It seems swollen rivers, rising lakes and high rainfall are the new normal for the start of spring, and Tasmania has received more than its fair share so far this season. The magnitude of the recent floods has to be seen to be believed and there are still roads and bridges yet to be restored. However, some of the smaller streams have recovered more quickly so on a family trip to the Apple Isle over the school holidays, I packed my fly gear, hoping to sneak out for a cast or two .
The St Patrick’s River is a lovely, but sometimes very overgrown stretch of water only a 25 minute drive out of Launceston. On a sunny morning with just a hint of warmth in the air I was keen to see if any trout would be rising to the dry. First stop was a lovely stretch of water not far from the road and within three casts I had the first fish – a brown of about 1lb which succumbed to a brass-beaded nymph. A few casts later another fish took the Parachute Adams off the top but I missed the take and only a few minutes later I hooked (and prematurely released) another brown of about a pound which had taken the nymph. A great start.
As I worked my way upstream the fishing got tougher as the water got deeper and faster in the more overgrown stretches. Here I experienced the lowlight of the day – losing my flies in a willow, then re-tying leader, tippet and new rig – only to lose that lot first cast in the same tree on the other side of the river! After lunch (and some more knot tying practice) with more careful casting using my last brass-beaded nymph, I was able to land a few more browns up to a pound. I also missed another on the dry which I’d spotted rising. In the late afternoon a platypus cruising the river was an unexpected bonus on a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Later in the trip I was able to fish the Tyenna River, a scenic 50 minute drive up the Derwent River valley from Hobart. On route you even pass the famous Salmon Ponds where it all began, so that added something of a pilgrimage feel to the trip. The Tyenna is a fine river, but when it rains, run-off from the mountains on all sides can quickly convert a delightful stream into a major torrent when it rises quickly like a New Zealand river. During this year’s floods the water was apparently up to just under the bridge in the photo so the Tyenna is still showing some evidence of those floods, with damaged tress and debris strewn high above the current water level (which is still a lot higher than summer levels).
The water was running swiftly but fairly clear and in the first hour I enjoyed some good fishing, catching a couple of hard fighting one pounders on the nymph and having a couple of takes on the dry. After that, heavy rain set in for the remainder of the day and all the action thereafter was on the nymph as the water discoloured and more flotsam & jetsam started coming down the current. Not easy conditions to fish in, but just when I was about to despair, a drift in the right slot would produce a willing take. My favourite fish was lying in a tight spot between rows of willows. I managed the one viable cast into a slower section of water only shin deep, and immediately a chunky brown engulfed the nymph only a couple of metres in front of me. Despite the willows I managed to steer the fish away from the snags, drop it in the shallows, grab it with my spare hand and take a photo before releasing it to vigorously swim away.
A great way to end a day’s very wet fishing, on a river I would love to fish again in summer when more areas are accessible and there’s insect activity to draw the fish to the surface for some dedicated dry fly fishing.