Discovering new trout waters

Craig Rist
Tasmania has so much to offer the trout angler, from tiny mountain streams and lowland rivers, to lakes that are big enough to fish from a boat, along with hundreds of small lakes and tarns that will give you another reason to go bush walking.

One of the things I like most about Tasmania is the journey of discovering new waters and by new waters I mean water that you have never fished before. It can start with a fishing report from a mate or an article in a magazine or web forum. Your imagination takes over as you try and imagine what this new water and its fish are like, from the stories you have been told. From that moment you realise the only way you will really know, is to experience it for yourself.
I have been trout fishing in Tasmania for almost 25 years now and there are still plenty of waters on my list to quench my thirst for adventure.

First impressions count
You have just arrived at a new fishing destination filled with stories of big fish or large numbers of fish caught. You soon find that the place seems dead with little or no action. You could walk away disappointed and never return, but this would be a mistake. As we all know, there are so many things that can influence the activity of trout. The time of year and the weather being two of the most important things to consider when fishing new water. To give yourself the best chance of success you will need to find out as much as you can about that particular water regarding how and when these fish were caught, along with the type of weather conditions at the time.

These are one of my favorite waters to explore. The thought of what could be around the next bend can have you clocking up kilometres of river with no real true sense of time, especially when you are seeing or catching the odd fish along the way.  
Mike Stevens’ article on small streams in the last issue of Tasmania Fishing and Boating News shared the magic behind fishing small streams and rightly so. Mike also touched on the use of Google Earth as a tool to use when trying to find one of these hidden gems. As well as Google Earth, I find Google Maps to be very useful when I am narrowing down a section of river to fish. This technology allows you to see the terrain, roads and satellite imagery of the area. All three are invaluable, especially when your destination could be a few hours drive away. I particularly like to use the satellite imagery to narrow down the property owner’s residence to ask permission before crossing their land to access the river. Most property owners appreciate the fact that you have had the courtesy to first ask, before crossing their land. It only takes the wrong doing of a few, such as leaving gates open, damaging fences or leaving rubbish behind, to make the property owner reluctant to continue to give access. Fortunately most people do the right thing and most property owners are only too happy to allow access. This satellite imagery is also good to see how open or over grown the river is and whether or not it flows through farmland, forest or both.    
Tasmania topographic maps in 1:25 000 give you a detailed view of an area that covers 10 x 20 kilometres.  If you’re after some inspiration, these maps really show you what Tasmania has to offer in the way of rivers and lakes.  I like to find a river on one of these maps then zoom in on Google Maps to check out what type of river it is and how I might gain access to it. On the day of exploration, I will take along the 1:25 000 map of the area, just in case plan “A” doesn’t quite work out and a different part of the river needs to be looked at.

Lakes can be just as appealing as rivers. Take a large lake like Arthur’s Lake for example. Lakes such as this have many different types of bays and islands to fish. Using Google Maps you can get an overview of the entire lake, picking out areas of interest such as shallow grassy bays, flooded trees lines and deep rocky shores. All this type of information can be very significant to the type of fishing you enjoy most. If you go one step further and use Google Earth you can also tilt your view of the land to show the surrounding hills.
Google Earth is also a great tool to use to explore remote lakes in the Mount Field National park and the Central plateau area. Here you can follow the many lakes that are connected by small creeks to find that hidden trophy water. Like rivers first impressions of lakes can be deceiving. If the weather and time of year are not in your favor the lake can seem void of fish. If there is nothing in the way of food to bring the fish inshore then you are not likely to see them in close.
It’s hard to get lost on a river but exploring the back country lakes is a different matter entirely. Here a compass and a 1;25 000  topography map will not only assist you in finding that lake of interest, it could also save your life if you have lost your sense of direction through fog or lack of daylight.

Taking a chance
It would be so easy to stick to the rivers and lakes where you know you are almost guaranteed to catch fish, given the right condition.  This is great if all you need is fish on the table, but for me I enjoy the sense of adventure and the lessons that go along with fishing new waters, good or bad.
Each season I like to pick out a few new destinations to try. It could be that small stream that I have passed over on my way to some other destination that has stuck in my mind as a place of interest, or by simply picking out a lake or river from one of my topography maps.
On one of these trips to explore a couple of rivers on the northwest coast, we found the rivers to be almost too over grown to fish with very few fish to be seen even though the day appeared to be perfect. As we had already put aside this day to explore these rivers we decided to push further upstream to where the map showed one of the rivers flowing through some open plains. On our way upstream we stumbled onto what looked like a small spring creek feeding the main river. We followed this small crystal clear stream out into the open where we instantly spooked a couple of fish. This stream was no more than three metres wide and barely waist deep in the deepest pools. Aquatic weed covered most of the stream with narrow channels cut out of the weed signaling the main flow of water. We slowed up and started to search the water with a little more stealth. It didn’t take long to locate the next fish slowly nymphing over a shallow sandy run in amongst the weed. This little spring creek turned out to be one of those little gems that held just enough fish to make things interesting. We spent the next three hours taking turns spotting and hooking fish along this magic piece of water. We were amazed with what we had found and were both sworn to secrecy about its location, naively thinking we were the only ones that knew about this hidden treasure. Such is the feeling of finding a new water like this. These days I may only fish this water once or twice a year, but I know it’s there if I ever get the urge to re-live some fond memories of taking a chance on an unknown water.

Craig Rist

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