Squeezing in a lot of fishing is always a key goal for any trip! This often leads to a carefully-planned itinerary involving multiple lakes (or lake spots), and likewise for rivers and creeks. The objective is a mix of challenges, maximising opportunities, and minimising risk of failure! This applies all the more to the month of April; one of those tricky season-transition times. Will it mimic early autumn, late summer or even early winter? Might be a lot of water, might not be; lakes might be steady or still falling. Sigh!
This trip I set off with Stephen, starting with Lake Eucumbene – which I expected, based on multiple reports, to be tough. We launched a little after dawn and worked our way through a variety of flats and weed-beds, getting into the swing of it. And yes, as expected, our catch rate was low and whilst I’d hoped to trick a couple of browns off the flats to lift our stats, that didn’t happen. However the water looked superb; maybe it was a bit bright with a cloudless sky?
After lunch we headed to Tantangara where the lake level has been steady, maybe even creeping up a bit if the water just in the grass was anything to go by. Before launching the boat we checked out the Murrumbidgee below the dam wall and found a nice montane river flow (environmental release), parked and jumped in the river where we found some lively browns and rainbows. There were plenty of hoppers and we successfully fished Elk Hair Caddis and Stimulators.
Finally we launched at Tantangara in time to find a good spot for the evening. I did touch a couple of fish but had to leave it to Stephen to actually catch something as a spectacular autumn sunset capped off a 14 hour day.
The following morning we fished the Eucumbene River, which turned out to be a whole story on its own. The short version is that the river level has stayed at a very fishable level despite the lack of rain. Fishing reports have reflected that, basically positive anywhere above the Denison treeline, but with catches slowing as you get towards and above Kiandra Bridge. As we often do, we walked about 10km of river that day with mixed success. Some spots were clearly less fished than others and the fish count reflected that: some of the more accessible spots had very well worn riverside tracks and the fish were scarce. Nonetheless, Australia’s most heavily-fished trout stream produced some amazing fish, with several browns in the 3 to 5 lb range, and a stack of fish in the ½ to 1 lb range. Plus, encouragingly for the whole system, some very small fish.
We saw a lot of hoppers on the water and we stuck with our Elk Hair Caddis/Stimi selections (passably hopper-ish flies) with great success. Sometimes a fish would nudge up underneath the fly, just nosing it out of the water before either sucking it down or letting it pass; or the fly would be absolutely nailed in an explosive take. On reflection, that morning session would rate in my top ten Eucumbene River dry fly sessions ever. It was that good! The nymph box stayed closed the whole time. The rest of the day we poked around several different spots for mainly small fish.
Day 3, and one last fish as we headed out. We drove to the lake at Seven Gates, first heading to White Rocks, and then O’Neills. White Rocks looks amazing with a mile of yabby bed right below the water line. I fished a big dry close to shore for two small sprat attacks and a bigger shape cruising up under the fly before thinking better of it. A blingy black-beaded Woolly Bugger got the rainbows interested, but even though the waves had picked up into a nice chop it was still very bright – probably brighter than ideal.
The regional gossips are giving mixed reports. Lake Jindabyne is still struggling with low numbers of rainbows, but the Thredbo seems to be enjoying some good hopper fishing. The Monaro stream flows are very low and there’s talk of the fish sitting tight in the bottom of the pools. The Murrumbidgee above Tantangara seems to have shut down until it rains, but downstream, the montane river flows are working in our favour.
Overall, the Snowy Mountains definitely proved worth the trip. Hot spots would be the Eucumbene River, Tantangara, and the Murrumbidgee downstream – so long as the montane river flows continue.
Snowy Lakes stats: Lake Eucumbene water temp. was 17C with the water level at 38%; 8% lower than this time last year. Jindabyne level is at 75%; on par with last year. Tantangara was 15C with the water level at 26%; compared with 21% this time last year.
Tight tippets all,