RiverFly Tasmania fly fishing report – September 2009

Trout Fishing like its 1959… 

Tasmanian trout, polaroided and landed by RiverFly guests August 2009

Tasmanian trout, polaroided and landed by RiverFly guests August 2009

 Earlier in the month I wrote a blog (online diary) entry titled fishing like its 1959’. Back when Australian fly fishing author David Scholes’ was fishing the Tasmanian streams, early-season flood fishing was the first event of the year, followed by the classic mayfly hatches of spring Show Day. Well, for the first time in my 8 year guiding career, we’ve started the season with classic Scholes-esque flood water feeders, gorging on drowned worms and grubs, and it looks like the best mayfly season in decades is about to hatch.

 About 6 years ago, myself and my friend Aarron fished our first major hatch on the upper Macquarie River. This river, and its mayfly hatches, were made famous by the writings of David Scholes earlier in the 50’s and 60’s. The day of our first hatch was magical–morning ceanid mayflies greeted us, large red spinner duns hatched at lunch, and giant red spinners fell on evening. We landed 22 fish, 8 over two pounds, and lost the biggest few fish of the day, perhaps up to 5lbs in weight. All of this took place on a section of river less than a cast wide, with lovely grassy undercuts sheltering the wild browns as they sipped mayfly from the current seams, and weedy runnels. These hatches continued through until late November, when water levels dropped, and we moved on to the larger rivers and their later pre-Christmas hatches.

 The following year I again fished the upper Macquarie, found some good hatches over two weeks or so, but didn’t achieve any once-in-a-lifetime red-letter days. A further season on and I managed to fish one solitary hatch during the making of In Season Tasmania, but by that November water levels were too low, the paddocks were parched, and the only thing cruising were starving tiger snakes and the odd redfin perch. The frogs were quiet, the mayflies in remission, and the water had turned an algal brown. Five years of drought had taken its toll, and the fishery was on life-support.

 But now there is great news. For the first time in many, many years, I’ll be fishing the spring mayfly hatches on rivers such as the upper Macquarie. The drought has been broken by the third biggest wet in a century, with the east coast of Tasmania receiving more than 700mm of rain over winter. The rivers have been flushed, the headwater soaks and springs replenished, and the mayfly are ready to go. As harsh as the past seasons have been on some of the midland’s rivers, these insects will go into reproductive overdrive, shortening their breeding-cycles to booster populations. The trout that have spent the past few seasons on a maintenance diets have added fat to their lengthy frames, with worms, cockchafer beetles and grubs providing the early season fodder. It’s a time to re-visit the fisheries of old, and fish like its 1959. See you on the river.

 If you’d like to book some time fly fishing the spring mayfly hatches with RiverFly Tasmania, send us an enquiry now. We have spaces available in October for the start of the hatches, and very limited spaces in November and December.


  • Fishing report for August and early September


Trout fishing a Tasmanian rainforest creek

Trout fishing a Tasmanian rainforest creek

For a rundown of the fishing to mid-August, read our blog (online diary) here.

 The rains continued into September, with flood-feeders still the primary target until late last week. RiverFly guide Patrick Horan’s earthworm fly was the outstanding fly pattern of the period, with lake and river fish finding it irresistible. The headwater creeks offered the most consistent fishing, much of it polaroiding, though well timed trips to the South Esk, Macquarie, and St Patricks rivers resulted in great flood fishing for lucky anglers.

 An interesting by-product of the big-wet has been prolific midge hatches on the lakes. Nearly every lake in Tasmania is now full (with the exception of Lake Gordon, Great Lake and Lake Echo). This has meant that kilometres of previously dry shorelines are again underwater. As the flooded vegetation (grasses etc) rot, they provide food for invertebrate populations, and the midges have been the first to explode in numbers. This has led to dry fly fishing opportunities on Lake Huntsman in particular. Other lakes that have fished well in the past couple of weeks have been Lake Echo (with access now available to the marshes at the top end), Great Lake and the Bronte Chain.

 My last trip to the Western Lakes was opening day, with all the lakes from Augusta right out to the back lakes full and overflowing. Since then, persistent highland rain and snow has kept the road access closed while Lake Augusta spills. I’m anticipating a visit to the Western Lakes later in the month, so stay tuned to our blog for a report.


  •   New Project from the ‘In Season Tasmania’ Team

For fans of the book In Season Tasmania – A Year of Fly Fishing Highlights, you’ll be interested to read that I have just embarked on my next ‘artistic’ endeavour. I’m keeping cagey on the details for now, but all will come to light on the RiverFly blog over the next month, as a winter of planning turns into a season of action. Super-photographer, FlyLife Magazine staffer, and In Season co-author Brad Harris will be one of a cast who’ll be joining me on parts of the next project, providing inspiring images along the way.


