I was lucky enough to spend 10 days in Tassie over New Years with my partners family (and my folks for the first few days), celebrating my father in laws 70th. The trip was a joy, revolving around tennis, walks, swims, food, hanging out and finska and was a chance for the extended family to spend an extended amount of time together. Obviously fishing took a backseat, sometimes there are much more important things than fishing all the time. I did go fishing a few times, because its Tassie. How could I not.
The first half of the trip was spent staying in cabins by the beach in Coles bay near Freycinet national park. Its a special part of the world with some of the best beaches anywhere (if only the water was a few degrees warmer). Having a one year old, a lot of the longer walks were out for me, although I did manage the trek up to the wineglass bay lookout carrying a the bub, which was well worth the significant effort. On the fishing front, when we first arrived, we all walked down to check out the bay and Alison (my mother in law), pointed out fish tailing on some shallow rocks. Sometimes its good to have company 🙂 In the morning I headed down to see if I could find the tailing fish again and figure out what they were. It didn’t take long, right in front of the cabins bream were tailing on shallow boulders feeding on the extensive mussel beds that dotted the shoreline. I headed back to the cabin, grabbed the fly rod, put the bub in the backpack and headed off to try and fool a few. While the fish were obvious, it turned out that the fishing was HARD! and I failed spectacularly. With very little wind or wave movement, the fish, often with their backs out of the water, were ultra flighty and had a one track mind, completely fixated on mussels. I spooked my fair share, but I also made dozens of what I thought were good presentations with dozens on flies. On numerous occasions fish swam within inches of my flies, completely ignoring them. I changed flies regularly all for nothing. Well not quite. I did catch a bunch of wrasse which would greedily emerge from the kelp and rocks to inhale my flies with gay abandon. Day 1, bream 1: me 0. This became the routine for the next few days. Strap in the bub after breakfast and go for a walk along the coast casting at bream and either spooking them or being rejected, my mind continual ticking over trying to solve the problem and crack the code. No dice, by day three the score was bream 3: me, still 0.
Day four came and with Alison over at our cabin early, I was able to head out by myself. After days of experimenting and days of failing, I’d come up with a plan. Matching the mussels wasn’t working, small bream flies were’t working, medium sized bream flies weren’t working, it was time for the strategy of last resort. Throw them something big that they simply couldn’t ignore. I picked out some 3-4 inch bunny flies I had originally tied for bass and started throwing them at the tailing bream. It became immediately obvious that stripping them wasn’t going to work. As soon as I’d begin my retrieve all the bream in the immediate vicinity would spook, so after a few casts I started fishing the flies static. I’d place the flies on top of the mussel mats and wait. Being bub-less also meant, I could take some “riskier” angles, giving me the ability to hide a little more effectively and spook a few less fish. It didn’t take long for the new tactics to pay dividends, the bream more than happy to munch on my big static bunny flies. It was pretty epic watching as the bream grazed on mussels inches from my flies notice them, stop, pause and then finally, what seemed like minutes later, cruise over to pick them up. I’d finally cracked it. Within 20 minutes of “cracking” it I had landed three bream and lost another two. It wasn’t “easy” per se. Fishing static meant I missed my fair share of strikes, lost a lot of flies to the mussel beds and that my fly line took an absolute beating in the rocks and mussels (totally ruining it). But it worked!!! After days of ticking over different strategies, days of failure, finally connecting to some beautiful Tassie black bream was immensely satisfying. So much more satisfying than if I had tasted success on the first attempt. There is nothing quite like “cracking” a tricky bite on finicky, spooky fish hanging out less than a foot of water. Fishing ain’t meant to be easy right 🙂 Luckily for me I had cracked the code just in time. Later that morning the wind blew up and the fishing I’d been doing became impossible for the rest of our time in Coles bay.
The next stop was a cousins place way up at the top of an isolated valley in the North of Tasmania. A wild place, free from mobile phone reception and many of the other distractions of modern life. A few days away from reception and the internet really is something that should be part of every holiday. Our days there were spent pottering around the farm doing this and that. Some rode horses, some read books, some played non-stop games of bananagram/May I, some threw a frisbee, some played finska and some, well they went fly fishing. The number of fly fishing options within minutes of the house was pretty incredible. Tiny headwater creeks full of small but eager trout lay in every direction. It was a fly fishers heaven. Each day, I would escape for an hour or two to one of the little creeks to throw some dry flies around and catch a few fish. Sometimes the bub accompanied me, sometimes I headed out during one of his naps. One day, I’d like to live so close to so much water. One day.
The fishing highlight of our time there was a trip out in “Suzi” with my brothers in law and cousins. We took “Suzi” out through the maze of overgrown, rough, winding tracks that crisscrossed the wilderness behind the farm. This maze of old dirt tracks took us to small creeks that its safe to say hadn’t seen a angler in a long while. In fact, it could have decades since these little creeks had seen an angler, simply because unless you live there and have “Suzi”, they are almost impossible to access. Not only were these creeks isolated, they were exquisite. Beautiful, clear, cold creeks, winding and cascading down from the plateau. They were also teaming with fish. On this particular afternoon, I took a backseat and turned teacher in an attempt to put my brothers in law onto their first fish on fly. After some very quick rudimentary mid-stream casting lessons, both Gareth and Tom were presenting flies to obliging little headwater trout. They both did incredibly well and after some missed hits both quickly got on the board. And that was how we spent the next 3 hours, taking turns catching tiny little brown trout on dry flies in paradise. It was superb! The cold beer didn’t hurt either. After the fishing we spent an hour or two driving around the network of tracks, checking out rivers and revelling in the 4WD ing. It was good times. Exceptionally good times.
While the fishing was great, it wasn’t the highlight, that gong went to the farm vibes. Waking up the the horses galloping around the paddock because they could, walking 70% of the way up to the central plateau with the bub in tow, lazy afternoons spent drinking mid strength beer, playing cards, finska, throwing a frisbee, inventing shed badminton (asymmetric sports are where its at), chats sitting on the deck while eating dinner, watching the light change as the sun set over the mountains, spending time doing not much in such a stunning place so far away from the hustle and bustle back home. Those were the real highlights. Its a cliche, but the fishing was just a bonus. The company of good people, time spent outdoors in glorious surroundings, thats what it was all about and damn it was good!