A quiet opening day

So, a new trout river season has begun, though perhaps without the usual excitement and build-up. Even so, I was looking forward to standing in running water again and at least having a look on Opening Day.

Although the car was packed with gear – and I use the term ‘packed’ very loosely – the steady drum of rain on my tin roof throughout Friday night didn’t bode well for a fish in the morning. This winter has been a good one for rain and with full dams and sodden soils, any precipitation quickly turns to runoff.

Packed and ready!

Saturday was cold, bleak and a bit showery. My travel limit only allowed access to a couple places on the Goulburn, but I still felt fortunate that I could get out of the house for my 2 hours of fishing exercise. With some guarded optimism, it was on with the waders and boots, into the car, and down to the river. Not a person in sight at the Breakaway, although sitting on the bridge over a somewhat swollen river with water the colour of dishwater, I could see why!

With wipers on and bleak weather, my 2 hours exercise could wait, and I turned the car around and went back home, made a coffee, and watched a few more YouTube videos.

Time for a tactical retreat.

I was back down for the last two hours of light. I’m not averse to fishing coloured water. As Philip Weigall’s recent editorial pointed out, a fish’s lateral line and senses can compensate for loss of visual acuity. I’ve also watched a couple of YouTube videos about fishing dirty water which give further confidence.

Mind you, fishing dirty water is a real mind game. Casting a fly while being knee-deep and unable to see your wading boots, it’s hard to maintain confidence. But our eyesight and senses were not developed for streams, and you have to remind yourself that trout and other fish have been doing this for a very long time – so you have to trust their abilities.

I fished Saturday night swinging soft hackle wets in the riffles, and when that didn’t work, changed to a large dark Woolly Bugger. I fished till dark for not a bump.

A look at the river Sunday wasn’t encouraging. The water was higher still, more like a summer irrigation flow, and had turned a yellowish-brown. Visibility was only a couple of inches at best, so it was cue in the rack, game over. River blown out. I had to cool my jets a bit until the river settled and dropped.

By Monday night, the river was still discoloured but clearing, with about 30 cm visibility. Walking upstream, I spooked three small fish right in the very shallows. I didn’t see them until they zoomed off. Again, I swung wets and used Woolly Buggers and again, no bumps. By Tuesday night, the river had dropped considerably and back to more normal early season flows and while still coloured, it was clearing slightly. Besides the odd small fish splashing right on dark, the peace on the river was only disturbed by some coots, the resident platypuses, and the occasional huge audible gulp and turbulence from the none-to-subtle breaking of the surface by the recently-released large rainbows.

Small improvement.

So, opening for me has not been a great success so far. If you are in lockdown and lamenting you couldn’t fish the Goulburn or our other streams on Opening Day, you can take comfort that you haven’t missed much at this point. Further afield, it seems the widespread heavy rain last Friday/ Saturday would have impacted most trout streams across Victoria.

It is early days however, and we know how quickly things can improve on the rivers as spring rolls on and the season progresses. The good flows over winter and recently, will benefit the trout streams into summer and I’m looking forward to what the new season brings – even if it’s taking a few days to get going.