I always thought the title of John Gierach’s entertaining book Where the Trout are all as Long as your Leg was a little farfetched, until I realised it related to a time when he was five years old. I am a little older than that now but, having been fishing in Tasmania, I can claim to have been to the land of giant trout. The fish may not be as long as your leg, but you know you are into some serious fishing when you watch fly-fishing guide Ken Orr tie on a 10 kg tippet because ‘you will have no hope without heavy leader’. Ken is a fly-fishing guide with 30 years experience and an international reputation, and runs his own lodge at Bradys Lake.
The giant trout are on a 12 sq km property called Twin Lakes. Less than an hour’s drive east of Hobart, it is a private fishery that consists, as the name suggests, of two lakes. My hosts at Twin Lakes were Rose and Ian Cook who moved to Australia from Devon, England. It was a major shift when you consider that Rose comes from a family who had lived in the same house for more than 900 years, and Ian was a former gamekeeper in Cornwall and Devon.
The lakes are 2 ha and 1.6 ha in size, and the top lake has a fully furnished house complete with spa set back from the shore. When full, this lake spreads out across pasture, giving anglers the opportunity to sight-fish for tailing trout. The lower lake has brown and rainbow trout and small numbers of Atlantic salmon. Both lakes feature a productive ecosystem with good hatches of duns and mudeyes.
On my visit, the wind was swirling from west to south with gusts to about 20 knots. We went to the dam wall at the southern end of the bottom lake. The wind was blowing in from behind us, which made fly- casting difficult. It didn’t worry Ian who was using a six-weight outfit and casting straight and true with a tight arc on his back cast.
The first hook-up came within 15 mins of starting. The bend in Ian’s rod and the blur from his fly reel as the fish peeled line indicated a big fish.
It was several minutes before Ken was able to net the fish, a beautifully coloured rainbow trout that weighed 5.2 kg on the net scales.
Unlike some hatchery rainbow trout dispensed in lakes, these fish showed plenty of fight and came with the hallmark rose cheeks and pink flash along their flanks that divides the cream belly and green back.
With the trout in the net, Ken placed it in a revival tank fed with an oxygen bottle to ensure the fish made a quick recovery before being put back into the lake. Like most private fisheries, this one is about catch and release. The next fish to fall to a fly was an Atlantic salmon. Ian said the salmon had come in with a batch of trout, so he thought he would put them into the lake to see what happened.
Ian walked along the western shore of the lake and promptly hooked another rainbow, a twin of the one still recovering in the holding tank. When the second trout came in, another was following. Ken removed the trout from the net, realised it was egg bound and proceeded to strip the fish of its eggs by running his thumb and forefinger along the fish’s belly. Removing the roe ensures the trout will not become egg-bound and die.
The week before I arrived, a group of fly-fishers at the lakes caught rainbow trout to 9 kg and brown trout to 6.2 kg. These are enormous weights for trout in any water. Ian explained that the average size of the trout in the lakes was 5.5 kg, and most of them are 5–6 years old, but they have a lifespan of 8–10 years in this environment. All the trout came from wild stocks sourced from places like Great Lake and reared by Tasmanian Inland Fisheries. The fish are released into the lakes at 250–300 g. As you might expect, the trout are well educated in the ways of fly-fishers.