I’m in two minds writing this. I feel for those who couldn’t get out and celebrate trout opening; conscious of not rubbing in how good it is to fish a stream again. Still, as a local in the Eildon area I could head off and have a fish, and I’ve had enough questions from those outside this zone, to persuade me to offer a report.
Trout opening in a COVID world was never going to be normal. Travel restrictions limiting who could fish and where, combined with lockdowns and facemasks, and it was always going to be a very different opening to the stream trout season. A quick drive around indicated just how different it was! My son Scott reported two cars at The Breakaway, we counted another two at Gilmore’s Bridge, and a handful at Thornton Beach. It was a sure sign people were heeding the restrictions and playing by the rules.
The Goulburn was at 400 ML/d and relatively clear. A rising fish right at Thornton Beach prompted Scott to have a cast and he hooked up on a small brown. We saw two of the larger ex brood-stock rainbow trout caught at Thornton by a couple of anglers casting lures.
The Goulburn is at a lovely level and easy to fish, if not on fire. There was an occasional caddis and a few small duns winging about during the warmer part of the day, and there was the odd rise, but the fish were not really looking up. The evenings were very quiet from a dry fly perspective; a least it was down at The Breakaway on both Saturday and Sunday evening. In fact, there was little surface action apart from platypus. So besides lack of anglers, it was fairly typical for this early in the season. No doubt it will get better and better as spring rolls on; hopefully to eventually offer some good fishing for everyone.
Meanwhile, the local natural streams are all running hard, and in that sense at least, it is a more typical opening with high flows, cold water and the fishing a bit challenging in the fast currents. When fishing the larger streams, you were never confident your nymph was ‘in the zone’ unless heavy weights were applied—and I’m not fond of that.
I can’t deny it was nice to get out and stand in flowing water again, and Scott and I did catch a few trout. You had to travel to the smaller streams to find easily-manageable conditions. We caught fish mostly on nymphs hung under bushy indicator dries, but some of the smaller rainbows were quite keen and occasionally took the floater.
Depending on whether or not there was still snow melting in the catchments, water temperatures in the natural streams varied from around 8 to 12 degrees, and if inconvenient right now, the good flows auger well for the coming months.
In some ways, apart from the sense of anticipation and excitement trout opening brings, those who couldn’t make it didn’t really miss out on a lot purely fish-wise: as is usually the case on opening weekend, it feels like the better fishing is still a little way off. And as some consolation for those who can’t get out to have a fish yet, the healthy stream conditions and lack of fishing pressure will likely hold the rivers in good stead for when the restrictions do ease and we can all get back out and about.