Highland Memories - Tasmanian Lake Country - Bothwell to Little Pine
|Pioneering The Western Lakes|
"This story was first typed up by Judith Fleming, eldest grandchild of Arthur and Matilda.
I still vividly recall when as a child, I listened to stories told, and conversations held by uncle Arthur. The setting was usually in front of the open fire. This honest and humble gentleman, had the ability to leave a lasting impression on all those with whom he had contact. My admiration for the person and strong desire to preserve and share or history, prompted me to re-edit and compile this small book.
Maurice Lois and Jessie, along with the extended family of Arthur and Matilda Fleming are deeply proud of the life which their parents lived and have willingly given permission for these memoirs to be publicly expressed.
Marie McCulloch OAM (niece)
My earliest recollections of this sheet of water date from the beginning of 1902 when my mother and father first came to the midlands to live to liver on a property then known as Howells Neck. The homestead then stood at which is now known as Tea tree Creek, about two miles south of Lake Elizabeth. The lake was shallow and to fish from the shore it was necessary to wade.
EARLY CHILDHOOD DAYS
From 1902-007 I went with my father on fishing expeditions as often a possible. These experiences developed my love for the sport of angling. The fishing gear was beyond my ability to handle, although I could walk to any part of the eastern shore.
My family moved from the eastern shore of the lake, to what was and still is known as Stone Hut Property. My father was shepherd-in-charge there until 1923.
Rainbow trout were introduced and gradually built up in numbers until 1923 when the Liaweenee Canal became available for spawning.
I caught my biggest fish evera 16 pound brown trout out of the Shannon River. This was before the masonry was erected. At that time a lot of fish could be caught from the river in the early months of the season. When the water levels fell the fish returned back into the Shannon Lagoon. In the dry season the water was practically dried up, with the exception of a channel through the centre of a small area of water on the roadside known as Burburys Corner. Large numbers of fish dried up when the waters became plentiful and anglers were few. There was no reduction in the number of fish appearing in the following years. From the time went to live at Stone Hut until the dm was erected across Little Pine Lagoon, some of the best fish caught were known to be taken from the stretch of water known as Bluff Lagoon. Fish from here ranged from two to ten pounds..
I was shepherd-in-charge of the sheep run known as Skittle Ball Plains, which is that part on the eastern side of Little Pine River and adjoining Little Pine Lagoon.
When this property was sold, I joined Mr. C.S.McCormick who was carrying out survey work for the Hydro Electric Commission. The first job was to survey the Ouse and Little Pine watershed. Work commenced in the summer of 1919. After camping for a short time at Mother Lords Hill (two miles west of where Liawenee Canal joins Ouse River) we shifted camp to Bull Hill.. The project ended in 1919. We shifted camp on the 12th of June to Pensford, near where the Poatina Road branches from the Bothwell/Miena Road.. The aim of this job was to survey the Waddamana/Launceston transmission line.
Shifting camp from Bull Hill in the winter months was no mean feat. We obtained a box dray and three horses from Liawenee and loaded our goods and chattels onto it. We spent all the rest of the day progressing 200 yards. The next day we dispatched a man for Liawenee for another dray and horse.
We eventually arrived at our destination and unloaded as snow began to fall. It did not stop for four days, by which time, over four feet of snow lay on the ground. Survey work was off and by a change of plans, our party returned to Great Lake to complete the contour survey for the water level of the concrete arch dam. Whilst doing this work we camped at various points along the lake shore.
During September we camped just north of Sandbanks and found that a big run of rainbow trout were making their way into the creeks to spawn. I well remember the Sunday morning that four of our party decided to walk to the top of the Sandbank tier. It was a bright sunny morning and in four miles we met twenty one men making their way to the lake in twos and threes, all armed with bags and various types of gaff hooks. We stopped and talked with some of the men and they made no secret that they were after fish. As there would be upward to a thousand fish in the two Sandbank creeks, one could imagine that a tidy sum of fish disappeared that day.
