A Season on the Thredbo

David explores the Thredbo River – with a little help from his friends.

In order, things in the world which are the most beautiful:

  • Model and actress Sofia Boutella.
  • Classic Italian supercars not permanently moored to a tow truck.
  • Almost anywhere along the Thredbo River on a crisp, clear day in late summer when the trout are active and willing.

Unfortunately for me, the first isn’t at all obtainable. And while the second could be made possible if I included the need for a tow truck, sold everything and squinted while looking at the figures, it’s a stretch I’m no longer silly enough to make.

Thankfully, for the cost of a bit of petrol, I can, in my not so attractive but never-need-a-tow truck Mazda, be fishing on the Thredbo River within a couple of hours.

Thankfully, a visit to the Thredbo at least is achievable.

As pretty as it is, however, the Thredbo River has not always flattered me as a flyfisher.

There’s been more than a few season-opening trips, when, day after day, the wind has blown so hard that casting wasn’t possible. Or, the river was so full of raging snowmelt, that, even if the wind wasn’t howling, getting a fly down to the fish (if they were there at all) was beyond impossible. Life can be fair, but not always easy.

I’ve also had several season-end trips looking for big brown trout when very low, crystal-clear water might as well have rendered the river fishless. Or there’s been a premature onset of winter, making conditions too miserable for even the die-hardest of the die-hards. Life can be hard.

If all that sounds bleak, know that even chumps get lucky sometimes, and I’ve also had many days when the spring rainbows ate all my deep run rigs in ideal conditions, or autumn browns hoovered up my carefully drifted nymphs like hungry bogans on KFC.

Autumn success for Jenna.

There’s also been the odd summer afternoon when rainbows, browns or even the occasional brookie hammered any large hopper fly, no matter how average the presentation. Life can be good.

Despite having fished the river over almost 40 years, I’ve remained humbled enough by it to know better than to present myself as any kind of local expert. Thankfully, I have three friends I regularly fish with who are gun Thredbo fly flickers, and I’ve picked their brains for some sound, basic seasonal advice.

Local tips

Matt Tripet

Matt is a true fish magnet anywhere on the river, but on the big runs below Paddy’s Corner early in the season, he’s half man, half cormorant. I recently watched him net a baker’s dozen in an hour while everyone else was having a very quiet day.

I’ll let Matt do the talking:

“Spring can be a great part of the trout season, but also challenging. Aside from short flood events at other times, spring will typically see our highest river levels for the season. The annual snow melt usually kicks in during late September and peaks throughout October. On systems like the Thredbo, this puts a lot of water between the fish. But on the flipside, with the rainbow trout fishery well and truly back after a quiet decade or so, these higher flows support rainbow spawning runs, also bringing a few browns up too.

Matt in action on the lower Thredbo.

Although I do love to get the 4 weight Switch rod out to swing some articulated creations each spring, nymphing rigs are really going to be your bread-and-butter to get more fish to hand.

Personally, I’m not much of a short-line nymph fisher. I love to cast, and I love to fish under an indicator; so this will sway my tips and tricks. I’m typically fishing a 10 foot 4 weight rod on the Thredbo early in the season, and I tend to fish the lower reaches. I like to concentrate on areas which will see fish holding as they wait to push up through water that requires a bit of commitment and energy.

Focussing closely on hitting seams, or the transition from faster to slower water, is something I really dial into when searching for fish. And teaming a natural-looking tungsten, or double tungsten nymph pattern with a soft egg a couple of foot behind, will always get the job done. I have a preference for heavy up front, and light out back.

When choosing your flies, you really need to be considering if they’re getting into that zone on the bottom. That’s where the fish are: resting in pockets behind stones and rocks, looking for an energy-efficient way up the river.”

Micah Adams

Micah Adams is almost a local because of his house at Crackenback, and the sheer volume of days he’s had on the river over his fishing lifetime.

I’ll also add that Micah only uses dry flies. I don’t mean he has nymphs but prefers dry flies. He’s a dry or die guy. If that sounds like a bad idea, know that in all the times I’ve fished with Micah, across a huge variety of trout water in all weather, through all seasons, I’ve never seen him draw a blank.

