Two unexpected clear days at the beginning of the week required a quickly planned trip, and as often happens at this time of year, the Goulburn tailwater and nearby natural streams fitted the bill. The area is under a three hour drive from my home and it’s woven with good trout water. Of particular value (given the preceding heat and with more forecast) the fishing up here copes well with hot weather. The Goulburn itself is just about guaranteed cold water flows in mid-summer, while many of the nearby natural streams flow quickly out of steep, shaded, high altitude catchments, and therefore remain cool even on the hottest days.
First stop was the Goulburn itself, flowing at a stable, icy and very clear 4300 ML/d. JD and I thought long and hard about poking around the willows looking for grub feeders, but in the end we took the soft option and polaroided the open banks looking for hopper feeders. The hoppers were out in force and the wind was up – good! But the light was glary and the wind-ruffled surface didn’t help. We spotted about dozen nice trout, however all but one spotted me about the same time! That’s one of the catches with steep, open banks – you stand out to the trout. The 2 pounder I got the jump on, swam over and ate the Wee Creek Hopper without hesitation. Oh for a blue sky.
Next stop was the Rubicon River, flowing strongly and with a typical tannin tint. All looked ideal, and a nice brown to the Wee Creek on the third cast seemed to confirm that. Then the next hour or more was almost dead. Something needed to change and in my case I decided to make it the fly: a Royal Wulff. For years this was my favourite river dry, then for no particular reason it slipped down my list. However, over the last season or two it’s climbed back into favour. Anyway, whether it was the Royal Wulff or some other purely coincidental factor, suddenly it was all happening.
Don’t you love it when you have absolute confidence in a dry fly, especially one as visible and functional as Lee Wulff’s masterpiece? I’m sure JD and I fished more carefully and more thoroughly with the Royal Wulff. Belief creates better fishing in a nice little feedback loop. I did briefly wonder if one of us should change to another generalist fly as control, but I knew JD wouldn’t volunteer and I was having too much fun! The fishing was so good, we lost count of the really nice browns landed, not to mention a couple of beauties missed. Can you believe it, we were so satisfied by the time we got back to the car, we traded the prospective evening rise for a cold drink and a steak cooked in daylight. Lovely!
On Tuesday, JD had his fisheries research hat on, checking on young-of-the-year trout recruitment up Bright way, so I was on my own. First stop was the Acheron – good flow, and a nice little black spinner fall, but all I could catch for an hour’s effort was a half-pound rainbow. A quick detour up the Little River produced a ‘charm bracelet’ and I spooked a few trout that weren’t much bigger, so it was on to the Steavenson.
This small river looked a picture, flowing very well for late January and with just a tinge of colour. Out of loyalty to the fly’s Rubicon River performance, I stuck with Royal Wulff – although maybe it wasn’t quite the right pattern. Some trout literally nosed it without taking it, but every time I thought about changing, I had a good, confident take. It’s also noteworthy that the two best trout of the day ate the Wulff – a whole other story for another time.
The Steavenson session was mesmerising. There were plenty of trout about including some surprisingly good ones. However, there was very little response to just blasting away up the middle of the classic runs. Instead, the Wulff had to be presented right in and even under the bank, or into tight pockets among the logs and branches. Drifts had to be totally drag-free. I got a few snags but quite a few fish too.
Overall, it was a magic few hours, notwithstanding some blackberry scratches and the odd willow branch down my back. I left for the drive home with those mixed feelings a good couple of days sometimes brings – satisfied with some great, visual dry fly fishing, but with unfinished business too. Next time!