Rising near Upper Esk in the north east of the state, before it’s confluence with the Tamar River at Launceston, the South Esk is Tasmania’s longest river. It is a diverse trout stream, offering a broad range of fishing opportunities to the angler. The headwaters typically run fast and clear, while the middle and lower sections feature large broadwaters and runs filled with extensive weed beds. In summer the river can suffer from reduced flows caused from water-uptake for irrigation purposes. Wild brown trout dominant, but rainbow trout are also present, most notably below its confluence with the Macquarie River near Perth. Fish size varies between sections of river, and while most are of modest size, trout of 4lb and larger are not uncommon.
When to Fish
The South Esk offers wonderful early season back water fishing during August, September and October, but the feature fishing would be the period October to April.
Flooded backwater fishing can be a feature early in the season, with some larger fish caught.
Late spring / summer (October to early December) and autumn (March and April) bring wonderful hatches of mayfly on the river.
Early morning Caenid mayfly hatches occur from mid-November through until the end of summer.
Exciting polarioding is available in many places. Areas with high banks, larger broad waters and permanent back eddies are prime areas to look.
Summertime grasshopper fishing is a highlight. Hoppers appear in large numbers from January until the end of March.
Willow grubs in the mid and lower reaches from late spring to autumn.
Euro-nymph fishing in the upper and middle sections of the river.
Where to Fish
The upper reaches above Mathinna has good access and holds high stocks of small fish with the occasional larger fish present. In the true headwaters above Upper Esk the river is set in native bush and sections of rainforest. This section of river is very scenic, with a good head of small fish holding in shallow runs, riffles and pools eager to eat dry flies.
The area between Fingal and Aberfoyle Creek has modest access (permission may be gained by speaking to land owners outside of IFS Angler access points) with some beautiful water. The river here is a mixture of riffles, shallow runs, weed filled glides, deep pools and large broadwaters. This section features wonderful early season floodplain fishing, with semi-permanent lagoons holding some good sized fish during early season and spring. From September through the end of summer this is wonderful dry fly water, hosting hatches of mayfly and later, large populations of grasshoppers.
From Aberfoyle Creek to Evandale there is limited angler access (permission may be gained by speaking to land owners outside of IFS Angler access points) and the river characterized by large broad waters, riffles, weed beds, runs and pools. This section is known for producing wonderful dry fly fishing, and is home to superb hatches of Baetid and Caenid mayfly and late in summer a great area to target fish feeding on grasshoppers. Set amongst grassy flat farmland, it is also a good location to find early season floodplain fishing, with semi-permanent backwaters likely spots to find larger fish. Willow growth can make access to the water difficult in some spots.
From Evandale to the junction with the Macquarie River the river slows and while deep pools and broadwaters become common, there are still sections of productive running water to explore. The main feature here are early morning hatches of caenid mayfly which are found from late spring.
Map of access points by IFS Tasmania
For the majority of upstream dry fly and nymph fishing 8” to 9”ft rods in line weights 3 -5wt rigged with floating lines are great options for this water. The Primal Raw 8’6” 4wt and Scott G Series 8’8” 4wt are perfect rods for this style of fishing.
The upper river has good Euro-nymph water. Anglers wishing to fish in this style will find 9’6”” to 10’6”ft rods in line weights 2-3wt well suited. The Primal Zone Euro Nymph teamed with an Airflo SLN line make a well balanced combination for this style of fishing.
Wet Flies for early season floodplain and backwater fishing should include Black Beetles, Woolly Worms, Fur Flies and Worm flies.
Nymphs in sizes #14-18 work well on the river and should be carried with bead sizes from 2mm - 2.8mm. It pays to carry a mix of bead colours, silver, black, gold and pink all work well depending on the day. Mayfly imitations work well, with patterns like the Pheasant Tail and Hares Ear nymph being reliable and hard to beat.
Dry Flies should include pattersn like the Royal Wulff, F-Fly, Neversink Caddis, Parachute Adams, Wee Creek Hopper, Shaving Brush, Willow Grub, Black and Red Spinners and Adult Damsel for the middle and lower sections.
Manic Fly Collection Must Haves
Palmered Spinner Orange
Hi Vis Possum Dun
CDC Biot Comparadun Mahogany
Jig Pink PT