Tasmania is a place that gets in the blood. I’m fortunate enough to spend a fair bit of time in the Apple Isle at my Mum’s place in Deloraine. If it wasn’t for the fact that my youngest has a condition that means he needs to be in the close vicinity of medical specialists in the big smoke, it’s probably the place I’d call home. I try to travel there often with the family, so most fishing trips are sorties that last a couple of hours between lunchtime and dinner, or in the early morning or late evening when the household has settled into a relaxed rhythm and I can get away for a moment to myself. For this reason, the places I fish most often are not far from town. They’re frequently adjacent to agricultural paddocks or parklands and the paths that lead me there are like the elastic in my favourite undies- well worn and comfortable. But they can still be very productive and I tell myself that due to their amenity, the fish here must see more anglers and be harder to catch, so every fish I tempt in these places is rewarding and memorable.
However, if given the chance I love to get away for a day or two and find the places that really stick in your mind. The kinds of places we drool over in the glossy magazines- the places that still feel truly wild and free, where the fun is found in picking your own path and testing yourself against the landscape as much as the fish themselves. On my recent trip I had two such days. On reflection, I’ve been trying to decide which was my favourite. I’ve discovered that like trying to choose your favourite child, I just can’t split them- they are so special and unique in their own way and I couldn’t imagine a world without either!
My first day trip was to the Bar Lakes system of the Western Lakes on the Central Plateau. I get there with a punchy hike up Dixon’s Track above the Meander Falls car park and even though I know what I’m in for before setting out I’m always taken aback by just how steep the track is and how much it elevates the heart rate. But, when I push through the pencil pines atop the track and break out into the open vista of the valley below it makes it all worthwhile. Realising that I’m only a couple of hundred metres from trout filled tarns, I experience an anticipation and sense of achievement that is rarely matched. I spent the day with good mates picking our own paths between the lochs, spotting cruising browns along the edges and tempting them to eat. It’s a place of stark beauty and when the chill wind blows, even in the height of summer you are reminded of just how resilient the creatures of this landscape are. You can’t take a bad photo up here, and the knowledge that any water could hold that fish of a lifetime spurs you on. And so, the day passes in a dreamlike walk of the waters, and I just can’t get enough. Inevitably the knowledge that at some point you need to head back to the car kicks in and you start telling yourself “I’ll just find one more” before your sensible self takes over and you make the hike back home. Then you spend the next five days replaying the trip in your mind and determining what you would do differently, or better next time.
Then there was the afternoon trip I did with my eldest son to the upper reaches of the Meander River as it cascades down through the steeply wooded forest of the Western Tiers. The term ‘gin clear’ gets bandied around a fair bit by us fly anglers, but this place is one where that description certainly rings true, and it provides some of the prettiest small stream fishing I have ever had. Time is spent hopping from boulder to boulder and every pool seems to hold at least one willing trout just waiting to be fooled. Again, you can’t take a bad photo here and the drawcard is not the size of the fish, but their sheer number, tenacity and willingness to take a dry almost at your feet as it drifts through pockets no bigger than puddles. It is a place that hones your casting skill and when you bring one of these small but feisty browns to net, every vivid red spot is a reminder of the wild nature of this place and the trout who call it home. The fish are just so pretty and seeing them swim off in a flash on release brings a joy to my heart that I carry with me long after I leave. Sharing it with my son made this day even more memorable, and seeing him catch the infectious nature of fly fishing in pristine landscapes is something that bodes well for the future.
So, I keep reflecting on these magical memories and try to work out which one takes the cake. I’ve come to a simple conclusion: I don’t need to decide- I’m content saying that I don’t have a favourite piece of water, just like I don’t have a favourite son. I’ve just resolved to make the most of every opportunity I get to be in these places of wonder in an often hectic world!