gravel stream, there are enough deep holes to house some big trout.
Above the township of Ringarooma the tributaries are well worth exploring, including the Maurice and side creeks in the area. Any nondescript dry fly with a small black beetle 30 centimetres underneath it seems to work wonders. When the weather warms up the grasshopper fishing is superlative. On a dull and cloudy day try fishing some flashy little wets down and across, the beautiful little red spotted trout pounce on these quite well. Caddis on evening provides a welcome end to a day well spent tramping the banks of this forgotten wonder.
North Esk River
This water used to be the benchmark river in the 'scholes" hey day, but now you rarely hear anything of it. My love for this river is found in its upper most reaches, as it winds towards the Diddleum on the opposite side of the ridge to the St Patrick's River. The upper reaches have a huge head of brown trout, all willing eaters of the Royal Humpy and the Royal Wulff. The Red Tag is also a great fly, but it sinks a little too easily for my liking. The shrubbery will get in the way quite often, but with cunning little bow and arrow cast, roll casts and side casts you should be ok. Keep the tippet strength up around six pounds, and it will help pull the fly out of the trees without losing too many flies.
If anyone gives you grief about fishing for small trout, just smile knowingly and let them keep out of our hair, and out of our good little spots. Even though the inhabitants of these lesser streams are small, they are just as intriguing, and for that matter capable of burying you under a bank or tree root as any big lake leviathan. There are plenty of access points on the North Esk once you travel above the farming areas. This land is mostly crown land, so you have pretty much free reign.
South Esk River below Trevallyn Dam
I spent many afternoons and weekends here when I was in boarding school at Launceston Grammar. It was a 30-minute bike ride to the best places. We used to hide our bikes near the swing bridge and fish our way upstream. On weekends we used to con the House Master into driving us to the Trevallyn Dam, where we would shimmy down the steep bank, hike downstream for thirty minutes, and then fish back up to the dam. And boy, did we catch some trout. In its normal summer flows the majority of the trout would hold in the runs between the long pools. We quickly discovered that the big pools got too hot in summer, and the best of the trout would head to the colder and running water. We also discovered that stealthy anglers often found sun bakers intent on the all over tan. Who says adolescents don't like going fishing!
The fishing here is still just as good as it was 20 years ago, (strewth, 20 years!). The main food sources for these fish are nymphs, beetles and snails, so small black beetle patterns fished under a nice visible dry works well. On hot days the bigger trout hold under the main flow of water, so weighted flies fished similarly to New Zealand will often trick them up. In periods of high water the whole area becomes dangerous, but in times of normal flow it is really good. There are also plenty of fish in the First Basin as well, but too many swimmers for good angling.
As the South Esk trickles into the Tamar estuary, and heads towards Kings Bridge, there are often some thumping great sea run brown trout, especially in October. I first spotted them during rowing training one evening many years ago, and have seen them most years since. A boat is really the only way to get at them though.
The above destinations represent six of the second eleven that perform well during December and January. The next five are great in February and March, and they should be in the next issue. There are hundreds of destinations in Tasmania that offer great fishing without hordes of people crowding you out. These places are often the most delightful of areas, and you will get a sense of having worked it all out for yourself, and that is satisfying indeed.