FAVOURITE WATERS

TASMANIA – THE ANGLERS’ PARADISE
In 68 km² there's over 3,000 fishable lakes and rivers, not a bad ratio for a tiny little island at the end of the world. Tasmania is home to some of the best fly-fishing on the planet—we truly are spoilt for choice! Here's a few of my favourites…

PENSTOCK LAGOON
Penstock is an intimate fly-only water nestled amongst tree lined banks in the central highlands of Tasmania. As far as lakes go, it’s more of a penny than a pound, this only seems to concentrate its quantity of bugs, fish and beauty. A dun hatch on Penstock can last for, what seems, an eternity, and casting to feisty rainbows sipping down Mayflies as they drift like tiny sail boats is nothing short of bliss.

Penstock doesn’t give up fish easily, she’s a fickle mistress. That being said spend some time on her banks, get to know her and I promise you’ll fall for her as quick as I did. It’s odd to refer to a lagoon as a person, in this case I’ll make an exception, given that one small bay is called The lady’s walk it seems appropriate. A word of warning though, when the Mayflies are up, you will never want to leave.

BRONTE LAGOON
The grassy shores of Bronte are home to some of the best tailer fishing in Tasmania. When you rise to a dawn patrol and luck upon the fish in amongst the shallows, it’s simple unbelievable. At any given point you can be staring at a dozen foraging trout, heads down and fins carelessly breaking the water’s surface – all within a five metre radius. If you see the slightest disturbance on the water, make a cast, it’s more than likely a fish.

Bronte’s shores swell with Spring rain early in the season and flood fishing can be extremely productive. An infinite supply of earthworms are flushed out of the ground and become tasty morsels for hungry trout looking to gain weight after a long and cold winter. Putting up with the schizophrenic weather patterns makes it all the worth while when you grass a brownie bulging with terrestrial treats.

Oh and the dry fly fishing, let’s just say it’s superb!

Tasmania is home to some of the best fly-fishing on the planet…

LONDON LAKES
The term champagne fly fishing, must have been first spoken at London Lakes. Lake Big Jim and Samuel are the Dom Perignon and Cristal of fly fishing waters in Tasmania, if not Australia. The mayfly hatches are second to none, just ask Greg Beecroft,  once you’ve lucked upon a swarm of these mini-beasts taking to the wing your heart will explode through your chest and you will never be the same again.

Some may say “it doesn’t count, it’s a private water, you’ll only catch stockies” Nah I say! it’s a self sustaining population of brownies and bo’s that suffer very little fishing pressure and grow fatter yearly from a majority catch and release program maintained by the guides. The added bonus of spending a day on either of these magnificent lakes, is the piece and quiet, there’s never a lot of people and wildlife everywhere. Simply put, this is highland heaven!

SOUTH ESK RIVER
If the St Pats was your first kiss then the South Esk River will be your first love. The South Esk begins at Mathinna and wonders her way through the grassy plains of the north eastern quarter of Tasmania, eventually meeting the sea at Launceston. This river is pure romance, she’s elegant, challenging and most of all beautiful. You have to treat her exactly as she expects to be treated.

She has many faces, from old-english broad waters, intimate willow lined runs, to high hopper-banks to die for! One look and you’ll fall in love, one cast and you’ll be hooked, one day and she’ll break your heart. You will however, like a love struck teenager, never tire of her attractions.

NORTH ESK RIVER
We spent many nights under the shadow of Ben Lomond casting flies to sparkling mountain trout. Those were the early days, our flies were too big, our casts too short and our bags empty. I fished with a broken rod for the first season, held together by gaffer tape at the ferrule. Paul's holy waders would fill up with water as we both stood puzzled by these rising fish and perplexed why we couldn't catch them. We've learnt a lot since those days, one thing that hasn't changed though is our enthusiasm for fly fishing.

The North Esk is a challenging river, we often talk about the early days and how landing a fish there was worth three anywhere else. It falls from the mountains winding it's way through bushland and pristine farming country. With some of the most picturesque runs and glides to be found anywhere in Tasmania. In places the North Esk is a true meadow stream and it holds some seriously large trout for it's size. A four pound brown taken on a size 18 nymph is not uncommon occurrence and when you have one safely in the net a high-five is the only way to celebrate.

