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Five Freshwater Days in Tasmania
  |  First Published: November 2005



Tasmania is one of those wonderful fishing destinations where it is entirely possible to find good fishing yourself, especially if you already have a few basic fishing skills, a keen eye for what’s going on around you and a week to spend exploring.

The trout fishery in Tasmania during the summer period is one of incredible diversity. Highland lakes, lowland rivers, wilderness tarns and lagoons: they’re all at their peak between December and February. The trout are mostly wild browns; rainbows tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Add to that a huge number of stocked brook trout, massive ex-brood stock Atlantic salmon, adult brown trout transfers from Great Lake and an ongoing high level of government support for the recreational trout fishery. This all results in a fantastic fishery with easy access and heaps of fishing information. There is so much fishing to be done that you really need a game plan. Firstly, decide how best to get here and how you’re going to get about.

Getting here and about

There are two possible ways for Victorians to get down to Tassie: by boat or by air. Both have their advantages, including cheap prices and plenty of options for travelling times.

By boat

Two Spirit of Tasmania vessels operate daily from Melbourne to Devonport. If you come by boat you can bring your own car along with all that gear you’ve accumulated for this type of big adventure. The trip takes about ten hours.

During the peak season the two Melbourne to Devonport ferries have both day and night sailings, adding even more flexibility to your itinerary. Most people prefer the night crossings because you don’t spend a valuable day sitting on a boat in Bass Strait. Anglers can bring their own boats over on the ferry although this is a very expensive option if you’re only here for a week. There are also plenty of boats available for hire in Tassie.

By air

Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Blue and Rex all have daily flights from Tullamarine. Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Blue fly into Launceston and Hobart, while Rex flies into Devonport and Burnie. Hire car companies operate from each of these terminals and have a wide range of vehicles available, including campers and 4WDs. While the airfares are cheap, you will need to hire a car of some sort to get around. If you’re travelling with a couple of mates then the cost of car hire can be shared. For sheer ease of getting around, the ferry and your own car is probably the better bet. You can even put a small boat up on top of the car if you’ve got access to one.

In an ideal five-day trip you’d fish the high country lakes for three days and the rivers for two. The Central Highlands, which is home to the best and most easily accessed trout fishing, is around 90 minutes from Devonport, Launceston or Hobart.

The Highlands

The Central Highlands is another world where time seems to slow down and the pace of life is in tune with the pace of the fishing. There are two main centres from which to base your highland experience: Bronte Park and Miena. At Bronte there is the main chalet, which has a wide variety of accommodation from a backpacker’s hostel up to ensuite rooms. Nearby at Derwent Bridge and Lake St Clair there are other accommodation options.

At Miena there is the Great Lake Hotel and the Central Highlands Lodge, which offer motel-style accommodation, as well as more upmarket fishing lodges such as Rainbow Lodge and Blue Lake Lodge. Both areas have caravan facilities and camping spots. For those who like to camp there are plenty of idyllic spots along most lakeshores, with formal campgrounds (with shower and toilets) at Arthurs Lake.

From Bronte Park

If staying at Bronte you can choose to fish Bronte Lagoon, Lake King William, Lake St Clair, the Brady’s chain of lakes (Brady’s, Binney and Tungatinah), Dee Lagoon, Lake Echo, Pine Tier Lagoon and Laughing Jack Lagoon. All have plenty of good fishing for fly and lure anglers but check local regulations before fishing because each water has different rules.

Bronte Lagoon is one of the all time classic Tasmanian waters, with good rises to mayflies and beetles during summer, along with early morning tailers if the level is up amongst the tussocks. Dee Lagoon has trophy-sized rainbows in gin clear water along with some fantastic brown trout. Midges in the morning windlanes are a feature, as are the afternoon beetle falls that can bring countless trout to the surface. Lake Echo is the same, with a huge number of brown trout that just love beetles.

Lake St Clair has the clearest water of any Tasmanian lake along with a huge population of trout. The best fishing is at the southern end of the lake – the Derwent Basin and the lagoon. The Brady’s chain of lakes has been heavily stocked with brook trout in recent years with some now close to 2kg. There are also some very large Atlantic salmon over 10lb.

Lake King William has the densest head of trout in Tasmania (in both senses of the word). The fish here eat just about anything, and while they are a little smaller than the nearby lakes, they make up for it in sheer numbers.

Laughing Jack Lagoon often gets very low during summer, but if you’re there when the water starts to recede from the marshes you’ll be in for a special treat because the fish go nuts on the slaters that retreat with the falling water.

From Miena or Arthurs Lake

The top of the central plateau around Miena offers a wide variety of fishing experiences. This is the closest location to the Nineteen Lagoons and the Western Lakes – one of Tasmania’s true wilderness fisheries. It’s also right on the ever reliable Arthurs Lake and Great Lakes, two waters with a well-deserved international reputation. Add to that Little Pine Lagoon, Penstock Lagoon, Lake Augusta and Gunns and Little Lakes.

