Tasmanania!

I don’t travel too much for fishing. When you have the best right on your doorstep it can be disappointing.  But I am opportunistic by nature so Cristina’s family law conference attendance in Hobart presented as an opportunity – so I agreed to be the handbag for a three fifths of a week measure of legal revelry in exchange for a two fifths measure of piscatorial adventure; an excellent cocktail.

I took some advice about where to fish whilst in Hobart (when not in meetings) and this led me to Cornelian Bay on the Derwent River just upstream from the Tasman Bridge.

Here, I was led to believe, one might snag a massive sea trout, one of the brown trout from the Derwent River fattening up in salt water for the spring months on all sorts of small fry darting amongst the sea grass.  Simply watch for the boils of bait fish being scattered by these silvered beasts and lob a suitable fly amongst the action – and hold on.  A trip to The Fishing Connection on Harrington Street for some inside info on fly choices and a new line and some “for certain” flies, and of course a fishing licence and I was ready for action – and a lot poorer.

It was a bit weird down at Cornelian Bay.  I pulled up in a park like area, nice tarmac car park, promenade along the waterfront, dozens of dog walkers with dogs.  I felt a bit conspicuous as I donned the chest waders and fly vest, tooled up the rod and pulled on my favourite hat.  Strangely no one seemed to be bothered, other than one dog who growled at me. His owner said he hadn’t seen one of me before so not to worry.  I was cautious, aware I must be attracting the gaze of the cafe set at The Boat House I walked cautiously onto the beach and headed for water, moving from the shaly sand onto soft green weed with a bit more squelchy mud underfoot. The studded wading boots didn’t get much traction and after a little slippy slide (la de da – nothing to see) I made it back to firm ground, pride intact.  A sand spit headed out into the water and I followed it confidently.  After about 100 metres of wading I was still only in water half way to my knees. At least I was still upright on the slimy bottom. Another 200 metres away two yachts bobbed at anchor which meant there had to be a drop off into a channel. I headed for them and had almost forgotten what I was doing there when a small explosion of bait fish had me scrambling for rod reel and line letting loose a great cast but with no prize.

This happened a few times so I thought it through deciding to try the double handed rollypoley fast-strip. This somewhat undignified means of fly retrieval, frowned on by purists and mostly done when unobserved absolutely did the trick.  A huge wake broke from the school of bait and headed straight for me like something from Jaws. Bang, bang, it was on. I lifted the rod in anticipation of a mighty battle to feel passive resistance as a fine mullet came to surface with about as much fight as a lump of weed. Well, I’d never caught a mullet on fly so that was good. Didn’t know they smelt that bad either. I’ve handled thousands of them at the markets without really noticing but it was strong, and all over my rod handle and jacket. The next species was a small Australian salmon – and so it went on.  Not a sea trout for cooey.  The salmon were sort of fun but after three days all I really wanted was a trout!

So, with the conference ball behind us and with Cristina sporting only a modestly sore head we checked out of the Woolstore (10/10) and headed for Bronte Park – according to the literature just 3.3 kilometres from the geographic centre of the island State.

Here I caught up with fishing buddy Adrian who by coincidence was on holiday with his family (Hi Bec, Stephen and Anna-Beth, thanks for lending me daddy).  We had both received independent advice that Bronte Lagoon was the go-to spot; so that’s where we went. Our first destination was a bit off the mark. Map reading aside, it was a beautiful shore that looked like it should produce the goods.  A three hour hike-and-fish over 4 or 5 kilometres of bank and it didn’t; I saw one fish to cast to – I think Adrian two. Never disheartened we lunched on Adrian’s home baked olive and cherry tomato focaccia with some local ham, and checked the map.  This canal…. hmmm, that’s a long way from the boat ramp we were supposed to be parked next to.

