‘Tasmania is in drought, we simply don’t have enough water,’ said my guide Roger Butler as we departed Hobart for Lake River, which joins the Macquarie River south of Launceston. We reached our destination by heading north through Bagdad and Campbell Town on the Midland Highway.
Roger was president of the Trout Guides and Lodges Tasmania, an organisation that looks after fishing guides and lodges. A big, amiable man, he sports a flock of white hair along with a white beard. All that separated him from being a twin to Santa Claus was a pillow.
It was hard to believe that this state, with several thousand lakes, was in drought; even harder when we arrived at our destination and I saw a river that was running high and fast. Water was coming down from the Central Highlands, flowing out of Woods Lake and down the escarpment into Lake River. Even the paddocks we drove across were soggy, but Roger said this was due to recent rainfall.
Lake River is a meadow stream, flanked by flat pasture, grassy basins and backwater lagoons, but on my visit the water was so high and discoloured it was difficult to spot the weed beds and channels it is known for. And the wind was blowing consistently enough to make fly-casting difficult.
We carried four-weight fly rods, donned waders and set off to walk a couple of kilometres downstream. Roger was concerned that conditions were against us and it would be difficult to catch trout. Still, he was willing to have a go. Our rigs comprised a dark brown copper beadhead nymph set about 60 cm beneath a fluoro material indicator. Roger preferred copper to brass beads, as they were ‘more subtle’.
Lake River is rich in insect life. For proof, Roger pulled a sodden branch from the river to show the amount of mudeyes living in the timber.
Several hours of casting later, we arrived at a backwater. Roger worked this water square metre by square metre. He had two chances; both times the trout managed to get off the hook. That’s fishing.
Back at the car, Roger was at a loss. He said Lake River was one of his most consistent waters, but conditions were against us. We had lunch and he decided we would go to Currawong Lakes between Lake Leake and Tooms Lake in the east coast highlands, a bit over an hour’s drive away.
Currawong Lakes is a trout fishery and game park, set on 12 sq km and comes complete with fully appointed two- and four-bedroom cabins that can accommodate up to 20 visitors. There are three lakes and these are stocked with trophy-sized rainbow and brown trout. Fishing is year round and you don’t need a fishing licence.
Roger said there were prolific insect hatches and the fishing was usually excellent. An hour and a half after leaving Lake River we were casting flies into crystal clear water in the bottom lake. I cast, hooked-up and the trout was gone. It was one of those days. A trout was working near the mouth of an inlet channel and Roger began to stalk the fish. He had changed his fly to a dark brown emerger pattern. Presenting the fly wasn’t easy, the wind was blowing about 20 knots and the only cover was a small island at the mouth of the channel. Roger persisted, but this trout wasn’t cooperating.
We stopped fishing when it was too dark to see our flies. At the end, we didn’t bag out on trout, but thankfully fly-fishing isn’t just about the fish. It is also about the experience, the challenge of presenting a bogus offering of fur and feathers and trying to fool Mr Speckles into believing it is food.