Wherever there is a brown trout fishery, this is the time of year they start to spawn. Large numbers of fish will school in deep pools, and smaller groups can been seen on patches of gravel (spawning redds) with females shedding their eggs and males moving in to fertilise them. The best gravel is where the water is quiet, away from fast currents, on the edges, and in the tail of pools, but not in the really large areas of slow water which tend to be more sediment than gravel. These suckers are really picky about where they lay their eggs. The females use their tail to wash away the surface sediment to create a depression for their nest. Normally you just see one male and one female but often there are other males hanging around, and often a rainbow or two looking to feed on eggs that drift away from the redd. You can easily spot redds with eggs in them, they’re the lighter patches of gravel, and certainly in NSW they’re protected and it’s an offence to interfere – SO NO WADING THROUGH THE REDDS!
If there’s a decent lake with a river running in, then the river mouth is good place to find big browns hanging around at this time of year as they wait for a bit of rain to encourage them to run up the river; as soon as there’s a good “fresh” up they go into the lower pools, waiting until they’re ready to pop, or until more rain encourages them to move further upstream. These migrations seem to occur mostly in the early evening and at night. Once they’re done, some hang around, others head back to the lake normally scarred and in poor condition. Trust me, you’ll know if you catch one of these.
Which gets me onto how to catch them. Well, most of the time it’s not too hard – some say like shooting ducks on a pond, or perhaps more appropriately catching fish in a barrel – but it’s not always easy, sometimes they refuse everything. You need a glo-bug egg pattern and a bit of shot to get the egg pattern down to the fish if there’s a fast current. In north America they use orange beads 30 or 40 cm from a hook. The fish mouths the bead and the hook sets as the leader is pulled through the mouth. It’s not very sophisticated but it’s a lot of fun.
There are a lot of purists who won’t fish for spawning fish but that’s another debate. Stay away from the redds and have fun – and get to a brown trout river before the season closes. In the Snowies the Thredbo, upper Murrumbidgee and Eucumbene rivers are all accessible. Oh, and the last thing is that you shouldn’t expect to see the normal level of fishing ethics. People will walk through the run at the top of your pool, walk up and fish right next to you, fish on the opposite bank, camp in their four wheel drive next to their favourite pool to lock it up, you’ll have to let people run past you with a fin-hooked monster heading to the downstream pool, and there’ll be litter and other human detritus. So if you can’t deal with that, maybe stay away. But, catch one monster, have your picture taken with it, let it go (they don’t taste too good). That experience (and that photo) will stay with you for the rest of your fishing life. It’s a heap of fun and after all that’s what this is all about.