The upper Mersey starts its flow from Lake Meston and continues down through Lake Youd and Junction Lake. Rainbows were first introduced into these waterways by the one and only airdrop of rainbows into Lake Meston in the 1950s. These lakes and the upper Mersey River, now have a wild population of rainbow trout. The Mersey River continues it's flow out of Junction Lake over a series of plummeting waterfalls that have prevented the migration of brown trout from Lake Rowallan.
The thought of catching some truly wild mountain rainbow trout in this area has been on my must do list for over 10 years now. The torturous walk and the time needed to make a trip into this lake worthwhile, has always prevented it from becoming a reality.
On a recent fishing trip with Peter Broomhall, our conversation turned towards the many great fishing destinations in Tasmania that we had not yet experienced. I mentioned the wild rainbow trout in Junction Lake and the upper Mersey River. Peter had also wanted to fish this area for a long time and suggested I give him a call, if I decided to plan a trip. A few weeks later I made the call to Peter. He was still interested and managed to recruit Todd Lamprey and Simon Tueon. They both jumped at the opportunity to explore a new fishing destination and discover another part of Tasmania.
Take a map and follow the Mersey River back up from Devonport into the mountains, past Lake Rowallan into the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. Here you will come across a small lake in a valley between Mount Rogoona to the north and the Mountains of Jupiter in the south.
From Devonport it takes a bit over an hour to drive to Lake Rowallan. From Lake Rowallan you have a choice of three walking tracks, Junction Lake Track, Lake Myrtle Track and the Moses Creek Track. All three tracks start at different locations along the unsealed Mersey Forest Road that travels along the eastern side of Lake Rowallan. These tracks vary in distance and pass different lakes along the way.
We chose the Moses Creek Track at the very end of the Mersey Forest Road. Of the three tracks available, this was the most direct route to Junction Lake. The track is about 10 kilometres long, climbing 470 metres before descending down onto Junction Lake.
Our trip into Junction Lake would start early on a Friday morning in January and would finish some time Monday afternoon, giving us two and a half days to fish the area.
We started the walk at 6:30 a.m., each of us carrying 20 kilogram packs. After crossing a suspension bridge over Jacksons Creek, we were soon navigating our way through a myrtle beech forest with thick green moss underfoot. Here the track was not obvious and our only means of identifying it was to sight small piles of rocks, known as Cairns, that marked the way forward. Red markers and plastic tape tied onto tree branches also marked the rough track to Junction Lake. From here the track climbed steeply, giving us a taste of the pain our legs were soon to endure. The track weaved its way up the mountain then descended steeply and we found ourselves literally climbing down the track, using small trees and large rocks as leverage making our way down through the thick forest onto Chapter Lake. From Chapter Lake we could see the spectacular Grail Falls crashing down the mountain from Chalice Lake above. After taking a few photos of the falls and reviewing the track notes, we realised we had walked off the track leading to Junction Lake. We knew we had to be on the ridge above, but couldn't find where the track continued from Chapter Lake. Peter was convinced he had found the track and led us straight up to the ridge on what could only be described as a wallaby run, bashing our way through the scrub we eventually rejoining the track. Naturally, Peter was temporarily sacked as leader, leaving Todd to take over the lead.
In some places the track was hard to follow and we all lost our way more than once, retracing our steps to the last marker. We continued past Cloister Lagoon emerging from thick trees onto the edge of the grassy Mayfield Flats that run down to Junction Lake. The northern end of the Lake is shallow with pin reeds lining most of the water's edge, with the exception of a fifty metre stretch of deeper water where the grassy flats extend down to the lakeshore. The southern side of the lake becomes much deeper and the shoreline is covered in dense bush right down to the water's edge. As well as the Mersey river flowing in from Lake Meston, Junction Lake is also fed from Lees Creek flowing in on the southern shore. Lees Creek sounds more like a river as it can clearly be heard crashing down the mountain from Lake Artimis above.
Fish were rising steadily in the Lake and it took a lot of self control to continue on to the Junction Lake Hut to see if it was occupied. As it turned out, a couple of bush walkers, passing through the area on a seven day walk, had already set up camp. The Hut would be free for us to use over the next couple of days as this was their final night before moving on.