ST PATRICKS RIVER
The St Patricks River or the St Pats as it’s known locally is a sparkling mountain fed stream. It’s a special place for us, it’s the river where we first learnt to cast a fly, and over many seasons of practice, frustration and delight, the charm of fly-fishing took hold. Its headwaters flow down through a area called “The Camden”, a plateau set under the climbing peaks of Mt Barrow in the North East of Tasmania and as you would suspect we named our business after this beautiful place.

It’s a stream that we love and often return to, it’s mystic matched only by it’s beauty. There is never a day on the St Pats that is easy fishing, its tight turns and bubbling runs keep you guessing, and just when you think you’ve figured it out, it changes again. This is its greatest appeal, and sometimes frustration, a stream that seems to evolve over time along with your fishing ability.

TYENNA RIVER
A summers day spent flicking a dry on the Tyenna is like no other, the water sparkles under the southern sun. We often talk about the light in Tasmania, its unique colour and the way it glows in the evening. In the Summer months that light smothers the hills of Westerway and surrounds, transforming the water into caramel and making the trout glow like speckled gold ingots.

The Tyenna is nothing short of addictive and once you’ve had a taste you’ll never want to give it up. Fishing a Caddis hatch on dusk is as close to heaven as it gets. It’s a river best described as unexpected, there’s fish where there shouldn’t be, no fish where there should be and the places you’re least likely to cast are exactly the places you should. Time spent on the Tyenna is always time well spent.

MACQUARIE RIVER
The Macquarie, the grand old dame of Tasmanian rivers. This majestic waterway encapsulates all that is required for first class fly-fishing. Plentiful amounts of cold water, above average size fish and views that belong on postcards. This being said she does not give up her fish easily, you’ll have to work hard here, harder than most in fact but hell it’s worth it. This river was beloved by the legendary David Scholes and is just as tantalising as his sparkling words describe.

Marcus
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

SIMPLE SMOKING

   Nom, nom, nom!

Nom, nom, nom!

Most fish I catch I put back, much to my Father’s disgust—the old mans catch rate does not warrant mercy towards the humble trout. I do, however, love to smoke trout. Why, because I love the taste, it’s beautiful! So, here’s my simply smoking method, enjoy.

A pair of plump Western Lake Brownies (above), around the two pound mark, are perfect for the home smoker. I tend to find the cleaner the water, the better the fish taste, avoid fish from dams and slow flowing rivers.

PREPARATION
Clean and gut your fish, lakeside is preferably, but like me, you may prefer the laundry sink and an entomology lesson with the junior fisherman in the house. In my experience, boys enjoy this more than girls, there’s a primal curiosity towards blood n’ guts built into male genes – it’s just the way it is. Once you’ve studied the contents of the trout’s last supper, rinse it under the tap and pat dry with a tea towel.

DISCLAIMER
A great many people like to soak trout in a brine and sugar solution for a few hours before smoking, I’ve tried many and personally don’t believe it changes the outcome enough to justify the time it takes. One advantage is improving the taste of a fish raised in muddy waters, but who really wants to eat them anyway?

SMOKING
Find a space in your garden thats’s out of the wind, It pays to fire up your smoker away from nervous neighbours – the kind that call the Fire Department at the first sign of smoke! Fill the little metal dish, that came with your smoker, to the top with Methylated spirits, place under the smoker. Sprinkle a good handful of moist wood chips (yes, moist! See below) onto the smoker base, now you’re ready to add the fish. Gently drape your trout across the smoking rack, strike a match over the Metho and put the lid on. How do you tell when the fish is ready? Give it 15 minutes or let the Metho burn out, what ever comes first and you’re done.

EATING
I love the taste of freshly smoked fish, its hard to resist. Remove the lid from the smoker, wait for the mushroom cloud to disperse. Peel back the skin with your pocket knife, ease your knife gently into the lateral line of the fish and push down, the flesh will glide off the bone. At our place a full fish rarely makes it back to the kitchen intact. Mouth fulls of hot smoked trout in the garden are hard to beat!

TIPS
Before you begin place a hand full of wood chips in a sieve, run under the cold tap to whet them down, then give them a good squeeze in a cheese cloth. This helps retain the moisture in your fish and avoids that horrible burnt flavour that can spoil a good catch.

