Trout Bums Tassie StyleGavin Hicks turns Trout Bum, film extra, and assistant in producing The Source - a film by Gin Clear.
I never thought one of my regular visits to Big Fin in East Devonport for a chat with Leroy would end in such a great week's fishing. But that is exactly what happened towards the end of 2008.
Leroy had been contacted by Nick Reygaert from New Zealand to see if he knew any locals that would be able to assist in the making of his latest fly-fishing adventure movie. Nick was keen to make a movie he could take around the world showcasing what Tasmania has to offer the fly-fishing fraternity. Of course it was no trouble for Leroy to drum up some interest in the locals, as I think he knows every person in Tasmania that has ever held a fishing rod!
When he mentioned he had told Nick I might be able to give him a hand for some of his trip, naturally I was more than keen. I must admit though I was slightly nervous, as Nick had become one of my fly-fishing heroes through his previous movie efforts. His adventurous spirit and willingness to make dreams happen really struck accord with me. After a few phone calls and emails to set things up here is how my part in the trip unfolded.
It was a Wednesday in mid November when I drove to Launceston to pick up Nick and his fishing mate Silvio. The plan was for them to spend a couple of days crashed out in my fly tying room before we had to pick up Nick's brother Chris on Friday afternoon. Chris was flying in from Western Australia to spend a couple of weeks fishing and to help out with the camera work. The plan for the two days sorting gear and resting up for what lay ahead didn't really work out. After a visit to Leroy's shop he had them on the Mersey River straight away to get a taste of some local fishing. When Friday came and it was time to pick Chris up the weather was not looking promising. I was to take them to the Arthur River on Saturday morning where they would spend some time with one of the locals.
Stuart Smith had agreed to help the boys out after some more organisational genius from Leroy. The only problem was, from the time Chris was picked up on Friday night until Saturday morning when we were due to head to the West Coast we received around 75mm of rain. Unsure of what this would do to the river, the decision was made to go regardless.
After a night at Stuarts we headed for the Arthur on Sunday morning bright and early. With my boat in tow, as well as Stuart's the plan was to fish from mine and film from the other. I was super keen to get on the water myself as I only had the one day to fish before I had to head back home for work. It wasn't much of a shock when we arrived at the boat ramp and the river was in full flood. It was obvious the fishing would be virtually impossible, but we had come too far not to give it a go.
So the boats were launched and we headed off upstream. When we arrived as far upstream as Stuart had ever taken his boat and the river was still around five metres. There was nothing left to do but float back down and try to fish where possible. After a day of no luck it was time to leave my boat with the boys and head back to reality for the working week.
Hearing their stories when they returned was hard to take. Then having to listen to them for the next two weeks as they fished from my home, as base camp, was just too much to handle. It was time to take a week's annual leave and get in some fishing for myself.
Sunday 23 November 2008
We headed off mid morning to fish the Liffey River, upstream from the falls. There were a few caddis on the water when we arrived, but no fish rising to them. I was looking forward to fishing this section of the river as it would give me a chance to try out my new 7 foot, 3 weight rod. We had a great session with the fish rising freely to any nondescript dry I threw at them. On the odd occasion they wouldn't take the dry a small bead head nymph dropper, of any colour would bring them undone. When lunch was called seven fat brown trout up to a pound in weight had been caught and released. Nearly as many had been missed on the strike, but we don't need to go into that! It was a brilliant session in magic surrounds, but it was time to drop down to the Mersey River for the evening session.
On arrival at the Mersey near my home town of Railton the fish were rising freely to caddis and red spinners. After trying unsuccessfully to trick a few spinner feeders, I changed to a parachute caddis pattern and my luck changed instantly. One thing I did notice was, the fish would only look at my fly if it was skating across the surface. If it was presented to them dead drift they were not the slightest bit interested. They had obviously locked into the movement of the naturals skating on the waters surface. Two more brown trout were caught and released to finish off a good start to the week. And a good start for the new 3 weight, as I am sure most would be aware sometimes the first fish on a new rod can be hard to fool.
Monday 24 November
Left home around 7.00 am for the drive to Longford where we were to meet Daniel Hackett. The plan was to fish with him for a couple of days on the lowland rivers. Daniel is a professional guide, spending a lot of his time on these rivers and his knowledge of these waterways is extensive.
I was looking forward to this part of the week as I had not fished with a guide before, and was interested to see how it unfolded. When we met Dan thought we should try a spot on Brumbys Creek. Greeted on the water with a strong breeze blowing into our faces, it made the fishing hard work. Whenever there was a lull in the breeze the fish would rise to mayfly and caddis, and we were able to pick a few off. The day ended for me with a total four browns and four rainbows. The browns were all beautiful, fit fish weighing around two pounds each, whilst the rainbows were small escapees under a pound. My best fly for the day was a brown Snowshoe Emerger, but we had success on a range of different mayfly and caddis patterns.
