Having learned about the Snowy River at school, and read its name in famous poems, I’d always wanted to explore its upper reaches with a fly rod. As part of the Snowy Scheme, the river has three major dams along its course, with Guthega Dam at the top, then Island Bend Pondage, and finally Lake Jindabyne.
On previous trip, we’d fished the Snowy between Guthega Power Station and Island Bend during high flows and while we enjoyed some great polaroiding, we couldn’t get very far along the steep scrubby banks. This time was different. As Darren pulled the ute off the track, my father Rod and I were pleased to see the river much lower, which meant investigating new water upstream was now possible.
We started to fish our way up from the pondage and the first thing I noticed was the visibility: the Snowy above Island Bend is probably the clearest water I’ve fished. The next hour saw each of us catch a few small, colourful trout in good condition. And as with many other local streams we’ve fished lately, little young-of-the-year trout were everywhere.
We got to the top of the first long run to find a huge pool that had fish cheekily rising just out of range. We moved on to deep, narrow channel in the rock, with a nice slow eddy on the opposite side. Dad was in a good position to fish this section. He covered the tail for no result, but a longer cast up to the head of the pool soon had a good trout chasing his March fly pattern down the bubble-line. The brown snatched Dad’s pattern, leapt in the air and headed straight back to its undercut, before Dad was eventually able to muscle it out and into the net – a great fish of about a kilo. Watching all that unfold was just as good as being the one holding the rod!
Confident we could find a few more fish like that if we looked for the right areas, we ‘speed fished’ up to the next likely pool, picking up lots of littlies on the way. I was up next, and after watching the pool tail from a distance to make sure I didn’t spook anything, I placed my hopper pattern at the top of a narrow mini gorge. Just as the fly floated over a submerged rock ledge, a dark shape rose slowly up to intercept it. I held back on my strike, allow the trout to turn before lifting the rod. Once again the trout fought very hard with several leaps, then dived among the ledges and boulders. Eventually, it succumbed to the resistance and we had another gorgeous 2 pounder in the net.
The following pool was Daz’s and a good trout soon slammed his fly, but unfortunately, the seemingly perfect strike came up slack. Dad and I watched on as Daz continued upstream, catching a few nice pounders, before we headed back to the car for some lunch and a change of venue.
Perisher Creek is a Snowy tributary, although it’s one of many streams which has every drop of water diverted underground via a tunnel, west to the Murray system. However, as the dry creek bed continues below the diversion, it gradually regains life from natural springs and run-off and soon becomes quite a nice stream again. Dad and I had done some rod-less reconnaissance the week before and we were impressed with the lower creek’s trout population, and also the size of some of the fish.
So this is where our next session began. First pool, Daz fooled an athletic brown with his Red Tag; next pool my hopper was taken the moment it hit the water. And so it went… the fishing was terrific. Everywhere you put your fly that you thought might hold a fish, did hold a fish! Every pool had multiple trout doing their thing. We soon tried polaroiding the largest fish per pool and waited for an opportunity to present a fly to it. This was a fun way to fish. The bigger trout were very cautious and would make their way over slowly, inspecting the fly for a few seconds before sipping it in. That was, unless a little fish raced over and beat them to it! We all had a very enjoyable afternoon catching and releasing many respectable fish from this scenic stream. There was no secret pattern; the fish were opportunists and reacted to the plip of the fly. Once again, a great day in the Snowy Mountains.
Footnote: As we drove up towards Guthega, we rounded a bend that exposed a view of the Snowy where it can reach 80 metres wide at full flow. In the same spot, at the current environmental flow, it was a mere 10 metres wide. With sudden flow fluctuations during hydro-electricity generation, it’s clearly not a good idea to wade or cross the river.