Walking and Fishing in Comfort

Quenton Higgs

It doesn't happen a lot, but occasionally I encounter someone on the track and you get the remark "gee, you're carrying a big heavy pack there". I guess this can be interpreted as one of two things:
a. you're carrying more than you need or,
b. you must be out for a long time. I'm never sure how to take it but I do know that when I am walking I like to be comfortable. If that means carrying a bit more weight then so be it!
Unlike suburbia if you're in the Tassie bush where one minute can be warm sunshine and next a freezing blizzard you should be, no, must be well equipped. Situations like this put true meaning into Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of needs ie. you need the basics of shelter and warmth before you can enjoy other pleasantries eg. fishing/photography, that contribute to well being.
With this and the aforementioned comment in mind  I'll tell what, in my opinion, you need to pack to have a comfortable walking/fishing expedition whether an overnight or longer duration. There are no shortcuts and with a bit of experience you can keep the weight to a minimum.

It's great to have a comfortable rucksack to carry your gear. Mine is 75 litres and you need all of this capacity for overnighters to be safe, not sorry. Some packs have a lower zippered compartment for easy stowage and quick access to gear like a sleeping bag but they can leak if going through deep water. Additionally a waterproof pack liner is great in the wet or if you have to swim. I prefer the one piece top load canvas pack, as canvas is more waterproof and durable. Look for generous outside, rear and top pockets. Side pockets can be a problem when scrub bashing. Ensure the harness is  correctly fitted - your outdoor shop will help.
Several huts dotted about the Central Highlands seem like paradise at times when there is a bunk free. But I always carry a two-man tent and lightness depends on the thickness of your wallet. All reputable outdoor shops in Tassie carry a wide choice of four season tents weighing from around 2.5 kilos upward and priced to $900. My tent weighs  three kilos including pegs and poles. I like to carry a light weight fly 2.5m x 2.5 for a "kitchen" shelter - great if you're stuck in a tent for hours in the pouring rain. A space blanket to insulate and protect the tent floor is also handy for first aid. Super down sleeping bags (-5C will suit most Tassie conditions, but temperature ratings are not gospel so seek advice) are compact and light and combined with a silk liner and ¾ length sleeping mat you are fairly sure of getting a reasonable nights sleep. Try for all up weight pack plus tent/shelter 10 kgs.
It is a good idea to buy a multi pitch tent; i.e. the inner and outer skin pitch at the same time, or can be pitched inner first. Although single skin tents are light they are cold and a build up of condensation drips on you.  

Warmth i.e. efficient clothing
Cotton clothing - singlets, shirts, jeans etc can be OK in hot weather but pretty horrible in the wet and cold and can be dangerous as they don't dry out. You should use dedicated walking gear. Thermal gear is lightweight and gives a great safety margin. Don't pack more clothing than you need to handle wet weather. Good outdoor shops can advise you on dress layers and its worth talking to their staff and other walkers. Learn from successive trips too!
So what should be included? This is definitely personal choice but I wear a pair of budgie smugglers and if it's cold, top and bottom polypropylene thermals. I pack spare thermals that take little space. Long polypropylene trousers have zip off legs so they can become shorts for warm weather and staying below the waist I wear thick woollen socks and chuck a couple of extra pairs in. High grade technical socks are much better.
For my liking, after a day of walking though water there is nothing worse than getting up next day to wet boots and wet socks. With dry socks your body temperature will quickly warm the inside of the boot. Make sure you purchase good sturdy boots, preferably single piece full grain leather uppers that will provide sole and ankle support. Some bush walkers wear sneakers but I reckon why risk an ankle injury when miles from nowhere. Again there is heaps of choice but I prefer the Gortex lined boot that assists in drawing moisture away from my feet thus keeping them warmer.
Get your boots professionally fitted and make sure your boots are not too small. This is a mistake many people make.
Trekking through the wet highland heath will quickly saturate trousers below the knees and water will gravitate into your boots. Canvas gaiters really help and they also offer good protection from leaches and snakes.
Above the waist I wear a long sleeve nylon shirt and in cooler weather a polar fleece, no zip. If the weather comes in a ¾ length breathable jacket that is zippered with Velcro front seal and waist draw string will provide much needed protection from chilling winds. Make sure the jacket has a generous hood with a flexible peak that helps to keep the weather off your face or in my case my specs! A fleece beanie and good gloves are essential.