A fortnight later, on the Saturday, we were working at Little Lake where Half Moon enters. During the time that we were there, we saw seven men making their way with gaffs and spears. Again a good head of fish were present.
The following week we moved camp to Reynolds Neck on the western shore of the lake. We found an old sailing boat Water Witch at Little Lake. We decided that it was seaworthy. Inquiries were made and permission was obtained to use it to shift our camping gear and to take us to various parts of the lake and to complete our work. The old boat was a good proposition, but owing to the fact that the rudder had been lost, we made shift with an oar for steering. When the wind blew at the Great Lake, to say the least, it was a little erratic.
I recall one night returning to Reynolds Neck in a rising wind. We were running in besides the improvised jetty. Mr. McCormick was the only one amongst us who had any sailing experience. As he stepped off the boat and onto the jetty, a sudden squall of wind struck the boat and took it off shore. I had been folding the sails and no one made any attempt to hold the boat beside the jetty. Two of the men took oars to row it back but the wind became too strong.. We doubled on each oar but still could not control the boat. I took over, ordered sails hoisted and we made progress for some two miles. However, the oar was not sufficient to steer against wind and sail, so I headed to the lee off Helen Island and returned to anchor. Needless to say, some of the sailors were not to be enticed out on the lake again.
Having completed the contour survey, we returned, via horse team to lake Julian at the headquarters while we worked on the watershed survey from the headwaters of Little Pine River to Devils Gullet on the Mersey River.
Great Lake is a very irregular shape. Maclanachans Island was joined to the mainland and then known as Maclanachans Point. Between there and Tods Corner was some of the best shore fishing.
This was a reedy lagoon separated from the main lake by half a mile of land, with a creek connecting the two. Lake Elizabeth, dirty and muddy, just north of here was almost cut into two sections.
This was situated north of what is known as Canal Bay. Howells Neck spanned about half a mile from the eastern shore. The water separating Canal Bay and Split Rock was only three feet deep.
This is now Cramps Bay and was more like Tods Corner, a reedy lagoon separated by a high ridge of sand, 200 yards wide with a connecting creek.
True to the name, this was a mile south of where the Poatina Tunnel now is. It was all sandbanks, with the homestead standing near where the tunnel entrance now is.
This was at Breona and also a separate lake, standing approximately one mile from Great Lake, namely Half Moon Lake.
A lot of fishing was carried out from boats and the pride of the lake was a 16 foot boat owned by Dr. Cole of Deloraine. It was a spectacular sight to see it sailing from the northern end of the lake, where it was moored, to the southern end for a days fishing. One could always be sure that it would never be becalmed.
In the year 1904-1905, I recall my father caught 30 fish with an average weight of nine and a half pounds. These were all taken on eel skin spinners. Amongst this catch were two which weighed eighteen pounds each. These were caught in the evenings.
As the spinners were much heavier than those now used, at least two feet of water was required for successful fishing. Practically all fishing was done with home made spinners, malloch reels and green heart rods. Spinners were made by shaping a piece of metal, and soldering fans onto them. This was then bound with string, covered with eel skin and kooks attached.
Liawenee Canal was the best spawning stream that I have ever seen. It bore a depth of approximately 8 inches of good spawning gravel. As the distance was near 5 miles, it could accommodate a large number of spawning fish. Rainbows out numbered browns, and for a number of years it was common to catch 40 rainbows for each brown taken.
Fellow anglers were few, and fish often fickle to catch. My father never reverted to foul methods and unless fish were caught legally, they were not caught at all. The motto of both my parents was Strict honesty and truthfulness. With the training from them, this brought my family through life free from serious trouble.
Any urgent calls for the doctor had to be made on horse back.
PIONEERING THE WESTERN LAKES
I observed that all the lakes contained unlimited quantities of glaxia. However, the lakes containing trout were in a direct connecting line between Lake Augusta and Pillians Lake. These observations were made after numerous crossings of every lake and stream in that area. My job was to scout and find out where each lake or stream discharged its water and into which system it emptied. Each system had to be pegged ready for the gang following, who pegged permanently and cleared for the final survey.