ESSENTIALS

  • Trout
  • Portable smoker
  • Wood chips (Mesquite chips are great)
  • Tea towel
  • Sharp knife
  • Methylated spirits
  • Matches

Bon Appetit, Marcus
#TheSeasonNeverEnds

UNDIES FOR A BROWN

Roeland with his thumping brown.

For some people, getting out of bed is a challenge, regardless of what the day might hold in store. Even serious fly fisherman can be affected by this ailment – the need to stay wrapped beneath the covers, with 3 lb. browns taking a Red Tag at every bend in the stream of dreams.

Sometimes you catch more fish that way than a whole day in chilling water with barely a hip flask to fend off the despondency that results from no rises anywhere.

Not that I was looking for any excuse when I pulled the covers over my head, rolled over and was vaguely aware that the suspension of the camper-van, definitely not a luxurious Winnebago, was in need for some care.

Somewhere in the back of my still comatose mind a voice was calling to me with some urgency. My fishing buddy Roeland.

Somewhere in the back of my still comatose mind a voice was calling…

More than once I told him to go back to sleep. But it was to no avail. He kept calling. So it was that I woke, nursing a head somewhat befuddled by just one or two beverages the night before, beside this reed-encircled lake barely a hundred metres inland from an isolated beachfront on Tasmania’s north east coast.

“Go there,” said my cousin Lindsay, who owned a Hereford stud in the adjacent hinterland. “You might be lucky. We hear of people catching good fish,” he said. Well after a fruitless trip to some of the small tributaries of the acclaimed St Patrick’s River, we were fast running out of time on our island fly fishing sojourn.  As the tour guide with the local knowledge I was letting down the side. Our travels were increasingly looking like a non-adventure, our prayers for fish unanswered. Any recommendation was good enough for me, skeptical though I was about a prosaic lake whose shores were home to too many Boags cans and the remains of camp fires.

That evening we were one of just two vehicles who pulled up in the tea tree scrub that bordered the lake. I set about another round of pasta and an unassuming tin of tomatoes and herbs that was to pass for the evening meal. A pre-dinner walk past our solitary neighbours for the evening drew comments about the eels in the lake but “hey, you never know, you might be lucky”.

So, to red wine, to port and finally to bed.

Until a rude awakening as I crashed from the pretend-Winnebago’s top bunk and stumbled to the floor and attired only in the less than fashionable Y-fronts I opened the door to greet the dawn which, by this stage was a fast-fading memory.

I peered eastwards from where I had heard Roeland’s plaintiff cries, staring into the sun which was sitting just above the neighbouring sand dunes and dancing on the waters of the lake.

“Come and help me you old bastard,” he yelled.

I took off up the lake towards him, bearing a passing resemblance to those blokes in baggy undies who starred in the movie Chariots of Fire about the Olympics in the 1920s. Except my running style was anything but elegant and a topless runner would not have been allowed in the Olympics, let alone in the 1920s.

Unable at that point to see what was upsetting my fishing companion – was it a less than happy tiger snake, a lost and expensive fly, a hole in his waders or simply the lack of companionship – I made haste for the 200 metres or so up the lake where I could see him in the reeds.

Only then as I closed on his position could I see the glint of the sun on a fly rod that was almost bent tip to butt. Don’t tell me he’s got me up here to free up a snagged fly I thought as I made my way through the reeds to the water’s edge.

“What’s up with you?” Roeland panted breathlessly, “I’ve been calling you for 20 minutes.”

As the rod tip arched again I was getting the idea about what had woken me from my slumbers.

“Well, aren’t you going in there to get it?” he quizzed.

In a moment of no confidence I can believe if you take a landing net, you’ll never need it. This was not one of those times. Something called for decisive action.

With no fear for my Y-fronts but convinced I was about to become a reluctant hero, I took my first tentative steps into the reedy mud of a lake that had spent the night time hours dropping its temperature to the point where goose bumps blossomed and everything else shriveled as the water reached my knees and above.

“Keep your rod tip high,” I squeaked in a higher than normal voice to Roeland.

“Drag it in some more,” I shivered as I plunged my arms into the chilly waters.

With that Roeland pulled the line tighter and I rose from the water, weed-covered and lank-haired like a Y-fronted Neptune, cradling a brown trout that was a most splendid example of the species.

At more than 10lbs it lives on in my memory.

Mike
#TheSeasonNeverEnds