Author Topic: Lake Pedder yarns  (Read 1911 times)

Offline reddory

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Lake Pedder yarns
« on: Thursday,May 24 2012 07:47:25* »
Rapalacountdown asked for stories about Lake Pedder.  Well, here you go, young whippersnapper: I'll kick it off.  Hopefully some other Old F@rts will have things to add!

During the mid- to late 1970s Lake Pedder was in its heyday as a trout fishing venue of unbelievable proportions.

Responding to a perceived need for greatly increased electricity generating capacity, the Hydro-Electric Commission of Tasmania dammed several waterways in the state's remote south-west wilderness, and the twin storages of Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon were formed by the resultant flooding.  They inundated vast expanses of temperate rainforest and open moorland, including the peaty button-grass plain country that abounds in the region.

The flooding also destroyed the unique original Lake Pedder, a fascinating natural storage with dark brown tannin-stained water, white sand beaches and unique geological interest.  Creation of the new lakes also destroyed a lot of the only known stands of the famous, and uniquely Tasmanian, Huon Pine.

The proposal for the development created a small storm of protest - a storm that was too small and too late to save the sensitive features of the area, but which was to spawn the various environmental groups that have been rather more effective in several other big conservation issues since then.

When the new lakes were formed, huge amounts of potential trout food were immediately available in the water.  Drowned grubs and other insects and their larvae from the flooded ground and inundated vegetation were suddenly there for the taking, and the population of galaxias exploded.  Brown trout liberated as fry in the early stages of the flooding found these and the proliferating aquatic insects very much to their liking, with the result that the trout grew from a few ounces to over 10 pounds in weight in barely three years.  Suddenly, every keen trout angler was making a point of seasonal pilgrimages to Pedder to seek these trophy fish.

Oddly, the trout in neighbouring Lake Gordon, which was every bit as big as Pedder and covered much the same sort of terrain, didn't grow to the same extent.  By the mid 1970s, where 10 pounds was the average size for fish caught from Lake Pedder, with realistic expectations of specimens over 20 pounds, Lake Gordon's rainbows and browns rarely came to the net at much over five or six pounds.  It may have been that the feed availability in Lake Gordon was upset by the 20-metre fluctuation in level between spring and autumn (whereas Pedder didn't vary much, by comparison); it may have been due to other factors entirely.

However, it didn't take long for most anglers to realise that Lake Pedder was "it", and Lake Gordon, by comparison, offered little (“only” five- or six-pounders!).  Such is the size of Lake Pedder that possibly hundreds of boats could be on the water at once, and each be practically out of sight of all the others for the whole day.  In practice, though, the regulars soon found out where the best areas were, so it wasn't uncommon to see one small bay with ten or a dozen boats patrolling around in slow circles, trolling lures repeatedly over the same water they had all covered many times already.

Still, even in those circumstances, significant numbers of huge fish fell for the lures. The fishing spawned a new range of Tasmanian-made lures, called "Tassie Devils", developed in suitable sizes, colours and actions for spinning and trolling in this water.  Pedder was also the place for the monstrous "fish cake", and a handful of brand-new artificial fly patterns.

You needed a good boat to troll from in Pedder, as the water could blow up quickly into a one and a half metre swell: not a great environment for three people in a small dinghy!  Consequently, a lot of people were restricted to shore fishing.  Although Pedder has a shoreline many, many kilometres long, very little of it is easily accessible.  So again, the best spots tended to be rather crowded, especially at times such as summer evenings when a good mudeye hatch was on, and the trout were shoring.

So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline reddory

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #1 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 07:50:06* »
With all the activity on Pedder, and the fact that we preferred to fish in relative solitude, my mate Colin and I used to go to Lake Gordon instead.  Not often, as our trips were only possible when Col could manage to borrow a friend's ex-Navy inflatable boat and motor.  Nevertheless, we did manage a few trips during that high period, and had several unusual and frustrating experiences.

Once, I recall, we had gone to Lake Gordon for the weekend.  The fishing had been ordinary and unremarkable on the Saturday; we may have taken a couple of average-sized fish, but I don't clearly recall.  At the end of the day,  as we returned to the boat ramp, we struck up a conversation with two men cleaning their mixed catch of 11 rainbows and browns, all of good size.

"They're nice fish," Colin remarked.  "What did you get them on?"

In reply, the older man produced from his pocket a tin of unfamiliar brown lures with gold bellies and black markings.  "A new jigger from Wigston's in New Norfolk," he said.  "Took all the fish on the same pattern, trolled slow just under the surface."  The lure was later to expand into the Tassie Devil range.

