I like to have a trip to Tasmania booked in for January each year but on arrival into Launceston on Saturday 4th with snow in the highlands forecast, I realised I’d made a huge error. The weather looked shocking for at least the next four days and fishing time is precious, so I turned around and went straight back home again. While you can catch fish in the highlands in rain, snow and shine, for sight fishing, sun is the most important ingredient. There was a high on the way and the first real patch of warm weather looked to be approaching. So plans we’re made and flights re-booked; I’d be back on the 9th. The extra $150 in flights would be bearable if the weather as predicted warmed up.
Shark fishing is a term used to describe the technique of polaroiding fish in open water out of a boat, using the wave as a window in which to see the fish. A blue sky is a must for good visibility and a stiff breeze provides ideal conditions. I’ve had a few decent days shark fishing in previous years but never really cracked it. You could say I’ve always been unlucky with the weather and so this trip had a more targeted approach.
Having seen what I did over the last 6 days, you could easily argue the Great Lake in Tasmania, on the right day, has the best sight fishing anywhere in the world. Shark fishing on the Great Lake has been well publicised but given the quality of fishing, I’m amazed there’s not hundreds of boats out there on a good day doing it. It’s totally addictive. It seems that because it is so challenging even in the right conditions, this keeps the crowds away. I’m no expert but in 6 days straight of good to excellent conditions, I learnt a few things. There are more productive shorelines and areas than others but from what I’m told this is cyclical and so for the most part, if you cover enough water you will find fish. Some drift and polaroid but by far the most productive method is motoring slowly or using a bow mount electric. When a fish is spotted, the motor is pulled out of gear and the angler casts. The advantage of the electric is being able to quickly re-position the boat for an easier cast at the sighted fish. The best way is to travel downwind in a zig-zag routine. Foam and wind lanes are a great indicator of where the food is and where the fish are and so concentrate on these areas. If you’re seeing a fish every half hour then you’re doing well and in a good area. The most experienced shark fishers will get to around a 50% success rate and we were a fair way from that! The best I’ve heard is 12 fish boated from 12 fish spotted, but this is as rare as it gets. Among the Great Lake’s inner sanctum, the common question is not what you caught, but how many you saw as this is the more accurate indicator of the quality of fishing. Concentration is key and good eyes see more fish. This is a very intense way to fish and the excitement builds rapidly on the boat when a fish is spotted. Fish in open water move reasonably quickly in search of food and so the angler has to be quick to spot and very quick to make an accurate cast. It’s a game of seconds and if you’re used to making lots of false casts before presenting the fly then expect a steep learning curve. Good casters catch more fish in shark fishing and so practice before a trip is recommended.
After this warm weather it is safe to say the Tasmanian highlands is well and truly firing. Between three boats, over 100 fish were landed in the Great Lake during this trip and there are many similar reports of great fishing throughout the highland lakes.
Should you need help planning a trip to the highlands of Tasmania, feel free to call us at The Flyfisher on (03) 9621 1246.
If you’d like to learn to shark fish the Great Lake from the very best, consider Christopher Bassano of Rainbow Lodge or Peter Hayes. For a DIY trip, the best accommodation is at Freshwater Lodges. Ex-guide, local and owner of Freshwater Lodges Michael Potter, can help you put together a fly fishing itinerary.