I never know quite what to expect on my Snowy Mountains trips with Steve. After more years than I care to count, I understand that the fishing is likely to be somewhere between good and excellent, no matter the time of year or the conditions. Having set out in everything from stifling January heat to knee-deep July snow, predicted weather and water conditions merely influence where we decide to go, rather than promising success… or threatening failure.
So, although the forecast for this current week was not what we would necessarily have ordered, including blizzards, flood watches, and Severe Weather Warnings for destructive winds and heavy rainfall, we went fishing anyway.
As our Snowy history has proved, conditions are only to be planned around, not a reason to stay indoors. That’s how it played out today. The drive down to Lake Eucumbene featured rain drops splattering on the windscreen like water bombs, and a gust of wind strong enough to push an oncoming bus briefly over the double lines on the Monaro Highway. But we had a plan to find shelter from the northerly, coupled with complete confidence (based on the last few days) that the trout were in the lake and there to be caught.
Although it was a challenge to open the car doors against the gale when we arrived at our chosen spot, we could immediately see that on the lake below, conditions were more than fishable. The walk down the hill saw dark specks over the water resolve into swooping swallows, and on the shores, gulls were busily ducking and pecking. Midge surely? Closer still, rises were apparent – not easy to see in the ripple and waves, but confirmation.
Over the next few hours, we had a ball casting to the midge feeders, as much because it seemed such a treat on a day of threatening August weather. Bursts of smashing rain would briefly stop the swallows and the fish, then they would get going again.
This went on for hours. Most of the rises belonged to small rainbows, but mixed in were better fish, including a three pounder which ate a Claret Carrot in preference to the size 16 buzzer beneath it.
It was so good, and the bay so fertile, that after a while Steve decided to see if anything was lurking beneath the midge feeders by prospecting with the Magoo-like black & gold fly I know as Steve’s Bugger (my name, not his). Meanwhile, I went with ‘just one more cast’ to the addictive mid-winter rises, before finally catching my fill of bouncing rainbows and heading down the shore to see how Steve was going.
Good thing I did. I’d just approached to within conversation distance, when Steve lifted firmly and grunted, ‘Good fish, good fish.’
Fish-fighting stories are never as exciting as being there in person, but you can at least trust that I felt every lunge and surging run almost as if I was holding the rod. Progressively, we realised this was no ordinary trout; the sort you might encounter only a couple of times a year – and often without a happy ending. This fish, which we now knew was a big brown, just wouldn’t give up, and seemed to know where every snag and weedbed was. Eventually and to our mutual relief and delight, it was in the net.
What a fish! The light gold-coloured brown was well on the way to recovering any condition it might have lost during spawning season; simply a magnificent trout.
We caught a few more fish ‘under’ the midge feeders on various slim wets, including a couple more decent though not monstrous browns. There was even the odd precocious midging rainbow prepared to break the rules and grab the outsized wets.
It was a particularly ominous wall of cloud which finally saw us wind in and walk back to the car while still relatively dry.
The drive home in the twilight included much excited chatter about the wonders of the Snowy Mountains, such as how you can catch a 3 pound fish in midwinter at 4000 feet above sea level on a dry fly. However it was Steve’s brown which joins the gallery of exceptional ‘remember when?’ trout which we’ll be talking about years from now.