Micah’s main nugget of advice, and it’s a gold nugget, is to go longer than a typical Aussie 10-12 leader and stretch out to a more New Zealand-like 14-16 feet. Obviously, that comes with some potential problems for less experienced casters, but, judging by Micah’s fish-to-net numbers, it’s worth the practice.

Regarding flies, Micah says simply being able to see your dry is more important than exact matches or counting tail fibres. His favourite is the High-viz PMX in size 8, 10 or 12 to match the big duns, stoneflies and hoppers you get on the Thredbo. You’ll also find the Guide Chute and the equally chunky and effective Indi Klink in his box. All are from the Manic Tackle collection.

Micah on the upper Thredbo.

Micah fishes fairly fast and walks past a lot of water to spend more time on the more obvious pockets and pools. He’s also very good at spotting fish, and will sometimes have a long look from a safe vantage point before throwing a line.

Finally, Micah stresses that familiarity with the river is important, and repeated trips to the same stretches can pay dividends.

Craig ‘Daff’ Daley

Imagine if Alec Baldwin landed a role playing the quintessential Australian flyfishing guide and you’ve got Daff. There’s the same thick, gravelly voice delivered in a thick ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi’ accent, and the reassuring confidence from years of experience.

As a guide on the Thredbo River for 26 years, Daff has surely seen everything his clients have done wrong as much as right, and his advice reflects some basic truths which cut across flyfishing on any water.

The first is to check that your leader and tippet are in good shape, so you don’t lose what might be the fish of your lifetime due to simple terminal tackle failure.

Next, on casting – something Daff is very good at both teaching and doing – he suggests you get your practice in before coming to the Thredbo. In places, it’s a big, clear river, and tailing loops and poor presentations are not going to bring Hollywood results.

Craig netting a good fish on the lower river.

Daff also recommends fishing with confidence. (Something I’ve witness firsthand with all these guys.) Every time the fly hits the water, it’s in play. Every drift has a chance to be eaten. Pay close attention. Be a cormorant.

Last, Daff wants us all to slow down and be aware of the water, the currents, the bugs on offer – and the fish potentially right at our feet. Observation is key to success on the Thredbo.

My own advice, and this applies to any water, is that time spent with a professional guide, particularly for newer flyfishers, is the best way to learn flyfishing.

Beginners can get the kind of real-world instruction in casting, reading and fishing the water; proper knots and rigging, fly selection and stalking, which might take years to learn on their own. Even seasoned anglers can get local knowledge that could be the difference between a very fishy or fish-less trip.

Heading up the Thredbo

As access goes, the Thredbo is now almost as easy to get at as it is to look at. The recently completed Thredbo Valley Track now runs alongside most of the river, meaning there’s now access to several stretches that used to be very difficult to reach.

As great as this new track is, it can be very busy with stupid mountain bikers, especially during holiday periods and weekends. For what it’s worth, I say ‘stupid’ not because I think there’s anything wrong with riding a bike, and nor have I ever had anything but pleasant interactions with mountain bikers along the river. It’s just that mountain bikes tend to be ridden through Australian trees, and these trees, being made of some of the hardest wood in the world, are inclined to do a lot of damage to old fools like myself who forget they’re no longer a bulletproof twenty-something year old. No doubt you can assess the cycling risks yourself, but I’ll stick to walking.

Anyway, to keep things simple while describing the main access points, I’ll divide the river into four parts: lower, middle, upper and twig.


The lower river offers the most productive fishing for the trout which have run up from the nearby Lake Jindabyne, especially during the period after the opening of the trout season in October, and the month or two before its close in early June. While it can get busy at the locations accessible by car, a little walking goes a long way towards finding your own water. That said, even with a fair crowd of anglers, the fishing can still be very good.

The lower river is popular for a reason!

The Thredbo River picnic area is on the National Park side of the Kosciuszko Road bridge, about 9km from Jindabyne. From here, you can walk and fish your way up a rough foot track the 1.5 kilometres to the Paddys Corner reserve near the Gaden Trout Hatchery, or follow the tracks downstream to Lake Jindabyne and fish back up.

