Popular Lakes and Rivers
In this second instalment of the second eleven, guide and author Neil Grose takes you to some often ignored bays on the most popular of lakes, some rivers hidden underneath the collective nose of Launceston, and a couple of lakes that deserve more patronage than they currently receive.
As late summer and early autumn begin to signal the drawing together of the daylight curtain, consider a few different locations to keep the flame alive. With February ticking along, the duns begin to wane ever so slightly, and the long hot sunny days become shorter and less intense. The western lakes begin to show the stress of hot windy days and higher than comfortable water temperatures, and you begin to think that you need a change of pace and location. On popular lakes like Little Pine Lagoon and Arthurs Lake the weed in the shallow bays is beginning to choke up good fishing water, and anyway, how many times do you want to fish the Cowpaddock, Seven Pound Bay, and the Opening.
This holiday season has been one of the busiest that I can ever remember- every second number plate is either Victorian or New South Welsh, and on any given day the western lakes and the accessible shores on the Pine and Arthurs have many interstate anglers trying their luck. This has led to fishing pressure that many local Tasmanians are not accustomed to. I don't think for a minute that the trout are suffering in any way, but it is time to reconsider some waters that give great fishing with that most priceless of commodities- peace and quiet!
Fleming's Bay on Arthurs Lake
It never ceases to amaze me the number of people fishing in the Jonah Bay arm of Arthurs, yet ten minutes by boat across the Sand Lake Fleming's Bay remains vacant. Bordered by a line of submerged timber, this delightful spot is hidden away to all but the most inquisitive angler. In the past two seasons I can barely remember ever seeing another angler fly fishing in there, let alone being crowded out. It offers some great fishing, especially in north to easterly winds. I don't think being in there in strong westerlies is a good idea, but mild days and light to moderate north and north easterlies is just great. The north eastern corner is some of the best shallow water in Arthurs- offering great polaroiding and tailing water. The bottom in this corner is black silt, which is a very fertile place for chironomids and nymphs.
The trout here show up as grey against the black background, and are easily seen from a boat with the sun behind you. The shore that extends south has some intermittent rock and weed, and is a great place to drift a team of dries down as the day wears from afternoon to evening. There are a few small fish in here (this season I think they are everywhere in Arthurs!), but the main run of fish is between one and a half and two and a half pounds. The northern fringes of this bay are lined by beautiful stands of gum trees, which generously give up vast quantities of beetles and cinnamon jassids in February and March, as well as the red jassid in late autumn. By following the slicks and shiny water off the pints and inlets the bigger fish can be found sipping in these terrestrials out in the deeper water.
Pipers River System
Just north of Launceston, as you head either to Bridport through Karoola or to Lilydale, you will find one of the most intriguing systems of creeks and rivers that collectively pour out to sea at Weymouth and Bellingham. I grew up on these creeks, flicking grasshoppers at first, then celtas, and ultimately casting flies into some very tight spots for some very fat trout.
Around Lilydale the Rocky Creek and its tributaries offer some great small stream fishing for moderately sized stream browns. Rocky Creek runs right through the township, and thankfully takes no ill effect from it. In fact these days you would be hard pushed to find a local that actually fishes it. I have caught many fish well over the pound mark, particularly in the small creek that runs parallel to Doaks Road as it heads up to Mount Arthur.
The Falls Reserve is the middle stretch of the Second River, and hosts some great trout right through here and all the way up to North Lilydale, below where the Lavender Farm originally was. The Second River is a great small stream all the way from The Falls Reserve down to the Lilydale Tip, where it can suffer from irrigation and the run off from a big sawmill.
The Pipers River begins right up on the side of Mount Arthur, and has a man made lagoon at its headwater, itself a great place to catch some bigger than average trout. Big snakes here too! Where it flows down through Underwood it has some of the best riffles runs and pools that you can imagine, all with plenty of good fish therein. From Underwood down to Karoola the river winds its way down through thick bush. Here I would estimate that this would receive next to no angling pressure from one season to the next. Easy access is a problem, but the fit angler that can navigate cross-country should have no difficulty getting in and out in one piece.
Below Karoola and on through to Bangor the river winds through some marginal pasture land and bush, and gives the angler plenty to choose from and plenty of kilometres to cover. From this point down the irrigators get into it in a big way, and flows can be reduced quite markedly. I have always found the best fishing to be above the intensive dairying and cropping activities anyway.
Lake St Clair
The popular part of Lake St Clair is of course the lagoon- this is by no means forgotten nor neglected. However the main part of Lake St Clair would see hardly any serious fly fishers, yet this is a great fishery. The polaroiding on the beaches up in the Narcissus end of the lake is stunning, as is the sight fishing to be found along Frankland Beaches in the south eastern corner. The Basin in past the Pump House is a great fishery on its own, with great weedy stretches and lovely windlanes and slicks on the right day. The polaroiding amongst the weeds along the shores can be great as well.
