"People say this is the middle of nowhere but I think it's the middle of somewhere," says Meryn Krimmer, as we stand by the lodge at the lake. It's near dusk and squads of ducks are scattered about the water, feasting on insects among the reeds. There's a splash as an ugly great brown trout catapults into the air to snare a loitering bug. Teeny birds are perched along the back deck, nattering away. "Welcome swallows," Meryn calls them. The "somewhere" that we're in the middle of is Currawong Lakes, a remote fly fishing retreat in the highlands off Tasmania's east coast.
It sits at the end of a 12-kilometre dirt track, hemmed by dense forest and conservation parks. We arrive late afternoon, our white sedan like a relic from a dust storm.
Meryn leads us to the Owner's Lodge, a spacious, self-contained, three-bedroom log house by Long Marsh Lake, one of three lakes brimming with rainbow and brown trout on the 2000-acre property. The vast estate is also home to wallabies, Tasmanian devils and herds of fallow deer. But Meryn admits she hasn't had much time to explore, since she and husband Richard moved here in August 2016.
She's 52 and a nurse. Richard is 53 and owns an IT company. Buying a former trout fishery on a whim was technically their second midlife crisis.
In late 2014, they took leave from work, packed up their home in Brisbane's suburbs and bought a boat, despite having little nautical know-how.
For a year, they puttered about in their 50-foot cruiser watching whales and entertaining friends. One day, off Fraser Island, they heard humpback whales singing through the hull and came on deck to find a mother and calf breaching by their boat.
They returned to dry land in 2015, planning to settle down again. But Richard chanced upon a real estate ad for a private fly fishing retreat in Tasmania. They booked a weekend there for their 25th wedding anniversary. Richard, an avid fly fisherman since the age of 18, was hooked.
They bought Currawong Lakes six weeks later. "What if we don't like it," Meryn said. "It's like a marriage – you have to commit to it completely," Richard replied.
"You don't find Currawong Lakes, it finds you," she tells me. And we soon relax into its easy rhythm, while sitting on the deck watching fawns ramble in the pastures. We don't see or hear any of the other guests in the cabins scattered strategically about the property. It's quiet enough to hear the glub-glub of trout rising from the water.
The midsummer night's air is still so fresh and crisp that we are tempted to light the large log fire. Outside, the clear lake is a mirror, reflecting an extravagant spray of stars.
Hours pass happily in the comfort of the Owner's Lodge, which is smartly designed to ensure every bedroom has a water view. The well-equipped kitchen opens onto a generous living area. The brown leather couches, stuffed duck on the mantelpiece and surplus of wood furnishings remind me of a laid-back gentleman's club.
There's no mistaking what we are here for. Stuffed trout stare from a glass cabinet by the front door. Fly fishing books are arranged neatly on the coffee table, including Robert Hughes' A Jerk on One End: Reflections of a Mediocre Fisherman.
But first, we decide to try hunting of a different sort, on one of Currawong's clay target shooting ranges. We sign a waiver form and don ear protection and sunglasses, before being handed shotguns by Richard and his son Ted, recently returned from the Australian Army, artillery division.
The ranges are open to licensed and unlicensed shooters, aged 18 and over, including first-timers like me. Ted tells me that the secret to hitting the targets is practice, which is not much of a secret, really. Smoke rises from the barrels as I shoot at the clay discs in the sky, feeling the heft of the shotgun against my shoulder.
After a few rounds of far-misses I manage to hit a target, sparking a rush of adrenalin as it's smashed to smithereens. But it's a fluke – it seems that I am better at hitting empty air. My partner is, by comparison, a Deadeye Dick – blasting targets with ease. I'm more of a pacifist – by default, at least.
It's with some relief that Richard returns to our lodge at dusk, with a spare rod and fishing waders. It's my first attempt at fly fishing, so he gives me a short casting lesson on the lawn.
He carries several cases of flies, which loosely resemble flying ants, spiders and a gnat. One reminds me of a Christmas ornament. "I am an impressionist. The trick is not how the fly looks but what you do with it," he says, while leading me into the shallows.
"To fish at all, even at a humble level, you must notice things," Robert Hughes reckoned. I notice the wind rippling the lake's surface and frogs raving in the reeds. Trout love cold, clear water and beautiful places, Richard says, looking around.
He spots a fin above the water. "It's a big one," he says. He's whispering. "I don't know why I whisper, they can't hear me," he whispers. "I was following your lead," I whisper back.
He challenges me to look into the near future, by landing my fly where I predict the fish might swim next. I take my best punt and suddenly, surprisingly, feel its weight on the line. "Set! Set! Set!" Richard calls, which is my signal to smoothly lift the rod to my ear. But I'm so excited that I wrench it into the air and the fish slips away.
"Fishing consists of not catching fish; failure is as much a part of the sport as knee injuries are of football," Hughes also wrote. To prove his point, I end up hooking two fish but catching neither.
It's dark by the time we squelch out of the water. "Fish two, humans zero," Richard says, smiling. But such failure is unexpectedly thrilling, maddening and meditative. We head back to the lodge, genuinely chuffed at not catching a thing.
Over a glass of red wine, Richard talks about his recent adventures. The thought of living on a boat for a year initially terrified him – but he did it any way. There's something similarly crazy-brave about how he and Meryn have taken over Currawong Lakes, but they've already found their groove.
"Having the boat gave us the confidence to get out there and be adventurous," he says. "We were then going to lead a normal life, with no intention of doing something crazy like this. But being terrified is part of the point, instead of sitting in the suburbs we decided do something different."
Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar have frequent flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart and Launceston. Tigerair flies from Melbourne only. Currawong Lakes is a two-hour drive from Hobart and 90 minutes from Launceston. Car hire is available at both airports.
The three-bedroom, self-contained Owner's Lodge is $600 a night. A separate four-bedroom, self-contained Hunter's Cabin is available from $295 a night, or two-bedroom bush cabins from $185 a night. Fishing and clay target shooting are available at an additional cost. Phone (03) 6381 1148 or see currawonglakes.com.au.
Peter Munro was a guest of Currawong Lakes
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