Tasmania the southern most island state of Australia is the premiere fly fishing destination. There are several features that make the trout fishing in Tasmania a unique fly fishing experience. Above all else is the tremendous stalking and sight fishing that’s available on many of the Central Highland Lakes. All trout in Tasmania are totally wild, you do not encounter ‘stock fish’ so the angler has to match his wits with the wary trout. The fish are very cunning, for the average angler they are often very difficult to catch and sometimes down right impossible! But it is this ‘visible’ challenge of fishing the shallow, clear Tasmanian lakes that makes the journey a viable proposition.
There are some local words and local techniques that are synonymous with Tasmanian fly-fishing. ‘Polaroiding’ is the technique of choice and ‘tailing trout’ is a local phenomenon. So what is polaroiding? Well it is not unlike searching the salt flats for Bones, the angler wades shallow sandy flats searching for underwater clues that give away the fishes presence. The first step to polaroiding in fresh water is to acquire a pair of amber/ brown polarized glasses and make sure you are wearing a hat that shades your eyes. By slowly wading the angler scans the water column both horizontally and vertically for anything that may resemble a fish. It is very important to focus your vision below the water, ignoring everything above the surface plane. Shape is the primary clue that often reveals a fish. The form of a trout or profile is very different to other sub surface objects such as rocks or weed beds. Movement is the other key visual clue, and most trout encountered will show some signs of movement. It may be the dark shadow of the trout reflected of the silt bottom, maybe the golden flanks as a fish turns to intercept its prey, or it may just be flicker of the tail that gives the fish away. Colour is less dependable as fish are naturally camouflaged to suit their environment. However contrast can sometimes be to our advantage and this is most evident when brown trout are cruising over shallow weed beds or rainbow trout are cruising near the surface in deep clear water.
Tailing is a term that many devoted salt flats fishermen will certainly understand. Brown trout in Tasmania just like bone fish in the Florida Keys feed in very shallow or ’skinny water’. The behavior is associated with disturbed or ‘nervous water’ which is the visual clue to the fishes presence. Fishing for large tailing brown trout is EXTREME fly-fishing! Little Pine Lagoon is well recognized as one of the premiere lakes in Tasmania to find tailing fish. The fish are always most active early and late in the day when the sun is low, but overcast days will allow the angler to search for ‘tails’ most of the day. There are some lakes in Tasmania where the angler can stalk tailing fish all season long, however the behavior is most obvious in spring (September to November)
What clients find really exciting is combining polaroiding with tailing fish, but you need steady nerves and accurate short casts. Imagine wading down a grassy flat mid morning, sun at your back, clear sky, and seeing large brown trout clearly visible and actively feeding in less than 12 inches of water. If the angler is fortunate enough to hook a tailing trout, he will soon discover how these strong fish can unload a full fly line in a single run.
The ecology of the Tasmanian lakes, there abundant trout, and their shallow nature make them perfect boat fisheries. The variety and potential of boat fishing in Tasmania is enormous, with the boat being primarily used as a platform for polaroiding, a taxi to reach distant shores, or as a vehicle to chase surface feeding fish. Guides use boats to access areas of minimal fishing pressure and it provides a means to quickly move from one productive area to another.
‘Loch style fishing’ is one of the more popular and is definitely the most productive and consistent method of catching trout in Tasmania. The technique takes place from a broadside drifting boat and involves the retrieval of a team of flies through the surface of the water in attempt to induce a take from a nearby trout. This type of fishing was born in Scotland and Ireland where it was practiced on the larger lochs for wild brown trout and sea trout. Originally the style consisted of repeated short casts (6 to 10m) downwind from a drifting boat. Each cast the angler would sweep the rod back and up into the air as a team of flies were drawn, skated, and then "dibbled" back to the boat. The technique was essentially rhythmic and unhurried, and was very effective on trout feeding in or near the surface.
Probably the most challenging but definitely the most rewarding boat fly-fishing is associated with ‘wind lanes’. Wind lanes are defined pathways on lakes where food collects, often characterized by a smooth ribbon of water running down an otherwise rippled surface. They are similar to the seams or bubble lines in a stream, where food is channeled by the combination of currents and wind. The best lanes normally contain the most food and consequently the most feeding trout. Trout in lanes feed with reckless abandon, and when a good lane is found there will often be dozens of snouts punching through the surface film. The hungry rainbow trout often feed in schools, like playful dolphins they glide in and out of the water. Tails, fins and dark wide backs are visible as the trout rise at regular intervals. These rainbows feed quickly and present very demanding and challenging targets. There is no greater thrill than hooking a large rainbow in deep water! But you must be good in the casting department. This is one form of fishing where picking up and casting a long line is of paramount importance. Reading the speed of fish is an acquired skill that must be matched by an accurate cast. Wind lane fishing is highly dependant on overnight midge hatches, and since midges hatch all year round, drifting down a lane early morning is always a possibility!
Tasmania has a vast wilderness fishery collectively described as the ‘Western lakes.’ The region offers anglers the best opportunity to stalk and land wild trophy size browns in shallow lakes that are rarely fished. This backcountry wilderness fishery contains over three thousand lakes and tarns amidst spectacular National Park and World Heritage land. Anglers are rare in this fishing adventure wonderland! Most lakes are accessible by foot only, all are very shallow, clear, and populated by brown trout, that range from two to ten pounds and bigger! The feature fishing of the area is the polaroiding on clear sunny summer days. The fish are easy to see in these shallow clear waters, at times fish are visible as far away as fifty meters. Fish often cruise the edges, so the angler must move slowly, stay low and stalk his fish. Fishing is difficult and the angler must be good at short, delicate, quick casts. But he must be equally good at quickly punching out a long line when the situation arises, and be ‘well versed’ at spotting fish. A final word of warning is not to venture too far into this wild area without being accompanied by an experienced person or guide. The weather changes very quickly, and loosing your bearings in the open flat terrain can become a high possibility.
If You Want To Go
The best time to plan the trip is October to March. Quanta’s Airways provides excellent service with flights connect from either Sydney or Melbourne. Tasmania’s best fisheries are located in the Central Highlands. This region encompasses central Tasmania and the small country town of Miena situated on the shores of the Great Lake is the most central location for the angler. The Central Highlands Lodge in Miena is the finest fishing lodge in the area, and a number of guides provide services to the lodge, myself included. A good source on the web for further information about Tasmanian fly-fishing is the Fishing Tasmania www.fishingtasmania.com web site. And one of the best books for some pre-trip reading is Greg French’s 1994 book Tasmanian Trout Waters. The book contains maps and information on all inland lakes, rivers, and lagoons.
Tasmania is a special place. It’s relative isolation, friendly people, disease free status, and cunning wild fish must be experienced. Make it your next fishing destination and join me on one of the shallow lake flats!