The Hut is a magnificent piece of mountain history, built in a perfect location set back off the Lake, surrounded by trees on the banks of the upper Mersey River flowing into Junction Lake. Dick Reed and his friends finished building this Hut on New Years Day in 1970. The Hut was built from Pencil Pine and other timbers found in the area. It has a shingle roof and palings line the exterior walls. The interior walls and ceiling are lined with plastic. There are four bunks, shelves and an open fireplace with a chimney made from galvanised sheet metal. The Hut has been left in good condition by bush walkers and anglers and is now the property of the Crown.
Back at the lake our tents where hastily erected, back packs thrown to one side and rods put together. The northern shore is open and is an ideal place to cast a fly or lure. The southern shore would be better suited to casting lures for anyone willing to push their way through the thick scrub to make a cast. Wading the shores also proved difficult in most areas we fished as thick layers of silt would suddenly give way-leaving us immersed up to our knees.
With the fish still rising we spread out around the northern shore casting dry flies to these wild rainbows. Red Tags and Peter's ever reliable box of foam Chernobyl Ants did the trick on these strong fighting, aerobatic rainbows. I kept one small rainbow to go in my fish steamer for the evening meal. On the way back to camp I met up with the two bushwalkers at the Lake shore watching the swans. They seemed a little surprised that we had actually caught fish and vowed to learn how to fish before they ventured on another trip.
That evening, we had steamed trout, cooked in a Billie using a piece of stainless steel wire mesh to keep the fish out of the boiling water. The was followed by a couple of our surprise packets of gourmet dehydrated meals.
During the day we watched rainbows hunting the edge of the pin reeds in less than two feet of water along the northern shore. Unlike the normal slow pace of a brown trout, these rainbows were swimming quite fast and would swim onto you if you left your eyes fixed in one spot for any length of time. When things were a bit quiet, a nymph, worked slowly back, would soon have the line tightening into a leaping rainbow.
During the evening until dark, large numbers of cadis would emerge from the water with the rainbows in hot pursuit. An Elk Hair Cadis or small Chernobyl Ant twitched across the surface with a two or three second pause would usually result in a savage take.
On this occasion none of us had brought along a rod to cast lures or soft plastics, but I have no doubt casting lures or soft plastics would have produced many fish and covered water that was difficult to fish successfully with a fly rod.
Upper Mersey system
The Mersey River starts its flow out of Lake Meston down to Lake Youd and then onto Junction lake. The rainbows in this system tend to be small with some bigger fish reported in Lake Youd.
Peter and Simon packed their two weight fly rods just to experience this magic little river and the beautifully marked rainbows that inhabit it.
From the Junction Hut they walked down the bank into the river. They both proceeded to catch small rainbows on tiny dries at every pool, following the river up stream through small waterfalls, surrounded by over hanging pencil pines.
Peter left the river to Simon and made his way up to Lake Youd in search of some slightly larger fish. Lake Youd is a small shallow lagoon, created by the river spreading out across the open grassy flats midway between Lake Meston and Junction Lake. Peter managed to catch plenty of small rainbows, up to three quarters of a pound, in the lake, but didn't encounter any larger fish. The lake does have some deep undercut banks that would no doubt hold some larger fish that may only come out into the shallows under the right conditions. Wet fly fishing or retrieving a lure along these deeper sections towards evening and into the night, may have seen better results. Regardless of the size of the fish, Peter and Simon had a great day's fishing in the crystal clear waters of the upper Mersey River.
Lake Meston is situated three and a half kilometres north of Junction Lake. Compared to Junction Lake, Lake Meston is huge, spanning one kilometre wide and three kilometres long. The lake is deep and clear and almost entirely surrounded by thick forest, running down to the water's edge. The northern shore is quite unique, with its shallow sandy shore.
