Tasmania’s best all round trout fishery
Presented from Issue 113, December 2014
The season seemed to start a bit slowly on Arthurs Lake. The reports from the camp ground at Jonah Bay was that very few fish were caught on the opening weekend. The quiet word from inland fisheries was that there had been a good run of big fish, in the 4lb to 6lb in the first run of trout into Tumbledown Creek. None of these fish were in the 20,000 trout transferred to other waters; they finished their mating and returned to the lake to begin to put on condition for the coming season.
Since the quiet start, the action has steadily improved; the continued high water levels have dropped somewhat but at the time of writing Arthurs is 1.1 metres from full and steady. The slightly lower level has sent trout out from the submerged kerosene bush into the weedy shallows, making them more accessible. Fish are easily seen chasing frogs in the shallows at low light and the caddis are thickening up and being regularly nipped off the surface. Mayflies are now hatching in good numbers.
|With high levels at Arthurs there is
plenty of fishing in the bushes.
In recent years fast sinking line fly fishing dominated due to the absence of good hatches as the lake recovered from the lows of 2008. The recovery is now complete and Arthurs is back to what it used to be, an awesome top of the water fishery.
In the recent first round of the Tasmanian Fly Fishing Championships held in Jonah Bay and Cow Paddock, you needed between 6 to 9 fish to win a 3 hour session such is the consistency of the fishing on Arthurs Lake. Intermediate lines dominated rather than the normal type 3 or type 5 sinking lines, with most trout being caught in less than 6ft of water.
With so much accessible water by vehicle and by boat there is a myriad of choices about where to fish. Let the weather make the decision for you. On overcast days any of the bays with extensive shallows will be great spots to start. Mayfly will hatch in the shallows earlier than in deep water. Generally trout will be on the nymphs before they start on the duns, and nymphing is a great way to fish before the trout start actively rising. Cast across the wind staying in touch with the flies, no need to move the nymphs, except for an occasional twitch, but keep a reasonably straight line with no S shapes forming as slack line is created by not staying in touch.
Let the breeze carry the nymphs downwind in a natural manner. Keep the rod tip about 30cm off the water, watch the curve that is created at the rod tip for signs of resistance indicated by the curve straightening out as the nymphs are eaten. As the hatch starts, emerger patterns and low sitting dry flies placed in the area of activity should produce results. The Tassie specialty the possum emerger, or pommie hoppers or shuttlecock patterns like the dunnie brush. Fish a team offering a variety to see what is most in favour with the trout. If you are lucky enough to have the hatch thicken right up, put on a mobile dry fly such as a claret dabbler or palmered dun pattern and twitch it past rising fish, in a thick hatch it offers an advantage to get their attention with movement. The bottom of the wind is a good option as the dun hatch progresses. Whilst not always the most comfortable place to fish, duns will inevitably be thickest at the bottom of the wind and there will be trout looking to make the most of it.
In brighter weather or when the wind drops out, the lee created by trees sheltering the water offers opportunities for black spinner feeders and for terrestrials. Arthurs has some great gum beetle falls but also around the heavily timbered shores localised falls of flying ants and cinnamon leaf hoppers regularly occur. If you are lucky enough to find these localised hatches you really are in for some great sport, trout love both of these offerings and will rise to them with gusto. Behind Brazendale Island is a great spot in bright weather with a westerly wind. Fish will be in the calm or just in the ripple picking off insects as they hit the water.
Slicks and wind lanes
Arthurs is not as well regarded as some of the more fancied wind lane lakes, however the brown trout is an opportunities feeder and if there’s a wind lane or small slick and there’s food in it the fish will not be far away. The sand lake generally has some of the best established wind lanes, but they appear all over the lake. Even very small slicks behind patches of dead trees can hold fish which will show themselves to pick up midge and other insects. There are at times some very big midge falls. If the wind has dropped out, the bays such as Cow paddock can be moving with brown trout mopping up in the morning. The rise can go on for several hours if cloud persists and the light does not become too strong. Small nymphs or spider patterns fished slowly in the surface are deadly with midline trout, however getting them in front of the fish which is nose up at the surface with a narrow field of vision is the challenge.