"Here, try one."  The man tossed us a couple, identical to the ones he and his companion had been using.

Next morning saw Colin and me on the water before dawn, heading for what we felt looked like a productive bay, with dead timber around the margins and obvious stands of drowned forest beneath us.  We put the new lures out the back, set a course in a wide circle around the bay and settled back against the inflated cushion sides of the craft to watch our rod tips bobbing.

About nine a.m. we noticed another boat about 400 metres astern; eventually we identified it as the one from the previous evening.  It moved on the same course as us, at the same speed, with apparently the same length of line out behind.  "We're doing something right, then," I remarked.  "Only a matter of time before we get some action."

Every so often we jumped, as one of our rods bucked and bowed, and line screamed off a reel.  Stopping the motor and "playing" the fish only proved that each one was a snag, though, and we spent some time backing down and retrieving the lure from the submerged treetops.  The other boat appeared to be doing the same from time to time; otherwise, it just kept following us around and around.

By lunch time we had had enough, and returned to the boat ramp fishless.  We started loading the boat onto Colin's van.  Just then the other boat hove-to at the landing, and its occupants clambered out.

"How did you go?" we asked.

"Got nine this morning," the younger one said.

"What on?"

"Same as yesterday," he replied, and picked up his rod to show us the brown lure still attached to the line.

They were all good trout, too, ranging from about four pounds to over six; half a dozen browns and three rainbows.  We already knew that they had fished the same water as we had, and at the same speed – but they had taken nine good fish while we, on the same lures, had not touched one.   It's a funny old game sometimes, this trout fishing.
So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline husayn

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #2 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 13:41:10* »
apparently i have been to lake pedder mum was 7 months with me at the time  biglol and they caught two 12 pounders on fishcakes and a trouser leg full of leeches  biglol thanks for shareing red bigtup

Nothing like that place mate, pure majesty at it's best!!!!  an absolute bloody brilliant place, even if the fish aren't behemoths like they once were!
Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?

Offline reddory

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #3 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 14:18:26* »
Stand back, you young'uns: I'm on a roll!

Dishmop

For some years, during the heyday of Lake Pedder as a trophy-fish water, the local Maydena Angler's Club ran an annual fishing competition.  Pedder being what it was, most of the successes went to boat anglers; the majority of the big fish were taken trolling.  Nevertheless, some shore-based anglers joined in for the fun of it, myself included.  Some years, huge weights of fish were presented at the end; even so, for many of us, hard-luck tales were the order of the day.  I seem to recall that was my usual outcome.

I well remember being at the Sunday lunch-time weigh-in once when two anglers drove up, and took from their boat a huge, zinc-lined, lidded chest which the pair could barely carry between them.  They staggered up to the official table with the trunk, and when it was opened it proved to be chock-full of Brown Trout.  BIG Brown Trout; a couple of dozen of them, taken over the previous afternoon and that morning.  The total weight of fish in the chest was somewhere around 170 pounds, gilled and gutted, with the largest individual specimen just under 20 pounds. 

This sight, though, was not the highlight of the weekend for me.  The previous evening, after I had been fishing unsuccessfully all afternoon, I happened to be near a boat ramp as a fairly big half-cabin boat arrived from out on the lake and tied-up.  The two anglers on board clambered out, and carried four magnificent fish along the shore to clean in the shallows.  As usual, I asked where they had encountered the fish, and what sort of lure had been successful.

"Been a real b… of a day," one of them replied.  "We've been out trolling since dawn, and didn't touch a fish until about an hour ago, on the way back here.  We'd used every lure we had in the box, and hadn't had a touch, so we decided to give it away.

"Then this silly bugger" - he jerked a thumb at his mate, busy opening the second fish - "got smart.  We had a dishmop in the cabin, so he trolled that out behind, and caught these four."

I wasn't too keen to swallow this one, and it must have showed on my face.

"No, fair dinkum," he said.  "Look."

He strode back to the boat, and lifted out a rod, equipped with a heavy spinning reel.  On the end of the line was the head of a rag dishmop, a shaggy pale grey blob about eight centimetres in diameter.  Its wire handle had been snipped off just above the head, and a loop formed in the shank, to which the line was tied.  In the midst of the bundle was a single large hook, trailing from a short length of wire trace.  The string material of the mop bore smears of what appeared to be fresh fish slime, and some reddish marks that may have been blood.

