From his home base in New South Wales, Josh plans his trout fishing year.
Some people work around the calendar year, others focus on the financial year; then there are school terms and university semesters. But we all know that those schedules are secondary to the most important one: the trout calendar!
Different states and countries have different trout seasons, when the streams and even some lakes are either open or closed for fishing. But the problem with the term ‘season’ is that it implies there is an off-season, when anglers can no longer target trout at all. Yet even when the main rivers are closed, all the Australian ‘trout states’ have lakes available for fishing and in places, there’s also the odd river with year-round access.
No trout calendar of mine would be complete without a trip or two ‘across the ditch’ to look forward to as well. So, with this never-ending season in mind, these are my month-by-month trout targets, based out of New South Wales.
New South Wales’ trout season opens on the October long weekend. Trout anglers wait for this weekend much like anxious shoppers await the Boxing Day sales. In preparation, we buy our gear, book our trips, and send endless planning emails until the actual day arrives.
As July is to accountants, so October is to New South Wales anglers – the start of our year. The cold winter fishing fades in my mind and I begin to explore the local rivers. For my home state’s faster-flowing trout streams, the higher and often cooler water requires focus on nymphing. Deep nymphing, via short-lined styles (e.g. Czech nymphing) or even under an indicator, can be a great way to get the best out of these streams early on.
Meanwhile, a range of streams can host rainbow trout holding in smaller holes and crevices – left over from the winter spawn-run and yet to return to their larger home river or lake. These fish only add to the October fun.
Typically, October trout are willing and active, enjoying good water levels and not having seen an angler since June.
Tip of the Month: Don’t wait for others reports, or worse, be deterred by those who get out before you. The season is young, plan some trips and make up your own mind about the state of our streams.
The weather and fishing opportunities make November one of my favourite months for trout fishing on mainland Australia. Everything is warming up and spring is in full swing. Alpine streams in New South Wales and Victoria with the most elevated catchments can still have flows which are higher and colder than ideal, but otherwise, the rivers are starting to level out and hit that perfect temperature range of 10 to 20 degrees. Trout are looking up more consistently and dry fly opportunities are becoming more common.
October, November and early December is a key period in the calendar for fishing more marginal areas. Central-West New South Wales, New England and the lower elevation areas on the eastern side of the Snowy Mountains, all offer their best before the summer heat kicks in. This is the period when I make sure my diary has plenty of fishing time set aside for these areas.
The more marginal regions often feature slower-flowing streams, which are a rich environment of food, weed and nutrients. Bigger trout tend to lurk in these waters, and a careful approach can bring them undone.
Tip of the Month: As the waters clear up and warm up, the dry fly activity will increase. Pack plenty of mayfly patterns. Fish still pools slowly and carefully, and look for slow-cruising browns.
Summer is here! While December brings the distraction of Murray cod season opening, the great trout fishing continues. Assuming good water levels and daytime temperatures, the action remains consistent across the mainland.
I quite often look for an excuse to sneak across the Tasman in December and pay New Zealand’s South Island a visit. At this time, much of the tourist traffic is yet to ramp up and the fishing is incredible.
Tip of the Month: As the days warm up, shift your focus to morning and evening sessions, and concentrate on shaded streams during the heat of the day. Consider wet-wading to increase your comfort and manoeuvrability on warmer days.
Unrelenting heat can make trout fishing challenging during the peak summer months. However, this isn’t always the case.
One January two years ago I had all but forgotten about trout fishing, with a heatwave right across New South Wales. But then a change in weather came along to disprove the saying ‘Wind from the east, fish bite the least.’ A cooling easterly system moved into the Blue Mountains, and the local streams quickly returned to more normal temperatures under chilly nights and cooler days. I was amazed at how fast the trout responded and we experienced a period of very good fishing.
Aside from waiting for these random cool changes to arrive, I tend to focus my January trout fishing on the beginning and end of the day. It’s remarkable to watch good hatches and rises in the early morning and evening, on rivers that are seemingly inactive during the day.
Tasmania is also a great trout diversion during summer. I have enjoyed some fantastic dry fly fishing over January in the Western Lakes – this area is a productive option when the mainland alternatives are heating up.
Tip of the Month: Look for larger bodies of water, and focus on the beginning and end of the day, when temperatures are lower. Capitalise on weather patterns bringing cooler weather/ summer rains.
Although I don’t focus too much on Australian trout fishing during February, I have been known to head to the high country streams of the Snowy Mountains during this time. Cooler water and bubbly rapids provide an environment where the trout continue to thrive. Time a trip to coincide with warm summer breezes blowing grasshoppers onto the water, and you’ll find some of the most exciting trout fishing on the calendar.
February is also prime-time for terrestrial fishing in New Zealand. I can almost hear the clicking and calling of cicadas, the clumsy moment they fall onto the water – and their rapid and inevitable consumption by a large brown! Fish a big cicada dry fly and you can have an enviable trout fishing experience.
Tip of the Month: Focus on cooler, high altitude streams in Australia. Plan a quality trip to chase big trout in NZ.
By this point in the season, I am often dragging myself back from New Zealand – March is also an exceptional month over there. Most of the tourist crowd have left, the mountain tops carry the first new snow and I enjoy some great fishing at this time.
