On the down side though is the fact that, in the Highlands, many of the roads are unsurfaced: gravel roads like you find in the more remote parts of New Zealand. Once you adjust your speed to match these surfaces you can have very enjoyable trips to the fisheries that you opt to visit. Another most notable aspect of driving over here is the actual cost of the fuel; usually stations sell unleaded petrol for about eighty cents per litre. When you consider that we are getting virtually three dollars to the pound, then you can see how different things are!
Eating out is also a much more attractive proposition because it family orientated. The café culture is lovely: in Hobart I have been able to sit in the sunshine (yes, there was some sun when I hit the town after five weeks on the mountain) and chat with friends, whilst sipping my latte as I watched people go about their business in a busy square. Meals are just so reasonably priced and most restaurants also allow you to bring your own drink. I went out on Saturday last with Phil Tompson and his wife (it was Phil's generosity that lead to most of my flight costs being met for this trip), and Mike Brown and his girlfriend, Emily. We had a curry and main courses were between $11 and $13; the rice was half of the price that you would pay in England, and the whole experience was very relaxing. I think that I have touched on lifestyles a few times over the weeks that I have been here, but I am just so envious!
I have now fished a great amount of the waters in Tasmania. Frank Hussey of Tourism Tasmania kindly put up a car for me, which meant that I have been a 'free agent' to go around and experience the different types of venues. On many days I have fished three waters and now feel that I am in a position to pass a bit more of a valued opinion on the fishery here. I will do that in my final piece next week.
For now, I can report that just about every piece of water that you are likely to drive over or past has a good chance of containing trout, and pretty good fish at that. Some waters appear to be better stocked and this seems to coincide with the fact that there are actually spawning streams on these places. Where no spawning streams exist the Inland Fisheries people come along and put fish in for the anglers. This tends to be in the form of fingerling fish, and you can imagine what the mature brown trout think of this exercise! Just last week, Penstock Lagoon, the lake on whose banks I have been staying in Malcolm Crosse's shack, was stocked with twenty thousand rainbows and eight thousand browns. As the fingerlings were released there were quite a number of brownies following behind licking their lips. Still, even with wild spawning it is rare for much more than one percent of the eggs to grow to be adults!
I know that I have raved about the wildlife in the state, but I really think that this is an aspect of Tasmania that is largely underplayed. This place, especially in the better fishing areas such as the Highlands, is just a haven for wildlife. Tasmania has managed to avoid having a fox population and, therefore, almost all of the naturally endemic creatures are still present. The mainland farmers introduced foxes from Europe to control the rabbits and to have as sport for themselves. Now it is unheard of to see Quolls there in the wild and many other smaller creatures are struggling. Amazingly some people are trying to get foxes into Tasmania, so that hunting can start up here!
Of the fishing this week I must say that I have almost overdosed, but by trying to get around so many different places, I haven't really had the best of any one venue. I did see my first white-breasted sea eagle, so I am certainly not complaining.
One water that is top of most trout anglers' lists the world over would have to be London Lakes. I had the good fortune to be taken there on Friday by Tim Urbanc and Peter Hayes, two of the team members from the squad that came to the U.K. in 2000 for the World Championships. Tim works as a guide on the lakes when he has some time off from his nursing job, and he introduced me to Jason Garrett who runs the show. Jason is probably the most far-sighted man that I have encountered anywhere in the world of fly-fishing and, after just a brief chat, I felt that I would really have liked to have spent much more time with him. Later in the day when I was having some lunch with David Imber (of whom I will tell you more next week) Jason popped in to ask if I could spare him an hour or so before I left the Highlands. I will be back to see him as soon as I can because his lakes are just about as good as any that I have seen so far!
I took in my first serious river trip with Mike Brown, whom I entertained on Chew and Blagdon towards the end of our season. Mike is a keen diver and most weekends free dives for crayfish and abalone. When he was in Bristol he promised to show me some good river venues, so on Saturday morning we set off at 6 am to catch up with that promise. We drove south from Hobart and collected some food and had a quick coffee at a dairy in Huonville. The river Huon is a mighty river and would surely be a classic salmon stream if they had the creatures in this country! We had opted to fish a couple of the tributaries.
The roads from here on were some of the most amazing that I have seen, even by the West Coast of New Zealand standards! Eventually we parked at the limit of where our vehicle could go, and walked the remaining five miles! We were at the river and ready to fish by ten thirty, not bad after such an early start. We fished the Weld first and I couldn't wait to get a fly over the fish that I was assured would be present in huge numbers. Mike suggested that I would probably catch a fish on my first cast! He was wrong: it took till my fourth cast to produce the lively rainbow. That however, was the last of my action for a couple of hours. The stream looked lovely, with shallow runs interspersed with deep gorges; the trout however were not very obliging! Eventually I had another small rainbow and then Mike had his first fish, but for all of the effort that we were putting in, we decided that another river should be tried. Mike did explain that there was more water in the river than he had ever seen; he has been fishing it for over twenty years, so that might explain the lack of willingness on the behalf of the trout.
There was no evidence of any fly hatch and few terrestrials were being blown onto the water. On many of the rocks were the empty cases of early season stoneflies that the river seems to support in large numbers. We also encountered some of the largest spiders that I have ever seen. Two of these creatures actually jumped off a rock as we walked past and when they hit the water, swum underneath the surface until they grabbed the rocks on the bottom, where they made their way to the edge and crawled back up again. One of these specimens was as big as my palm!
We walked back to the car and on to our next river. Here the story was much the same and it was not long before we reached a point from which we could not access further upstream. The weather was about to turn, we had been watching the dark clouds appear overhead, so we took the soft option and headed back to Hobart. I guess that we had walked ten miles or so to and from the rivers, and at least another five or six up and down the bankside. The side of the Weld that I opted to fish necessitated my going 'bush' several times to avoid wading deeper than my waders or, more particularly, my camera would allow. It was some pretty rugged terrain and I was ready for a long shower when I arrived back at Phil's house.
All in all I had a brilliant day and it was a typical example of fish numbers or size having no relevance to the enjoyment and whole atmosphere of proceedings.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of new contacts and I think that I will risk going into print on one or two of the characters that I have encountered in my time here. Some stand out for their fishing prowess, others for their story telling, but others just because they are such nice people. In next week's round up of my trip I will look at a few of these amazing people, but I had better check with them first!
So, my time being almost up, I am thinking about wending my way back to wintery England. I hope that readers have gleaned something of the wonderful fishing, countryside and fantastic people in Tasmania from what I have scribed during my travels here. I hope even more, that you manage to get the chance to visit what is probably the most understated place for a trout angler that there is!