Recently we've been inundated with questions about fly fishing the remote Western Lakes of Tasmania. These are truly wild fisheries that require skill, precision and a fair bit of preparation and practice.
We reached out to our good buddy Simon Taylor, a man who spends much of his time deep in the stunning landscapes of these lakes. He is an unofficial authority on this part of Australia so it may pay to listen up if you want to get the most out of your 'must do' trip to wild Tasmania.
FLY FISHING TASMANIA'S WESTERN LAKES
Tasmania’s remote (back lakes) Western Lakes are a diverse fishery, offering wonderful sight fishing opportunities in shallow clear waters throughout the season. Highlights include tailing fish, free rising trout, prolific insect hatches and world class polaroiding to beautiful wild fish.
To get the best out of this remarkable fishery, there are a few simple things anglers new to the area should do before embarking on their trip ‘out the back’.
Western Lakes Browns are beautiful fish
DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU SET OUT TO FISH
There are said to be 3000 lakes within the Western Lakes fishery and while not all hold trout, most do! Before setting off, study the relevant Tasmap (or google earth) to plan the most efficient route to your destination, allowing you more time fishing and less time walking ‘between lakes’.
Get a copy of ‘Tasmanian Trout Waters’ by Greg French. This is a must read book for people unfamiliar with the area, offering a detailed overview of the fishery. It will be a great help when planning your trip.
Study the weather before departure, go prepared and be willing to alter your plans if bad weather is forecast.
THE LAKES OF TASMANIA CAN GET WINDY
With an average altitude of 1000 meters and being exposed, anglers visiting the Western Lakes should expect wind (strong wind) and need to be able to cast into and across it. Practice casting in wind before you leave home! You won’t need to cast long, but accurate casts into the wind are vital for success.
Learn to use the wind to your advantage (wind can be your friend). Waves create windows to look into, opening up the water. Wind pushes terrestrial food onto the surface, accumulates food, creates currents and helps you get closer to the fish without being detected.
Typical back lakes landscape
GET HIKE FIT, PRACTICE SPOTTING FISH AND LINE MANAGEMENT
All anglers wanting to fish the more remote lakes will need to walk. Get used to carrying a pack, get good footwear and develop some fitness.
Confident polaroiders should be able to cover the water quickly looking for fish. On days with inconsistent sun, walk fast when the sun shines, then slow down when you lose light.
Look for signs of fish! Look for rising fish, bow waves, tails breaking the surface in shallow water, accumulations of food that will attract and hold fish in an area and structure like weed beds, large rocks and gutters where fish are likely to be.
Check out my post on Sight Fishing Still Waters for more detail about techniques I like to use sight fishing still water techniques.
Wade polarioding success!
Learn to carry fly line looped in one hand using 3/4 loops, while holding the fly or end of leader in the other. This enables casts to be delivered quickly, but importantly stops the line becoming tangled in plants growing along the lake edge when walking the bank.
Walking the edge presents line management challenges
MY SIX FLIES FOR FLY FISHING THE WESTERN LAKES
Most visiting and ‘back lake’ beginners fish the area in summer. Six simple patterns that I like during summer are.
- #10 -14 Black Spinner
- #10 - 12 Possum shaving Brush
- #14 - 16 Black Parachute
- #10 - 14 Stick Caddis (both un-weighted and with a small black bead)
- #4 - Black Cricket (terrestrial pattern)
- #10 - 14 Bobs Bits
And f I were to sneak one more fly into my box in would be a Black Woolly Bugger!
BE SAFE, FISH CONFIDENTLY, AND HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
Safety equipment such as compression bandages (for treating snakebite), mobile phone (limited reception), a map, compass or GPS and a PLB are extremely important (especially if fishing alone).
Warning – these things bite!
Injuries such as snake bites, twisted ankles, breaks and falls are quite possible. Another challenge is the regular occurrence of thick fog which can roll in on any afternoon. The area has limited landmarks and those unfamiliar can become easily lost without navigational aids.
Fish hard and be confident, but don’t expect to catch large numbers of fish. It is an area where the quality of the angling experience for truly wild fish, in shallow clear water will make you earn every fish, but make every fish caught memorable!
Reward after a 29km (or 39716 step) day walk!