Launceston's suburban trouting
The little lure was halfway back when a yellowish flash and a sharp tug indicated it had drawn the interest on one of this little stream's inhabitants. After a short thrashing fight with a couple of jumps, I was able to work the small trout into the bank for a quick photo and release. This was my first for the day and whilst only a small fish at around 40cm long for water this small it was a monster and at least it showed that this little stream held fish and that the water, though discoloured from recent heavy rains was still clear enough for lure fishing. I had only been fishing for less than 10 minutes, was still at work less than 25 minutes previously and with home less than 10 minutes drive away I knew I could afford to stick around for a while longer before having to head homewards for dinner. This suburban trouting was not bad at all.
When I first moved to Launceston from Sydney 7 years ago, I asked around about local fishing options and was initially lead to believe that I would have to head either to the coast or up to the lakes if I was to experience a realistic chance at taking any fish. This was not good news for fanatical angler who was also an impoverished student without a car and a big change from the ten-minute walk I had had in Sydney to my nearest fishing spot. Thankfully, I have since discovered that this could not be further from the truth!
Being an inland city, Launceston may lack the estuary and saltwater options available to anglers living in other Tasmanian population centers such as Hobart and Devonport. However what we do have right on our doorstep is some pretty reasonable trout fishing, in some cases almost in the middle of town, and certainly within the suburbs.
There are five main environments for suburban trout fishing available to Launceston residents: tailrace, tidal waters, dams, rivers and small streams.
Of these, the most popular is certainly the tailrace at Riverside where water from Trevallyn dam is released after passing through the power station. Every year many fish are taken from this popular spot, with some absolute thumpers amongst them. Brown trout, redfin and mullet are the most common species encountered here, with some of the best fishing occurring when the large whitebait schools put in an appearance in spring. Tailrace trout may be targeted using bait, lure or fly. Soft-plastics such as the Berkley bass minnow and gulp grubs or similar lures are quite successful here, particularly fished slow and deep when no fish are showing, or else cast unweighted or with a very light jighead at bust-ups when fish are chasing whitebait. Small rapala style floating lures, tassie devils or spoons can also be used to good effect in this water. Generally, white, silver and natural shades are the best lure colours for this area. Fly-fishers can taste success on tailrace trout by casting whitebait flies at bust-ups when they occur or by fishing wet flies slow and deep at other times. Most bait-fishers seem to use bottom baits of either worms or wattle grubs when fishing the tailrace and do particularly well after dark or at change of light periods (when all methods are at their best).
Launceston also has two lakes that can provide some entertaining trout fishing. Waverley Lake is a designated junior angling spot and as such can only be fished by those less than 16 years of age, so I have never tried there myself. However, I have heard reliable reports of some good-sized rainbows coming from this water to both shore based spin fishers and fly casters. Trevallyn dam on the lower South Esk on the other hand is open to all. This lake holds a reasonable population of wild brown trout from the South Esk River and has also been stocked in the past with both brook trout and atlantic salmon. The area near Blackstone Heights where the river starts to back up is quite a productive zone for anglers to drift spin from boats and for those with access, would also provide some reasonable shore-based sport using lures or bait. There is also some scope for fly-fishing in this waterway and for trolling the dam, particularly in the deeper sections downstream using diving lures, leadcore or downriggers. Shore-based bait fishing near the picnic area and spinning or fly-fishing the margins also hold potential in this water.
Tidal water fishing is mainly carried out in the lower North Esk particularly around Hobblers Bridge with at least a couple of large sea-run trout being taken from this region every year, mainly in spring when the whitebait run brings the fish in. Most of the upper Tamar can produce good fishing at times, however water clarity can be a major problem. When conditions are good, sea-run trout can be taken from the foreshore beside the East Tamar highway below Mowbray and likely in most other parts of the river. This is an area for the super keen however as Tamar sea-runners are often the fish of 1000 or more casts. Another tidal spot well worth trying is the lower gorge between Kings Bridge and the first rapids on the South Esk. Big redfin can be caught here and the area has definite potential for some very large trout though I have yet to taste success here personally.
