It is rare to get any time off in November but over the past week, the Rainbow Lodge guiding team managed a trip to Victoria to practice for the National Fly Fishing Championships scheduled for the end of the month.
We travelled to Falls Creek where we had two days on Rocky Valley Reservoir. The fishing was typically productive with many small browns and a few rainbows falling to wet and dry flies. At one stage we had snow and hail during which, we were catching them on floating lines. These fish appear very hungry and their lack of size and condition is no doubt due to the lack of food and harsh environment. Although we live and work in Tasmania, the days spent on the lake were some of the coldest we have experienced.
We left Rocky Valley and headed to our accommodation at Helen Packer’s on the Bundarra River. Day one on the rivers was spent on the Mitta. The river level was low compared to our last trip to the area three years ago. The fishing appeared a little more difficult with fish numbers slightly lower than that which we were expecting. However the quality of those fish caught was top class. As we had previously fished the river at the very end of November, it is not surprising that numbers seemed low in comparison. The quality of the fishing during the competition will be a good indicator of the current state of this fine river. No real evening rise was forthcoming although a few fish did move in the slower pools just before dark. These were very happy to eat dries and some were in the 3lb range.
The next day was spent on the very low and clear Bundarra River. With campers along the banks in every accessible location, the fish were quite skittish. The morning appeared tough compared to the afternoon but at no time did we have the exceptional fishing of three years ago. The fly life was healthy but again, the fish were harder to find. When we did find them they were very happy to eat any fly we put in front of them and the beauty of valley soon made up for any slow periods in the fishing. Twilight brought more accessible fish out and these readily accepted the fly. This river remains a firm favourite of ours!
Our third day in the area had us back on the Mitta for our last look. We fished lower down than the two days previously and fish numbers seemed higher. The heat had brought out a few snakes which made walking on the banks interesting at times! Nymphing seemed the most productive method. Complex currents and depth variation make this river a lot of fun to fish with frequent leader adjustments necessary to get regular success. At one point we happened upon a school of rainbows that provided entertainment for half an hour or so.
With two and a half days left on our trip we made our way to the beautiful town of Bright and stayed at Mrs Simpson Cottage on the banks of the Ovens River. For the first two days we made our way over the hill to fish the Kiewa. Day one on the Kiewa saw low water levels again and quite difficult fishing. Fish were patchy but when we did find them, the numbers were sometimes extraordinary. Strangely, some water that seemed similar to the productive stretches, produced very little. Every now and then we caught some fish close to two and a half pound and these plus the smaller fish all fought well in the clear water. Again, the river was getting fished quite hard over the long weekend but the fish responded well to the pressure.
Day two on the same river had the levels high and clear. We had heard that this could happen due to the water regulation on the pondage. Fearing the worst, we were pleasantly surprised that the fishing had improved with the water height. Again, going subsurface was important but the occasional rising fish kept us all happy. A long-time friend and client of ours, Mike van Der Graaf had joined us for this leg of the trip and was rewarded with some lovely fish while fishing under a wool indicator. Unfortunately, with levels now up, much of the river was inaccessible but when access was forthcoming, the fish were hungry and ready to impress. It was the first two days that we had spent on the Kiewa but it won’t be the last.
On the final morning, my friends decided to sleep in while I had a little under two hours on the Ovens River behind the lodge in Bright. A short walk to the bottom of the garden and I was strolling up the river looking for rises. It was just after 7am when I found a likely looking run and decided to rig up with light nymphs. My first cast landed in a likely looking seam and the line tightened quickly into a lovely little brown trout. With all the bad press the Ovens has received, I feared this might be my only fish for the morning so I took a photograph of it and released it. Two casts later and I was playing another fish from the same current line! What gorgeous looking wild brown trout they were. Without boring you with the details, I walked around 200m in two hours and caught thirty-three fish! They were 50/50 mix of browns and strong fighting rainbows and all were ‘fin perfect’. It has been a long, long time since I have had such amazing river fishing. An average of a fish every four minutes is remarkable even by European standards. On the walk back to the cottage I found many trout rising in the slower pools and although these fish were harder to tempt, their sheer number meant that success was common. I only wish that I had more than a few hours to fish this amazing little stream. I know I live in Tasmania but I would make a special trip (and plan to) just to fish this river again. One of the more amazing things was that I was only sharing it with one other angler! I had started taking some photos of the fish using my iPhone but the fishing was so good that after a dozen or so, I just stopped and fished. I had taken photos of eight separate fish from the same pool with the same landmark in the background that I now look back at and smile. I now have a new favourite river in Victoria and if I lived anywhere near it, I would be on it every day. How exciting! Thank heavens I didn’t sleep in.