From the picnic area to the lake is often fairly wild and boisterous, but it’s great water for stalking big lake-run fish in spring and autumn. Upstream, there are long runs between a few very big pools. This is arguably the best water on the river to turn downriver and swing a streamer. Nymphing in spring is brilliant when the rainbows are up from the lake, and I’ve seen rafts of very fussy browns in lower flows at the season’s end. For visual fishing, this is the place.

Spring browns like this are worth a bit of effort.


The only public access to the middle river’s 15-odd kilometres of water between Paddys Corner reserve and the Ski Tube, is via the Thredbo Valley Track, an undertaking requiring some commitment. In the past, I’ve been to a couple spots here via private property, and I’ve also fished a fair way up above the Gaden Trout Hatchery (while noting the extensive fishing exclusion zone). However, this is not my favourite part of the river because, in most spots, moving upriver is made difficult by very deep pools and huge boulders. Perhaps you’re more adventurous, though I wouldn’t recommend this stretch for beginners regardless.

Of course, when combined with a mountain bike, the Thredbo Valley Track and no fear of trees, this is potentially adventure fishing at it’s very best.


Not feeling that adventurous? The Alpine Way, surely one of the most scenic roads in Australia, closely follows the river from just above the Little Thredbo River, all the way up to Dead Horse Gap. For this section, the first straightforward access is around the Ski Tube.

Picture-perfect water around the Ski Tube.

Downstream from here, there are a lot of slow, even glides perfect for swinging wets; while upstream, glides turn to wide runs and then pools and pocket water. In contrast to the previous section, this is a great area for beginners with easy wading (well, by Thredbo standards) and plenty of room to swing a rod.

Next up, there’s good access at the ranger station, and both Ngarigo and Thredbo Diggings campgrounds.

Near the Ranger Station.

Then there’s Thredbo Village itself, where you can show off your flyfishing skills to the public if you don’t mind fairly tight water and occasional silly questions from cute backpackers or stupid mountain bikers.

Upstream from the village, along the golf course, the river is very picturesque, and though quite hemmed in by trees like in the village, it’s well worth a look. Above that, things get quite wild up to Dead Horse Gap with boulders, deep wading and whitewater. At almost any point along this part of the Alpine Way, the river is no more than a short bush-bash away and is never boring.


And now my favourite – the twiggy stuff. At Deadhorse Gap, the Alpine Way crosses the river before continuing towards communist Victoria. At the small parking area before the bridge, a gated National Parks Service road offers easy foot (or stupid mountain bike) access to several kilometres of excellent twig water.

The first kilometre or so is classic Snowy Mountains small stream, with lots of pockets, short runs and shorter pools. Further up, it mellows into more of a classic meadow stream. All of it screams dry fly, although I’ve had some great days on small gold bead-head nymphs under indicators drifted through any of the deeper bits. The fish up here are usually nothing like some of the horses of the lower river. But once in a while, something bigger comes along to check the strength of your heart and leader. I leave this section alone in anything but ideal conditions in summer or early autumn.

FLYSTREAM FACTS: Guide contacts, Accommodation, & National Park access

Matt and Daff are both excellent instructors and can be contacted for guided trips at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively. 

Accommodation is everywhere, including for all budgets in Jindabyne, and for some budgets in Thredbo Village. Plus, there are resorts, farm-stays, B&Bs, etc. There are also several very well-maintained and beautiful campgrounds, with The Diggings and Ngarigo being right on the river. During holidays and weekends, all of this can get very busy with day-trippers, serious bushwalkers and stupid mountain bikers, but can, on the other hand, be blissfully quiet during the week. Whatever the crowd factor, with a little walking, it’s never all that hard to find some solitude on the Thredbo River.

Making a careful crossing during high spring flows, Bullocks Hut area.

Much of the southern part of the Kosciuszko National Park (which surrounds a fair bit of the Thredbo) requires a vehicle pass unless you’re driving straight through – and you won’t be doing that if you stop to fish. You can get a day or a season pass from the Parks office in Jindabyne, and at the park entrances. Season passes are also available online.