Up The Creek…Without A Guide: Tasmania


Who says you need a guide to catch trout in Tassie’s rivers and streams? With a bit of research, time on the Internet and a bit of friendly local advice, you can reap the pleasures of a DIY fly-fishing adventure. BRAD THOMPSON reports.

WHEN fly fishing unfamiliar waters, conventional wisdom suggests you hire a reputable guide. They call it “conventional wisdom” for a reason – it’s based on sound logic. The myriad local factors that significantly alter your fishing tactics, and ultimately your chance of catching a trout, almost demand it.

However, it’s not always possible to hire a guide, or at least a reputable one. Fly fishing guides can be expensive and your budget may not allow it. Or a guide may not be available. If you want to fish with the best, you may have to book up to six months in advance in peak season.

So what happens when you are faced with fishing new waters for a short period all by your lonesome? All is not lost. In fact, with a spirit of self-reliance and adventure, you will almost certainly improve your fly-fishing skills along the way.

Earlier in the year, myself, a fly fishing buddy known only as “Sven” and our wives began planning a December campervan trip to Tasmania. It was our first trip to the Apple Isle and our wives’ attendance – as understanding as fishing wives come – meant that there were constraints on time and location. As worshippers of conventional wisdom, we sought the services of multiple guides but could not tee anything up on such short notice. No time to cry in our coffee, we needed another plan.

Due to the superior organisational ability of our wives, our travel plans had already been drafted, including stops in Launceston, Mole Creek, Cradle Mountain, Coles Bay and Hobart. These locations, limited time and our penchant for stream fishing led us to drop the highland lakes and focus on the rivers and creeks. But which rivers and creeks? The locale map looks like a web of arteries, veins and capillaries. It was hard to know where to start.

Which Rivers?
A combination of reference material was used to narrow down our selections. Greg French’s book Tasmanian Trout Waters, was invaluable, although it was not always our sole reference. Google was our friend and we found a range of helpful websites, from guides to fishing reports to blogs. Similarly, back issues of fishing magazines were examined for relevant articles. This information was then cross-referenced with Greg French’s book and the result was a good baseline of locations for further research.

Once there, we hit the tackle shops for up-to-date information on specific access points and tactics. The fabled Macquarie and South Esk rivers along with Brumbys Creek were obvious choices around Launceston. French’s bible along, with some forum posts, led us to choose the Tyenna and Styx rivers, less than an hour from Hobart. Around Cradle Mountain we chose the Iris River and Sassafras Creek ran right through the Mole Creek camp ground.

Which part of what river?
Fly fishing guides enable you to get onto the good stuff faster. You know the scene, a bubble line running invitingly under an undercut bank where caddis flutter in the afternoon haze. When your leave pass only extends for a half a day, you do not want to waste time finding that magic bend. So no guide and limited leave entitlement equals bad prospects? Not necessarily. Once we’d chosen a river to fish, we hit the keyboard again to find the best place to start fishing. The Tassie Fisheries department publishes very useful maps with best access points for the Macquarie and Brumbys Creek but determining suitable access points on other rivers and creeks took a little bit more work. We used blog sites and Google Maps and asked around at the pub once we’d arrived.

Which fly?
We researched likely insect activity on the Internet before our departure and firmed up our go-to flies through discussions with the locals. We’d read about the legendary red and black spinners on the Macquarie and ensured we had suitable imitators in a variety of sizes. These flies proved invaluable when the fish turned fussy, and also enabled us to quickly identify specific hatches streamside. For the most part we got away with generic imitators such as Parachute Adams, Wulffs and Stimulators, frequently combined with a nymph dropper for an each way bet. Basic hare and copper nymphs in a variety of sizes and colours were used, with and without beads, some with a little flash for sex appeal. Turn over a rock, see what you can find and get as close to that as possible and add some bling if you feel in the mood. Given it was December, either a single dry or a dry and nymph combo was the rig we used most.