The fishing in New South Wales and Victoria in March is largely dependent on the amount of rain over summer. In a wetter year, the slightly cooler nights trigger an increase in trout enthusiasm. However if the season and particularly summer has been dry, March can be a tough month to fish, especially in the more marginal districts.
Tip of the Month: Get out the maps, explore somewhere new – look for good post-summer rivers that still have a reasonable flow.
Along with October & November, April is up there with my favourite months to fish for trout on mainland Australia. As with early season, the trout mostly operate in gentlemen’s hours. I’m usually not on the water until 9am, with the activity focused between 10am and 4pm.
This year was a good example of what April can turn on in the Central-West and Southern Highlands streams of New South Wales. After a long hot, dry period from December to March, we were waiting for some rain and cooler nights. The rain never came, but the lower temperatures put the trout back in the mood. April was our best month of the season on these streams for dry fly fishing, with several mayfly hatches during the day, and cruising brown trout looking for a carefully-placed floater.
Tip of the Month: When the weather cools, the trout fishing will pick up. Sleep in and enjoy the warmest part of the day.
May offers a number of different options. The first half of the month can resemble the fishing in April, but as the weather cools further, the brown trout begin to change their mood.
Lake-run river fisheries such as the Thredbo, Eucumbene and Murrumbidgee come into their own, especially if there’s a well-timed dose of rain. While never a certainty, decent rain or snow freshening the rivers is a good chance to inspire the trout to begin their journey upstream to spawn. Worldwide, flyfishing for migrating salmonids has been around for generations. Some of the planet’s most protected and elite fisheries are based around this style of fishing, such as Atlantic salmon runs, North American steelhead, Argentinian sea-run brown trout, most of the Alaska fishery, and of course the Tongariro River closer to home.
Tip of the Month: Time a fishing trip to the Snowy Mountains to coincide with good rain.
I love June. I always try to sneak in a few final days on the New South Wales rivers before they close on the Monday of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. On my local streams, I target areas with predominantly rainbow trout, or at least mixed species. The rainbows haven’t quite switched off yet and I’ve even had success targeting rainbow trout on dry flies at this time.
I also start looking forward to some winter lake fishing. The Snowy lakes have delivered exceptional fishing over the past few winters, as have the ever-consistent Blue Mountains lakes. We have honed our lake fishing techniques over the past six years and June has become a consistent time to catch large trout.
Tip of the Month: Make the most of those final days on the trout rivers before they close. Do your research and you’ll find not all rivers that hold trout are ‘declared trout waters’. If you look hard enough, you might find a few that can be fished all year round.
This month our lake fishing is in full swing. There is sight-fishing to large cruising rainbow trout in Thompsons Creek Dam, and casting to slighter smarter brown trout on the edges of Lake Lyell. July also brings out our Snowy Mountains guide – Mickey Finn – and his love affair with brown trout in Tantangara Reservoir in the Snowy Mountains. The year-round options of mainland Australia make it an exceptional fishery.
Searching with streamer-style flies or fishing a team of nymphs with a slow retrieve or under an indicator, can prove to be an effective technique when sight-fishing isn’t an option.
Tip of the Month: Brave the cold. There are plenty of amazing lakes to fish across New South Wales & Victoria, often resulting in larger-than-average captures.
By August, my tolerance for fishing lakes has worn off, and I have usually escaped to a warmer saltwater destination. But to keep this calendar on theme, I have often ventured overseas during August in search of trout. I have fished for trout in the USA, Canada, Slovenia, Italy, England and Spain, just to name a few. It’s satisfying to compare the weather reports back home when you are enjoying the European or North American summer, wet wading through beautiful streams. While this isn’t a regular option for everyone, if an international trout escape is on the plans, August in the northern hemisphere is often the perfect time to do it.
Tip of the Month: Persist with the lakes, or head to somewhere warmer.
Spring has sprung and I am filled with mixed emotions. My experience of local spring fishing suggests that brown trout start to cruise the lake edges and provide some exceptional polaroiding during this month. I can remember arriving at Thompsons Creek Dam on the first day of spring several years ago, as the morning light was only just breaking through. I made my way along the east side of the lake and as soon as I had enough light to see, I noticed four large brown trout cruising past. I snuck in close and planned my attack. There is nothing better than competition for the fly, and the first to eat was an 8½ pounder! The bursts of warmer weather after the chill of winter, really can create some exceptional lake fishing.
September is also a great month to prepare for the upcoming stream opening. I spend plenty of time driving around checking water levels, meeting with farmers, and exploring new areas. Often I will walk the streams (without a rod of course) and look for fish. It’s surprising how much you see when you take your time walking a stream. When opening day comes around, all the hard work has been done.
The Victorian season opens one month before our NSW season, so a cross-border mission can also prove to be a very good September option.
Tip of the Month: Prepare for the new season ahead. Tie flies, explore new water, get out and practice your casting.
I’m sure we all tackle our trout calendar differently and mix it up year on year. That’s the joy of the species: there is so much variety within the one family of fish. Some of us love the simplicity of a small stream with a single Royal Wulff, while others won’t cast unless they see a rise or an actual trout. Some throw single handed rods, others prefer a double. Some love to fish big streamers, and others prefer a tiny dry fly. Whatever your passion, it’s great to know we live in a country with excellent fishing access, a diversity of locations and year-round options.
Trout, thanks for the good times!