So lunch, laughter and a cup of tea later we headed for the correct spot which, if it was possible, looked even fishier.  But still no cigar after another couple of hours, even after we’d reached the famous Tailers Bay – the stuff of fishing lore where big rainbows come into the shallow water head down arse up feeding on caddis grubs and snails in the weed beds and mud.  I decided to take the Eddie option and phone a friend – Phil reinforced the strategy and as we were talking I finally saw a fish doing the thing. I cast to it, it came to the fly then turned and fled.  I stood back from the spot and warned off Adrian. The fish came back but I lined it and it sped off into the deep water never to be seen again.

That was pretty much it for the day. As Adrian pored over his fly boxes for inspiration, reality set in and we decided to head for the hills. We’d travelled a winding route to Tailers and thought we could short cut through the bracken.  Adrian led, obvious pathways taking us in the direction we though would lead us back to the car.  On our right were power poles and the road we’d travelled in on – on our right the lake – what could possibly go wrong?.  All seemed fine as the bracken grew in height and the paths narrowed before disappearing completely. Some short cut.  Having a 100kg 190 cm fishing buddy does have its benefits. What this stature loses in stream-craft it gains in bulldozing potential. So we made it back to the lake shore and route marched back to the car. Taking off the hat, vest, jacket and waders at the end of the day is hard work and as I disrobed my heart stopped as I realised the camera was missing. The nearly new Canon G1X. We both believed the hike through the bracken had torn it off and I resigned myself to accepting it was gone. Thankfully I had travel insurance and I was religious about downloading pictures. The more I thought about it the more I began to question whether I’d even had it with me and was grateful when Adrian offered to drive back to the first spot to check the ground.  Sure enough, there it was, part-hidden by a tussock.

By the time Adrian dropped me at Highland Cabins and Cottages (10/10) Cristina was well underway with dinner and boy those pork cutlets were good – with mash, green beans and salad.

0600 came around soon enough. In the early light I listened to nothing. No traffic, no dogs, not even the birds were bothering yet.  And not a breath of wind. With that I leapt into action, Tasmania is always windy. No wind meant a calm lake. A calm lake meant I’d be able to see the fish! Ten minutes later I was at the bridge car park by the inlet canal looking for fish. It was overcast, tick; windless, tick; and warm, tick – surely, surely, surely I would do better this morning.

When I know it’s good I get a bit twitchy. My fingers seem to belong to someone else, and the fly knots won’t settle properly. A couple of deep breathes and I double checked all was in order, keys in a zipped pocket, and camera (this time).

I was heading for Tailers Bay again, maybe a couple of kilometres right to the western side. The first 500 metres tracked the inlet canal and there was a good flow through a deep blue channel with a shallow weedy margin.  I wanted to fish the channel with a bomb under an indicator but was too impatient. As I walked the bank fish after fish spooked out of the shallows so I slowed down and watched carefully.  The glare was wrong for polaroiding through the water so I just stared looking for anything, any indication a fish might be lying in wait for a snack. When I was sure there was nothing I’d move forward two or three steps and another fish would zoom off leaving nothing but a boil and a wake.

Eventually I rounded the corner and started to head west on the armoured bank before turning north again into Tailers. It looked magnificent and as I watched for a few minutes all along the bank fish were giving their tell tale signs in the glassy calm.

I caught two fish. One thumping rainbow and a smaller fish that shook off in the shallows.  Both were tailing vigorously and willingly attacked the fly, a small black pheasant tail nymph, as soon as they saw it. Two more fish were tricked. Neither hooked up. Hooking a fish in very shallow water is great.  You can’t have better contact with the fish as it cavorts with most of its body out of the water for most of the time. And there’s never any doubt when you’ve got a big fish on the way it slaps and flops around. This was worth the wait.

I headed back to the car for breakfast and bumped into Peter Tyrell who generously shared some tips and local knowledge – 36 hours earlier would have been better timing but there’ll be a next time I’m sure.  After breakfast and a clean up I saw Peter again, heading to the other side of the lake and he hadn’t caught a fish, suffering the same spooky fish I had on the way to Tailers and a strong southerly wind when he got there.  We took a detour to Lake St Clair and the Cradle Mountain visitors centre and now we’re on the way back to Canberra.

TIGHT TIPPETS!

Fly Fishing and Accommodation in Adaminaby