A wild brown trout being released, it could be almost any fresh water within the whole of the island we call Tasmania. That is right, with over 3,000 lakes and numerous rivers, streams and creeks Tasmania is Australia’s trout fly fishing capital. We also have a number of rainbow waters and a few hold brook trout but Tasmania’s biggest claim to fishing fame is its world quality wild brown trout fishery.
Think Wild Brown Trout? Think Tasmania!
by Roger Butler
The season just gone was arguably the best in living memory, the fishery managers (Inland Fisheries Service Tasmania) stated, in their view the “best in forty years”. This was because Tasmania has had a number of top years, weather wise, with good winter and spring rains to maximise the fish’s spawning opportunities creating excellent natural recruitment, good water levels and consistent river flows each year.
These early season minor floods or even good ‘freshes’ are ideal for the trout, especially the browns as they will venture out over the freshly flooded ground searching for food. They love to fossick amongst the tussocks in their search for food. This activity is often referred to as tailing, from the sight of the fish’s tail often seen just breaking the surface of the water as they search head down for fresh morsels.
Seasons in Tasmania for Wild Brown Trout
In early to mid spring these flooded areas often abound with frogs and tadpoles. Much sought after food for the hungry trout looking to build up their strength and condition after the winter spawning time. As the water levels settle down and the days lengthen, the warmth of the sun starts to lift both air and water temperatures so the insect life the trout love so much start to move – like mayfly nymphs, stone fly and caddis.
Last season saw some spectacular river mayfly fishing with calm, warm days giving rise to both fish and fly. Black spinners and the larger ‘Macquarie reds’ hatched out in large quantities making for exciting and rewarding fly fishing.
Often in the highland lakes the snow melts and rain run-off lifts the water levels over the insect rich shores where, particularly in early mornings, big fish can been found ‘tailing’ very close in and in surprisingly little depth. This is one of Tasmania’s best trout/fly fishing advantages, sight fishing especially to tailing, fossicking feeders.
As mentioned, Tasmania freshwater fishery is predominantly a wild brown trout fishery with the vast majority of the streams holding self sustaining fish populations and most lakes either wild browns or occasionally topped up with fry and/or fingerlings from wild fish stock.
Wild Brown Trout: What’s on the Menu?
As we move through the latter half of spring into summer, the highland waters have warmed and cleared with the fish now looking up and feeding on rising nymphs, emerging and hatched mayflies, stoneflies and terrestrials such as gum beetles etc. Meanwhile, down on the lowland streams, moving into summer, the earlier mayfly hatches are becoming less in numbers and frequency but the beautiful damsels and dragonflies now come onto the trout’s menu. When resting on reeds like this, in pairs or singularly, it is often done out over the water. They are then prime targets for the cruising trout looking for a good size feed.
Rivers and lake shores that have reed beds growing out of, or small shrubs and trees overhanging the water, are excellent collection points for both the damsel and dragon flies. These become regular hunting spots for the trout, especially the browns. Then the summer turned to autumn and by now on the lowland waters, the grasshoppers are about and have well and truly become part of the trout’s diet.
Those summer afternoons where the breeze gets up in the trees or grasses along the banks are perfect ‘hopper’ days. The big browns take up their feeding stations, under overhanging tussocks and shrubs just waiting for these big mouthfuls of food to be deposited on their plates. At times the wind can be frustrating, but on the other hand this is exciting, explosive and rewarding fly fishing to aggressive and often big fish.
Steep drop offs with vegetation right to the edge are ideal. If the wind is ‘offshore’ so to speak and behind one then all the elements are in place for a great afternoon on the water.
Being a mainly wild trout fishery, Tasmania is a challenging and can, at times, be a difficult fishery, particularly for the visiting angler who doesn’t know the seasons and the feeding habits of the local fish. This is where the services of an accredited and experienced trout guide are invaluable. Trout Guides & Lodges Tasmania Inc (TGALT) is Tasmania’s recognised and tourism industry registered guiding and accommodation body whose members provide a full range of products and services.
Red Tag Trout Tours is a long standing full member of TGALT and along with their full range of packaged tours, from a day to as long as you want, offer introductory fly fishing workshops for those interested in learning the art. Visit our website for all the details, how to book and loads of information and links on Tasmania’s wild brown trout fishery.
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