Every so often, early March forgets that it’s supposed to be autumn. My diary records 3 March 2007 when I fished the Nariel on a 40 degree day. The creek measured 26 C at Macnamara’s Bridge, though heading upstream towards Staceys Bridge shaved 3 C off the water temperature and we had great hopper fishing, landing 8 trout to 1½ pounds.
Fortunately, sunlight hours are in decline by this time of year, and the streams have long nights (over 2 hours longer than the start of January) to offer the trout some respite. Even during the day, the angle of the sun is lower, increasing shade. On my trip with Ian over the last few days, the temperatures weren’t 40 C, but we saw 35 C and once, 38 C. It was hotter than I’d like and clearly, to find good fishing and active trout we had two choices – the upper reaches of the natural streams, or tailwaters.
In the end we went for both – the upper Ovens River, followed by the Mitta and Swampy Plain tailwaters – and managed a good trip despite the heat. The Ovens was pretty much as expected – low-ish but not too low, clear and with plenty of browns and rainbows present. Stealth and fishing to cover were essential. Even so I have no doubt we spooked more than we caught, including a couple of nice ones…
The Mitta tailwater was being it’s usual enigmatic self. The trout population has enjoyed a stellar year of high, cold flows and these have only just receded. As I’ve written since the late 1980s, this is the perfect combination for the lower Mitta. The conditions generate lots of trout in the river, and some big ones. Catching them however isn’t always straightforward.
This is a topic in its own right – the same tailwater fertility spike which grows so many good trout, also produces enough food to encourage a lot more selective feeding than we typically find on the freestone streams. Anyway, I was pleased to catch several good trout during the day – until the evening rise revealed how many hundreds of trout I didn’t catch in the same stretch! Not that I’m complaining, but it does lay down the challenge for next time.
Much the same pattern applied to a short session on a high, cold Swampy Plain River – some nice fish on a big Stimulator for a short burst, but a good hour or more either side with very little action. The trout would’ve been there right through; so maybe I didn’t try enough different things to find them instead of basically waiting for the trout to find me.
On the way home I wondered for the umpteenth time about fishing to a level. Catching enough fish versus catching as many as you possibly can; and the way you catch them. As usual, I didn’t come up with any definitive answers. The biggest trout I caught deep nymphing, which was doubly pleasing because I’d fished through the same stretch with a dry fly for no result, then had the self-discipline to re rig and go back and nymph it. However the most enjoyable trout was a 3 pounder I saw move a metre to take a size 14 para spinner during a tricky drift through a tiny gap in the willows. I think that’s the one I’ll remember ten years from now.