When we had reached Devils Gullet, it was found to be too far to walk morning and night from our nearest camp. This was eight miles away. We set up a second camp at Throne Lake and worked from Devils Gullet to Wild Dog Tier.
Similarly to the Lake Augusta system, the lake directly connected with Throne River and Thompson Creek, all contained trout but many of the isolated lakes did not.
One small unnamed lake at the headwater of Throne River contained some magnificent brown trout. I recall that one day while boiling the billy for lunch, I put my rod together an cast a spinner to several fish cruising near the shore. Four fish charged at it at once, one took the spinner. I landed it, took its head off and cleaned it. It weighed ten pounds. It was a beautiful trout and in perfect condition. I saw many fish in this system equally as good and better.
I found that after crossing the Wild Dog Tier, I was again getting too far away from the base camp. I took to taking a weeks supply of food and a small tent. I would camp wherever night found me, until I linked up with the Great Lake watershed on Wares Marshes.
One night I was making a shakedown, as we called it, on a level piece of ground between two mounds. I lay down to sleep. Towards midnight I woke up to the sound of thunder and torrential rain. Within a few minutes, a foot of rain was racing through my tent. I picked up my bedding and hung it out on the ridge pole. I got out a few rocks to make a seat, put some bedding on them, and sat there until daylight. I then set off back to our main camp at Lake Julian. On reaching Throne River, I found about four feet of water and still rising. I cut a pole to hold myself against the current and waded through. That twenty five yards was the toughest walk I had ever undertaken.
On completion of the survey on the Ouse River watershed we were assigned the task of surveying a proposed power scheme at Gretna on the Derwent River. We investigated the Styx River for a possible water supply for Hobart. This proposition was not viable and thus we moved to National Park and began surveying the scheme for the Hobart Water Supply. We remained there until July 1921, when snow began to fall and continued to fall for thirteen days. We were sleeping in tents and several times during the day and night we found it necessary to shake the snow from the roof to prevent the tents collapsing. Finally the snow banked up until it was impossible to shake any off. When it finally ceased to snow we decided to get out to Park House and move three thousand feet lower than where we were camped at Lake Fenton. We struggled through snow five feet deep. We also learned that snow in the Hobart streets was up to ten inches deep. Many hardships were incurred during this heavy fall. As a result work was abandoned. I and two others returned to Miena, where work was progressing on the concrete Arch dam, and we commenced work there.
It was at Park House in 1920, during my survey expedition that I met my wife. In 1923 we moved to Glenorchy and conducted a produce store there.
THE DEPRESSION YEARS
These times were difficult as most of our customers were people who worked and owned horses. One by one they became unemployed. In 1925 I spent the winter hunting at Bull Hill, twenty miles west of Great Lake. This winter was also severe. Snow fell in early June and remained until we left in August. We did not make big money but it was better than wages. I returned to my wife at Glenorchy and then decided to try my luck at Adamsfield.
INTO THE OSMIRIDIUM FIELDS
Some were doing quite well digging osmiridium. By the time I reached the field about fifteen hundred men where there and there was little chance of fresh discoveries. On arrival there I decided to stay for a time. Some of the men who had good claims and were doing well, were offering a shilling a pound to have their provisions packed for them. It was a distance of nine miles by track. I put together a load to carry into the field. I made it a light pack of sixty pounds. We set off for Adamsfield from the Florentine River which was at the end of the pack track. Here all goods were unloaded from the horses and stored in a rough shelter.
THE FIRST TRIP
The first four miles were level going and it was quite easy to make good progress until we reached the Thumbs Mountain Range. Here the terrain rose abruptly. The track was so steep that it was possible to turn round and rest the pack on the ground without bending down.
