Chudleigh Lakes Day TripsShane Flude
My previous Western Lakes article described the Pine Valley and associated waters and the various routes to reach these areas. Due to the remote location of the valley this area was really an overnight adventure and required the necessary camping equipment. I have since received some feedback that many anglers starting out who wish to fish the western lakes simply don't possess the equipment necessary for such an excursion. The following article will therefore describe waters that can be reached and fished comfortably in a day trip and details three moderately easy walks in the Chudleigh Lakes area. The only equipment you will need is boots and rod.
The Chudleigh Lakes are situated over the Great Western Tiers behind the Mole Creek/Chudleigh area and basically include the catchment area of Lake Mackenzie. It is from Lake Mackenzie that the three walks commence and at a little over an hour's drive from Launceston or Devonport the Chudleigh Lakes has and continues to be a very popular angling destination, particularly for northern anglers. Park in the gravel car park just short of the dam wall near the boom gate or drive up to and park under the wall near the canal outflow. Climbing the stone steps sees you on top of the Mackenzie Dam wall ready to head south towards the first destination of Lake Lucy Long and Westons Lake. Total distance is about 14ks return with a rise and fall of around 100m. This is the shortest of the day walks I will describe. Now don't go rushing off madly along the wall because the first fish of the day should be cruising slowly along the edge. Walk slowly the length of the wall with just your head showing over the guard rail. When the weather is blowing from the NW-SW a calm slick forms along the bottom of the wall which concentrates food items and makes polaroiding easy. The tricky bit comes in casting down the length of the wall without spooking the fish below. This is best achieved by running ahead of a cruising fish and laying your fly out before the fish approaches. The fish often take well but can frustrate you by turning back just short of the fly. Once hooked you have two options, play the fish the length of the wall to the shallow areas at either end but at 975 metre s in length it can be a long drag so the only viable option is to walk down the bitumen face. This looks daunting but the dam wall is actually quite grippy and can be safely negotiated to net your fish. Worst case would be you add a 5oo metre swim to the day walk. My best effort along the wall was 4 fish but 1 or 2 is average. Expect brownies of around 1-2 pound although I have claimed a nice rainbow and seen others, presumably from some unsanctioned previous stocking in the headwaters.
The Lucy Long/Westons area is best reached by walking along the southern shoreline of Mackenzie to the ford on the Fisher River and then walking up the Explorer creek track about halfway to Lake Explorer. In summer time Lake Mckenzie is usually well down and the old vehicle track is easy to follow. If the lake level is high this route around the southern shoreline is impossible to negotiate due to thick scrub. There exists a moderately well worn track which leads directly south of the wall near the small cliff, over the headland through light scrub and marsh directly onto the wire rope ford across the Fisher River. Once you have slithered across the wire ropes (a refreshing experience if you lean the wrong way) the Explorer Creek track is easy to follow. It leads directly to and culminates at the Lake Nameless hut. Follow this track for about 1 kilometre towards Lake Explorer and look for the obvious saddle in the ridgeline above on the left. A 15 minute stroll over the hill sees you standing above and looking down along Lake Lucy Long with Westons Lake in the distance. These lakes run roughly east-west and provide nearly 3 kilometres of perfect unrestricted shoreline with the sun at your back to Polaroid. Neither lake contains huge numbers of fish but you should see some beauties. The northern shore of Lucy Long is rocky and open and the waters drop off deeply onto a largely debris free bottom. The fish stand out well but are often found close in to the bank. The southern shoreline features rock scree and rises sharply up behind the lake. Some patches of thick scrub impede progress however the advantage of this shore is the elevated polaroiding positions. Back casts may be impossible if the fish is out to far. Check out the eagles nest half way along. The eastern end of the lake features a large shallow area which accepts the inflow from Westons and is only a short distance from the outflow. Such areas near any current flow are hot spots on the lake. There is a great camping site amongst the Pencil Pines just south of the inflow.
Westons Lake is only a short distance away over the rise. It is about a kilometre long and can be easily walked around. There are some raised banks behind the southern shore which again restrict back casting, the rest of the lake is clear. The northern shoreline is favoured as again like Lucy Long walking this shore means the sun will be at your back. You may probably see only 3-4 fish in this lake but they often reach 6-8 pounds. It pays to walk slow and give particular attention to the trench of deeper water that runs around the eastern end of the northern shore. Once you have lapped Westons it will be time to slowly make your way back along Lucy Long. If you have some spare time the small tarn about 1 kilometre further downstream is worth a look. It contains quite a few 2 lb trout and has a great dun hatch on the right day. Total walking time back to the car from the eastern end of Westons is around 1.5 to 2 hours.
The second day trip I will describe is to Lakes Explorer and Nameless. The route in is as already described, just continue along the Explorer Creek track without deviating over the saddle. Since the Nameless Hut has been rebuilt, this area has proven quite popular. The track has seen some repair work in recent years and is easy to follow and in good condition. The restored hut above Nameless is magnificent but a bit to popular for my liking. Lake Explorer would have to rate as the murkiest Chudleigh Lake with visibility often only a few feet. Swans have been blamed for uprooting the weeds and disturbing the silty bottom. They have certainly been present in numbers when I have visited. Despite this the trout which average 2-3 pound are often in excellent condition. The southern shoreline is probably the favoured shore as the northern is quite rocky with large expanses of rock scree. Fish numbers appear similar around both shorelines. The inflow from Snake Lake produces an area of clear water and is an obvious hot spot. Due to the overall clarity of the Lake Explorer it remains a popular spinning water.
