Fly Fishing Tasmania report January 2011


Fly Fishing Tasmania


A Sunburnt Country

With the large-scale floods across Australia at the moment, it’s an appropriate time to remember Dorothea Mackellar’s iconic Australian poem, My Country. Here’s an excerpt that fits in well with the last decade of drought and floods in Australia:

 ‘I Love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.’

 Like most of Australia, Tasmania has received record rainfall. The floods of last week took out bridges over the Liffey, Brumbys and Meander, and made roads over the Mersey, Georges, Brumbys and Meander all impassable. Poatina road along with the East Coast and Bass Highways were all closed in sections. Six hundred cubic metres of water per second is currently flowing down the South Esk and into Launceston. It’s plain to see the damage and heartache that floods across Australia have caused, but what is not immediately clear is the beneficial gasp of fresh air that the aquatic environment will receive, once the mud is gone and scouring has repaired.

After two years of above average rainfalls, it has been amazing to see the way aquatic eco-systems bounce back. When I first started guiding, late in 2002, I’d guide and fish on the Lower Macquarie and Brumbys Creek for one hundred days per season. The water was always high, and always clear. This all changed as the drought took hold, and these famed tailrace fisheries began to lack the medium to high flows that had been norm since the late 1960’s. All of a sudden there were months at a time when either fisheries were not worth fishing. Trout from Brumbys Creek and the Lower Macquarie River dropped to an average size of a pound or so, and long gone was the polaroiding and dry fly fishing that elevated these fisheries to icon status. But then the rains came over the winter of 2009, Great Lake began to fill, and in January 2010 the waters began to flow high and clear again, down Brumbys Creek and into the Lower Macquarie.

Move forwards to the current day, and these fisheries have made a remarkable return to old. The average size of trout in Brumbys Creek for the season has been 2lbs, and the Lower Macquarie has featured an amazing average size of 2 1/4lbs. The flies of choice have all been dry flies. Over on the Meander River, which has benefitted from legislated environmental flows for the first time in history, the average sizes have doubled in size from the drought years, and rare and endangered green and gold bell frogs now happily dot the green riverside banks. The rains have certainly had their benefits, and our rivers have shown that given the chance, they will rejuvenate from the worst of droughts, and no doubt, the worst of floods.

 Fishing report Dec-Jan 2011

Terrestrial beetles have been a major food source on the rivers over the past two months, with mayfly (including red spinner) also present. Black spinners have been the most dominant mayfly during spring and early summer, with baetids and caenid hard to find. The damsels and dragonflies have been out and about, tempting trout at the usual haunts of Brumbys Creek and the South Esk. The South Esk fished well through December, when flows decreased enough to wade. The Lower Mac has been flowing high and clear, and featured excellent dry fly fishing to sippers. Lots of fish in the 3-4lb class for those with a keen eye. Brumbys has also featured excellent dry fly fishing, in particular from 1pm-3pm, prior to the afternoon sea breeze. The upper Meander has fished consistently, though the middle and lower Meander has been too high to fish for most of the season. We are expecting exceptional conditioned fish as the levels drop by late January, and the hopper fishing begins. The upper St Pats and North Esk have fished extremely well as trout have been less flighty in higher than average summer flows. The Western Lakes have fished sporadically (reflecting the weather patterns), but stable days have seen some excellent sight-fishing on the big fish waters, particularly to gum beetle feeders and black spinner sippers. Frontal systems have effected the fishing more than usual however, and prolonged high waters have left the flooded edges less fertile than would be found during spring floods. Woods lake and Great Lake have been the pick of the hydro-lakes.

February –April forecast

As January progresses and dries out, we will be targeting sporadic hatches of juvenile grasshoppers and mayfly. Damsel and dragonfly leapers on Brumbys will also be a reliable target, as will sippers on the Lower Macquarie. Into mid February and the hoppers will start in proper, and be joint by the beginnings of the late summer / autumn mayfly hatches on the South Esk, North Esk, Lower Macquarie and Meander. As late March arrives the hoppers will disappear for the season, leaving us with six weeks or so of excellent ant and mayfly hatches to the end of April.

Tasmanian Land Conservancy New Leaf Project – $23 million conservation project

Many of you would have heard that Gunns timber company sold the majority of their freehold land assets(28,000 hectares) to conservation group, the Tasmanian Land Conservancy. Make no mistake, this is a turning point in the history of Tasmania, and a monumental move away from extractive industries such as wood-chipping, and towards sustainable industries such as eco-tourism supported by conservation. The Tasmanian Land Conservancy now manages more than 1% of Tasmania’s land mass for conservation, but this comes at a cost: more than $23 million dollars. The initial land purchases were funded by a number of philanthropic Australian business people, including the founders of Kathmandu and, but to ensure that the properties remain in the hands of the TLC, significant additional funds need to be raised. The project has be coined the ‘New Leaf Project’, and if you want to see Tasmania turn over a new leaf and change direction from industrial clearfell logging to eco-tourism and conservation, then I urge you to visit the Tasland site.

Fly Cards fly tying booklet

Just a quick reminder that our new Fly Cards fly tying booklet is available from . Fly Cards has recently received great reviews in FlyLife magazine.

That’s all for now, have a great 2011! Thank you from the RiverFly Team – Daniel, Simone & Patrick.

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