Well, it’s that time of year again – the brown trout spawn run! My week started with a charter on Tantangara Reservoir with guests Marie and Tony – novice fly fishers, but not novice mountain folk, with family going back to some of the original 19th century Currango Station occupants – when it was still a cattle station. They were staying at Daffodil Cottage at Currango and I strongly recommend it for anyone wanting a few wilderness days with good access to Tantangara Reservoir.
At 8 am it was sub-zero at the boat ramp, with a dense winter fog, and 50 metre visibility. We crept our way up the lake, using the sounder and sat-nav – reminding me of watching the salmon run up the Wye River in South Wales where the fish swim with their caudal fins out of the water in a straight line until they go aground, then turn 90 degrees until they hit the opposite bank, slowly zig-zagging their way upstream through the muddy water. Occasionally they come across an island in an eddy and temporarily head back to sea – we only did that once when, in the midst of some animated story-telling, it dawned on us that the eastern light was shining on the wrong shoulder – that and we were crossing our own wake of course.
A little before 9 the fog lifted to a beautiful blue-sky day. We fished the Nungar Creek and Murrumbidgee River arms and even if the fish were scarce the scenery was breathtaking and Marie and Tony were great sports, especially when the wind picked up on the way back to the boat ramp and we took some icy spray over the bow.
Later that afternoon Stephen and I walked for several kilometres up the Murrumbidgee River looking for signs of fish moving into the river and saw none. The river level was well down and the usual signs of freshly rubbed gravel were non-existent. Drifting the boat back through the arm we managed a few consolation fish an hour before dark.
Next came the Eucumbene River. We knew a few fish had moved in after some rain last week, but already the water level had dropped. We fished two stretches, from Alpine Creek to a kilometre past the Flying Fox, and from Providence to the tree line past the Denison camp ground. We saw no more than a handful of other fishers, way less than you might have expected for the significant numbers of fish we saw. The only sensible advice I can give is that the deep pools aren’t so deep and the fish are in some unusual spots. Rather than the deep water, they are more into undercuts and shelter. If you’ve fished Swamp Creek you’ll know what I mean. They’re either on the gravel redds or under a bank or a rock. The fly of the day was a hot head size 16 black nymph and we saw plenty of fish chase and consume that, ignoring the Glo Bug completely.
Reports from Lake Eucumbene say there are reasonable numbers and size of fish (mix of rainbow and brown), mostly late afternoon on small green nymphs. The flat ground around islands is productive if you’ve got a boat to drift them.
I bumped into Matt Trippet on the Eucumbene River who told us about his 7 lb rainbow catch from the Thredbo (which I’d already seen on Facebook) – a real football. And it’s back in the river for the next lucky angler – truly a one in ten thousand fish. Matt’s Fly Program website.
Lake Eucumbene is at 34.4% so the river is way down from Providence Portal – almost a straight line down from late last year. Lake Jindabyne is at 69%, also a steep fall. Tantangara is at 26.4% where it’s been flat-lining since February – there’s grass to the water’s edge and the brumbies are right there with it.If you’re up there for some spawn-run river fishing it can be busy, and normal rules of flyfishing etiquette are temporarily suspended – but that doesn’t mean you can’t be nice. The fish seem to co-operate regardless. Treat your fish well. If you’re returning them, net them, wet your hands, hold them over the water for a pic and let them go quickly – they can’t hold their breath for ever! The bag limit is one fish over 50 centimetres and high-grading is a hanging offence.