2013-14 – The Season that Was (Part 4)

The final quarter of my season began with a short, sweet trip fishing with my old friend Felix out of Owen River Lodge in New Zealand. My first visits to the South Island nearly 20 years ago centred on the wonderful rivers in the Nelson Lakes/ Murchison area and time hasn’t dimmed my fascination with the super-sized landscape and its similarly large trout. Although some rivers in the area had recently been affected by massive floods (yes, even the New Zealand fishery isn’t immune from the vagaries of nature) we had no trouble finding plenty of big trout. I still can’t quite get used to fishing a stream the size of the upper Indi or Thredbo, and spotting nothing but 2 ft browns.


The Owen River in April.

Back in Tasmania, the unusual season continued with Rainbow Lodge’s Christopher Bassano reporting some spectacular late season stream dry fly fishing. Typically by mid-April, the stream fishing in Tassie is waning; at least for dry fly. However this April, Christopher enjoyed some of his best grasshopper and mayfly fishing for the whole season.  Not only were the rises plentiful, the trout were very good size, with numbers of trout 3 pounds and better.


Tullaroop and nearby central Victorian stillwaters enjoyed good water conditions this autumn.

Meanwhile, after New Zealand, my attention was drawn more and more to the lakes as the temperatures dropped and the days shortened. Around my home in Victoria’s central highlands, good fishing could be found on several stillwaters like Tullaroop, Newlyn and Hepburn. After such a hot, dry summer it was encouraging to find good water conditions and levels, and pretty much typical late autumn fishing. Australian smelt numbers seem particularly robust this year and hopefully this will see the smelter action we’ve already enjoyed this autumn continue into winter.


An early winter storm sweeps across Lake Wartook in the Grampians.

In the Grampians late autumn provided a similar story. Lakes Fyans, Bellfield and Wartook were all in excellent condition, with clear water (a long time coming on Bellfield) and levels close to or better than those at the same time last year. Meanwhile, Lake Toolondo to the west provided exceptional autumn/early winter fishing, despite dropping to lower than ideal levels over summer. We can only hope this lake receives more water this winter/spring so it can safely make it through another hot Wimmera summer. In any event, Toolondo joins a long list of relatively shallow Victorian lake fisheries that have shown a remarkable resilience to the punishing 2013/14 summer.


Lake Tantangara in the Snowys has risen steadily through autumn and looks likely to exceed 50% in the next few weeks – exceptionally high for this water.

One of my last trips was to the Snowy Mountains, and in particular lakes Eucumbene and Tantangara. We didn’t fish the rivers, although the cars dotted along the Providence Flats and beyond told the story of exceptional fishing in the Eucumbene River for spawn run browns – for some anglers, compensation for the difficult and enigmatic rainbow trout fishing that dogged them for much of the season. For Steve and me on the lakes, it was an encouraging trip rather than one of prolific catches. On both waters we saw plenty of fish, including some cracking browns, but caught only modest numbers. Interestingly, on the last day we landed some chunky maiden rainbows of the sort that have been so missed over the last several months. Maybe that’s a positive sign for season 2014/15.