Why am I always surprised when, two weeks before Christmas, it’s like a mass evacuation occurred from the Snowy Mountains? Balls of tumble weed roll down main street, the sheriff stands idly outside the saloon looking for troublemakers, and the town store closes early. The rivers are deserted. You can lie in bed for an extra hour, and still pick your beat, and all we then need are some cooperative fish. As if in conspiracy with our red-spotted prey, the wind howls and the trees swing and sway like a drunken sailor; every second cast landing anywhere except where it was intended. But you can’t have everything.
I can only imagine all those poor khaki-clad fishers walking around their local Westfield mall, looking uncomfortable and shopping uncomfortably. Anyway, that’s their problem not ours; we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Of course, it wasn’t all play. The charter boat is moving to Sydney Harbour (with Stephen as Master) so boat trailer bearings needed greasing and brakes adjusting, and the deck was long overdue a pressure wash of the accumulated clay and mud that comes hand-in-glove with low lake levels and tractor tyre wading boots.
A solid few days saw us fish the Eucumbene River, Tantangara, the Murrumbidgee, and Yarrangobilly – we didn’t blank anywhere but we worked hard for all our fish. The biggest one was the one that got away. I saw it swim across the pool rise, tick, tock, strike, then mayhem as this 5lb plus brown leapt repeatedly in the swollen river; ran downstream; hugged the bank; ran back to the pool and came within a foot of a sandy shore banking before screaming off upstream taking 30 metres of line down to the backing, right into a hole in an undercut bank. I think about that time I realised it was probably jagged in the dorsal fin. No mouth-hooked fish could do that run after more than 5 minutes of seriously applied pressure. Anyway, the Sage got a good work out with a magnificent bend, worthy of a big kingy. A few pools later and Stephen got onto a nice 4lb fish. I was supposed to be videoing it but thought the dingo on the ridge more worthy.
There’s a small montane flow out of Tantangara dam down the Murrumbidgee but not enough for the best pools immediately downstream to be fishing well. Yarrangobilly was like a low flow Eucumbene, and the Eucumbene was too fast and furious to make it comfortable to fish. The Murrumbidgee at the Travelling Stock Route downstream of Bolero was in the grass and even though we only saw a few rising fish there was a spectacular dun hatch right on dark, with some of the mayfly as big as a 20 cent piece.
Anyway, as usual the trip was too short and my wheezy cold was made worse by the massive dust cloud that reduced visibility to just a few hundred metres, lending an eerie atmosphere to the deserted rivers. So, what next? I’m back again on Friday, to beat the Boxing Day rush. If there’s nothing stopping you get in the car and go now. You’ll easily find a place all to yourself.
Reports from all over the mountains are of slow fishing. There are some good reports of browns in close on the flooded banks as lake levels rise, and Tantangara looked magnificent. I threw a big dry around, hooked one, missed three and should have done better. In three and a half months Lake Eucumbene has risen from 18.5 to 27.3% (46% same time last year); Jindabyne is at 82.5%; and Tantangara is at 48.4%. My pick of the lakes is Tantangara and I’ll be there again very soon.
Have a great festive season and a fishy new year, and I hope Santa tops up your favourite fly box!