Autumn Frost and Smoke Haze, North-east Victoria – Pt 2

After a few days of challenging but satisfying fishing on the upper Mitta & tributaries, Max and I headed north to meet up with my brother Mark and our mate David. This part of the trip was all about tailwaters – the big, powerful, semi-artificial rivers flowing out of our water storages; in this case the lower Mitta Mitta, followed by the Swampy Plain River. Fishing big water again required a bit of readjustment. With lots of turbulence and depth to keep the trout feeling safe, staying out of sight was no longer the issue – we had fish take flies right beside us. However there were new demands, which included keeping up with what the trout were feeding on, and exactly where in the river to focus? In typical tailwater fashion, both factors changed every few hours – sometimes even more often than that.   You’d have an ‘Aha!’ moment, and then after a fish or two, slowly realise it wasn’t working anymore.

Max tries plan D on the lower Mitta.

The evening rise was patchy for Kossie duns on the lower Mitta, but some areas had reasonable spinner falls.

Max and I played hooky for an hour on the gorgeous, crystal clear Nariel Creek and quickly landed a dozen trout, but that was it for the fast – or at least easy – fishing.  On the tailwaters, you had to put in: deep nymphing, across and down, giant dries, tiny flies, two flies… they all worked at times and then didn’t.

Some light relief on the Nariel Ck. It's great to see this stream fishing so well.

Some light relief on the Nariel Ck. It’s great to see this stream fishing so well.

Call me shallow, but I think what motivated me to keep at it on the Mitta and then the Swampy was the possibility of a really big trout. On both tailwaters, everyone landed several good fish among the regulation ‘pannies’ – two even three pounders. And yet we seemed unable to catch the real monsters. Max had a Mitta trout with a head the size of his hand eat a Kossie Dun in broad daylight, Mark lost a leaping 5 pound plus brown there after a long fight, Dave had a similarly large fish push his Royal Wulff with its nose, and I hooked something I couldn’t stop one evening. And that’s just a sample of our respective big fish encounters. Sometimes, knowing they’re there but not actually landing them is a more powerful motivator than success. Yes, the valleys looked beautiful and the autumn colours were fabulous, but I think what we all really wanted was to see at least one of those outsized trout in the net.

Lovely water and all that, but can we have a 5 pounder please?

Lovely water and all that, but can we have a 5 pounder please?

It was Dave who finally broke the big trout drought. Fishing a nice soft edge on a long glide, Dave’s indicator with two nymphs beneath disappeared. An anxious several minutes later, Mark slipped his net under the fish of the trip. It had eaten a smallish tungsten beaded PTN on a grub hook. Let me tell you, afterwards we all turned our boxes inside out looking for exact copies! Sure enough, a few more trout took that fly, but no more monsters – well none that we can confirm.

Finally! Dave shows us how it's done by actually landing one of the fish we'd all encountered.

Finally! Dave shows us how it’s done by actually landing one of the beauties we’d all encountered.

Sitting here now at my desk reliving the fishing, the trout, the food (thankyou Bernard Holbery for the magnificent salami and pork sausages) and the long and hilarious evening debriefs with friends, I think how lucky I am to live somewhere where I can jump in a car and have 5 days of fishing like that.