Springtime Fishing at Meadowbank Lake
by Greg French
For the last few years the Inland Fisheries Commission has overseen the release of Atlantic salmon into Meadowbank Lake. These fish are surplus brood stock supplied free of charge by Saltas and they typically weigh 4.5 - 8 kg when liberated.
Domestic salmon which have spent their entire lives in a hatchery environment tend not to feed well in the wild (though they readily attack lures and wet flies) and initially there was concern that the fish might be unwelcome, especially if they were not caught quickly and became slabby. Anyway a trial release of 120 fish was undertaken in mid July 1997 and most were subsequently landed before Christmas, almost all in good to fair condition. As a consequence of enthusiastic support from anglers a further 175 fish were released in July 1998, yet another 200 or so in July 1999 and the salmon liberation looks like becoming an annual event.
A pattern has already emerged. A number of big salmon are taken during the opening weekend and make headlines in the local papers. This in turn helps generate and bolster interest in the lake. Regular catches of good salmon tend to continue up until about Christmas, by which time most have been caught and many of the rest have started to lose condition. (Mind you, the odd good fish turns up even at the very end of the season.)
The initiative has had several positive outcomes, not least of which has been to bolster interest in a lake which had long been greatly under-utilised. It has also made a significant contribution to the profile of recreational fishing in general. Nonetheless, it is remarkable that a trout fishery of Meadowbank's calibre has needed such a contrived novelty in order to make an impression on local anglers. Believe me, the brown trout fishing has always been fantastic and deserves to be seen as the main event.
Meadowbank is neatly divided by the Dunrobin Bridge and causeway into two very distinct fisheries. The lower portion flooded a well-defined valley and is very narrow with mainly steep banks and deep water. While it harbours quite a few trout up to 1 kg or so it is relatively unproductive for lure fishing and has little to recommend the fly fisher.
The northern section inundated a flat basin and is relatively shallow. Extensive weed beds and marshes have established along the western and north-western shores providing a lucrative food supply which permits average trout to grow bigger than their counterparts downstream. This water offers brown trout which are typically from 0.5 - 1.5 kg and which commonly exceed 2 kg. It also features an extraordinary diversity of sight fishing opportunities, and offers very good lure fishing. This, then, is the part of the lake I encourage you to fish.
One advantage that Meadowbank has over the highland lakes is that the weather is often more agreeable, especially during August and early spring - the fish are usually on the move right from day one. In fact there are always days in August which are so warm and calm that you will find lots of rising fish.
Feature fishing begins when the marshes fill. Lake levels cannot be predicted by watching rainfall alone, as the water is heavily manipulated through the many upstream dams and power stations. Still, the water usually rises to suitable levels during September and October. Brown trout enter the weedy shallows for all the usual reasons - drowned insects, worms and grubs and especially frogs. Sometimes you will find them tailing and swirling but, if not, prospecting with a woolly bugger or Sloane-style fur fly will bring results.
If the water stays low you can always wade the flats on the outer edge of the marshes. The bottom is a patchwork of weed and open sand and if there is sunlight you can usually polaroid a few trout (as well as big tench, schools of stunted redfin and even the odd salmon). Otherwise simply fish blind with a suitable wet fly or lure.
The biggest highlight on the Meadowbank calendar - the huge hatches of smut (tiny mayflies also known as caenids, pronounced 'seenids') - is not really a springtime thing though you might be lucky enough to get a taste towards the end of November, especially on calm mornings. This will get you really fired up about the big-time fly fishing which occurs throughout December and, if calm warm conditions prevail, well into January. Really, this smut business it is as good as anything you will find anywhere in Tasmania. I urge you to read all about it in the superb article by Robert Gott published in Tasmanian Fishing and Boating News No 14.