The Tanjil River is a terrific trout playground about two hours from Melbourne, depending on where you want to fish this fish-rich destination.
The Tanjil River is made up of two branches, the West Branch and East Branch. Both branches start up above Tanjil Bren off the Mt Baw Baw Tourist Road below the summit of Mt Baw Baw. The two branches follow their own paths until they join at Fumina South before feeding into the Tanjil Arm at Blue Rock Lake. This is the main tributary for Blue Rock and is the spawning ground for lake trout.
The Tanjil River is naturally stocked with spectacular specimens of brown and rainbow trout averaging under a kilo making it great fun for any technique on light gear. Due to the remoteness of many spots on the Tanjil, there will be some great trout on offer well over a kilo, but you will have to work pretty hard for them.
There are good access points for 2WD and 4WD vehicles making this surprisingly under fished waterway a destination worth some consideration.
Keep in mind that the two branches meander through some pretty rugged country, so a 4WD vehicle is an advantage as this opens up a lot more options and access points. A good tip for planning your outing is to pick up a Vicmap 1:50,000 scale map on the Tanjil/Fumina area, which details the tracks to the river.
Waders are a necessity as walking tracks along both branches are limited. From the sections of river I have fished, the West Branch has a greater fall in altitude, presenting much deeper pools and faster rapids. But due to the extent of the system, I have only ventured over 5% of both branches combined so there are still large stretches of river for me to explore.
There are a few camping grounds without amenities from Costins Rd through to the Tanjil Arm at Blue Rock. Costins Rd and Russells Creek Rd off the Willow Grove Road in Fumina South are great roads to start your Tanjil adventure. These main forestry tracks are accessible for 2WD and 4WD, but just be wary of the impact recent rains may have had.
The best method for approaching either branch is start from a downstream point and wade upstream casting into pools and runs. If access is limited and you wish to wade downstream, you may spook trout easily as they face upstream waiting for food. By trout simply seeing you, your shadow or by stirring up the silt and sand on the streambed it will send trout into hiding. A couple of tips to wading downstream is to wade close to the bank and make sure your clothing is neutrally coloured to camouflage you in with the thick vegetation. Stick to wading on rocks and pebbles on the streambed and avoid sand and silt deposits.
Another technique is to simply walk for an hour or so downstream, then slowly start making your way back upstream. I have found this to work well as within 10-20 minutes trout will be back from their hidey-holes and feeding.
Below is a range of tips, techniques and tackle to catch a magnificent Tanjil River brown or rainbow trout.
Small minnow style lures are very productive in many of the pools and runs. Make sure you pack a range of lures in your tackle bag or fishing vest as different situations will call on different lures.
Floating lures like the Rapala F3, F5, Ecogear SX40F and Strike Pro Minnow range work well in the shallow stretches of both branches whereas the Rapala CD3 and CD5 are great for those deeper pools that are prevalent in the West Branch, and between the junction of both branches to the Tanjil Arm at Blue Rock.
If casting upstream, you will need to retrieve quickly to match the stream flow so that you maximise the action of the lure. If casting downstream, there may be quite a bit of resistance from the stream flow against the lure’s bib, so retrieve slowly.
You can even cast across and down in fast currents. This allows the stream’s current to work the lure and all you have to do is slowly retrieve line.
Bladed lures are fantastic in both branches.
Use small bladed spinners like the Gillies 5g Hopper, the 2g Celta or 3.5g Celta if casting downstream in the shallow runs. The smaller blade allows less resistance when retrieving against the stream flow.
Larger bladed lures like the 7g Crown Seal Lure are great for casting upstream. These heavier spinners are also great for attacking those deeper pools and runs.
Spinners should be the first choice on a partly or completely sunny day as the blade bounces light off making it irresistible to any trout.
Soft plastics have the advantage of coming in a huge range of styles and jighead sizes, which is great for quick change overs. Ideally you want something which has a soft tale like a Berkley PowerBait 3” Power Minnow, Berkley Gulp 2” Minnow Grub, Squidgy Wriggler or Squidgy Bug used on a Squidgy Finesse Head Jig 0.5g/#6 or a Nitro Jighead 0.9g/#2.
The soft tale catches in the stream flow presenting a mouth-watering treat. If using 3” (75mm) or longer soft plastics, cut an inch (25mm) off the head so that you are fishing with a smaller plastic.
Soft plastics work best being cast downstream so that they can be worked back upstream. In order to not spook the trout you will require stealth in approaching the run or pool as you will be in eye contact with feeding trout.
You just can’t beat drifting live baits downstream. This is a sure way to catch trout.
Saying this, the only issue drifting baits like is that you need to be upstream of the target area and casting downstream, which can easily spook trout if they see you. Drifting baits like you are part of a covert operation can be a lot of fun and very rewarding.
Garden worms, scrub worms, maggots, mudeyes, cockchafers or any other beetle you can stick on a hook will tempt a trout. Artificial baits like Berkley PowerBait Trout Pellets also work wonders.
Trout are inquisitive creatures and nose up to anything that looks edible and the scent of an artificial bait will have them licking their lips.
Use a size 4-6 baitholder hook and let the weight of your bait be enough to cast it and let it drift downstream. If you are struggling to get a good cast or wish to get it down deeper, attach a couple of split shot above the hook.
The Tanjil River is a fly angler’s dream.
When it comes to choosing which fly to use, Brett from Bisho’s Bait & Tackle in Warragul quite simply sums it up by saying match your hatch. Tying your own flies is all part of the fun of fly fishing and the obvious favourites are the beadhead nymph, Royal Wulff and Matuka. Like the other tackle mentioned, take a range of flies to play with.
A short fly rod of 7ft (2.13m) or less is best as there are a lot of overhanging trees upstream but as the river widens, particularly past the junction, long casts are achievable. Flicking the fly into the stream flow is also a great method worth trying upstream providing you don’t spook the trout.
Tanjil River trout are great fun on light gear and the exercise from wading is a bonus. You’ll come across some fantastic stretches of river surrounded by beautiful forest and small feeder streams sheltered in ferns and moss covered rocks. Make sure you pack a camera, lunch and a thermos for the day, as the time will slip away before you know it. Whatever your speciality, the two branches of the Tanjil River will be a fishing trip to remember.
The trout season closes for the Tanjil River from midnight on Monday June 8 to midnight on Friday September 4 2009, yet Blue Rock Lake, including the Tanjil Arm, is open all year round. Despite Blue Rock being a small part of the DPI’s trout stocking program, the Tanjil River relies heavily on the trout’s natural breeding cycle therefore it is extremely important to adopt the catch and release principle and only take home what you need. This way the Tanjil can be enjoyed for generations to come.Reads: 8746