Eucumbene River Spawn Run

Not everyone's cuppa!

Not everyone’s cuppa!

The Eucumbene spawn run isn’t for everyone – but for anyone wanting to catch a decent fish that’s keen to be caught it can be a lot of fun. For those worried about the ethics of spawn run fishing, we need to remember that all over the world there are recreational and commercial salmonid fisheries almost completely reliant on spawn run fishing, especially where there are sea-runs or large lakes involved and the only time decent fish enter the rivers is as mature adults.

Every year the Eucumbene can get crowded – not only with fish but with people – and whilst most are pretty relaxed a few, on occasions, behave a lot dumber than even the fish! Try to remember it’s only fishing. And this year, at least partially to manage angler behaviour, the Eucumbene River is a better place thanks to the decision to block vehicle access to the river bank from the Denison camp ground. Hooray, long overdue!

20170515_101627_resized_1I should also say the very significant pressure on the Eucumbene brown trout population at this time of year doesn’t appear to adversely impact the seemingly very robust population of fish. 20170515_102307_resized_1

We’ve been a bit short of rain in April and May this year and the fish seem to have behaved differently. It appears they moved quickly through the Providence Flats to get into the deeper pools above the tree-line to gain cover, and once there they’ve quickly moved further upriver. In the first week of May there were already fish below Kiandra in good numbers, and a lot of fish were already making their way back into the lake after spawning. We’ve caught several spent fish in the lake.

20170515_095116_resizedJust watching fish behaviour in these pools is exciting. The fish can lie motionless for an hour or more. You can watch them straddling light coloured boulders, tail off one side and head off the other, until you believe they aren’t fish at all; a shadow, a log, even weed. And then a female spawning somewhere upstream creates excitement and they move around; they’ll start rolling on the surface and shadowing in and out of the shallows. That excitement travels out of the water to the banks and often that’s when you’ll hook the most fish.

Of course a Glo-bug and nymph duo with a split shot to get down are a solid bet, but you can catch just as many on two nymphs. You just have to get them on the bottom, into the zone, and try to keep them moving in front of the fish. Not easy when water levels and flows have been so low. But on Saturday (20th) 49 mm of rain was recorded at Cabramurra so right now the fish that have been hanging back and hanging on, aren’t any more, and I expect the next couple of weeks should see the best of it.

Lake Eucumbene can really turn on the sunsets

Lake Eucumbene can really turn it on in the evenings

Despite all the river activity I didn’t forsake the lake. Last weekend’s weather was mixed. Cold and clear, then cold and overcast, but calm, and only a little drizzle one morning. And spectacular sunsets. The Hydro have pulled the plug on the lake and the fish went predictably quiet, moving off the flats leaving only a few smaller fish and others desperate for a meal.

20170521_135434_resizedThis rainbow was the skinniest of the year, but was closely followed by another in exceptional condition.
20170512_164532_resizedI spent a few hours with new young fly fisher Will, fishing under Denison Hill – desperate to catch a fish in the lake but without a touch; even the school of small fish cruising the bank and rising to midge refused the Griffith’s Gnat time after time. 20170514_111647_resizedBut I know Will’s hooked – even if the fish avoided that fate on this occasion!

There’s been a theme of poor-condition fish reports in the last few months and a few people have expressed concern. It’s a difficult one – clearly some fish have been doing very well, and clearly some have not. For the yabby feeders, the stable lake levels mean less yabbies on the move which may be a factor. There is dense weed in a lot of bays which can give yabbies and mudeyes good cover as they scoot around, and the stick caddis haven’t been as visible as usual. All this weed is in itself a bit of a mystery and must be using nutrients something else was using before. But don’t worry, they’ll come good. Someone suggested we mght have reached the lake’s carrying capacity but as I watch thousands of bugs drift past me as the sun sets, without a sniff of a rise, I can’t help but think these fish may not be as smart as we hope – as another one snatches at my generic black Woolly Bugger!

Right now Eucumbene is at 43.5%, down 3% in the last 3 weeks. That’s a lot of water (2 or 3 vertical metres) and lot of wet slippery banks, so take care. Jindabyne is steady at 76% and there have been some excellent reports from the Thredbo brown trout spawn run. But after the rain, Tantangara has crept up to 22.6% and would be my pick for a daytime session anywhere there’s a shallow bank being steadily covered by water. Work a pair of nymphs – especially an olive Pheasant-tail with a gold bead head – really slowly, and if that doesn’t work try a Scintilla Stick Caddis.

Tight tippets all, lake charters continue all winter for the hardy!  Just Google “the naked trout” or click here.

Steve