Other gear.
Enroute type gear, map, compass (GPS great when navigation is tough) sunglasses, sun-block, insecticide, water-bottle and a first aid kit will add to your comfort. Most small first aid kits do not contain bandages suitable for treating snake bite so I always carry two additional four inch rolls and keep them easily accessible for this eventuality. Hopefully it won't happen! A plastic trowel slipped in the side pocket is handy for digging! Once I've made camp it's bliss to relax in gear other than the stuff I've been in all day so I include a pair of fleece track pants, a down vest to go over a thermal top and light weight shoes. Pack tally thus far 15kgs.

Specialised pre-packed trekking meals are readily available but they can be expensive, although a full meal can cost under $9. If you can afford it go for it! Supermarkets have heaps of dehydrated product from vegs to fruit to meat so check these out. Beware of salt content and also take note that freeze dried food has a much higher nutrient content than most dehydrated food. I have met walkers who make it their hobby to make all their own dried food and this would be the most economical if you have the dedication. Design a menu for the duration plus an extra day. I prefer to separate tucker into bags for breakfast, lunch and dinner as they easily recognisable and can tuck more easily into ever decreasing space. A few treats e.g. fresh onion, fruit bars, nuts etc. are great for the spirits, speaking of which, a wee dram of brandy added to dried apple and custard is special. Remember you will need plate, cup, utensils, pans, stove and fuel to enjoy gourmet meals! A fuel stove is essential. If cooking after dark some lighting is pretty handy and there is a range available; the latest LED head lamps are fantastic allowing hands free cooking. For three days I reckon my food will weigh around five kilos; tally now 20kgs.

Health and well being
This is the really good part, in my case heaps of hopefully very productive fly fishing. It is only really enjoyable in the knowledge that shelter, warmth and food have been well taken care of. After-all, this is what we've taken all the trouble for.
Whilst it's not about the Central Highlands I love the following verse about well being and the good stuff we like about our sport:

The King's white road is troubless
Summons calling day by day
I prefer the Cocksfoot Track
The easy vagrant way.
O'er the rolling paddocks
By the rush of golden gorse
The river leads it's lover
Down the ripples of it's course.
Afoot the wash of waders
Aloft the haze veiled blue
The heart it needeth nothing
The cast falls clean and true.
Oh carol of the running reel
Oh flash of mottled back
Who will walk the King's white road
And who the Cocksfoot Track?


I reckon this beautifully sums up just why we like to combine our walking with our fishing but the very nature of the distant and pristine places dictates we can't take all our tackle.

Fishing gear
A four or six piece 5# rod in a tube container is easily stowed on the side of your pack and I take only one reel, a fly vest with minimum equipment and flies, camera and binoculars. Waders are a must but they are always cause a quandary. I've considered  several options but always fall back to thigh waders with a built in boot. They weigh too much but if you opt for breathable waders with a stocking foot you then have to carry wading boots; the weight is similar. The other option is to wet wade in your walking boots and I find that's uncomfortable. Fishing gear weighs 3.5kgs the waders taking up a massive 2kgs.

So there you have it, what I like to pack for a comfortable trek, all up weight around 25kgs and summarised below. Again I stress this is my opinion but if you use this as a guide and take advice from outdoor shop staff you will be on the right track. Enjoy your walking and fishing! Perhaps we'll catch up for a yarn at Lake Halkyard, Ball or Youd.

Quenton Higgs

My check list

  • Rucksack with waterproof liner
  • Two-man tent (all season), Light weight fly
  • Space blanket
  • Down sleeping bag to suit conditions
  • Thermarest (3/4 or equiv)
  • Bathers
  • Thermal underwear x 2 sets
  • Trousers, zippered
  • Thick woollen socks x 3 pair
  • Gaiters
  • Boots
  • Nylon LS shirt x 2
  • Polar fleece
  • ¾ breathable jacket
  • Fleece beanie
  • Gloves
  • Map in plastic bag/case
  • Compass (GPS optional)
  • EPIRB (where assessed risk is high)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Insecticide
  • Water bottle (and bladder)
  • First Aid kit - incl plaster, gauze, strips, paracetamol
  • Two 4" bandages
  • Down vest
  • Track pants nylon
  • Camp shoes
  • Food (design a menu for the duration)
  • Plates, cup, utensils and stove & fuel
  • Head light
  • Matches (in film container)
  • Fuel lighter
  • Sharp penknife
  • Plastic trowel and WC paper in plastic bag.
  • Fly rod (6 piece), Reel
  • Vest with small selection of equipment and flies
  • Waders
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
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