By the beginning of last week, it became obvious that our upcoming trip to the central highlands of Tasmania couldn’t proceed as we’d originally planned. Dry lightning strikes had ignited bushfires in the Western Lakes, and without significant rain to hold them back, the front was spreading south and east towards the highland ‘capital’ Miena, and several of the lakes we planned to fish.
When Mark and I arrived in Launceston midweek, it looked as if Miena – and thankfully, the shacks of many good friends – would be safe. However, road closures and the lingering threat of the fire, meant a plan B was called for. So we changed our base to a friend’s place near Cressy and improvised from there. One thing we soon realised was that, despite the fires, a reasonable area on the north-east side of the plateau was accessible and safe to fish – and of course all the streams we enjoy in northern Tasmania were unaffected.
Of the lakes, Arthurs and Great Lake provided the highlights. While Arthurs has fallen from favour somewhat in recent years, around the north-western side where we fished, the water was clear-ish (about 3ft visibility) with a nice mix of weed and open water.
Unfortunately, whenever we were on the lake, the wind kept the clouds of big black spinners back in the trees, although the odd dun and damsel brought enough rises to keep us focussed. The best tactic however was fishing a small olive Magoo in the gaps and channels in the weed, which brought several crashing takes from 1½-3lb browns in nice condition.
Perhaps the lake highlight was Great Lake on Saturday. With our friend John at the helm, the primary morning mission was to take the boat across the lake from Cramps Bay to Miena to deliver some supplies to friends stranded there by road closures.
However as we made the crossing, the whole lake glassed off like I’ve never seen (except at dawn) and soon countless trout were sipping away in the slicks and foam-lines. We had a couple of hours of first-class fishing with small para duns and spinners on long leaders, and the supply drop ended up running a little late!
After lunch, the wind got up and we concentrated on the main objective, ‘shark fishing’ (as so well described in Jim Allen’s recent article). While the trout were not as prolific as the calm water risers earlier, we still enjoyed a few hours of mesmerising action, casting gum beetles and deer hair dries to the shapes that suddenly appeared in the waves and foam-lines in the middle of the lake.
Between lake trips, it was business as usual on the streams. The Macquarie was running a banker, with patches of trout sipping spinners along the edges, clomping the odd hopper, and even foraging among the flooded tussocks. On the St Pats, flows were much gentler, requiring a bit more care than usual when presenting a little Wulff or CDC pattern. The trout were typically abundant though, and couldn’t say no to a drag-free drift.
Meanwhile, the Meander River was flowing strongly and it was exhilarating wet-wading the sunlit currents, presenting a Stimi or Wulff with a dark nymph underneath through the pools, along the softer edges and seams, or short-lined through the pockets. The dry alone is always fun, yet in this case the nymph earned its place, accounting for about half the trout we caught: mostly browns but also a couple of rainbows – all nice chunky stream fish.
On the way home yesterday, Mark and I reflected that it had been a great trip. We have a bit history of charging around all over the place on our Tassie trips, and maybe limiting our options from vast to merely extensive, made us fish more and drive less. Anyway, we found that Tasmania is presently as wonderful a place to visit and fish as ever, and we were glad we went ahead with our trip.
As I write, fires are still burning in the highlands and the consensus is that it will take a decent rain event to put them out completely. There are some equally extensive fires in the south and south-west, although these were a long way from us and didn’t factor into our plans – even the initial ones. There are good updates on the Tasmania Fire Service site, current road closures are listed here, and the fire map provides a useful snapshot of which areas are affected.
I won’t even attempt to guess what the fire situation will be in the next few days or weeks, however it’s fair to say that everyone in Tasmania is praying for rain. Let’s hope it arrives soon, but in the meantime, there’s lots of excellent fishing still available.