Caenid Sippers on the Goulburn River

The Goulburn can be a tricky river. At times it can send flyfishers insane, pushing them onto the surrounding streams instead. This year’s start to the season has been unlike other years with the majority of rivers above Eildon experiencing flood, while the mighty Goulburn was often reduced to a minimum release of 130 ML/d of discoloured water.

During the grand final weekend I spent some time at my caravan in Thornton with good friend and fishing buddy Adam Cox. We discussed what the Victorian floods meant for the Goulburn as increased water releases were not anticipated for some time. We pondered what we’d find once the river cleared and we received a few days of good weather. What hatches would we get? Would the fish play the game? The questions were endless.

Fast forward to the 15th of  October and the planets mysteriously aligned. There was little rain in the region for the week prior and the predicted maximum temp. was 24C. I arrived at Thornton Beach at 6 am and trekked upstream to see if I could spot any moochers. The river looked amazing and there were a few sippers under the willows on the opposite side of the river. I tried to figure out what they were taking but couldn’t see any insect activity.

I set up with old faithful, a size 16 Goulburn Caddis Emerger. To my surprise and delight I nailed the cast, the fish played the game and I landed a nice 1lb brown. As the morning progressed I noticed a hatch of caenids, the dreaded ‘anglers curse’. I’ve seen these hatch before but this was next level. By around 10:30am and the water was bubbling. I didn’t know which trout to cast to, it was that chaotic with swirls and boils everywhere. Despite this, by lunch I’d landed a further 5 fish before the hatch subsided due to wind. The conditions I’d enjoyed had been rare over the last few years and I was euphoric.


I quickly arranged an afternoon fishing session with mates Marty, Ron & Kris and briefed them on the incredible session I’d experienced only hours earlier. After my enticing tales, they were eager to get to the river.

Fortunately for my reputation, the afternoon did not disappoint. There were fish in abundance and my voice rang out across the river, “Caenids!” Within half an hour we were all onto fish. It was a priceless occasion – a hatch that dreams are made of, and on our favourite river.


Ron landed a couple of healthy fish around the 2.5lb mark and the remainder of us landed a few in the 1-2lb range. The majority of the trout took a size 18 parachute pattern. The trick was to have the fly’s post hovering just above the surface as the fish were taking the spent caenids sitting in the film. As the afternoon wore on, swarms of duns and caddis started to emerge, taking the rise into the evening.


At the end of this magical day we’d landed around 60 fish between the four of us – a day to declare that the season was finally in full flight.