Lake Nameless is a huge water and takes several hours to fish around. On selected suitable days the dun hatches can be fantastic however the fish often rise just out of casting range. Fish size and condition is similar to Explorer but they are far easier to spot in the clear water. The lake can be waded but the bottom is deceptively soft in places and stirs up considerably and is therefore not recommended. Total distance back to the car is just over 8ks and takes a little over 2 hours. It's basically all downhill on the return journey. Explorer Creek itself is worth a look if you have the time. It features some large slow pools which all contain small trout. Rising trout can even be spotted from the track.
The last day trip I will describe is to the Blue Peaks Lakes. Despite being only about 6ks in from the car park the track rises and falls around 150 metres with several steeper pinches and I would rate this walk as the hardest of the three. Starting point is the small gravel car park near the bomb gate below the Mackenzie wall. The track in follows an old 4wd route which is now largely overgrown and only appears as two distinct wheel marks in a few areas. Watch for the short cut across the first marsh past the old cement foundations, it actually cuts five minutes off the trip. The remnants of the 4wd route can be traced as far as Little Throne Lake where the driver has done a sharp turn across the old lake bed. Its interesting just how long these marks remain as the area has been closed to vehicles for at least 25 years. There are several small short cuts on the way in and the track appears to split in several areas, don't panic as all roads lead to Rome.
Once at the Peaks you will be confronted with the three main lakes and a number of smaller tarns and ponds. All contain fish with some of the smaller ones holding some better than average fish but certainly nothing trophy size. Concentrate on the main lakes; they hold heaps of fish between 2-4 pound. The northern most water is probably the least fished of the three. It is quite a shallow rocky lake with a deeper section across the middle. This area along with the weedy shallows near the outflow are probably the best areas to fish. Fish certainly frequent the other rocky shores but are very hard to spot among the many drowned rocks.
The middle Blue Peak Lake where the track culminates is easily the deepest lake and seems to hold the highest population of trout. Most are around 2-2.5 lb. There are shallow bays along the western side which offer excellent wade polaroiding however the stand out feature of this water are the reliable dun hatches. These often start just after 9am and usually occur across the whole lake. If you arrive on a dun hatch day you will probably not venture past this water and simply spend the whole day casting to the many rises. If a hatch is not on or the sun goes out then a dry fly drifted around the main edge trenches should get a result.
The southernmost lake at Blue Peaks is called Little Throne Lake and is the only officially named water. It is also the largest water in the system and features bays, necks, weed beds and deep trenches. Again these deep trenches are reliable fish cruising locations. Trout tend to be bigger in this water and during a good season will average 3-4 pound. Dun hatches can also feature here but are not as reliable as on Middle Lake. Black spinner action can be fast and furious in midsummer when the wind dies out completely particularly off the many rocky points. When levels drop in late summer Little Throne Lake almost becomes three separate waters and it is possible to rock hop between the narrow necks that form. As the levels drop the fishing improves. A full days fishing at the Peaks will probably see you visit all three waters as all have areas worth fishing. You can easily cover 20ks for the day. Walking time in or out to the head of Middle Lake is around 1hour 15 minutes. Next G mobile phone coverage is available for most of the walk into Blue Peaks and service is only lost about 400metre s short of Middle Lake or as you decend the last hill on the way back to Lake Mackenzie. Full service is obtained from all of the surrounding major peaks such as Blue Peaks,Turrana Heights and Forty Lakes Peak. Avoid snake bites in low lying areas for this reason. Yes you will see the odd snake but they aren't numerous anywhere in the Chudleigh Lakes.
Apart from my early trips when armed with spinning rod I now fly fish exclusively in all Western Lakes. Fly choice is similar for the whole area namely Red Tag, Royal Wulff, Dun, Black Spinner and some floating nymphs. Floating line with a standard 9ft tapered leader will suffice. Longer leaders are an advantage in deeper water or when conditions calm off completely. Early December to late March is the best time of year. The action usually starts around 9am but after a cold night fish sometimes don't start to cruise until 11am and in the Western Lakes once the fish are moving they are also feeding. In midsummer I have still been able to Polaroid cruising fish as late at 7pm but I'm usually on the way to the car before then. As always perfect total sun is essential for a good day's polaroiding and as we know in some years these perfect days can be counted on one hand. Fishing blind is always an option but no Chudleigh Lake has high enough numbers to ensure a decent catch rate unless there's a hatch on. I mentioned earlier that boots and rod are all that is needed for these days walks but for those venturing into this area for the first time the Lake Mackenzie TASMAP in 1:25000 scale is essential. Pay an extra $25 and get it laminated if you intend on using it more than one season, once wet the map becomes about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. If time is hard to find and you don't possess the camping gear try to allocate at least one cloud free day this season to the Chudleigh Lakes.