Jun 28, 2017
How one Tassie winery combines two passions.
It’s a sunny autumn day in northern Tasmania and I’m standing in an amphitheatre outside the Josef Chromy cellar door near Launceston. In my right hand I loosely grip a rod and reel, which, every now and then, I pull up and release, making the line twitch in the air and then shoot towards a target ring about six metres away. Believe it or not, I’m fly-fishing. There may be no water in front of me – and no fish – but here, in this grassy arena, I’m learning the fundamentals of fly-casting.
Fly Fishing at Josef Chromy is a four-hour-plus combination of tutorial and winery indulgence in partnership with Tasmanian fly-fishing expert Daniel Hackett, owner of RiverFly 1864. This experience often operates as a precursor for those wanting to embark on more serious fly-fishing adventures (RiverFly runs multi-day trips to lakes and rivers nearby) but for beginners and those without larger expedition goals – like me – it’s a delightful way to spend the day.
Unique experiences such as this are becoming increasingly popular in wine regions. According to Josef Chromy’s David Milne, this experiential side of the business allows the winery to “build brand loyalty and add value beyond the cellar door”. These experiences – at Josef Chromy they range from vineyard and winery tours to this fly-fishing tutorial – are “the best advertisement for Tasmania as well as our establishment and its wines”, he says.
To begin my fly-fishing adventure, I meet Daniel at the cellar door at 11am and we head straight outside. He gives a concise explanation of a basic cast: rod low to the ground, smooth acceleration backwards to a stop and then release forwards. He demonstrates, landing the end of his line slap-bang in the middle of the ring. “How easy is that?” he asks with a grin.
Such a short preamble is by design. “This is a physical thing,” he explains. “You want to get your arm moving then we start to tweak from there.” And tweak he does: I’m all wrist to begin with; more elbow and shoulder hinging is required, “like throwing a dart”, says Daniel.
Apparently, there’s no need for large movements, as casting isn’t related to muscle strength. “It’s timing; let the rod do the work.” He gently corrects me when I hinge backwards too far or fail to pause at the top of the backcast. And he’s suitably enthusiastic when it all comes together and I cast like a fly-fisherperson should. “Beautiful!” he exclaims, as my line lands right inside the target.
With the basics under my belt, it’s time to head to the lake that lies between the cellar door and the winery. On the banks, I practise as though I were fishing in the wilderness. Even though there are fish here (rainbow trout), it’s the art of casting – the meditative nature of it – that has me hooked. In fact, I’m so lost in my backcast-pause-release that I forget what time it is: lunchtime.
I relinquish my rod and repair to the cellar door to sample the Josef Chromy wines – crisp sparkling, exemplary riesling and chardonnay, plus elegant pinot noir – before moving into the glass-walled dining room that overlooks manicured gardens and the lake. This restaurant is one of the best in northern Tasmania and a lingering two-course lunch with paired wines is the perfect contrast to the information-heavy tutorial.
The fare is seasonal, locally sourced and beautifully prepared – from a tumble of organic tomatoes with ricotta, basil and capers to blue-eye trevalla with orecchiette, peas and beans. As I savour the last morsel and contentedly sip my riesling, I reflect on this unusual pairing of fly-fishing and winery lunching: all up, a surprisingly good match.