So all of the carefully designed and crafted (and quite expensive) lures had drawn blanks, only to be out-fished by a ridiculous rag dishmop!  I thought this was outrageous, and had difficulty believing it, despite the evidence I had been presented with.

"Some people have all the luck," I muttered, turned away and headed back to my camp.

Much later, considering the incident in retrospect, I had to accept that it wasn't so terribly surprising.  Trout are opportunistic feeders, and carnivorous.  It is not unknown for them to eat small birds, mice and other rodents, lizards, and small bats that somehow fall in the water and die struggling.  There is even a case on record, apparently, of a trout being caught with the remains of a whole duckling inside it.

Something indistinct and bulky like the dishmop, fluttering and bumping slowly through the surface ripple, might well attract the attention of a hungry trout, and be taken as potential food.  As, indeed, it appears to have done on that particular day.  Nonetheless, I have never found myself quite game enough to try it out.  I can’t imagine how I would explain what I was doing to some incredulous fellow angler fly-fishing nearby in the gathering dusk!
So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline reddory

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #4 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 14:26:29* »
Butt out!

Lake Pedder was the source of quite a few unlikely tales – and some startling "discoveries" -  over the years. The unlikely success of the dishmop "lure" was only one.  Another was the cigarette-butt fly.  Early on in the lake's great time as a top water, various anglers discovered, with surprise, that the fish would at times grab just about anything that landed on the water and floated.  Not the least of these were the cigarette butts that were flicked heedlessly overboard by smoking anglers, as they idled on the drift in their boats or sat on the shore contemplating the day's fishing.

The phenomenon of a big neb suddenly breaking the surface and engulfing cork-coloured filter-tips happened often enough for quite a few anglers, independently, to devise flies that looked like these filter butts.  Of course, it has been revealed rather more widely since then that a simple cork "fly" has been used for generations to take sea trout in parts of Britain, and the pattern has become reasonably familiar as a taker of rising trout at night in Tasmania's lakes and streams.

Furthermore, Lake Pedder became renowned as the home of some colossal hatches of mudeye (dragonfly larvae) during the summer months, which swim across the surface after dark, precipitating ferocious feeding actvity in the trout.  The mudeyes are about the size, colour and dimensions of a cork cigarette butt so, again in retrospect, it is not surprising that these attracted some fish.  Nevertheless, the experience of having a trout swallow a cigarette end could cause no small consternation in an angler who had never encountered it before!
So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline husayn

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #5 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 14:56:58* »
Aaaah, Reddory you make me wanna read Ned Terry's book again!
Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?

Offline Rogerl

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #6 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 19:02:03* »
Typical 70s lake pedder catch, my Grandfather in the middle , uncle Peter on the right, and i will have to get back to you on the other bloke bigtup , think it might be uncle Trevor....


« Last Edit: Thursday,March 27 2014 08:44:15* by T.B »
work......................... ..that ANNOYING time between fishing trips

Offline Rogerl

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #7 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 19:21:41* »
Got a pic somewhere of me when I was 4 or 5 holding up a thumper that dad caught from pedder, the thing was bigger than me.
I will put it up when I can find it.


Great read too reddory, thanks  bigtup

Cheers Roger
work......................... ..that ANNOYING time between fishing trips

Offline reddory

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #8 on: Thursday,May 24 2012 20:43:17* »
Those guys look strangely familiar.  Could well have been the blokes with the big zinc chest from my earlier post!  Seriously, some well-conditioned fish there, but still quite shapely.  Some of the whoppers that came out of Pedder in those years were so fat, they were positively ugly - like beer kegs with fins!

Here's another yarn...

Fishcake

Another lure that really became popular at Lake Pedder in the 70s was the Fishcake.  They were huge things, about the size and shape of a large duck egg, with a metal propeller at the front, and wire frames underneath carrying usually three or four treble hooks.  Some later models were made a little smaller, with just two trebles.  They came in a range of colours but the most popular seemed to be black with red spots, and yellow with red spots.

I recall it took me quite a while to find out how you were supposed to fish this lure.  I had a couple, and on occasional trips to Pedder I would tie one on, cast it out, retrieve it much as you would a cobra or flatfish...and it was obvious why it didn’t get any response.  The lure would come humming back through the surface, with the propeller whirring and splashing away, probably terrifying every fish within earshot.  One afternoon an old chap said: “If you want to get something on that lure, use it at night.  Darkest is best.  And preferably when there’s a bit of a ripple or slop on the water.  Use a decent weight line – I generally fish a 12 or 15 pound breaking strain.

