Winter on the Snowy Lakes

Dawns like this are one in a million

Dawns like this are one in a million

In Canberra we’ve had a cold and wet start to the winter.  Late May and June were bone dry until we had a whole month’s rain in 3 days towards the end of June. As I left home for some work in Brussels at the end of the week it was -5°C and  Briggsy the dog developed a limp – which I’m pretty sure is a protest at the cold conditions.image5

The fishing has been parked while my shoulder repairs after surgery but I can give a bit of a Snowy lakes fishing report based on hearsay from those lucky enough to be wetting a line.

The rivers are now closed until October.  The few hardy souls still fly fishing are not reporting many fish, but in Eucumbene a few very robust rainbows have been caught. The fish are generally being caught deep. The trollers have been reporting fish not just at depth, but on flat lines fished over water 8 metres and deeper. Water temperature is at play here. At this time of year there may be warmer water under the very cold surface layer – whilst cold water is denser than warm water and sinks, once it reaches 4°C it doesn’t get any denser so it floats on top – otherwise the ice would be on the bottom of the lake!  Fish may avoid super chilled shallow water close in where the wind chill is driving down the surface temperature – but get 50 metres offshore and the thermal mass is warming it quicker than it can chill – maybe that’s why our big lakes don’t freeze.  On a May trip to the Moonbah we saw fish sunbaking and rising to big dries in patches of sunlight in 6°C water. Just a thought, I think the fish might be coming to the surface from deeper water for a bit of a warm up in the winter sun – or is that anthropomorphism again? Anyway, I suggest if you want to try to chase these fish get a fast sinking line and find some deep water close to the bank, or if you’re in the boat do what the trollers do and find the fish on a sounder and target them.  I’d like to say I’ve tried this but the super-fast sinking line is still on the wish list – although I did use a fast sinking Scientific Angler line on Pitt Lake in Vancouver in 2000 to very successfully chase cut-throat trout on gravel in 10 metres of water.

A few thoughts if you’re thinking of a winter trip. Polaroiding on Eucumbene and Tantanagara is great fun. Find a high bank with the sun rising behind you so you can see through the first 10 to 15 metre of water from the bank. Find the best spots to watch for fish and get the fly in front of them when they’re cruising your way and freeze, twitching the fly as it approaches. Really watch your stream craft – stay low, avoid too much profile against a skyline, and move as little as you can. If you can have a buddy spotting for you from way up the bank all the better.  Don’t worry too much about fussy flies. If they’re in close they’re hunting and if you fish something big and wriggly that moves like food they’ll come and have a look. On the right day you could never accuse these fish of being too fussy.  Never asume because you can’t see a fish there isn’t one there. Often a second fish will come in for a look when you’re targeting another. Once the wind comes up remember where you saw fish and fish as if you can see them. By that I mean don’t cast your line to the horizon because if you do that’s where you’ll send the fish. If you know they’re coming into the sunlight in the shallower water then fish short lines. One non fishing thing – in winter there’s a lot of cabin time, so make sure you can stand the company of your fellow cabinees or cabinettes!

A mighty fish for a 4 weight outfit

A mighty fish for a 4 weight outfit

My first post-shoulder-surgery escape was a long weekend on Caddigat Lakes. Andrew, Chris, John and David came along for various parts of the weekend. I wanted to see how the lakes are going after a long season. I admit to a bit of left handed casting, and a few gentle right arm casts with my elbow tucked into my ribs, but it was all very awkward and very uncomfortable so I did a lot of watching and advising and left the rod in the car. We had -9°C on the Saturday morning with the ice freezing in the runners every morning so it wasn’t a huge hardship.Big fish on a 4 weight

Lake reflection

Caddigat lakes are in great condition. A lot of the heavy lake-edge weed has died back making it much easier to fish the margins and opening up the Polaroid fishing on the Rodney George. All in all they look superb and fished well.  The last round of stocked fish are moving around in possies (dodging the cormorants) and there are some fish well over 1lb amongst them. The fish were a bit plucky, with takes often very soft. But in one dam in particular which had a bit of colour after the rain, bigger fish were chasing the fly and grabbing it right at our feet. Andrew got the biggest rainbow breaking in his new Sage 4 weight outfit with a monster. David landed one fish over an ice ledge in the corner of Kidney Dam – to prove how cold it was.Fish on ice

That’s all from Brussels, the European heat wave, and the talk of the European Capital (the Greek financial crisis).  I’m going to try and have a fish on the way back to Oz, just not quite sure where yet, but you-all will be the first to know.


May your fly remain dry and your tippet tight.  Cheers, Steve (