When Peter and I arrived at our campsite, it was raining. In fact, it had rained all day, and it poured all night. So much for the forecast of only a few millimetres!
It’s good to try and understand the catchments you fish. Some may indeed take time to clear after rain, but if the streams flow through forest, many clear quickly.
Provided the water stays reasonably clear, I like it when the levels jump up – especially at this time of the year. Rain is like an organic reset button. The fish seem to come out from cover and the deeper pools, and start feeding more freely, particularly following a long January of fishers, rafters and swimmers. The greater volume of water and the food types being washed down, also appear to expand the feeding range of the trout.
Fortunately, this proved to be the case for us as we headed higher up the Ovens system. The fishing was on pretty much from the first cast. The trout seemed fit and re-invigorated.
The fast water allowed us to tie on big Stimulator dries, with a heavy size 12 nymph suspended below. Nymphs with a touch of red worked best, as my fishing buddy Peter demonstrated all too well.
It was difficult to keep the nymphs down in the fast water… and not much was happening up top. But never mind! What often happened was, the trout would appear to rise to the dry, yet in fact take the nymph near the surface. While just subsurface is not typically where we want our nymphs to be, if it works, it works! Perfect timing of the strike, however, became essential. We could see the fish clearly but, “Is it taking the dry or the nymph?” Most takes were on the trailing nymph. The visual aspect of this made for some very exciting fishing, with many trout hooked and more than a few mistimed strikes. The fish were fat and super healthy: good numbers of rainbows, with a fair sprinkling of browns thrown in.
Most trout were caught in the faster water. The usually ideal bubble-lines and gentler, deeper runs were relatively quiet. We wondered if the faster water was more appealing due to the increased oxygen, or if the deeper runs made the trout easier targets for the abundant cormorants. I suppose the shallower water is harder for cormorants to terrorise.
The next day, we decided to leave the Ovens valley and head up over the Bogong High Plains, and have a session on the upper Mitta (the Big). A long drive, but so what? The allure of this river was too irresistible.
This session, as short as it was, almost deserves its own dedicated write up. I will say that up there, the flows were still quite high and the trout typically enigmatic. There were no hatches or obvious rises, so we had to work it out for ourselves.
There is a stretch of this river along the side of continuous hill and steep bank, which runs for about one kilometre. Sword-grass lines the edges and it has it all. Small runs, bubble-lines, deep holes, boulders and trout looking up for any critters that may fall in from the steep banks, or hatch along the fertile margins.
Well, Peter and I had a blast! Takes here were more typical of a summer north-east trip, with definite nymph eats or aggressive dry fly takes. If only the hoppers were on! We fished for a few hours and while the wading was tough, the rewards were high.
When it was time leave so we could minimise the ‘wombat dodge’ on the drive home, we walked off the river, had a sandwich and a cold drink, and pondered how good the fishing had been all trip. How uniquely beautiful our rivers and forests are. We couldn’t help but agree, that, at least in our eyes, under the present conditions, our fishery is a world class. Why would you want to be anywhere else?