This weekend was the first time I’ve seen fish smelting on Lake Eucumbene. I’ve seen it in Victoria, in Tasmania, and in New Zealand but this was pretty amazing. It was dusk and my first thought was that a water rat was splashing in the shallows. Casting to the odd rising fish and walking along the gravel bank, I caught a boil out of the corner of my eye. I turned, and this fish came crashing onto this shallow gravel bar, its back out of the water, stopped, then took off back into deeper water on the other side.
I was fishing with a green deer hair pattern – a hybrid muddler/mudeye I’d been given – and rather than take the time to find a ‘real’ baitfish feeder, I started to cast into the shallows with it. The result was instant. I brought the fish into deeper water away from the gravel bar and by the time I had it in the net 10 metres down the bank, the other trout were back crashing into whatever they were chasing.
After dark I poked around the shallows and there were small fish darting under rocks, light coloured with big heads – a type of gudgeon perhaps? I chased them with the landing net but couldn’t catch one. There were also mudeyes on the rocks.
For three nights I witnessed this, but less so every night. On the last night I found a good-sized rainbow high and dry on the gravel bar and very dead. One smelt attack too many? That night there were mudeyes swimming freely in the shallows and trout were clearly feeding on them half an hour after dark. I could easily pick up the migrating mudeyes in the landing net. There was a ¾ waxing moon flood-lighting the water that would occasionally disappear behind cloud. For moon fishing theorists, my sense is there were more fish around when it did that – the only problem was they became more difficult to see!
The lake was at 47% and had been stable for a week or so. The wind chuffed away from the south-east for most of the weekend, swirling around to south-west and even north for a while on the change of light. (The hybrid muddler/mudeye is now long gone and I have to beg another, along with design and construction plans.)
Tight tippets all
Steve (Snowy Lakes Fly Fishing Charters)