Autumn in the north-east

In some ways, I can chart my flyfishing history based on fish lost, more readily than on fish caught. That ‘net flipper’ brown on a frosty May morning at Glen Valley on the Mitta, before I was old enough to drive. The cat-eye Chinook at Bullen Merri, finally beaten, only to have the hook pop out just as Muz arrived and I was reaching for the net. The ‘dropper snagged’ black monster on the Thredbo (need I say more) … There are dozens like that, all vividly memorable.

Well, after Monday, I have another one. I was fishing up a broad, fast run on an over-inflated but crystal clear Kiewa. The smoke haze was just clearing thanks to the gentle push of northerly breeze, and a few yellow leaves were fluttering onto the river. I’d fished for half an hour for no sign of a fish, something I blamed on the river being a foot (and a few hundred megalitres) higher than I like it.

The Kiewa was bigger than it looks in this picture. That’s the log I describe upstream on the right.

Then the indicator dipped, and I lifted into what I immediately knew was the fish of the trip. To confirm it, a dark, broad-shouldered male brown of at least 4 pounds leapt clear out of the water, and decided to head for Wodonga. With the force of the water, this may have been achievable, but then, the fish inexplicably turned and head up and past me. There was hope! Now that the fish was fighting me and the current, I took the opportunity to apply some serious side strain. The trout’s response was to doggedly tractor its way across the river, towards a big, long log jutting out from the far bank, and decorated with lesser snags.

Of course, I did what I could, including trying to follow the fish; although a few metres from the log, I realised I wasn’t going to get any further without a swim in the 11 degree water. In slow motion, the trout, traced by the indicator and then the fly-line, made it under the log. I could still feel it for a few more seconds, and then nothing but dead weight as the current thrummed on the line. After a minute or so, the indicator suddenly came back at me, minus the gold-beaded black nymph.

A fish in the hand… A good Ovens brown to Max.

Besides that incident, I have to say that the last few days up in north-east Victoria have been autumnally idyllic. The King tailwater was a little low, the Kiewa tailwater (as we have just seen) a little high, but the streams with natural flows were a picture – clear, cold and gentle autumn currents, with a nice smattering of mayfly (especially size 14 sulphur duns) from late morning until late afternoon. And the autumn colours were… well, look at pictures.

The actual fishing was best if you were patient, careful, delicate, and didn’t become too fixated on either nymph or dry. One hour, a trailing nymph dropper was just in the way of trout trying to eat the dry (a size 14 para Adams for Max, a light tan JD Shaving Brush for me).

Not just the trees that are colourful. Australian Yamame anyone?

Then, just when you were ready to contemptuously ditch the nymph (small, gold beaded, brown or black) it would snare a nice fish, and all the missed strikes would be forgiven.

The rainbows seem extra fat and strong this autumn.

We were lucky with the weather, departing for home yesterday just as the wind really started to get angry, and the first fat drops of rain hit. Snow was falling on the mountains by nightfall, and on the back of the last big cold front a week ago, another sudden drop in temperature probably won’t do the north-east stream fishing any favours. Then again, could there be one or two more bursts of settled weather, and further chances at the north-east’s autumn paradise?

Au revoir Buckland.