Results & reflections
So how’d we do? We caught fish on all rivers except for the Iris. And we fished the Iris during a torrid cold snap where a couple of sleeting showers exposed our lack of preparedness for Tassie’s unpredictability. There was snow in the campground at Cradle Mountain and the riverbanks seemed barren of any insect life. The Iris is a pretty river that apparently produces some disproportionately large trout to those who put in the hard yards. Chucking flies into a sleeting headwind seems like hard yards to me.

The tiny Sassafras Creek produced a couple of beautifully coloured, small-but-feisty browns and provided an excellent test for our short-range casting skills. The creek endeared itself to us when the first Adams to kiss its crystal sheen was snapped up by a speckled brown. Welcome to Tasmania. Another fish was landed right in our campground. More marks for novelty value!

The Macquarie and Brumbys Creek did not disappoint. Sometimes the fish took generic patterns and sometimes you had to be specific. Sometimes the fish refused everything. It was simultaneously exhilarating and frustrating, until an afternoon release of cold water from the Great Lake resulted in the fish going completely off the chew.

But the highlight of the trip proved to be the Tyenna and the Styx Rivers. Gorgeous, tea-stained, shingle-bottomed streams, they were not only visually spectacular but highly productive as well.

The dry/nymph combo returned several browns and there were plenty of opportunities for sighting fish in the slower pools including a couple of agonizing refusals.

While the fish were mostly small – there were a couple of two-pounders – finding them on our own made these fish all the more special. We encountered a few situations – like selective feeders on the Macquarie – where no doubt a guide would have helped but we always sought to “close-the-loop” on these events through a bit of post-session debriefing with the locals. These debriefs were important to maximising the overall learning experience and the knowledge and processes we’ve gained will be applied to our local rivers.


Handy Websites
Guides: Tasmania has a lot of trout guides, here are a couple that come with excellent reviews:

Peter Hayes –

Daniel Hackett – – Daniel even has free Google fly fishing maps already prepared.

Locations and access: – Tasmania’s Inland Fisheries Service. Has information regarding licensing, bag limits and access points for key rivers. – detailed overview of rivers and useful flies and techniques. – links to weather forecasting sites, and a list of Tasmania’s top 10 fishing spots.

Blogs/Forums: Places where anglers detail their experiences, including access point and tactics. This is a small snapshot of the most useful. – fly fishing specific blog with lots of posts about experiences in Tasmania. Note, password and login required – easy registration. – freshwater fishing reports forum with loads of posts regarding trout fishing in Tasmania. – guide Daniel Hackett’s blog site.


WE both fished 5/6 weight rods which proved to be a good “all-rounder” for the rivers and creeks. A three-weight would have been ideal for the smaller waters, although the 5/6 did help when the wind blew up. We fished a floating line, typically with a 9ft 5X tapered leader, only adding some light tippet if it was particularly bright, or the fish particularly spooky. Best dry flies were Royal Wulff, Parachute Adams, Black Spinner, Red Spinner and Possum Emerger. Best wets varied with the Hare and Copper (with and without beads) and Flashback Pheasant Tails.


Tackle Shops
Doo-Gun Trout ‘n’Tour
21 Malborough St
Longford, Tasmania, 7301
Ph: (03) 6391 1401

Essential Fly Fisher
105 York St
Launceston, Tasmania, 7250
Ph: (03) 6331 8944
Where to Stay
Mole Creek Caravan Park
Ph: (03) 63631150 (Sassafras Creek runs right through the campground).

Discovery Holiday Parks – Cradle Mountain
Ph: (03) 6492 1395 (Short drive to Iris River).

Longford Riverside Caravan Park
Ph: (03) 6391 1470 (Short drive to many access points for the Macquarie and Brumbys Creek).

New Norfolk Caravan Park
Ph: (03) 6261 1268 (Short drive to many rivers, including the Tyenna and Styx).

Unpowered campsites range from $20 – 35 per night (for two people).

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.