Steve enjoys fishing with a bit of history in Kosciuszko National Park.
Currango Homestead is a NSW National Parks heritage-listed property in the Kosciuszko National Park. It is the oldest regional example of late 19th century buildings above the snowline. The collection of houses were built to support seasonal cattle grazing leases, and by the mid-1920s, Currango Station was over 90,000 acres. Then, in 1944 Kosciuszko National Park was created and the Currango leases were annexed by government. Some 25 years later, cattle grazing had been phased out completely.
Nowadays, the original Currango buildings can be rented as holiday accommodation. While they do retain the character of the era, the addition of some modern touches mean it would be hard to describe a stay here as ‘roughing it’. Several rungs up from camping. The cottages have limited solar power, cold water, outside dunnies, and of course no internet or mobile phone (which is either a disaster or a blessing). There’s gas for cooking, and a fridge. If you want a shower you can heat up a saucepan of water and pour it into the canvas bucket, before hoisting it up with the pulley. I’m pretty sure the mattresses weren’t horse-hair, but the bed frames are very old and rickety cast iron. The whole area is immaculately maintained, and brumbies, wallabies and rosellas annoy you on the deck. There’s an on-site caretaker who leaves you alone, tops up the firewood every day, and who has the emergency phone, just in case. You get the picture.
Why, you may well ask, am I telling you all this? Well, it’s a long story with its roots in the dark days of the Covid lockdown. As inveterate travellers, my wife Cristina and I would spend our evenings fantasising about, and researching, where we would go when it was all over. And in doing so, we found this amazing trove of National Park properties – hiding in plain sight, so to speak. I think we were always vaguely aware they were there, but it took Covid to get us to book. Just having the booking meant we were eventually going somewhere nice. In the end we booked three places, and one of them was ‘Daffodil Cottage’ at Currango.
Cristina would enjoy some riding on the many trails, whilst I would wile away my days fishing. In the end, it became a horse camp. Me, five women, and a herd. Whilst that may sound terrifying, it did mean there was no pressure to entertain, cook, clean or engage in horse-strapper duties. I could literally get up and go, and then come and go, without a word, and as far as I know no one actually took any notice of me at all; and whilst I’ve always preferred fishing in company, fishing alone was another thing I’d learnt to tolerably enjoy during Covid.
With three days and three nights to play with, I chose three river spots for my days, and planned to fish the lake in the evenings and whenever else I felt the urge. But before we get to that, let’s explain where we are. Currango is right at the north end of Tantangara Reservoir. To get there you turn off the Snowy Mountains Highway; if heading west from Adaminaby you turn at the Tantangara Reservoir junction, while if heading east from Tumut, you turn right onto Long Plain Road at Yarrangobilly, with the caveat that the road is closed if you’re going that way when the lake is higher than 30 percent (which inundates the Port Phillip Fire Trail) so worth a check beforehand. Whichever entry road you choose, follow your nose and you will eventually get to Currango. It’s about an hour from Adaminaby, half of that on sealed road, the rest on gravel. Four-wheel drive is recommended but not essential. But, if the rain is heavy, you’ll need to sit it out for a few hours. If there’s snow, well, you’re not going anywhere in your Hyundai Excel – for a little while at least.
Day One – Upper Murrumbidgee
On day one I knew exactly where I was going: the upper Murrumbidgee River off the Long Plain Road. The road crosses the river and there’s a convenient car park and picnic area. I’ve fished this water many times, and I have two pieces of advice. First, the further you walk downstream, the more fish there are. Second, there are some deep pools, so even in very dry summers, I’ve always had good fishing in what can look like deceptively ordinary water. However, after a couple of La Nina years, it looks amazing and fishes just like it looks. A forty-minute hike will give you a four hour fish back to the car; less if you skip the last 500 metres – which I can never quite convince myself to do even though I know it gets heavily worked over.
This is not particularly technical water. Deep pools with clearly-defined glides. The trout are usually holding right where you’d expect them… but then sometimes in places you might not. There are some seriously undercut banks which must have deeper water than is obvious, judging by the size of the trout they hold. If the regular catches of small fish drop off, be on guard for a bigger fish lurking somewhere. I suspect these larger trout can be quite territorial and keep the smaller ones at a distance.
If you find a spot where a trout grabs the fly quickly, take a breather for a few minutes, then fish the exact same spot. Often, there will be one or two more.
On my recent visit from Currango, it was a snakey day – probably one of the last for autumn. (Maybe the snakes were trying for a final meal or two to see them through a long winter.) Fortunately, they all slithered off as I stomped my way around. On this day, it took me five hours to fish my stretch and I wished I’d taken that second bottle of water. But there were all those fish to catch.
I headed back to Currango with the full intention of an evening fish on the lake. However, after fixing my dehydration, and eating a good dinner, I was ready to try out the cast-iron bed.
Day Two – Nungar and Tantangara Reservoir
For the second day, I decided to fish Nungar Creek. When you drive in to Tantangara Reservoir from the highway, you cross Nungar Creek about 10 kilometres in from the turnoff. It doesn’t look like much here but it’s a convenient place to park. While there are plenty of more remote access points to access the Nungar, I was on my own so leaving the car where it could be found in an emergency made sense.
