Tasmania, what a spectacular place.
Endless wilderness, friendly people and a fly fishing culture to be envious of. I was lucky enough to pop down last week to support and showcase the brilliant Fly Program film Time Not Lost with the help of essential Flyfisher in Launceston and the thriving Van Dieman Fly Fishers Club.
A massive turnout, we had around 100 people packed into the Star Theatre to enjoy a few cold ones, have a yarn and tune into the stories as they unfolded on the big screen. A story that most fly fishos can relate to, Time Not Lost showed us the power of getting into the wilderness, with friends new and old, with our adventures not always going to plan.
It highlights the power of brotherhood, of kindness, of selflessness and just how important it is to physically and mentally support each other through tough times. Set in the stunning Snowy Mountains, on the pristine Thredbo River we are exposed to the beauty and unforgiving landscape that so often drives our fly fishing adventures.
Following the show Matt Tripet and I had planned an overnighter into the Western Lakes. Something we have wanted to tackle together for some time, we were eager to give it a crack, regardless of the weather.
As the mid-week weather started to set in, we were unsure how the trip would unfold. With Time Not Lost fresh in our minds, we decided to prepare for the worst and head for the hills.
Head to toe in Gore-Tex we set off walking at 5:30am. Our spirits were high as the temperature was relatively mild and the thoughts of sight-fishing to brown trout were strong in our minds.
Surrounded by early morning, vegetation chewing wallabies gave us just enough pep in our step as the first light of the day started to peak through. Soon after, the easy going trail turned to dense scrub, something we had been well warned about but played off as 'bush bashing is a bit of fun.' And it was, for the first 10 minutes.. For all its beauty and allure, Tassie highland scrub is brutal. Brutal on the body and on our gear.
What was expected to be a 2-3 hour hike into camp, turned into 4 hours of G3 Wader testing, G4 Boot bashing goodness. This was likely due to a combination of sub-par navigation skills by yours truly, relentless rain (which eventually turned into snow), 45km/h winds and sneaky wallaby trails that have you feeling super confident you're on the right track and then lead you to a wall of scrub as the trail disappears into thin air.
Although experiencing all these challenges along the way, our spirits were still high as we neared our final destination. It was certainly a site for sore eyes as we found a perfect little campsite that was soft underfoot, 5% wind protected and on the bank of a beautiful Tasmanian Western Lake.
Camp was set up 15 minutes later, rods assembled and jokes flying as the weather worsened. Having seen a 4lb brown cruising the edges right on our doorstep, we were slightly optimistic that this weather wasn't going to affect the fishing and our plans of coming out here were going to be validated.
How wrong we were..
The remaining hours in the day saw us clambering around this stunning lake, straining our eyes as the cloud overhead made spotting increasingly hard. We battled high winds, a 30 minute snow blizzard, poor visability and hungry bellies as our confidence in the fishing dwindled. I must say though, at no point did we lose faith that the fish were there and we were determined to scratch one up.
A brief break in the snow-storm and Matt found a nice corner with a few tasty wind lanes and a porpoising trout. He'd spotted it enjoying the wind lane buffet and after three blind attempts, this hungry little fella came up to one of the Manic Fly Collection Quill Klink in a #12.
We were elated at the sight of this healthy Tassie brown and this made the trip all worth it. At this point in time, we didn't know that this would be the last trout sighted for the rest of the overnighter, but none the less, we fed off the thought that many more would come up to our dries.
The day went on as we searched countless bays, wind lanes and drop-offs but the trout had other ideas. Glimpses of sun helped us spot likely looking weed beds as we continued to see the odd dun come off into the afternoon.
Although not an overly successful fishing trip, we thoroughly enjoyed every second we spent out there together. There's something special about spending time out in the backcountry and it's trips like this, with average weather, that really make you appreciate those glamour days.
We learnt a lot about the Tassie wilderness, how beautiful, wild and brutal the bush can be. But for all its brutality, this place is incredibly unique and certainly unlike anywhere we've fished before. We learnt about the power of good gear, that Gore-Tex is truly your best friend out here. Oh, and we also learnt that a 30-minute powernap at 3pm out of the wind can do wonders for energy levels, and can reset you on an otherwise unproductive fishing day.
We got out of the bush at about midday the following day, battered, bruised and a little defeated. We discussed how great it felt to be out of the wind over a cold beer, putting a lot of things in perspective and how even 24 hours in the backcountry makes you appreciate the small things in life.
Matt and I shared something pretty special, and although the fishing was less than ideal, we both agreed that if we had another two days up our sleeves, we'd pack the gear and do it all over again.
This time with more whiskey..
The Scott NZ Special was right at home with the 45km/h winds howling through the Central Plateau
If you're going to attempt something stupid like we did, make sure you've got the right gear