The rivers and streams are where I do most of my suburban fishing. For larger rivers, there are two options, the North and South Esks.
Suburban South Esk fishing basically means the gorge and the area between first basin and the dam wall provides a substantial amount of territory to cover with the easiest access at the old Duck reach power station. Care needs to be taken in this area as the rocks are often slippery and if caught at river level when a large water release occurs you would be in real trouble. A reasonable level of fitness is also necessary, as rock hopping, scrambling and climbing along the watercourse can be quite tiring. A water bottle is a good idea too as these rocks will radiate a lot of heat on a sunny day, however once you are down at water level, this river provides a real wilderness feel within minutes of the city and in summer, a refreshing swim is a good way to cool off. Brown trout are the main species encountered here along with a few redfin and grayling and some of the brownies are disproportionately big for the size of the water. The fishing is typical of upland fast water river fishing with spinning arguably the best method. I mainly use small spoons here due to the ability to bounce them off rocks without damage however all the normal river lures will work. A few soft plastics are definitely worth including in your kit though as in places there are some quite deep but short pools with fish sitting right on the bottom and inaccessible to other lures. Bait and fly-fishing would also work but as a committed lure angler, I have not tried these techniques in the gorge. The other thing to note about this spot is that the fish can be extremely skittish, especially in late summer when the water is crystal clear and the area popular with swimmers. Working slowly and methodically and using available cover is definitely the way to go. Finally, particularly in summer, the gorge can become very weedy with filamentous green algae sometimes making much of the river unfishable.
The North Esk also provides substantial scope for suburban trouting. The area from Newstead up past Cora Lyn can all produce fish with the easiest access around the dog exercise area and park at St Leonards and at Cora Lyn itself. Some quite large trout come out of this river each year with the best fishing again in the spring coinciding with the whitebait runs. This is more typical river fishing with fly-fishing, spinning and bait fishing with worms, grubs or grasshoppers (summer) all productive. The river is a standard pool and rapid affair and the fish can be found in all the obvious spots such as undercut banks, eddies and the heads and tails of pools. Generally, this section of the North Esk is shallower, broader and slower than the South Esk is at the gorge with the slower gradient and grassy banks making this a more angler-friendly though much less scenic location. As with most suburban waters, water quality can be an issue, with even moderate rains sufficient to dirty the water enough to make lure or fly-fishing difficult or impossible. Additionally, by summer water quality has often deteriorated to the point where authorities strongly advise against contact with the water and it would be a brave and stupid person who would risk eating a fish from this location. As with the South Esk, brown trout are the predominant species with some redfin and grayling present.
The final option for Launceston anglers looking for a bit of suburban action are the small streams that cris-cross many suburbs. I will not give any specific locations of these tiny waterways away, however a quick look at a street directory should be sufficient to point you towards one of these fishing spots. The small streams are often overgrown and you will probably get some odd looks or derogatory comments if people see you fishing in what to them is little more than a drain; however, these tiny streams can sometimes turn on some quality action. The fish are brown trout and in most cases anything over 35cm is a whopper. These small streams are not an area to hit for a feed as, being tiny, they cannot support much fishing pressure, but for anyone desperate for a fishing fix and a little solitude in an apparent wilderness (at least once out of site of houses) these little streams can be a godsend. Spinning with small spinning blade lures, tiny 30-35mm spoons, 3cm rapalas (or equivalent) or tiny soft plastics like the Berkley nymph, 1" sliders or grubs is the way to go using a short and light spinning rod than can be cast in the limited space available.
So for any frustrated Lonnie fishers, don't get too jealous of the fishing options that the southerners and coastal dwellers have on their doorsteps, get out and check out some of the suburban trout action available in your own backyard.