“Chuck it out as far as you can, put your rod down and brew up a cup of coffee.  Then pick your rod up and give it a twitch, wind up the slack, and have a few sips of coffee.  Give it another couple of twitches, wind up the slack, and sing yourself a little song, quietly.  Then another twitch, another few sips of coffee and so on.  It should take you ten or fifteen minutes to finish the retrieve.  Then cast out and start again.”

I tried that, next chance I got.  Settled myself into a spot just before dark, screened by low tea-tree scrub but with a little clear area on the shore where I could land a fish if successful.  There was a nice little slop happening, so as it got fully dark I went into action.  Hurled my Fishcake out as far as I could and set the rod down.  Unscrewed the top off my thermos and poured a coffee.  Gave the rod and lure a couple of decent tweaks, and could just hear the propeller sploshing out in the darkness.  Pause....  Tweak again, pause, have a drink... and so on.

Two or three casts and long retrieves, and it was way too dark to see anything: only the faintest glimmer of light showed the difference between land and water.  I was halfway through a retrieve when there came a “Whoomph-slosh!” out in the dark, and my rod was nearly  wrenched from my hand.  I battled that fish with heart in mouth: I had never before felt anything that heavy and powerful on the end of a line, and I did not want it to end up tangled in bushes on the shore, or around snags in the water.

Eventually the fish was more or less subdued, and I reached for my landing-net and the little torch I had in my pocket.  Torch and net in one hand, rod in the other, I led whatever was on the end of the line towards the net.  I lifted the net: ‘struth!  I simply could not lift it with one hand!  Before I could figure what to do next the net handle bent, snapped, and the fish and net fell back in the water at my feet.  I dived forward in the dark, got both hands to the fish and briefly sensed its size before it gave a swirl far too powerful for me to control, and was gone – leaving the fishcake tangled in the wreckage of the landing net in the shallows at my feet.

Over a few years after that I did manage to catch a fish or two out of Pedder on fishcakes – and they weren’t bad fish, either: around seven or eight pounds, from memory.  But I never did catch another like the barrel of a trout that I briefly had in my hands that fateful night!
So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline reddory

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #9 on: Friday,May 25 2012 15:04:24* »
Ah, phooey!  I was gonna have another crack at finding the Weld today - but this endless gloomy wet sou'easterly weather has put me off.  (Wouldn't have been so easily dissuaded when I was younger, but now I'm an old f@rt...)  So here's another Pedder yarn...

Bunyip

One quite successful weekend at Lake Gordon, I still managed to go home empty-handed.

Col and I had borrowed the ducky again, carted it for the two-and-a-half hour drive to the lake on the roof of Colin's screaming little "Bongo" van, and launched it into a moderate slop, under a heavy grey sky.  After a quick early lunch, we motored around the bay, trolling flatfish lures and eventually, by mid-afternoon, had taken three fish - two for Colin and one for me - on our four kilo tackle.  We decided that such heavy gear was a bit unsporting, so we broke out the two-kilo gear and went drift-spinning.  We drifted the boat among the dead trees, flicking lures into likely-looking spots and retrieving, enjoying the stability of the ducky with its rigid flat bottom. 

By tea time, three more fish were in the boat - again, two to one in Colin's favour - and we motored back to camp well pleased.  The best of the fish, a six-pound rainbow, had stretched Colin's little rod and fine line to the maximum, and had provided some anxious moments among the snags.  The rest of the trout, ranging from four pounds up, had all fought hard in open water.  They were in great condition, too, apart from just one rather slabby specimen.

After tea we decided on an early bed, to make an early start next morning. We were both fairly weary, but after a day of bumping around on the water, with the slop of wavelets against the boat ringing in our ears and a touch of angler's headache from squinting into the glare, we both knew that a night spent in the cramped Bongo van could be a somewhat restless one.

"Never fear," said Col, "I've brought the BGSP." And, reaching under his leather poncho, he produced a bottle of Stone's Green Ginger Wine.

"BGSP?" I asked, totally baffled. "It looks like good old Stone's to me."

"A Big Green Sleeping Pill," Colin explained. "One good shot of this and you sleep like a baby. Don't know why, but it definitely works. Go ahead; after you."

We decided we should first put the fish away safely.  Col grabbed a length of rope and a thick hessian potato sack.  We soaked the sack in water, laid the six lovely fish inside, and tied up the top of the sack with one end of the rope.  Colin slung the other end over a tree branch, hoisted the sack about three metres up in the air, and tied off the rope's end.

"That ought to keep them safe," he said. "Now let's take the BGSP and hit the sack."