The distance up the face of the mountain was about half a mile and rose eight hundred feet in the climb. At one time stock were driven over the track and several cattle were lost through falling over and rolling down the mountain. By the time I reached the top it seemed to weigh a ton.
We descended down the western face and along the one and a half miles of flat country to the diggings. Scrub grew thickly along the track and the mud reached half way to our knees and filled our boots. When we finally reached the button grass flats, the mud was so deep that the only sure way to make progress was to step from one button grass clump to another. These became so worn that unless we got right in the middle, our feet would slip off, either falling sideways or sitting down in the mud.
Eventually we reached our destination, delivered our packs and received our pay.
THE SECOND TRIP
On return to our camp at the Florentine River we made our packs ready for the second trip. I put seventy pounds in my pack and found it no more difficult than the sixty pounds. From then on I gradually increased the weight of my pack to one hundred and twenty pounds.
The men using horses decided to deliver the goods by packhorse to the foot of the Thumbs. This shortened our trip to the field from nine miles to five.
We built a receiving depot there and commenced making trips daily to the field. I increased my load to one hundred and fifty pounds and could pick it up and land it onto the field without putting it down for a rest.
I often increased the amount to one hundred and seventy and one hundred and eighty pounds. On one occasion I had two seventy pound bags of sugar in my pack. I was about to leave when a man coming out from the field called in with a message from a miner a regular client of mine, who was urgently in need of a barrow wheel and hopper plate. I found these, added them to my pack and delivered them to the field. The complete pack weighed two hundred and four pounds.
There was a young man in my party who weighed only one hundred and thirty five pounds. On one instance he carried a pack of one hundred and fifty pounds to Adamsfield.
Eventually the pack track was completed and with falling prices, our job became uneconomical.
There was a strict rule among the men working on the diggings. It was to pay on the spot. If the amount came to anything over ten shillings then a pound note would be proffered and no change would be accepted. This method worked quite well, both in giving and receiving change.
There was one man who did not agree with this method. In giving him change I was on halfpenny short and thought no more about it for a month. When I met up with him he promptly reminded me and I very promptly discharged the debt.
BACK TO THE HIGHLANDS
An opportunity came for me to take a position as a shepherd on the Serpentine property. I lived there with my family for five years. In this time I gained further knowledge of the Nive River.
On my days off I would fish Little Pine and Big Pine Rivers. It was no trouble to catch a bag of fish in ten hours. To get a dozen good fish , I could put up to twenty fish back in the river. In the section of Little Pine River where Little Pine Lagoon now is, fish taken would weigh from two to eight pounds.
On one occasion a man called at the Serpentine and asked how far in the direction of Great Lake could he take a car. At this time there was no road from Bronte to Great Lake. However, cars could be driven as far as Roscarbro, about one mile from the Serpentine. The gentleman was Mr. Shield from Launceston who was preparing a submission to the Government for a road to connect Great Lake to the West Coast Road to Bronte.
I joined the Tasmanian Police Force and was stationed in Hobart. After three months there, I was directed to take charge of the Police Station at Parattah. From there I was given the task of investigating into sheep stealing reports as well as Fauna Board and Inland Fisheries work.
I was seconded to the Fisheries and Games section. This involved working long and arduous hours. On one long assignment, I needed to be at Lake Elizabeth by 3 am, leaving Miena at 1.30 a.m. and returning at 10 a.m.. On arrival home I received a message from an old colleague that he would like my assistance on a job at 10 p.m. that night. I made my way to Bracknell and was directed to Sandy Beach Lake on the Western Tiers. It was necessary to get there before daylight to avoid being seen. We left Bracknell by car just after midnight for Mole Creek. We then set off to climb the Tier and arrived on the summit at daylight. We kept watch until midnight, eventually returning through Mole Creek and Bracknell to finally arrive at Miena at 10.30 a.m. This was 57 hours after starting out for Lake Elizabeth, during which time I had neither rested nor slept.