Out in the main lake along the eastern shore there is a long yabby bed that is only twenty feet off the shore. There are plenty of fallen logs in the water here, making for a very complex environment, but boy are there some trout along here!
The real attractions for me at Lake St Clair are the windlanes on light wind days in autumn. When there are beetles and midges out in the lanes there seems to be a non-stop procession of trout, often rainbows, working up with great diligence. These fish are very uneducated, often swimming right under the boat and continuing to feed without disruption. Up in the top end of the lake the black spinner falls can be legendary, as can the caddis hatches on evening. This is one lake however that you do need to be careful on, a big northerly or nor" wester can push up some mighty big waves. At Lake St Clair you will need a park pass to fish here, but facilities are first class, although the ramp can be very exposed in Northerly conditions.
This year could well be the year of Great Lake. If solitude is your thing, and some bigger than average browns and rainbows are your go, then head to Great Lake. Statistically Great Lake is well patronised, yet for its bulk it is still under fished. Great Lake this year has some of the best-conditioned browns in the highlands, some huge rainbows, magnificent polaroiding in the waves, and not an angler to be seen. I have guided here a reasonable amount this year, and rarely have I seen more that two or three fly fishers on any given day.
There are three elements to Great Lake- polaroiding the waves, drifting the likely shores, and the windlanes. The best days for polaroiding the waves have blue skies and brisk northerly winds. Plenty of heat in the days helps as well. Jim Allen wrote an article for Tas Fishing and Boating News several years back about this technique, it is well worth going back through the back issues to find it. The best places to search the waves are in Tods Corner, between Maclanachans Island and the Bee Hives, south of Reynolds neck and just off Canal Bay, and off Doctors Rocks. The pre-requisite for this is plenty of beetles and other terrestrial life on the water to get them up on top.
Drifting just off the shoreline can yield plenty of good browns when the wind is either too light for the wave polaroiding, or if there is a trickle of beetles running along the shore. Many of these fish will be right on the shore, so don't be nervous about casting 12 inches off the bank. The best days again are the bright and northeast to west winds, with plenty of warmth. These trout will be looking for dry flies right through April; so don't ignore Great Lake on any sunny day till the season closes! (And it never closes on Great Lake).
The windlanes on Great Lake are the stuff of dreams. Early on foggy and crisp mornings, or during the day and evening on hot beetle days are the best. You will undoubtedly see hundreds of trout- catching them is a different matter though. Due to the clear water they can see you miles away, often a 70-foot cast is ten feet too short! But they are there, and the persistent angler will catch a few. Rarely will you see many anglers out there chasing them, and so vast is the bulk of this lake that even if there is a boat in one wind lane, it is no hard task to find another just as good!
The Great Forester River
Like many waters in the states northeast, the Forester is essentially ignored. There is some fine sea trout fishing in The Cut in spring, but most anglers remain ignorant of the potential of this excellent stream. The Forester begins in the state forest above the pleasant area know as The Cuckoo- an area intensively harvested for forestry products, as well as the odd small dairy concern. The stream above the Tasman Highway is generally all fast bottom gravel, which gives up good numbers of small browns to up stream dry fly fishing and nymphing. The casting can be tight in amongst the willows, but if you don't mind getting your feet wet the space opens up if you get in the river and wade. In recent years the hatchery at Springfield has been inadvertently adding rainbow trout to anglers bags, and while they are a novelty, the wild browns are the real target.
Between Tonganah and the upper reaches of the tidal influence the stream has some wonderful bush settings, with undercut banks, long riffle runs and sublime drop offs from shallow to deep. When the pollution disaster hit in 1994 the number of big fish that were found dead amazed locals. Now thankfully the trout are back to where they were- including the big fish in the undercuts and below the drop offs. The Tasmanian lobster will have to take another 50 or so years to get back to where they were though. On balmy summer and autumn evenings the rise can be very good. Getting into the best places may involve a decent walk through typically dry sclerophyll bush land, so be prepared. Access of the main bridges produces good angling, as will some exploration via the 1:25000 scale maps of the area- the beauty of this river is its solitude, and a good walk will usually be rewarded by virgin fishing territory and top angling to match.
The great thing about living in Tasmania is the small population, and the huge diversity of our fishery. In many areas of mainland Australia solitude and untouched fishing is basically out of reach to every one- we are just so fortunate here. There is a much bigger picture to trout fishing in Tasmania than Arthurs Lake, Little Pine Lagoon and the Nineteen Lagoons, just as there are rewards for those who get out and find waters that are just too far off the beaten track for the occasional angler. Good luck with finding your secret spot of peace and quiet, look after it, and appreciate it- in this world it is a rare thing indeed!