As we were already so close to Lake Meston we decided to do a day trip to this lake, in the hope we might see some bigger fish close to shore. The track along the western shore of Lake Meston runs well off the lake, apart from a small section along the south western shore. As we neared this shore, Peter and I left the track and pushed our way through the scrub down to the lake. Todd and Simon did the same a little further up. The rocky shore can be waded out for three or four metres, before quickly dropping away into deeper water. This shore has many large fallen trees running out into the lake. We used these trees to gain some height, enabling us to see further out into the lake. We had only covered 20 metres of shore, when Peter spotted a big rainbow from one of the fallen trees. Estimating it to be somewhere around the six pound mark. With a couple of false casts, Peter had his Chernobyl Ant sitting in the path of the rainbow. Peter gave me a running commentary as the fish approached his fly, only to refuse it at the last moment. The fish continued on its beat, almost swimming under Peter's rod tip. From my position I had too much glare on the water to see the fish. Peter shouted out its location, pointing his rod tip towards the fish. I put out a cast allowing my nymph to sink and waited. I gave the nymph a twitch, hoping to attract the fish's attention, but as I did, I felt the slightest touch through the line and then nothing. I had just pulled the fly from the fish's mouth. If only I had of waited for the line to draw away instead. Peter watched in amazement as the fish disappeared out into deeper water.
We continued to fish the shore down to the start of the upper Mersey River flowing out of the southern end of the lake and met up with Todd and Simon along the way. None of us had seen another fish. We pushed our way back up to the track through the thick bush and continued up the lake to have a look at the Meston Hut, built by Dick Reed and his friends prior to the Junction Hut. The condition of the hut didn't disappoint and was built in the traditional log cabin style with a shingle roof. The visitor's logbook inside the hut had entries from people as far away as Alaska, mentioning the similarity of the country side with theirs.
At this stage Peter's knee was starting to lock up causing him some pain and he seriously considered laying up in the hut for the afternoon. Simon had blisters on his feet the size of twenty cent pieces from walking in his waders. We all wanted to see the top end of the lake, as a result Peter and Simon decided to push through the pain and continue. The track soon opened up onto the magnificent sandy shallows at the northern end of the lake. A small rocky island, covered in Pencil Pines, sat out in the middle of the shallow sandy bay. To the east, shear cliffs drop into the lake, while the western shore has Pencil Pines down to the water's edge. Todd and I waded across to the sandy shallows to fish the deep water on the eastern shore. We saw the occasional rise to gum beetles, but couldn't tempt them with dries or wets. Across the water, on the western shore, I could hear Peter telling Simon he had just landed a couple of fish. Simon asked Peter how big they were, he replied with, "around three and four". I waded back across the flats to have a look at the photos of Peter's fish, only to find out that the three and four pound rainbows I had assumed he had caught, were actually three and four inch long native galaxias.
What to pack
When taking on a hiking trip into any off the remote lakes in Tasmania, careful consideration is needed when it comes to packing the right gear.
Your feet need to be well looked after with good walking boots that will keep your feet dry and that have proven not to give you blisters in the past. Wearing quality walking socks and keeping your feet dry will also help to prevent blisters forming.
All of our cooking was done with boiling water, eliminating the need for pots and fry pans.
Here is a list of what we took for a three night stay at Junction Lake.
Equipment and clothing
- Quality Pack that allows the weight to be carried on your hips.
- Light weight Tent
- Two small hiking gas burners with one spare gas bottle
- Two small light weight billies
- Sleeping mats
- Quality sleeping bag, capable of compressing down in size, to save space.
- Light weight cutlery and cups plates and bowls
- Compass, maps and track notes
- Head lamps and spare batteries
- Water proof jackets and trousers
- Change of clothes, thermal gear, several pairs of quality walking socks, gators, gloves and sun hats
- First aid kit complete with compression bandage, bandaids, Panadol, Triangular bandage, antiseptic powder or cream etc.
- Lighter and water proof matches
- Toiletry gear
- Nylon cord (used for a variety of reasons)
- Powdered milk
- Two minute noodles
- Ready to eat snacks such as muesli bars, pre-packaged cheese and biscuits, dried fruit, nuts and high energy sweets etc..
- Pre-packaged dehydrated meals for the main evening meal
- Tea, coffee and sugar
- Hip flask of favourite alcoholic beverage (Optional)
- One spare rod available to anyone who has an accident
- Breathable waders
- Wading boots
- Tippet material
- Small selection of flies
- Pocket knife
- Polaroid sunglasses
The amazing experience of walking into these lakes, catching wild mountain rainbows, surrounded by magnificent mountains is a memory that will stay with me, long after the physical recover of the arduous track has been forgotten. Half a day spent at Lake Meston was nowhere near enough time to fully explore this area and a return trip back into this Lake is already being planned. Maybe I'll tackle the Myrtle Track next time!