  • Product Reviews

·        Whiting Eurohackle


Whiting Rooster

Whiting Rooster

Relatively new to Australia are Whiting Eurohackles, available from the Essential Fly Fisher in Launceston. These are dry-fly saddles in the traditional sense, but this breed of rooster caters for a range of larger than normal sizes. For a long time now, size 8-10 dry fly hackles, or over-sized hackles for parachute flies have been hard to come by. The Eurohackle fills this void, with saddles catering for 8’s, 10’s or 12’s, depending on the individual saddle selected. I’ve been using them on size 10 and 12 parachute duns, and give them two thumbs up!

 ·        New Sage 99 fly rod

Sage have just released a new model rod called the 99. These are 9’ 9’’ inch rods, specifically designed for European style nymphing. My first impressions from casting this rod are that it will be awesome for its specific job. The length is ideal, the sensitive and slow tapered tip will be well suited for casting and ‘feeling’ the nymphs as they fish, and the low-down power will offer plenty of oomph for pulling rainbows out of white-water pockets. If you’re trying to picture what the rod feels like in action and balance, think of a rod built with a graphite bottom half, and fibreglass tip. This rod will be a hit among the competition fishing scene, and those wanting to fish this effective style of fishing.


  •  Quamby Estate – RiverFly lodge accommodation

Quamby Estate, RiverFly’s lodge accommodation partner, has been receiving some great reviews of late. To read more about the charms of the estate, follow these links to recent reviews: , the Sydney Morning Herald, or pick up a copy of the latest FlyLife Magazine, Spring 2009.

Quamby Estate Homestead

Quamby Estate Homestead


 Guests booking our 3 Rivers Package with lodge accommodation receive free airport transfers from Launceston to Quamby Estate.


 That’s all for now. Thank you for your loyal business which has led to record pre-season bookings for season 09/10. We look forward to showing you some of our new river venues this season, or perhaps leading you on a Western Lakes wilderness campout. For more information visit our website at www.riverfly.com.au

 Thank you from the RiverFly team: Daniel, Simone and Patrick.

RiverFly Tasmania fishing report April 2009

baetid mayfly dun

baetid mayfly dun

David Scholes and the modern-day hatch

David Scholes was (and is still regarded as) one of Australia’s most revered fly fishing authors. He wrote of fly fishing in Victoria and Tasmania during the 1950’s and 60’s, which were considered to be among the halcyon days of these fisheries: little or no fishing pressure, plenty of water, and many new fisheries to be explored.
Reading through David’s classic Fly Fisher in Tasmania (1961), there’s stories of rivers, hatches and fishing with mates, but for me, it is a story of one memorable ‘hatch’ that stands out–a unique army caterpillar fall on the North Esk River. From Fly Fisher in Tasmania:

‘One day stands alone on the broken rivers–the day I found the Army Caterpillars on the North Esk. I had witnessed this rare event previously, but never with such startling results…I would like you to hear about this extraordinary tale. Friday was the last day of December 1954 and began with a clear warm sunny morning and little wind…about nine o’clock, we broke out of the willows into a more open and sunny section. Then and there I beheld the first part of a spectacle I had never seen before, nor have I seen since…The bend I looked into was high on our side, curving away to our left, but for as far upstream as I could see, the whole pool seemed alive with rising trout…At first we were spellbound by the size of the trout, some being absolute whales of five or six pounds.’

In this story, David was speaking of the largest caterpillar fall he had fished, a ‘hatch’ that featured armies of paddock-munching caterpillars migrating to an isolated stretch of river, where they proceeded to climb off over-hanging tussocks and onto the water, not unlike lemmings from a cliff. These caterpillars float, making them an irresistible prey item, while their sheer numbers are enough to bring even the biggest fish up from the deepest pools–exciting stuff indeed.

How does this link to our modern-day fishing? This year I was lucky to guide two groups onto two different army caterpillar falls on our broken rivers – the St Patricks and the North Esk rivers.

Brian and his son Nick experienced the first caterpillar migration during January on the St Patricks River, where trout’s bellies hung like under-slung saddle-packs, disgorged with the floating prey almost 54 years to the day after David Scholes experience his own North Esk hatch. Later in the season, and more recently, the Sloan group of first-timers from Victoria also experienced a migration of caterpillars on the North Esk river, leading to an almost three-pound trout for Jennie in her first hour of fly fishing ever! I wonder if it was on the same stretch that Scholes’ fished all those years ago?

These hatches were great events, with a significant demonstration for us to take note of. Though our fisheries may be effected by climate change, over-allocation of irrigation rights and increased pressure, there is still so much left to protect and enjoy–hatches that would make the lad’s of the halcyon days giddy with excitement are still a reality, and the glass is half-full; let’s do our best to keep it that way.

March and early April 2009 fishing report

Autumn day on Brumbys Creek

Autumn day on Brumbys Creek

March is typically my favourite month to fish, but this past month was best described as sporadic. In Launceston rainfall was at a 25-year high for the month, which meant that plenty of frontal systems crossed through the state – these days were hard for fishing, while the preceding humid days prior to the arrival of a front was good for baetid and ant falls. Unfortunately, whilst we did have good hopper action, the increased rain and greener paddocks led to a shortened hopper season.

