Autumn Wanderings in the Goulburn catchment

This trip began winding through the green-tinged hills of the Goulburn valley under a hazy autumn sun. I was on my own to start with, and after a hectic week, it was good to have no fixed itinerary. With no partner to consult or meet up with, I was able to choose streams and fishing time almost on a whim. First stop was the King Parrot Creek near Flowerdale – clear and skinny, with near-flowless pools. In the bright conditions, I stalked the shadows like a Ninja (I hoped) and fished a tiny Adams on unusually light tippet (5X) by my standards. But I still easily spooked two small browns before finally fooling an 10 incher in the only swift little run with any depth. With honour somewhat restored, I drove two valleys east to the Murrundindi.

I’ve learnt over time that the Murrundindi flows very well even in dry periods, so I was pleased but not surprised to find a healthy current rushing under the first bridge I crossed. The river always carries a tinge of colour, and this coupled with its sometimes silty/ sandy bed, means it’s a less classically pretty trout stream than many of its Goulburn catchment neighbours. Maybe that’s why I don’t take it quite as seriously as, say, the Rubicon or Steavenson. Yet as I was reminded in the very first glide I fished, maybe that’s a mistake.

Like a spring creek, and there were trout among that strap-weed.

Amid the waving strap-weed reminiscent of a spring creek, I noticed one strand slightly darker and moving differently – a trout! First cast with yellow Stimulator and up he came, not a care in the world, and soon I’d opened the account with a 13 inch brown. How different to the King Parrot! A couple of ‘charm bracelets’ followed, and then I came to a substantial pool. The deeper water accentuated the discoloured water and made it look unappealing – until I saw a rise, and another.

One of several reckless Murrundindi rainbows.

What followed was one of the more delightfully chaotic sessions of my season, as rainbows from tiny to a pound seemed to pounce on my fly every few casts. Of special note was a fish that rose a rod length away as I was releasing another – and then cheerfully ate my fly. Yet another nice trout grabbed the Stimulator as I dragged it behind me around a log jam, and I caught that one too! I suppose if flyfishing was always so easy, we’d eventually lose interest. But bookended as this session was by the tough King Parrot and (as I was to discover) much more challenging fishing to come, it was laugh-out-loud fun.

Bug blizzard on the Goulburn.

After leaving the Murrundindi, more by chance than careful planning I met JD and his son Scott on the Goulburn; right in time for the evening rise. Arriving to air thick with caddis, mayfly spinners, and rises already, it looked like we were in for a treat. Although high-ish for late April at 4000 ML/d, the Goulburn was a picture. Dozens of trout were rising all over the couple of hundred metres of run we walked up to at 5pm, and only stopped about the time we walked away, unable to see our flies anymore, some time after 6.30pm.

A hard-won brownie on an emerging caddis.

No Murrundindi-like cooperation from the trout here though. This was the Goulburn in all her exasperating ‘technical’ glory, as individual trout stopped, started, moved around and had us striding back and forth. A particular fly would eventually succeed (in my case a caddis emerger, tiny spinner and big parachute Adams respectively) only to then be ignored by subsequent fish. Was the focus of the rise changing as the balance of particular bugs in the insect ‘blizzard’ shifted? Or were the four trout I landed out of countless rises covered, just lucky down-the-throat presentations? I don’t honestly know, but it was great fun and a reminder that for all its challenges, the Goulburn is certainly deserving of its popularity.

Another bluebird autumn morning yesterday didn’t make it easy for me (and this time with JD) to decide where to go. I think we worked our way through at least 8 options before taking a deep breath and settling on the Delatite.

Fishing in a painting on the Delatite.

Well, the little river where I learnt to fish simply could not have looked more lovely, as the pictures show. It was at about typical autumn level – low, but not painfully so, and very clear. As for the fishing, it was not as easy as we thought it might be given the idyllic conditions. But we still managed to catch several trout (plus the obligatory misses) and it was impossible to be even a little miffed while being on such a river on such a day.

Autumn rainbow on the Delatite.

On the drive home, JD and I casually wondered if we should have fished a nymph more; particularly on the Delatite but also elsewhere. I used a dry alone just about all trip, maybe in subconscious recognition that classic stream dry fly conditions mightn’t be around much longer. We also wondered if perhaps this was the last trip this season for wet wading too. In any case, if it was the finale on either count, it was a good way to go out.