Post Christmas, we set off for an almost-annual pilgrimage into the Western lakes, this time choosing the Blue Peaks and Chudleigh Lakes as the destination. Myself, Andy and junior bro of the yappin’ clan – Stevie. The alarm needn’t have even flinched – I was up and at ’em prior to the rude awakening. We set up shop at the car park and headed off. To say we were keen was an understatement.
As we began traversing through the pencil pines, cushion plants and scoparia, that feeling of nostalgia really kicked into gear.
After a bit of heave-ho, it’s always nice to see that first glimpse of fish-able water. A sign that we can stop flogging our pack-horse bodies into oblivion and relax into a bit of sight-fishing as we stroll further into the labyrinth of lakes and lagoons.
Stevie hadn’t really cast the fly in around seven years, and he was keen to see some action to whet the appetite. We both headed around one side of a lake while Andy the other. I was casually explaining a few ‘how’s yer fathers’ when Stevie spotted something unfamiliar…”Is that a fish?” he chimed in. “Ken oath it is Stevie” I said, “that right there is a fish with its whole flippin’ back out of the water” (like a patronising know-all). “Well, you spotted it Stevie, get into position man…”. But he was reluctant, offering me his quarry and dishing it up on the most elegant of platters. The pressure was on. First cast was a little off target and went un-noticed, so I flicked the Parachute Dun in the fish’s path again and its body language indicated that the landing was noticed, and he’s coming over. Clomp! On!! Zzzzzzzz. With most of my chosen amount of fly line out in the cast the fish was straight on the reel and making a hell of a racket on the Hardy clicker, enough to rouse some curious currawongs. I was stoked and you could tell that Stevie wanted in on the action.
We quickly sighted another and raced up the rocky bank, learning all to well that sometimes you’ve gotta be on your game with everything ready to go before the fish is well out of sight and an opportunity is missed.
We met back up with Andy, and I just sort of watched on as two brothers got all stoked on relaying their respective yarns. There was some cloud about but this didn’t bother us, as our destination to set up camp is renown for superb mayfly hatches – which is an ideal fall-back if the polaroiding lakes are lacking in welcome sun.
In contrast to the wide expanses and open plains, the smaller things also gain some attention in my eyes. Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper I’ve always found an interest in little critters and up here, there are many insects you don’t get to see in everyday-life. The Mountain Katydid is one of them.
On the way to our target lake, I took a slight detour around a small tarn, seemingly disconnected from the main system. I spotted its tail wave around the back of a rock and immediately got into an ideal ambush perspective. The brown trout started to swim close to an under-cut bank and away from me and out went the fly. It landed a bit further out from the bank than I would have liked but so be it, what’s done is dun! Nothing was happening, so just when I contemplated re-casting, it came out from the bank and over to my fly, sipped and the rest is history. At only three pound or so, it was a long, slabby fish and should have been five pound in its prime. (I think the boys took some snaps of this one…).
We kept on trucking and soon noticed some fish leaping after black spinner mayflies in the lee shores of several little waters. A couple were pricked but not landed. Then, we finally made it to our camp site, massively keen to shed the twenty-odd kilo of crap off our backs. It was also exciting to note that mayfly duns were sporadically ‘popping’ of the water when conditions suited, and the spinners were being harassed on the shore.
We quickly whipped the tents up, scoffed into some dehydrated lunch (thanks to the Jetboil: Worth their weight in gold!) and strolled along ‘spinner shore’. Many fish were rising to duns just out of reach, but the odd fish was stalking swarms of spinners in close. They were difficult to track after each rise but Andy and I managed to fool a couple out wide.
The spinners were still rather plentiful and the sun was poking through the clouds more regularly so we trundled off to a headwater lake, in the hope of securing larger than average specimen. Long story short, we spotted a few but got a couple of refusals. Perhaps the guy camped at the lake had already shown them a fist-full of flies?
Plenty of these guys frequent the Western Lakes…
Highly regarded and sought after by both angler and trout – The Black Spinner…
We eventually high-tailed it back to camp, fishing the mayfly hatch on the way back. I think we managed a couple of smaller models before settling in for a couple of (..hundred) ports while watching the spectacular sunset. I stayed back and made a dent in the port stash while Andy and Stevie harassed some evening tailers.
Just to keep me warm, that’s all…. Promise!
A frosty start prompted me to get out of the tent and throw some warm gear on. Well, that and the port had me busting for a leak. Through the squinting of my eyes I could see a disturbance on the water – Tails! That was enough incentive for me so I grabbed the rod and I was off like a bucket of prawns in the sun. I spooked the first couple of fish and managed to hook the third, which I played out before it spat the hook. There were another five or so further on and I missed two of them – Maybe a little too hard on the port? It was a ripper way to start to morning though, Especially getting back to find two Snorin’ Howells still sound asleep.
Our plan for the day was to head up a little river-system fishing the lagoons along the way and looping back across a couple of lakes, back to camp, pack up and fish our way out. We began our journey up the system splitting up to search likely water along the way. It was perfect weather, warm and just one of those rare blue-sky days where everything beneath the waters’ surface stands out like dogs nuts. Despite this we saw nothing, zilch for some time. We searched and searched, waiting for that tell-tale glimpse of a brown trout. Our lack of success found us making a decision to cut this part of the mission short, head back over to some other lakes on the way back to camp. The choice proved fruitful straight up, with Andy finding a little one in a back-water on the way.
I stumbled over to some isolated tarns in search of a trophy fish but all I could find was some hungry galaxia – The only fish species native to these parts of Tasmania.
It was a cracking day for it…
Everywhere you looked got you amped to keep searching…
We arrived to yet another enticing water and I spotted a fish rise at the mouth of a creek from high up on a hill.
Andy and Stevie were straight over there. Steve was still unsuccessful so far, and Andy was so keen to guide him onto one. They were working well as a team and Steve managed to get a fish to take but it didn’t stick. Andy also hooked a spinner feeder that didn’t stick. They don’t do it in halves those Howells. There’s no trout in Teamwork…
They continued around one shore while I navigated the other. I had a pearler of a time, spotting several fish, dropping one, missing two and landing three all on a Parachute Black Spinner pattern. This poor fish rolled around in the leaf litter while I tried to get the hook out, still swam away fine though, thankfully!
This fish peeled off the fly line out into a deeper channel before finally coming to hand…
After giving this water a good work-out, we decided to head back over to our home waters to fish some more there before packing up, having lunch and having a sneaky little fish prior to leaving. We arrived back and the water was looking prime, the sun was high in the sky and you could see for miles.
A big Stonefly of sorts caught my eye…
A quick feed was on the cards as we knew we were missing some prime fishing, with duns still popping and spinners still hovering despite the lack of cloud. We fooled a couple more before giving in to the clock and packing our gear together.
The mission now was to get Stevie onto his first fish before leaving the last ideal water. His casting was great, the presentation was great but something was going on with the strike. He’d spotted and set himself up to three fish in a row and had busted them all off on the strike, one of which was a cracking fish. Not that I could better the score, I had a cast at a fish that refused his fly only to turn around, spot another, hook it and subsequently bust it off! We were running out of shore and Stevie had one more crack at a fish. It was all looking good… Until this one also ended up with a Red Tag as lip jewellery! Oh well, you can’t win ’em all. Here is Steve just striking into the last fish, he’s just too strong that boy.
Although only a short period out there is was an epic journey and one to be very much remembered. As always the walk out was a bit tough but well worth it, even if I was the one whingeing the most. I can’t wait to do a week-long stint out there!