The Nineteen lagoons and the Western Lakes are idyllic for sight fishing, with plenty of shallow lakes with sandy alpine flats to spot cruising browns. Blue sky days in summer are perfect for both fish and fisher out here, although cloudy days are still worthwhile for the dun hatches or tailing fish in the shallow margins.

Little Pine Lagoon and Penstock Lagoon are renowned for their huge mayfly hatches and enthusiastic rising trout. While Little Pine is predominantly a brown trout fishery, Penstock has the added bonus of hard-running rainbow trout to 3kg as well.

The jewel in the crown is Arthurs Lake. Dun hatches are prolific, along with good polarising opportunities, tailing fish on weedy shores, good spin fishing and wet flyfishing. Importantly, there’s always somewhere to get out of the weather should it turn rough and windy, which it does at least once a week.

The Rivers

The north and northeast arguably have the best options when it comes to rivers, however the south is very well off too. In the north, the St Patrick's, South Esk, North Esk, Brumbies Creek, Macquarie River, Meander River, Ringarooma River, Forrester River and Scamander River are all top-notch. These waters are rarely fished and have good access.

Streams like Brumbies Creek have open public access all along the southern shores. They excel in the warmer months, with non-descript dry flies, small revolving bladed lures and soft plastics all accounting for fish. Down south, the rivers such as the Tyenna and Plenty are great streams. The Tyenna has good access and boasts the most fish per 100m of any river in Tasmania.

The rivers in both ends of the state can be reached in under an hour’s drive for the major centres, which opens up a number of accommodation options. Around Longford (just south of Launceston near the Macquarie River) there are bed and breakfast options or up-market river-based lodges like Riverfly Lodge on the North Esk. There are good caravan parks and camping grounds in most centres such as Scottsdale, Deloraine and Longford.

Excited yet?

The best way to get a sense of the whole Tasmanian fishing experience is to start in the highlands and work down towards the rivers. If you’re arriving on the ferry, head straight up to the lakes for the first three days and then have the final two days on the rivers in the northeast. You don’t have to be at the ferry until 8pm for the return journey, which leaves plenty of time to fish right up to the final whistle.

Be careful though, Tasmania is addictive. I have plenty of friends who came here for a holiday and never left. It’s a wonderful place with some wonderful fishing. In a future issue of VFM, I’ll cover the saltwater options in Tassie for travelling Victorian anglers.

Facts

Getting here

For daily flight schedules, prices and destinations check out www.qantas.com.au, www.virginblue.com.au, www.jetstar.com and www.rex.com.au. The Spirit of Tasmania sails daily from Melbourne to Devonport. For more information visit their web site at www.spiritoftasmania.com.au or call 1800 634 906. Cars can be hired from airports and better rates are usually offered if you book in conjunction with your flight.

Facts

Rods

A good quality 5 or 6 weight is perfect, although a 7 weight can be handy for very windy days in the highlands. Floating lines are all that’s required, although you could add a clear intermediate or a clear intermediate sink tip line if you’re keen. The Mastery range from Scientific Angler is a good option. Tapered leaders and 4-6lb leader material is ample. For river anglers a 4 weight is a good choice. A short, light rod can be great fun in the many small streams.

Flies

Dry Flies – Mayfly Emergers, Mayfly Duns, Royal Wulffs, Red Tags, Black Spinners, Red Spinners, Foam Gum Beetles, Floating Mudeyes, Cochy Bondhuu, Trothodge and Elk Hair Caddis in sizes #10 to #14. Generic dries such as the English-style dries – English Hoppers, Bob’s Bits and Carrots.

Wet Flies – Brown, Green and Black Nymphs, Small Black Beetles, Woolly Buggers in olive, black, brown and MK II variations, Woolly Worms, Yeti’s, Sloane’s Fur Fly and some small green scud patterns for the tailers. On the rivers, small brown nymphs and black beetles will usually suffice. All of these in sizes #8 to #14.

Lures

A quality spinning rod of 6’ to 7’ matched to a small reel spooled with 3kg braid is perfect. It will need to cast small bladed lures in the streams and winged lures in the lakes. Soft plastics are absolute dynamite too.

Streams – Celtas and other small revolving blade lures in the smaller sizes, #1 and #2 are generally best. Anything with red and black is productive, however copper and black is good as well. Add small 2” soft plastic grubs (Mojo grubs are my favourite).

Lakes – The Cobra/Tassie Devil style lures have a well proven track record in Tasmania. Reliable colours are green and gold, and green, gold and red combinations. Brown and gold is good as well, as is the frog pattern. Soft plastics is where the real advances have been made of late. 3” Berkley Bass Minnows are the standard, in pearl, gingerbeer, pumpkinseed and green and dark green. Mojo Grubs in the 2” and 3” in motor oil and pumpkinseed are good standbys.

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Further reading

Tasmanian Trout Waters by Greg French

Essential Flyfishing Techniques for Australian Lakes by Neil Grose

2. Photo removed and used in monthly report.

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