I was fortunate to be a born a fifth generation Tasmanian and for that I am glad. Coming from Battle, Great Britain in the early 1800’s, my family were free settlers who saw the value of land in the state’s North West and settled on the banks of the Cam River and established a place called ‘The Firs’ which is still there to this day. Fishing must have been in the blood, because the Cam River, where my early descendants settled, holds some of the healthiest head of large sea run trout anywhere in the state.
But, I digress, this story is not about the Cam River, it’s about the Macquarie River which runs through the pastoral heartlands of the Island state. The Macquarie is fed by many major rivers and in turn feeds many dams and lakes, all of which have large amounts of brown trout and other species.
A map showing the run of the Macquarie(in blue) - Carl Hyland
Being from a family whose father was employed as a Stationmaster with the then Tasmanian Government Railways, I was fortunate to be able to travel the state (I went to seven different schools) and was also fortunate to be able to fish all over the state of Tassie but my favourite place where it all started was Ross, right on the doorstep of the famous Macquarie, written about by famous anglers like Scholes and my idol, the late Don Gilmour. I was lucky to meet Don as he was patron of the then Northern Tasmanian Fishing Association and I as a young lad was a keen member of the affiliate group, the Ross Branch. I still remember Don presenting me at the annual dinner a trophy and beautiful pocket knife (which I still have and use) for catching the largest trout for that year from the Macquarie, which was 40 years ago. I went on as a fishing writer and was invited by Don,some years ago before he passed on, to contribute to some of his famous books and I did so with pictures and writings.
As a lad growing up (before I discovered girls) my free time was spent fishing and shooting but fishing was my passion. If I wasn’t fishing, I was doing ‘stuff’ to go fishing or getting ready for my next trip. This included establishing a worm farm or working hard delivering early morning papers to save pocket money to purchase my much coveted Black Queen Deluxe rod and Mitchell 301 reel, which was the ‘must have’ gear of the day. My coveted rod is still in my collection, as good as the day I purchased it from the local general store.
There were only three known lures to use on the Macquarie at that time, of course this was before the days of soft plastics and the bibbed minnows which were the entire craze in the States at that time. My favourite was a little green French celta lure with the spinning blade, perfect for gin clear water and a favourite lure amongst the local brown trout population. In water that was dirty, say after floods or fishing dirty backwaters that were left behind after flooding, the red celta came into its own. About this time, the Devon spinners were at their heyday and the green and black Devon was a dynamite lure to use when you wanted that larger fish or when fishing deeper pools. Another favoured lure was the redfin wobbler by Wonder sometimes known as the Wonder wobbler and this came in many colours. The frog colour was second to none in waters that were occluded by willows or reedy marshes. Little riffs and fast shallow pools were perfect places to spin these wonderful lures. Baits that were really good to obtain were the big, fat, juicy earthworms and free floated would often bring reluctant trout on the bite but the by catch was a real bugger sometimes, eels or those rotten tench but also the blessed redfin perch were all thrown up the banks for the crows to devour. Down around Mona Vale, the fish seemed to mainly comprise of the pest species but further out to Mt Morrison, the trout were healthy and fat and even back towards Campbell Town the trout seemed to grow larger. So I had the best of everything at my fingertips, and it was a great day when the sun was shining, the little backpack was full of tins of bait, my lures and a cold drink of iced tea and a bit of frost on the ground when I set off. If it wasn’t for the aching bones and the bad back, I’d like to have a crack at it again.