In summary, a dozen excellent ant and baetid days were experienced, along with a couple of solid hopper days. The highlight fisheries for the month were the Lower Macquarie (ants, baetids), St Patricks (hoppers, baetids) and the Mersey rivers (ants).

Fishing predictions for late April and May 2009

Winter feels like it is arriving early this year, so the fishing will be primarily reliant on baetids for the rest of the season. Ants will be an option on the warmer days, and on the rainbow waters into May, gum beetles and midge will be the key hatches.

We offer discount guiding during May on the rainbow waters, with most days focusing on high-bank polaroiding some favourite lowland lakes, and a bit of nymph-fishing on the rainbow trout rivers. Contact us if you would like a day or two on the water at these discount rates www.riverfly.com.au/contact .

*RiverFly Fly Tying Classes – winter courses*

This winter we will be holding fly tying classes for beginners and experienced tiers. Consisting of six evening-sessions, these courses are being built around the fly selections we use for guiding, many of which are featured in our In Season Tasmania coffee-table book. We will also be featuring a few secret patterns that produce the goods during the hard times!
Much of the tying will focus on the little tips and tricks that make the major difference to the quality of your flies, the time it takes to tie them, as well as their fish-catching abilities.

Class dates for Launceston are about to be released, with a maximum of six persons per class. Register your interest by E-mailing me now www.riverfly.com.au/contact

If you live in the North-West, Hobart, or anywhere else for that matter, and have a few mates or fishing club that would like to form a class, we’d also love to hear from you–we aim to offer classes to all that would like to learn.

To register interest in our fly tying classes, please Email me at www.riverfly.com.au/contact

Fishing Tips

Fishing Tip1:  On a humid and stormy day, the fishing often peaks just prior to the rain – make sure you don’t just fish antsthe fair-weather days, or you’ll miss out on some great fishing opportunities.

Fishing Tip 2:  When spooling your reel with a new line, make sure you unroll the line from the spool, rather than pulling it off sideways: the later will result in a series of permanent twists in your line

The Source Tasmania dvd–Release date July 2009–pre-order now

If you can’t make it to a showing of The Source–Tasmania during the national Rise Fly Fishing Film Festival this winter, you can pre-register for a copy now www.riverfly.com.au/contact. Check out our blog (webdiary) entry for more details on this awesome high-definition dvd, due for release in June 2009. www.riverfly.com.au/blog .
That’s all for this month’s report. If you are reading this fishing report via our blog (webdiary), remember that the tech-savvy among you can subscribe via RSS. If you are receiving this report via Email, feel free to pass it on to your friends using the Forward tab below.

Happy Easter from Daniel, Simone and the RiverFly Tasmania team.

The giant stonefly and Max Christensen’s Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

In Flylife Magazine Spring 2008, I wrote an article on the Mersey River in Northern Tasmania. Within this article I spoke of hatches of giant stoneflies, and the large bouyant dry flies used to imitate the adult insect – flies such as our WMD Hopper, or the slightly more crass Chernobyl Ant. Well, it appears that this is a hatch that hasn’t passed through time completely un-noticed.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to receive a parcel in the mail from well know fly-fisherman Rick Keam, detailing the history of Max Christensen’s Bloody Mary fly, a popular wet fly used even today among the highland lakes of Tasmania. In Rick’s own words:

‘Few people today know that he (Max) developed it as an impressionistic imitation of those same stoneflies. It is still around of course, but nobody ties it with the really long, raked-back hackles it originally featured’

Of even more interest in the parcel were two items: an excerpt of an article written by David Scholes on the Bloody Mary, originally published in the Anglers Digest during the late 1960’s, and three Bloody Mary flies tied to correct proportions for me to try.

From the Anglers Digest, Scholes writes:

‘But every so often a real gem comes to light, a fly that either answers some long-standing need, or, by virtue of it’s success just as a nondescript, is a contribution of definite value to the sport…Without question the Bloody Mary is such a fly.’ ‘Max Christensen’s thoughts were first stirred when he considered the larval and adult stages of large stoneflies and wondered how to best imitate them. Bloody Mary is the result of much subsequent trial, error, and careful experimentation. I have no doubt that, in addition to achieving this aim, Max has accidentally evolved a most remarkable general-purpose fly which, so far as I can see, will work successfully at any time, so long as it is fished correctly.’

Isn’t it interesting how the future is often rediscovering the discoveries of the past? My questions in parting is this: if Max was seeing enough stoneflies to prompt thought, it is most likely that he was fishing the Chudleigh Lakes or the Mersey River, two modern-day hotspots for giant stonefly activity. The thing is, these fisheries were barely mentioned by the friends of Max such as David Scholes. So where was Max fishing – was it way out west in the Chudliegh Lakes, or perhaps deep among one of the Mersey’s great gorges, well before either became modern-day icon fisheries?