Early morning light is special.

Tasmania: Plateau Lakes

‘It’s like lake fishing for bonefish’. That’s the best description I have of sight fishing Tassie’s wilderness lakes. Forget the sinking flylines and beadhead buggers, I’m talking about skinny water, wild tailing trout, and just about the most challenging sight fishing you’ll ever find.

Blessed with a plateau scraped and hollowed by glaciers, and dotted with a thousand or so shallow tarns, Tasmania is a sight fishers paradise. Located in the roaring forties, the sub-alpine setting can be harsh, but the weather on this tiny island drives the fishing. Thick foggy mornings, or daytime sessions under low ceilings of cloud are ideal for finding tails, as brown trout fossick for mayfly, scud and caddis.

If the daytime air-temp reaches the critical 16 or so degrees (centigrade), the same fog and cloud will burn off leaving some of the clearest blue skies in the world. Time to switch tactics, and hunt for cruising and leaping trout, preying on hovering black spinner mayflies and gum beetles. 

I mention that the fishing is tough. So much of the fishing is counterintuitive to what trout anglers are used to, and I’ve seen some of the best in the world repeatedly fail for days on end. That’s the price of going in blind, absent of local knowledge. It’s easy to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong tactics. But local knowledge can help crack the code of micro-climates, and ensure the angler finds the food, and then the fish. Those last three elements are vital.

Chasing tailing brown trout on the plateau is often a team effort.
Conditions on the plateau can often be harsh.
Black or Highland Spinner Duns.  This mayfly species is common on the higher elevation lakes across the central plateau.  It emerges from the nymph phase by crawling out on a suitable rock or log, where the dun or subimago sits for a short period. After drying out its wings, it flies off into the surrounding scrub to begin its final transformation into a shiny black spinner. 
Red Spinner Subimago.
The changing colors and patterns in the bark on the lakeside Eucalyptus trees are always a distraction on the plateau. 
Sight fishing to rising trout is a feature of the shallow lakes and tarns scattered across the central plateau. 

Trout have been on the plateau since the late 1800’s, and have been wild ever since. Containing a dozen or so catchments, the flat-top landscape is essentially a glaciated tundra, with an inverted tree-line caused by a mixture of damp maritime influence, and heavy winter frosts and snow. The bottom-of-the-catchment lakes are where you’ll find plenty of trout from 2-3lbs, and the usual shallow weedbeds full of mayfly and other classic trout food. As the catchments wind up the gradient inclines, and spawning habitat becomes reduced.

Each lake progressively contains less and less fish, but each fish is of a greater size. The headwater lakes often hang in protected circs, ringed by floating sphagnum beds and temperate rainforest of Gondwanan origins. This is where the giants lurk, territorial brown trout with double-figure girths and unlimited food supply. These are the holy grail, but as you’d expect, rare as hen’s teeth to land. I give it a one in four chance of spotting one of these lunkers for every time a headwater is visited.

Beyond the brilliant sight fishing, Tasmania’s high country has much more for the visitor. All of the weird and wonderful animals are here: wallabies and wombats, spiky echidnas, platypus, tiger snakes and even the famed Tasmanian devil. But just a word of warning: there’s nothing those devils love more than chewing on a fishy rod grip under the cover of darkness. – Daniel Hackett

Platypus. One of only two egg laying mammals on the planet (the echidna being the other), the curious looking platypus was initially thought to be a hoax by the early European settlers. Sporting a duck bill, webbed feet and beaverlike tail, this animal is a frequent sight on the central plateau lakes. For visitors, spotting a platypus is often the “icing on the cake” as part of a day on the plateau.
Bennetts Wallaby. One of the larger macropod species in Tasmania, the Bennetts Wallaby is a very common encounter across Tasmania central plateau. Simply called Roo by the locals, they are often observed grazing undisturbed along the lake shores, particularly during lowlight of an early morning or evening.
Tiger Snakes are the most common of Tasmania’s 3 snake species. With a fearsome reputation of being quite an aggressive snake, the reality is actually quite the opposite. Most encounters include the snake slithering quietly away into a secure hiding spot after being disturbed.  
Early morning light is special.
Still, foggy mornings are a great time to target trout tailing in the lake margins.  Even if the fish are absent, it’s an awesome experience just watching the sun creep over the horizon. 
Scattered across the plateau are beautiful old huts built by the early European pioneers of the area. Now used primarily by hikers and fisherman, they provide welcome shelter from the often harsh highland weather patterns.

Contributed By

Peter Broomhall

Peter Broomhall is a born and bred Tasmanian that has been calling the myriad of waterways throughout Australia’s island state home for the better part of 5 decades.  Discovering fly fishing in his early 20’s, Peter has gained an intimate knowledge of the Tasmanian trout fishing scene.  A later discovery was a passion for photography, particularly fly fishing and wildlife related photography that all but ensured that any spare time is spent on the water.   He can usually be found walking a stream edge or a lake shore with a fly rod in one hand and his trusty Canon DSLR over the shoulder.

In recent years Peter has been living the dream working as a full time fly fishing guide with Riverfly1864.  This role fits in perfectly with the combined fly fishing and photography passions. 


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