“I’ve had less bang and spent more bucks!” I heard a grumpy angler say in the bistro on Sunday night and I think that more-or-less sums up an uninspiring 2018 brown trout spawn-run fishery; well, patchy at least. Whether you blame the lack of rain, the lack of food in the lake, the number of fish caught by trollers, global warming, sea-level rise, the warm weather, chemicals in the water, disease, pestilence, carp, Snowy Hydro 2.0, or the federal government, the fact is its been a slow spawn run. If the fish are running late, that might be good. If the stocks are down that’s probably bad. How will we know? Who knows. For those who have listened to my ramblings about trout needing to be managed as an economic fishery, come down and chat to the local businesses. Everybody’s turnover is down – campsites, motels, pubs, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, tackle shops, servos. “No-one is happy, and someone needs to do something,” I heard the same Mr Grumpy say.
I fished over the weekend. After a four-week work trip to the tropics, I needed to be cold and wet, and the mountains had a go at obliging. Over the years, I’ve fished a lot of closing weekends and it’s rarely a wilderness experience – but not so this weekend. By 11 am on Monday morning I was beginning to think I’d got it wrong and I was fishing Tuesday. We fished on the Eucumbene River above the tree-line from first light until midday and did not see another soul. Well over 2 kilometres of water and no-one passed us on the way up – and we passed no-one on the way down. From 3 pm to 6 pm we walked from Providence to Swamp Creek and back and passed one other pair of anglers. And they’d arrived at the same time as us.
If all that sounds a bit gloomy, sorry. We had a ball. I fished one session with David, another two with Doug, and one more with yet another Steve. We saw way more fish than we caught, but then none of them had short-line nymphed before so that was a steep learning curve. Early on Monday morning we watched the river at first light (I can’t really say sunrise) and saw fish busily positioning themselves for favour. We fished every bit of good-looking pocket water, slipping and sliding along banks, through the scrub and across boulders. I can’t remember a balmier closing weekend. Not even close to a frost and I was occasionally warm with three layers. When it rained (and I didn’t have a raincoat) it was nice to have a bit of evaporative cooling. The mist rolled through the trees, it drizzled and rained, drips the size of small eggs formed in the canopy, a faux rise as they landed on the water. Resident non-spawners sipped stoneflies in the Bridge Pool on sunset, in perfect calm. And we caught a fair share, maybe even more than, if the reports were right.
So it’s back to fishing the lake for the winter. I’m really looking forward to a trip to Tantangara which has been rising steadily – please don’t dump the water for another month is my prayer to whoever’s listening – I’m guessing that’s not Snowy Hydro! At 26.7 % with an ever-so-gentle increase, it is just perfect. Meanwhile, Lake Eucumbene is continuing its 45 degree trajectory and is at 29% today – 40% this time last year. Someone’s energy hungry and we all wonder what will happen when winter really arrives – who is going to top-up the base load when the water’s all gone? I know, they’ll empty Tantangara! I’m not complaining, these are after all hydro lakes, “I’m just saying”. Even Lake Jindabyne is 10% below last year at a fraction under 64%.
Lake fishing reports have been mixed. One spot on Tantangara was holding fish waiting to run up the river with eight boats trolling circles for a bit of meat hunting, whilst the fly guys struggled to get a look in. Eucumbene is a bit of a mud-bath, and Jindabyne has been its usual ticklish self. I had one excellent report from Eucumbene with two bits of useful information. First was the number of fish working the shoreline after dark (multiple reports); the second was the quality of the indicator fishing (one credible report).
Tight tippets all, next blog I’ll be a boatie!