I started fishing up the Nungar right from the road and the fish were plentiful, if small. Predictably, the further I got from the bridge though, the bigger the fish. It’s a freestone creek with big rock ledges and boulders mixed in. Often, you’re fishing in the water, only casting 3 or 4 metres. If there are two of you, you’re taking turns, but it’s great fun watching the hits and the misses; more fun if you’re the one in the water. The creek’s course is quite serpentine so you fish a lot further than a straight line would suggest. When I’d had enough, I headed away from the stream where the walk back was a bit easier out of the tussocks. Just a bit. When I got to the road, I walked downstream for a kilometre and fished back up.
The Nungar eventually enters Tantangara Reservoir at more or less the same place as the Murrumbidgee River. To get there, it goes behind a ridge parallel to the western shore of the lake. There are over 15 kilometres of progressively more inaccessible, remote, and ever- bigger creek to fish for the adventurous. There are days I wish I was thirty years younger – or had someone to carry my pack! And a warning, in spring there can be some monsters in this creek, no doubt holdovers from the winter spawn run migration out of Tantangara Reservoir.
That evening, I fished the eastern shore of Tantangara Reservoir. I have to whinge about access at the moment. The Snowy 2.0 works have cut off access from the boat ramp near the dam wall right the way around the western shore. The bush tracks to the eastern shore have been cut up by the increased traffic to the point they are, to be honest, quite dangerous: steep, bouldery, and very slippery when wet. I could not in all honesty recommend anyone to use them. But plenty do.
For my Currango trip, the weather was gorgeous, and this particular evening on the lake was too still for my liking. Still, the fish proved predictable and as the sun set over the western hills there was a good rise. I was tempted to fish a midge pupa. But in the end, I stuck with a pair of size 16 pheasant tail nymphs and landed two plump browns, and had several more solid bumps. It was a busy weekend and a few campsites added to the atmosphere. I could hear the Saturday night footy call loud and clear from across the bay and I think Manly was getting a touch up. I wound in a little early; without knowing the final score, but in time to bounce my way back up the hill and over the boulders before it was fully dark.
The lake level had been fairly stable, so I thought I’d come back in the morning. The forecast was windless, and I fancied a spot of polaroiding on the eastern shore near the dam wall where it’s usually easy enough to spot a few fish cruising the shoreline. However my morning plans were wiped out by the fog. It really is a Tantangara thing, and there have been many days when I’ve launched the boat at 9 am and spent the first hour following the GPS up the lake at walking speed, trying not to go aground. The moment when the sun burns off the fog and the blue-sky breaks through, is spectacular.
Day Three – Murrumbidgee below Tantangara
But no lake polaroiding for me on day three, so I kept driving and decided to fish the Murrumbidgee beneath the dam wall. This is a tricky and unreliable bit of water because there is no significant riparian flow from Tantangara Reservoir into the Murrumbidgee River. As far as I can tell, there are periodic montane releases, environmental releases that mimic flood events, and I’ve heard there is an agreement with the ACT government to release water when they need to top up Googong Reservoir. But apart from that, this stretch can be just a series of still pools with very low flow. It’s a bit hit and miss. I did find out where the montane release dates were hidden once, in some report or other, but have never bothered since.
Anyway, it was my lucky day: there was a good flow and I fished from the river bridge up to the dam wall. This is a difficult spot to fish by any measure. The aquatic grasses are razor sharp and you can’t avoid them as you drag-wade yourself through the silt-laden pools. The fine cuts heal quickly but do bleed profusely. There are some large, slow-moving pools that seem quite shallow, but are not, and if you use all your streamcraft to get close, there are clear current lines where the fish will sit mid pool. But the best spots are at the top of the pools where the water runs out from the reed-beds. Essentially, the river disappears into the reeds at a number of spots and is unfishable, but the fish love to ambush a fly cast right at the reeds. All that bug habitat explains the amazing condition of these fish. It’s best fished wading. There are some bank-fishable spots, but the best water is accessed from in the river.
Eventually you reach an impassable spot and have to haul yourself out of the water to make any progress upstream, but soon enough there’s another small lake to navigate your way through. This water is best fished slowly and meticulously. If you’ve got the patience to sit bankside and watch, you might even see the odd cruiser.
That was it for this trip. There is so much water to explore, and staying at Currango meant I had three straight days without being tempted by water I would have had to drive past to get there, and I was not at all disappointed. I could easily have done a week and I’ve got my eyes on a couple of other spots.
As for flies, anything big and floaty seemed to work on all the stream spots. This isn’t fussy mayfly emerger territory. A Royal Wullf, Elk Hair Caddis, or a hopper pattern if it’s late summer/early autumn, will find you fish. If you’re not hooking up, go a bit smaller, and for deeper pools, take the time and effort to fish a small, lightly-weighted pheasant tail nymph under an indicator or a big dry. There’s no magic pudding, just mix it up a bit until you figure out what’s working that day.
FLYSTREAM FACTS – CURRANGO ACCOMODATION
Daffodil Cottage sleeps a maximum of six people in two bedrooms, while the Currango Homestead’ itself has four bedrooms and sleeps nine; and The Pines bunkhouse has six bedrooms and sleeps eighteen. Currango gets a five star ‘highly recommended’ from me! For more information, visit here.
(Acknowledgement to the Friends of Currango for the historical information.)