An autumn session on the Toorongo

Over Easter we had a family trip to Neerim South in West Gippsland. It’s an area I’ve always  wanted to explore; in particular the Toorongo River. With lovely weather and plenty of sunshine, the Toorongo could hardly have looked more appealing – although given the holiday weekend, there were a lot of people about and the carparks at the historic trestle bridge and Toorongo Falls were packed. Similarly, plenty of anglers were testing their skills on the Toorongo trout.

Not surprisingly given the crowds, the pokey water was best.

For my first foray, I picked a less busy spot and soon discovered that the often overgrown and inaccessible parts of the river also meant casting was tricky, with a bow-and-arrow cast usually the only option available. However, if you could land a fly in the right area, a willing trout would be likely to attack it. I started with a Geehi Beetle but in the sometimes tricky afternoon light, I soon switched to a slightly larger and more visible Royal Wulff. The results were almost immediate. I’m not sure if it was the fish switching on as the late afternoon approached, or the change in fly but along one run there were three separate trout willing to slash at the Wulff, one of which found its way to the net.

The Toorongo trout weren’t huge, but they were great fighters and beautifully marked.

A bit further on, a deeper pool justified the addition of a nymph. After checking there were no fish in the trees behind me (twice) I finally got the flies in the right area. As I was just starting to lift the flies out of the water at the end of a long drift, a lively brown grabbed the nymph and was soon cartwheeling across the water. Whilst not large, the Toorongo trout were in good condition and fought hard for their size on a 4 weight. During the next two hours I caught and released a few more fish and missed an absolute beauty that was happily rising around some snags just below a fallen log. I was able to creep up behind it along the bank, cast over the blackberries and bounce the fly off the log into the water. I’m not sure if the fly actually hit the water before the trout rose to intercept its flight. Unfortunately, I was just as enthusiastic and struck way too early, sending the flies into the overhanging branches before offering myself some words of encouragement to pause before striking (or words to that effect).

Open water like this demanded a very careful approach.

Nonetheless, the afternoon was an absolute delight and each bend in the river revealed different water which was a new puzzle to solve. With the water at low autumn levels, the trout were not easy to catch and required precise placement hard up against the banks or snags to draw a rise. In the more open areas, staying low and out of the water helped avoid spooking the fish – as I discovered when I spooked five in the one pool, a new PB…

I’d highly recommend a trip to the Toorongo this autumn, particularly if you can get there during the week and avoid the crowds.