With so many bays and shores accessible by boat and vehicle, there’s always a shore that you can pull up on to walk and polaroid for cruising browns around the edges. When the water is extremely high as it has been the last few years, the kerosene bush is so thick that whilst seeing fish isn’t a problem, landing them is. Rocky shores make good polaroiding water and although the water isn’t always crystal clear, you can often find water which is easily clear enough to spot cruising fish.
|Joe Riley with a typical Arthurs brownie.
The Northern end of Arthurs offers the best access by car and most sheltered shores in high winds. These shores tend to be less exposed and with more small bays, there’s always a corner you can get into which is out of the wind. Cow paddock is the iconic Arthur’s Lake bay. This bay holds tons of fish; it can be accessed by road on either the Eastern or Western shore and has most of the opportunities that Arthurs can offer. Some of the midge hatches in cow paddock are truly sensational.
Going along the Northern shore Seven Pound bay is also a productive bay, smaller in size than Cowpaddock but being right next to it offering similar fishing. The points on both the Eastern and Western side of Seven Pound Bay are always productive.
The Lily Ponds see a subtle change in the character of the lake, with more strap weed in big beds, throughout. Over the years Lily ponds has developed a reputation for loads of smaller fish, however there are plenty of big fish amongst them. Lily ponds is a really good nymphing and dry fly section of the lake. The openings out of the Lily Ponds onto the sand lake can be very productive in a dun hatch when duns drift out of the shallow Lily ponds over the drop off into the Sand Lake. Trout often cue up here to pick off the duns in the deeper water, this too occurs in a Northerly wind where the breeze likewise pushes food off the Northern shore into deep water.
The Eastern side of Brazendale Island has some great dry fly fishing in warm weather in a Westerly breeze as food comes off the heavily tree lined shores. Back to the top of the lake, Jones Bay one of the smaller bays again has loads of smaller fish, however it also has plenty of bigger trout and has had some of the thickest dun hatches I’ve seen on Arthurs. Fleming Bay in the North East corner of the lake has less of a dun hatch but is a good bay for beetle falls in Northerly and Easterly weather.
The Southern end of Arthurs Lake around to the Morass is fairly open and exposed to Northerly weather. This area is to be treated seriously in strong North or North westerly winds and the conditions on the water can be very dangerous. In light or southerly winds, there are still some fantastic bays, such as Ti tree and Creely bay. I mainly venture into this area late in the season when jassids make their appearance. Once again a little fall of jassids on a bright day in a light southerly wind can produce a very good localised rise as Browns rise freely to pick them off.
Arthurs Lake would have to be the most versatile brown trout lake in Tasmania. While many fisheries are spectacular in certain weather and terrible in other conditions, Arthurs offers so many different options for fly fishing that with a little thought you can catch trout in the most varied weather conditions.
With the average size of brown trout increasing on Arthurs Lake there are plenty of 2lb plus fish available. There are also plenty of fish in the 3lb plus range, and those 4-6lb trout are out there, although a bit harder to get onto. With a bag limit of 12 fish, and every likelihood that for a day you can catch your bag limit on the surface, Arthurs is definitely back on my go to list.
As far as table qualities go, Arthurs fish are right up there with the best, having great coloured flesh due to a staple diet including scud and shrimp. A well looked after fish, placed on ice when caught, will give a beautiful firm, red coloured fillet. This makes a nice trout ideal for all sorts of recipes, from sashimi, to smoking, crumbed or oven baked with creamy bacon and basil sauce. With more than ample spawning facilities at Arthurs, you can kill fish for a feed without any concern about stocking rates or catch and release, it’s just one of those lakes, and it’s back and firing.