Friends, Fishing and Four Seasons in Tasmania

What began as a my regular summer Tassie highlands trip with brother Mark, slowly morphed into some sort of informal flyfishing convention as friends and colleagues converged on Miena for a late February cast or three. That the summertime ‘Mayor of Miena’ and FlyStream columnist Jim Allen was in residence was no surprise – he makes the town his home for 3 months a year. But it turned out our fly tying columnist Craig Coltman was around too with our good mate Jim Bambridge. Then John and Silke from Longford announced they would be coming up the mountain, and our friend Will pulled off a miraculous eleventh hour free weekend. Finally, FlyStream’s Andrew Fuller and Andrew Marsic turned up, in company with occasional FlyStream blogger Sam Stringer.

A Macquarie River caenid.

A Macquarie River caenid.

Somehow, amongst the long and hilarious evening dinners (and more subdued morning coffees) we managed to do quite a bit of fishing. On Friday, the trip got off to a good start for me at least with some lovely morning caenid fishing on the Macquarie near Longford. This river was running low-ish without Great Lake water* but that didn’t stop the trout rising freely for streams of caenids that looked like white froth stretching for hundreds of metres.  Why the fish obliging took my little Klinkhammer from among the soup of food is a mystery – maybe it was just different enough to get the trout’s attention.

...and Macquarie caenid feeder

…and Macquarie caenid feeder

Next it was up the mountain to Arthurs Lake at the Cow Paddock and Hydro Bay. The wind was light, the air humid and we could see rises through the windscreen – always a promising sign! Sure enough, the air was thick with spinners, damsels and even the odd emerging dun. When the fickle breeze deigned to push offshore, the lake rang to the slurps and plops of rising fish. Mark in particular could do no wrong, and wading the shore casting damsel dries and paraduns, ‘we’ (as in take my score and double it for Mark’s) landed 16 chunky fish from 1½ to 3 pounds. That evening, several people told us that Arthurs had been fishing slowly and the trout were small. Just as well we didn’t hear that in advance!


Riser spotted in Hydro Bay and Mark sneaks into position.

Riser spotted in Hydro Bay and Mark sneaks into position.

Setting the hook...

Setting the hook…

Hanging on...

Hanging on…

... and the result!

… and the result!

Filled with early enthusiasm, we visited Arthurs the next morning to find the fishing more in line with the reports – tough!  Will, Silke, John, Mark and I worked hard for a meagre two trout. So we retreated to Woods Lake, which was as clear as I’ve ever seen it.

Woods looked magnificent, but...

Woods looked magnificent, but…

Once again though, its beauty wasn’t reflected in the fishing. I landed one nice fat 2½ pounder from the shore fishing a Murrumbidgee Brown Nymph around the strap weed and we saw the occasional big trout fly from the water for damsels, but that was it.

The solitary Woods fish.

The solitary Woods fish.

Sunday was a repeat of the challenging fishing – a few chances and even fewer conversions.  Admittedly the wind howled for much of the day, but we were bewildered that the perfect polaroiding light revealed so little on the Great Lake and Western Lakes – or at least that was the case where we tried. One weird thing was the dearth of insects. Tassie on a warm February day with no bugs??? I guess nothing in flyfishing is entirely predictable. Mark, Silke and John did a little better on Dee Lagoon, but even there they were confounded by the lack of surface food, particularly gum beetles.

Will braves the gale at Augusta.

Will braves the gale at Augusta.

Monday dawned with a red sky, eerie warmth and storm clouds to the west. By 10 am the rain was pouring down and with the overcast ‘dunny’ weather, Mark and I chose to finish the trip at Little Pine. From 11 am til 12.30 pm, there was a light but constant hatch in the wind and rain, and the fish knew it. Wading the south shore, there were too few rises to use dries, but pulling a pair of nymphs (see Craig Coltman’s Lake Possum Nymph in the current issue of FlyStream) did the job. Although the hatch slowed to a patchy trickle from 12.30 pm until we had to leave at 2.30 pm, the trout were still looking. We ended up with five cylindrically fat browns that fought like maniacs, and missed double that. I’d heard the Pine fish are crackers this year, and Mark and I can confirm it.

The FlyStream team - Andrew Fuller, me and Andrew Marsic -  recovering with a Monday morning coffee. That's the Great Lake in the background.

The FlyStream team – Andrew Fuller, me and Andrew Marsic – recovering with a Monday morning coffee. That’s the Great Lake in the background.

As we drove away from Miena and up past Arthurs, the storm front had passed, the wind was already dropping and the sun was poking through. Would that light westerly be pushing the duns, spinners and damsels out into the mouths of waiting Cow Paddock trout? It was as if the highlands were saying, ‘don’t leave, we’ll be nice again!’ The temptation to have a quick look was strong, but we had a plane to catch.

*As we drove past the Macquarie yesterday, it was once again full of Great Lake water.