After fire activity in the north-east subsided following recent good rain, I headed up to the Bright area. The plan was to check out some of the affected areas. Unfortunately, many roads were still closed in the areas that were burnt, limiting my ability to explore those places. However there was plenty of water to fish closer to Bright and Mount Beauty. Perhaps unsurprisingly (at least to those who’ve followed the fire situation closely) what I found was as if nothing had happened at all.
On the first day I fished Morses Creek. While getting into the water in one spot, a shinny, fat, red-belly black snake was sunning itself on the river bank. And 2 feet up from him, in the edge water, sat a very nice, fat brown trout! Now, I’m not that concerned about snakes, and the cast was eminently doable. But on second look, I thought it best not to disturb the brown thing, lest the black thing take offence! The Morses had a good head of fish, but they were extremely on guard due to the low levels. Long leaders were needed – and long legs too, to pull my fly out of the many branches that hang overhead! The fish I caught were all on submerged dry flies; the ones that are not meant to sink, but when they do, trout seem to love them more.
The next day, I fished a section of the Kiewa River below Mount Beauty. The campsites were still pretty full, and there was some cheering from the nearest camp as my second cast produced a fish. I was using a downstream-swung team of soft hackles for something different, and the choice looked good. But alas, I then proceeded to only get bumps and slow follows. The trout seemed to be more reflective and not in an eating mood.
Late afternoon, I turned to fish upstream and put a hopper-dropper on, to cover the water back to the car. Again, second cast produced a fish, on the nymph. This time, the instant success did in fact signal the beginning of solid fishing and trout kept eating the nymph. Some great water, and good technical fishing. It was the equivalent of having playing 17 holes of golf poorly, but then on that last hole, everything comes together and you still walk off the green with a smile!
On the final day, I headed to the Ovens above Harrietville. I had a late start following a nice social evening in one of the restaurants the night before. Then, as I drove into Harrietville, I realised I had forgotten my waders too, delaying the start by a further 45 minutes. Bugger! (Fishing time is pure gold on my balance sheet.) I planned a combination of Czech nymphing the deeper pools, and then drifting some dainty CDC on a classic bamboo rod. In other words, moving between the polar ends of the flyfishing spectrum in one session.
The Czech nymph produced two trout quickly, both on a Perdigon-style fly tied with a 2.7mm Hanak body + bead. Then I turned a corner and there was another flyfisher facing upstream ahead of me… this meant I now had to hike 6km up to the next entry point, which was fine. I had a very late lunch where the hike ended and the fishing restarted. The photo shows a burnt-out tree stump at the spot, which actually was from the 2013 Harrietville fire. Switching to the purist form of the art, many smaller fish jumped on the little CDC sedge, and although my fish time was only 3 hours, the walk, the experience and the fishing were as rejuvenating as if it was a full day, although I prefer a full day of course…
Summer isn’t over and there is some more hot weather before we might see further rain. Yet the towns in the north-east are opening up for business again and there is a lot of great water to fish without being near the recent hotspots. So explore the area, expect to be versatile in your approach… and don’t forget your waders!