Next morning we awoke just before dawn, remarkably refreshed.  I had slept like a baby: probably the best night's sleep I've had in makeshift quarters on a fishing trip.  Col was pleased with himself.  "See?  Now we’re bright-eyed as squirrels, and we can catch lots more fish."

I think we both noticed the sack at the same moment.  It was still hanging where we had left it, three metres above the ground, apparently undisturbed, but it didn't seem very bulgy. We looked closer and discovered a rip right down the middle of one side.  All that was left inside was one half of the slabby brown trout.  The other five fish were gone, without trace.

Colin was furious.  "Some rotten no-good b…s have swiped our fish in the night!" he roared.   "Where are they? I'll crush them!"  He probably would have, too, if there had been anyone nearby.

"Wait," I said.  The earth around the tree was damp, and showed our own boot-prints clearly, but no others.  We inspected the remaining piece of fish, and the end was ragged, suggesting it had been chewed rather than cut.  Anyway, who would leave half a fish, if they were bent on nicking someone's catch?  What's more, there was no sign of any other anglers or campers in the area, and we were miles from the main road and hadn't heard any vehicle during the night.

We gradually came to the conclusion that some animal must have been responsible.  But the only tree-climbing animals in Tasmania are possums, and I’ve never seen any sign that they are partial to trout.  Even if they were, there should have been some remains around the tree and in the bag, as I don't believe a four- or five-pound possum could have dragged away, intact, several fish bigger than itself.  Chewing them up surely would have left some sort of mess.

We wondered about the incident all day - which was bright and hot, and we caught nothing - and for a long time afterwards.  I have to say I am still baffled, having never heard of a similar incident anywhere since, and have learned nothing new about our native wildlife that could help to shed any light on the matter.  Perhaps there was a Bunyip at Lake Gordon.  There might still be, for all I know!
So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline bulldog

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #10 on: Saturday,May 26 2012 11:43:21* »
tnx for the great read  bigtup

Offline reddory

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #11 on: Tuesday,May 29 2012 21:45:08* »
Reddory, another great read. I think you should think about putting pen to paper and write a book. Cheers Adrian

Thanks Adrian (and others who have made positive comments).  As it happens, these snippets are from a manuscript I put together a few years ago, for a book of fishing yarns/anecdotes/observations.  Rob Sloane was all set to publish it, but had to first honour a promise to John Sautelle to do his final book, "Champagne Flyfishing" I think it was called.  By the time that had been sorted, the bottom had well and truly fallen out of the book market, and mine got put on hold.  No bad thing - it means I can now review and revise what I already had, add more recent stuff to it, and sharpen up the narrative a bit, before trying again for a publishing deal.  Some of my stories on this site are re-writes of that material: in a way, I'm testing an audience response, but I am also sharing with Fishtas members - just bear in mind, when I'm famous (yeah, likely!) that YOU SAW IT HERE FIRST.
So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline reddory

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #12 on: Tuesday,May 29 2012 22:19:45* »
The REAL Lake Pedder (this will be a short post - even I was bit young to recall much!)

I remember a while before Lake Pedder was finally flooded, and the new enormous (some have called it "majestic") lake was created, I had the good fortune to fly in to the original Lake Pedder.  Light plane, pilot plus three passengers; longish and fairly turbulent flight over seemingly endless folds of mountains, ancient and worn - and heavily forested in between the bare alpine highlands.  Eventually, descending over a mere speck of dark water in a vast wilderness, until rushing up to meet us was a gleaming white sand beach, and touchdown!

Taxi to a halt on the sparkling beach, alight from the plane, walk with feet scuffing on the amazing quartzite sand, beside the darkest, brooding, still tannin water, ringed with mountain peaks, and wonder what it will be like when all this is inundated.  Breathe the silent air, absorb the solitude, wonder at the ancient emptiness of the place.

Now after the flooding, those mountain peaks are islands in the vastly bigger lake.  The waters are still dark with tannin, and just as mysterious.  The original quartzite beach has vanished forever - but miraculously, new ones are forming at several places on the new lake shores.  And the solitude and ancient emptiness have remained, as strong as it ever was.
So much water; so many fish; so little time!

Offline Vern

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Re: Lake Pedder yarns
« Reply #13 on: Wednesday,May 30 2012 09:15:22* »
, these snippets are from a manuscript I put together a few years ago, for a book of fishing yarns/anecdotes/observations. 

Mate, if what you have put up here so far is an indication of the rest of your work then go for it!! In the words of one of the regular TV fishing people: "I love your work"!!
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