It’s been said that if a fishing story begins with something other than fishing, that’s a prelude to hearing about an unsuccessful trip. Well, let me make an exception by telling you that on the trip I got back from last night, Cristina’s cooking was a highlight. Steve and I were burning calories like a pair of blast furnaces, so returning each night to his wife’s comfort food like Shepherd’s Pie, Bread & Butter Pudding and Nut Cake in Caramel Sauce, eaten in a warm dry kitchen, was heaven.
And yes, the fishing was pretty good too. For a trip of less than a week’s duration, I’ve seldom fished in such variable conditions and every day – sometimes every hour – required a rethink on where to fish and how. One late afternoon on Lake Eucumbene, I had to give up on a bay where I’d caught a good fish and seen plenty, because I could no longer stand the sun searing my face from under my brim. Yet the very next morning, Steve had to chip thick ice off the car.
We fished in wind so strong you could barely stand up, to conditions so calm, I could have a conversation with Steve 300 metres across the lake without raising my voice. There was rain and sleet and wet snow so heavy and wind-driven, we had to retreat to the car every two hours for a coffee and burst of heater to thaw out. And yet the fishing on the Eucumbene River that day – almost too big and powerful to cross – was so good, we kept heading back out into the storm.
Fishing highlights? Midging trout on Lake Eucumbene were exhilarating and exasperating all at once. Late in the day or under cloud, sometimes dozens of fish could be found feeding so close to shore, you frequently had to kneel to fish to them. A tiny Griffiths Gnat worked fairly well, but as always when competing with thousands of real insects, fast pinpoint casts were essential.
If the midge were absent, the water level rising at 10cm a day had the trout in close – I caught an 8½lb brown in 2ft of water in bright sunshine. That was by far the fish of the trip, but we always encountered (if not always landed!) decent fish if we concentrated on the flooding greened-up bays, soaks and corners. Careful searching with smaller wets (no one pattern stood out particularly for this) was well worthwhile even when nothing was moving. Incidentally, Tantangara was surprisingly quiet. Too much of a good thing – its recent water level graph resembled a ski jump – probably meant the fish were comfortably gorging in water a long way out and metres deep. With Eucumbene fishing the way it was, it was hard to settle for flogging the depths for one or two modest-sized fish. That may quickly change when Tantangara’s level slows or stabilises.
As already touched on, the Eucumbene River was as high as I’ve ever fished it; simply uncrossable early in the trip, and barely so later. Yet it was beautifully clear and the fish were there if you could get a tungsten nymph or two close to the bottom, then stay in touch – easier said than done of course! When we got depth and contact right, each session we managed to land several nice rainbows (all kelts recovering well) and the odd brown.
Despite Steve’s regular and informative blogs on this site, I really had to see for myself just how much water is flowing – and storing – in the Snowys to understand the magnitude of what’s going on. In some respects we’re in uncharted waters (literally) but it’s very good fun finding the way!