PATROLLING THE GREAT LAKE
On one occasion I decided we would make a complete circuit of the Great Lake. We walked from Howells Neck to the Sandbanks, where we came onto a party fishing natural bait. At this time it was prohibited. It was outside fishing hours. I obtained their names and addresses and proceeded along the shore, where I saw a motor launch anchored some distance out in the lake. I decided that it was worth investigating if I could find a means of reaching it. An angler whom I knew well usually had his boat tied up in a certain spot. Sure enough he was there. With my companion, I borrowed the dinghy, muffled the oars and moved out to the boat on the lake. There were three lines attached to rods and set up in the lake. We woke the occupants up, collected their names and took possession of all gear including the boat. Returning the borrowed dingy, we again set off along the lake shore. At a point near Cider Park my companion was exhausted. I suggested that we have an hours sleep and then continue on. I woke my companion after the hour, as I wanted to be at Cider Park by daylight as I had previously seen signs of natural bait fishing there. We arrived at daybreak and saw a party of men arrive at the spot where I had seen illegal fishing. We decided to walk directly to the men who were intent on baiting their lines with wattle grubs. They were all well aware that they had been breaking the law. We collected the four rods that were set in the lake, making thirteen rods for the night. We continued on and around Little Lake to Rainbow Chalet at Breona.
ALL IN A DAYS WORK
These were ordinary working hours and when I returned to my station I would catch up on accumulated paper work before setting out again.
In spite of the long hours worked, I can truthfully say that I never felt tired. I never used an alarm clock to wake me up. I started work at all hours of the night and would lay down and sleep for an hour on numerous occasions and never overslept. If sleeping in the bush, I could guarantee that if anyone approached me, I would wake up long before they reached me.
The actual autobiography ended when Arthurs eyesight failed. The continuing memoirs were recalled and written down by his wife, Matilda in 1976:-
During the three and a half years at Parattah, many weeks went by without the services of a relieving Constable. Many tasks were left to me such as, goods to be put on the train and Social Security cheques to be issued.
In the trout stripping season (rainbow and brown), I would always see to Arthurs food supply, such as a joint of fresh or corned meat, two of three loaves of bread, as well as tins of biscuits, butter and jams.
Our next move was to Bothwell, closer to Great Lake and where court hearings were more frequent. Arthur was carrying out both Fauna and Fisheries work.
While at Bothwell, the local farmers drew up a petition on which all their signatures appeared, asking for Arthur to change over to Stock Inspector. Upon presentation to the Commissioner of Police, the reply was that he could not be spared from police duties.
A transfer to Kempton Police Station was about the time World War II was declared. I remember Arthur was First Aid Instructor. Classes were held in our dining room. During our time at Kempton we lived for one year in Dysart House
We moved to Glenorchy. Arthur averaged one thousand or more miles per month, with his work taking him all over the state. A very busy time was just before the Mutton Bird season opened, which took place mainly at rookeries around South Arm. All confiscated gear, including boats were accommodated in our large garage, with game put into storage at Jones & Co, until court day when it had to be presented as evidence.
Arthur left the Fisheries and Fauna Board and we decided to take up farming at Sheffield.[Claude Road] This period was a difficult one as prices for produce and crops were low, and Arthurs health was deteriorating.
We sold out the farm, and when the Commissioner heard of this, he promptly contacted Arthur and offered him a senior position as Chief Inspector of Inland Fisheries at Corra Lynn.
It was during this period of time that Arthur was operated on for hydatids of the liver, after which he missed only ten days of work.
After moving to Risley Street, Launceston, Arthur continued with Bailiff and Court work, whilst we made plans for retirement by purchasing twenty two acres of land at Evendale. Work still involved reports being written and traveling to courts at Bothwell, Oatlands, , New Norfolk and Devonport.
Arthur reached retiring age in November 1964.
The following 12 years were full of love, suffering, courage, faith, and fulfillment.
These attributes were typical of the life of
The Gentle Man
Feature Article by Charles Gossage