Little Pine Lagoon sits like a sparkling gem on the treeless alpine heath south-west of the Great Lake on Tasmania’s Central Plateau.
It’s one of just a few Tasmanian sites reserved entirely for fly fishing. ‘The Pine’ as it’s often called, is shallow and weedy, the colour of a peaty Tasmanian single malt. It’s hard to imagine that the innocuous little dam across the river has helped create what many believe to be the best trout water in the Southern Hemisphere.
About Little Pine Lagoon
If it were possible to design the perfect fly fishing water, then it would probably look something like Little Pine Lagoon. The Lagoon lies in a small basin in the shadow of Skittleball Hill, south west of the Great Lake in Tasmania’s central highlands. Its shallow, weedy nature, and the fact that it has some of the best hatch-driven sight-fishing on the plateau, make it the perfect venue for fishing with the fly.
An almost perfect spawning stream makes Little Pine Lagoon a kind of wild brown fish factory producing consistently great trout, all season long, year after year. This is just one of the many reasons it was chosen as a venue for the 2019 Fips–Mouche World Fly Fishing Championship. However, for all the kudos the lagoon receives, it is still a challenging fishery, and its tenacious wild browns shouldn’t be underestimated.
I watch the water level like a hawk and if it’s between .6 and .8 of a metre I love it. Why? Because it gives extensive shallow flat gradients to show swirls, fins, tails, and bulges.
Gary France, Local Fly Fishing Guide
Trout Season: Little Pine Lagoon
Late winter to spring
In late winter and spring, when the air is sharp and cold and the ground is sodden, brown trout rummage in the weedy shallows looking for amphipods (freshwater shrimp), drowned worms, frogs and any other food source to be found in the extreme shallows. As the fish forage and gorge themselves, it creates a remarkable (uniquely Tasmanian) experience of sight-fishing to tailing trout.
Some are dead giveaways, with paddle tails waving in the air. Though obvious to anglers, these busy trout are nearly impossible to catch because they are so focused on feeding that getting their attention is a challenge. There are also plenty of stealthy trout at work in the shallows, barely creating a ripple. Look for subtle movement, a moving reed often indicates a feeding trout. There are a few ways to undo them, a greased leader and a tiny stick caddis, nymph or brown beetle, and later in the year, an emerger dry (like the Wee Gobbler) can be a deadly pattern.
Early summer to autumn
From early summer through to autumn, one of the most revered events on the fly fishers calendar begins: the mayfly hatch. Duns start to hatch in little flotillas of drab ketches, and the trout begin to rise, taking the naturals as they drift with the breeze.
The hatch can start at any time but is most likely to be during ‘business hours' from nine to five. It’s a sight-fishing bonanza and there are some key things to look out for; birds working as they eat the freshly hatched duns, slashing rise forms from eager trout that spray water, head and tail rises as fish take emerging duns. The duns come in waves, hatching, then stopping, so anglers need to be patient and well prepared because as soon as the duns appear the fish will be on them. Be ready to make the most of the opportunity when it comes.
Access To Little Pine Lagoon
Little Pine Lagoon is approximately 10 kilometres west of Miena on the Marlborough Road. Getting there from the south is through Bronte Park, or if coming from the north, via Miena Village. The lake itself is easily accessed from the road, the dam wall or the shack area.
- Aim to be on the shore of Little Pine 30 minutes before sun-up as the low light is when most shallow-water activity happens. When the sun rises, keep your shadow off the water. Look for any soaks or streams that enter the lagoon (the ‘Untouchables Shore’ is a good example), keep an eye out for subtle movement and stay out of the water – these wild fish are easily spooked.
- When fishing to mayfly feeders, particularly in a strong breeze, try a floating nymph or possum emerger and give these flies an occasional pull to make them wake on the surface, this will grab the trout's attention.
- The wind can push duns along at a fair pace, so fishing the shore where the waves lap at the shoreline and duns are delivered can be very productive. Fishing into the wind is challenging, so cast short and sharp and cut back the length of your leader if need be.
- Little Pine Lagoon is sometimes overlooked as a site for polaroiding but it does make for excellent sight-fishing. Under a clear blue sky, with a stiff breeze out of the north, walking the bank can be wonderful. Look for edges, undercuts and where wave action delivers food and cover. Anglers are likely to find good trout in very close to the bank.
- A mayfly pattern makes the perfect emerger for deceiving ‘The Untouchables’ of Little Pine Lagoon. This versatile little mayfly mimic will work hard anytime that mayflies are hatching (12 December until the end of season). Try moving it across the surface on an overcast day or make it the point fly in a team.
While You’re In The Area
Of course, a fly fishing trip to Tasmania is mostly about the fishing – but these local picks will help you make the most of your visit.
- Overnight in Hobart at MACq01 or Hotel Grand Chancellor on Hobart’s historic waterfront just a short stroll across the docks from Salamanca Square.
- Central Highlands Lodge is located on the shores of the Great Lake in the highland village of Miena. The lodge is a perfect base for exploring the area and has a lounge, bar, two wood fireplaces and a restaurant.
- Great Lake Hotel is a good place to stay or stop in for a hearty, modern country-pub meal.
- Cressy is a town that loves fly-fishing so much, the street signs are trout shaped, sample the fresh baked goods at the Rustic Bakehouse.
- Lake St Clair is Australia’s deepest freshwater lake, located at the southern end of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and a noteworthy fishing destination. Walk amongst the ancient pines in fjord-like surrounds and if you’re happy to overnight further afield, Pumphouse Point is truly indulgent.
- For whisky lovers, Shene and Old Kempton Distilleries are both enroute to the Central Highlands from Hobart.
- Take a day away from the water to explore the vineyards in the Derwent Valley or swap waders for wheels at Maydena Bike Park.
- Several guides operate in the area – these include Trout Flat Out, Rainbow Lodge Guided Fly Fishing and Unique Fishing Tours.
- Extend your stay with a road trip through Tasmania’s Heartlands and Western Wilds.
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