You know its autumn on the Goulburn when the irrigation season ends and the flows back off. You don’t have to follow the reports from Goulburn Murray Water – you can tell the river has dropped even before you see it. The giveaway is the sudden increase in cars parked at Gilmores Bridge. The lower flows trigger a hatch of anglers.
They are there for a reason. The comfortable river levels, weather, autumn vistas, access, clear water and the variety of runs, pools and riffles, make fishing at this time a real pleasure. Meanwhile, the real cold hasn’t set in, so there’s enough insect activity to keep the fish looking up and feeding through the day, providing for hours of entertainment.
My son Scott had come up for a weekend visit and wanted to hit the river. We arrived downstream of Eildon Pondage to see numerous fish rising. These trout weren’t large – in fact some were exceedingly small – yet it was great fun drifting small caddis emergers, Yellow Sallys or even Scott’s prototype emerger over the willing fish. It was a change from hunting and stalking long stretches of river; now we hardly needed to move to have numerous shots at fish and we could share in each other’s success or near misses.
Moving down to Thornton, we caught trout swinging weighted nymphs down and across in the riffles and runs, or presenting dry flies to rises in the bubble lines. Again, the trout weren’t particularly big, but the numbers, variety of fishing styles and the company made for very unhurried, relaxed and pleasant fishing.
After Scott went home on Sunday evening, I snuck out to see if there was any evening rise. I hadn’t been out late on the river for a while and was unsure if there was anything happening. To my delight, the daytime crowds departed as the shadows lengthened, and soon I had a stretch of river to myself. Better still, I saw a large pale dun struggling skyward… then another. There were Kossies coming off!
The sight of the large pale duns, and the splashy rises of fish cottoning on to the feast, caused a frantic search for a suitable pattern. Cursing myself for a lack of an organised fly storage system, I had to search several boxes in my vest before I found a fly of similar size and colour to the pale duns. The search was made more anxious by the increasing number of splashes and slurps coming from the stream. I didn’t want to look at the river before I tied on the fly, knowing it would only make the process harder in the failing light.
With fly attached, I carefully scanned the water. In good dun hatches such as this, you can get a shot at some decent trout – but only if you resist the temptation to cast at everything. Patience and observation is the key. Of course, the other side of the coin is that you don’t know when the hatch will stop, so you don’t want to wait too long.
Luckily for me, holding fire and watching paid off. There was a deliberate slurp just downstream and the water displaced by the turning fish suggested it had some size. While big trout can be delicate, they often show themselves too.
I drifted the dun towards the rise, a neb broke the surface and the fly was gone. I lifted the rod, hoping I wasn’t too eager, and was relieved when I felt heavy weight, much more than what I’d been experiencing with Scott earlier. The first run made me a little nervous as the trout was obviously large. The fight was a prolonged battle and I eventually landed the big brown in the dark. By then, the hatch had all but finished, but I couldn’t get the smile off my face! I’d fished a great Kossie dun hatch and although I’d only caught one fish, it was a good one.
I snuck out again last night but there wasn’t much of a hatch. I did catch four trout on the Kossie dun, however the hatch was short and not as many fish were up.
Autumn on the Goulburn may see an angler hatch and it can get crowded. But the river offers so much angling variety. And, if you strike it right, a Kossie hatch and maybe, a trophy. At its present level, with clear water and a good head of trout, the Goulburn is a great option for a fish before winter shuts things down and the season ends. Just don’t expect to have it all to yourself.