Tasmania: Fly-Fishing’s Dream Destination

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Tasmania is home to creatures of lore: the duck-billed platypus, playful wallabies, wombats trudging across the midlands like furry tanks, and even the island’s rarely sighted namesake devils. On top of that, Tasmania houses 8.5 million sheep and a mere 500,000 residents. Few know, however, that the “Island of Inspiration” is also home to one of the world’s most pristine brown trout fisheries. With barely 300 international fishing licenses sold each year (nearly a third of those to Americans), Tasmania teems with passionate fly-fishermen who are carefully sustaining and growing the precious fish populations.

And they are certainly worth sustaining. In many ways, the land down under The Land Down Under is a fly-angler’s dream: an isolated and stunning location with a variety of fisheries within close proximity of one another, fine dining and lodges, plus a friendly populace willing to share the best of the island state with visitors.

Small lodges such as Driftwater, a three-bedroom homestead run by fishing guides Peter and Karen Brooks, cater specially to traveling anglers. Others, including the remote Thousand Lakes Lodge (located in a UNESCO-listed wilderness World Heritage Area and once used as a site for training Antarctica-bound personnel), feature fly-fishing as an activity alongside more popular pursuits such as bushwalking, kayaking, and sampling the local cuisine. For culture-seekers, fine lodges such as Launceston’s Stillwater Seven, home to seven high-end rooms in an 1830s flour mill, offer a boutique respite after long days on the water.

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The locals are more than willing to share their waters. Daniel Hackett of RiverFly 1864 runs his family-owned business guiding visitors on Tasmania’s plethora of streams, lakes, and rivers. Intense and intelligent, Hackett has embodied typical Tasmanian ingenuity in creating RiverFly Wilderness Huts, a remote, conservation-minded, fish-first destination located in the island’s famed Western Lakes region. The wild brown trout fishery is home to fish averaging 18 inches (meaning over 2 pounds). The largest Western Lakes brown caught in recent years weighed in at a stunning 17 pounds. In the wilderness camp and on regional rivers, Hackett works with his wife Simone and a team of guides to craft immersive Tasmanian fly-fishing experiences for anglers of all skill levels.

Tasmania is full of characters who live outside, working under the southern sun to carve a niche for themselves. From the business-minded Hacketts, to the Brooks from Driftwater—charismatic innkeepers and guides who traveled the world, fly-fishing along the way—to Tasmania Inland Fisheries Service staffer Chris “Wiz” Wisniewski, passionately chasing wild browns in the snow, “Tassie” is home to excited and willing, savvy anglers ready to point you to thriving myriad waters.

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1. The Brown Trout

The brown trout of Tasmania are healthy, vibrant, and strong. Plenty of browns roam the ruged island’s waterways, from smaller fish in mountain streams to larger specimens in the island’s many lakes. This brown, caught on the Meander River at last light, marks a prime example of Tassie’s strong fish populations.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

2. The Meander and the Mersey

Peter Brooks surveys the scene at the Meander River shortly before dusk. The Meander and the Mersey, two of Tasmania’s prime trout rivers, offer world-class brown trout fishing for wading anglers. Bracketed with lush eucalyptus and wattle trees, the scenery of the lush lowland forests is a good reminder that the island truly is a realm all its own.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

3. Mayflies

Large rust-colored mayflies hatch on Four Springs Lake for several hours before the afternoon winds push them off the water. For trout, these large mayflies are like a filet—meaty and appetizing. Once the wind picks up, Four Springs becomes a nymph fishery. But in the magic hours when the lake is glassy, anglers eagerly watch for rising fish and the opportunity to present a well-cast mayfly pattern.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

4. Four Springs

And when Tasmanian brown trout decide to eat dry flies, they commit. This healthy brown sipped a mayfly pattern in the calm morning on Four Springs Lake. Tasmanian anglers are keen on preserving the resource: Trout are carefully netted, handled as little as possible while keeping them in the water, and then released back into the wild to be caught another day. Lakes such as Four Springs are full of food and support significant populations of fish.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

5. Brooks

Karen and Peter Brooks own and manage Driftwater, a small lodge catering to fly-anglers near the town of Deloraine in the pastoral Meander Valley. The husband-wife team both guide, and Karen is a competitive fly-angler on the Australian international women’s fly-fishing team. I knew I’d found my kind of people when, during my first hour visiting Driftwater, a weathered tube of Zap-a-Gap glue came out and the topic changed from fishing knots to wound closure. Later in the day, I settled in even more when we stopped to let a small herd of cattle cross in front of us. Karen and Peter bring a warm, welcoming, homey vibe to their little outpost on the far side of the world.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

6. Wallabies

Wallabies roam Tasmania’s highlands; a friendly distraction while hiking to and from the water. They are less welcome on the roads, however, and driving through certain parts of the island can quickly become a game of “don’t hit the wallaby” at any given time of day.

 

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Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

7. Daniel Hackett

Guide Daniel Hackett of RiverFly 1864 has been in the fishing business for 17 years. A seasoned angler himself, Hackett and his wife Simone work with a team of local guides to provide memorable fishing experiences for visiting anglers. While fishing this small stream with dry flies, he notes, “My record is 14 days without taking a dry fly off.” Dry fly-angling is the preferred tactic for many fly-anglers, and the ability to support many dry-fly days is a sign of a healthy fishery filled with happy trout.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

8. Creeks

Tasmania is home to a plethora of small streams, most of them remote, pristine, and supporting strong populations of brown trout. With slightly tannin-colored water, mixed sand and gravel bottoms, and plenty of food, these small creeks offer an ideal setting for trout to thrive—and for anglers to spot and stalk fish.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

9. Venomous Snakes

Fish are not the only thing to keep an eye out for. Tasmania is home to three species of venomous snakes: the tiger, copperhead, and the white-lipped. Tiger snakes such as this one are highly venomous and are often found while hiking; paying attention to one’s footsteps is crucial. I came across two snakes—one tiger and one copperhead—within 8 feet of each other while fishing the bend in the previous photo.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

10. Guide Life

Sometimes even the guide gets to fish. Daniel Hackett enjoys a day fishing the midland creeks, chasing brown trout in pampas-like fields and rainforests alike. There’s an adage that fishing guides actually get to fish the least—they’re always busy rowing boats or guiding the people actually doing the fishing—and so days on the water with a rod in hand are not to be wasted.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

11. Lake Kay

Chris Wisniewski, a Section Manager with Tasmania’s Inland Fisheries Service, braved a 5 a.m., wake-up call coupled with fierce wind and snow for a chance at Lake Kay’s stunning brown trout population. The trout on Tasmania’s highland lakes perform an act called “sharking”—when the wind is up, the fish will surf inside the waves looking for food. The fish are easy to spot when they ride the waves in bright sunlight. This makes for an unusual set of preferred fishing conditions for the highland lakes: windy and sunny.

Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

12. Lawrenny Distillery

It’s no secret anglers tend to appreciate the finer things in life. Lawrenny Distillery, owned and managed by farm veteran Ross Mace, borders the River Derwent and is housed on a 400-acre estate. Ross and his granddaughter Paris welcome visitors at the tasting room, where visitors can sample gin, vodka, and coffee liquor. Whiskey is also crafted on-site using River Derwent water. And being a working farm, fancy attire isn’t required—waders are welcome. It’s just another example of Tasmanian hospitality.

 

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Jess McGlothlin for Men’s Journal

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