Tuesday 25 November
Another early start, but this time we were off to fish the South Esk River. It would be another interesting day as we were going to fish from Dan's raft. The strong wind theme from the day before had continued, but the raft would make the fishing easier. I was slightly nervous as I had not fished from a raft before and I didn't want to let the boys down. Nick was doing some amazing work with the camera and didn't need me making it any harder. Did I mention the missed fish on the strike before!
Through the course of the day there were enough caddis and mayfly coming off the water to keep the fish rising, although not consistently. Again when the wind dropped the insects would come out and the fish would rise long enough for us to pick one or two off. The raft was brilliant for this application, as all you had to do was put the fly in the right seam and eventually it would drift over a fish and disappear into a rise form. In fact some of our drifts were so long that by the time the fish took, I was so wound up I could have jumped in and taken the fly myself. By the time the day was over I had landed and released six brown trout up to two pounds, with the brown Snowshoe Emerger again the standout fly.
Wednesday 26 November
Up before the sun again, this time for another session on Brumbys Creek. When we arrived conditions had improved somewhat to the previous two days. The wind had left us and we were greeted with an overcast sky. Fish were already rising wherever you looked, so it was a mad dash to get the raft in and start fishing. The fish were taking caenid mayflies and they were hard to fool early on. My lucky fly from the last two days was changed to a small possum Shaving Brush as it no longer wanted to float. Why do they only ever sink when you don't want them to? We managed to pick a couple of these fish off early, but as the morning wore on and there was increased insect activity the fishing became slightly easier. I was having trouble hooking these slow taking fish, and after Dan's insistence to slow down the strike (I might add for about the 200th time) I finally took his advice.
I watched a consistently rising fish engulf my fly and after a slow count to three, and then pausing for a bit, Dan yelled out "Strike Gav he has taken it". I set the hook this time-into another golden brown. This turned out to be my favourite session for the week with four browns landed up to two pounds-all released. Another highlight of the morning was setting the hook into a cracking fish estimated at around four pounds, only to have it bust the five pound tippet in a matter of seconds. After a quick clean up it was time for the next appointment of the day, into Launceston Tattoos to get some new trouty styled inkwork from Tubby. After that was over we were again faced with the long drive to the Arthur River.
Thursday 27 November
Back on the Arthur River today, unable to resist the call of those big whitebait feeding trout. We motored as far upstream as reasonably possible. What I mean is, we motored till half my prop was worn off and then we stopped to fish! There wasn't much activity from neither the whitebait nor the fish, so we swung large wets down and across the riffles. This resulted in a few smaller resident fish being caught. Although they were good fun, it wasn't what we had come back for.
We decided to drift back downstream and bomb some of the snags looking for one of the massive browns the Arthur is famous for. Using the electric motor we were able to effectively hold in the current and give these spots a good working over. We fished hard using big Muz Wilson Fuzzle Buggers with lead putty on them to get down into the depths. After only a couple more small fish it was time for a rest and to prepare for the evenings fishing. The boat was packed up and we headed to the mouth to fish from the shore till darkness fell. A couple of hours on the bank flogging big Fuzzle Buggers again and we had both had enough. The day had resulted in four browns to around one pound.
Friday 28 to Saturday 29 November
Time for a couple of rest days. There were some camera issues to sort out, and a couple of young boys to spend some time with. We took Nick to a local wildlife park on Saturday, and played the part of tourists for a while.
Sunday 30 November
Today was time for Nick to put the camera away, so we could just fish, having only a few hours before he was due to head off on the next part of his adventure. With this in mind we decided to fish the headwaters of the Meander River. The fish weren't really in the mood, but we managed to land a few. Most were caught on a small nymph dropper, as the dry fly was overlooked. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to car. In our short session I had landed two fish, as had Nick on our ultra-light fly rods. They were all small fish, each weighing around half a pound. These would have to be some of the prettiest fish you could ever hope to catch with their brilliant red spots.
It was now time for the moment I had been dreading all week. I had to drop Nick off at his next stop and prepare myself to go back to work the next day.
In all it had turned out to be a magical week of fishing for me. I had managed to land and release a total of 33 fish, with countless others lost. Must try and relax on the strike! You would think I wouldn't get so wound up after all this practice. Funny things these fish, and cameras for that matter.
Not only did I have some great fishing, but I made some lasting friendships as well. Finally I would like to thank a few people for making the week so memorable for me. Leroy at Big Fin for making it all happen, his range of contacts and knowledge of the local fishery is second to none. Daniel Hackett for giving up his time to take us to spots that are so valuable to his guiding business, it was a pleasure to fish with such a passionate angler. Stuart Smith and his West Coast crew for all there help. Tubby for some fine tattooing, again. Nick Reygaert for helping to reignite the passion inside me, and also for the trip to New Zealand in March 09. I promise I will pause on the strike this time! Mike Stevens for his local knowledge. And finally to my beautiful wife Allison, for housing the boys for nearly three weeks, but more importantly, encouraging me to fish wherever, whenever I like. I love you Ally.
Gavin Hicks - Trout Bum.