Flyfishing for Wild Tasmanian Brown Trout

On my trip to Tasmania, the most southern state of Australia, I flyfished out of Hobart during two days in April of 2014 with Roger Butler from Red Tag Trout Tours.  

On the first day, we headed north of Hobart, to the Tasmanian Lowlands and flyfished a little tributary of the Macquarie River. The scenery was very spectacular, with a nice little stream surrounded by bushes, gum, wattle and tea trees. On my second cast I had already caught my first Tasmanian wild trout of the trip. It was holding in a tiny pool, exactly where it was supposed to be. It came on an emerger type fly which I fished dry. I continued upstream and had some nice fish here and there. Casting was very demanding because of all the bushes and trees and water plant. The fish took the fly very slowly and were easily spooked. But flyfishing in this environment was very pleasant and rewarding.

After a nice lunch where we spotted a couple of eagles with their young flying over us, we continued to flyfish a stretch further downstream. Deeper and longer pools alternated with faster and shallower runs. At the bottom of a nice slow pool, I was able to hook a very nice fish of approximately 35 cm, an absolute beauty. I had a great day with a total of eight wild brown trout and many more that I lost or missed.

On the second day, Roger took me to a tributary of the Huon River, in the southwest of Hobart. Here the setting was totally different. This was a stream in the midst of an untouched rainforest. Flyfishing here was even more demanding, there were many logs and rocks in the stream, with bushes, branches, trees and ferns all around us.

We started with the same dry fly that we had fished on the day before. However, as we were quite early, fishing was very slow and the fish were not yet willing to take our fly. So we decided to wait for half an hour, observe the river from the bottom of a long and calm pool and change the fly to a dark grey dun type fly. After a while, we could observe the first activity with fish rising here and there. It was time to continue flyfishing.

Roger pointed me to a huge log under which he knew there was a good fish. I cast to it, but nothing happened. Two meters downstream of the log, a small brown trout finally took the fly. At long last! The ban was broken. On one of the following casts, I placed my fly to the left, further upstream along the log. A nice fish rose, came to the fly and slowly took it. Wow! This was a very nice fish, in the category of 35 to 40 cm. After that, I caught other fish, some in faster runs, others in slower and deeper pools, some smaller, some in the same size category. In the beginning, they took the fly very slowly, but along the day, they became more aggressive.

In one very large pool, I missed approximately 4 or 5 fish. What a pity. But in other pools, other fish rose and took my fly. I realized that although flyfishing was extremely demanding since in most places there was no space to perform a reasonable backcast and I had to rely mostly on roll casts, I was in Flyfisherman’s Heaven. I had the great opportunity to fish in a small river for wild brown trout. Not stocked trout as I am used to at home, but wild trout! Although trout are not native to Tasmania, after their introduction in 1864, the rivers and streams have been left to themselves. This river is hardly fished, maybe 6 to 8 times a year and it flows through the most beautiful rainforest you can imagine. What a reward to catch a fish in this setting!

After a nice lunch break, we continued further upstream and had many more nice fish. I sneaked through the river, climbed over huge logs that had fallen into the river, crawled under branches and flyfished my way upstream from one pool to the other. Each pool held nice fish and it was an absolute pleasure to discover stretch after stretch. Roger stayed behind me, gave valuable advice, took pictures and tied on new tippets and dried the fly.

In the late afternoon, we decided to head back downstream since we did not want to have to walk back through the virgin forest in the dark. We fished again a stretch that was slow in the early morning. But no fish was in the mood to rise. In the large pool where I had missed the 4 or 5 fish, I missed again the same fish. Suddenly I saw a huge creature in the middle of the pool, it was a Platypus. What a sight, observing such an extraordinary creature in the wild! In the end, I was able to hook one last fish, which made it to a total of fourteen fish caught, with many more lost or missed. All fish were caught on exactly one fly, not one type of fly but one fly. Roger gave this fly to me as a souvenir at the end.

I had two absolutely fantastic days of flyfishing in Tasmania. I thank my guide Roger Butler of Red Tag Trout Tours for making this possible. He is a great guy and has an encyclopedic knowledge about everything around flyfishing in general and flyfishing in Tasmania, including its history, in particular. 

In this way, I was also very fortunate to be part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the brown trout introduction in 1864 to Tasmania and thus to the Southern Hemisphere. As a matter of fact, I am extremely proud to have flyfished in Tasmania on April 21 and 22, 2014, thus on the day exactly 150 years after the arrival of trout in Tasmania, which happened on April 21, 1864. For a brief history check out here and here.

by Jean-Paul Kauthen

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