Spring is in the air and the weather from the last three weeks suggests nothing but good vibes for a perfect dry-fly day. For those of us living in NSW however, the trout season is closed until our October long weekend. For over a month I have witnessed my good friends from Victoria and Tasmania enjoying the streams and I am glad to say our wait is almost over. September has always been a segue from one fishing experience to another around my local Central-West NSW spots. Thriving winter lake fisheries start to slow and I eagerly await the opening of the trout streams. It can sometimes feel like a very long wait, but this year I was introduced to the perfect distraction to fill my time.
Ken Smith from Bathurst generously invited me to join him for a day on Windamere Dam, near Mudgee, NSW to chase yellowbelly (golden perch) on fly. I took him up on the offer and I and good mate Juan Del Carmen set off to meet him at the dam last Sunday morning.
Sticking with Ken’s favourites, I began the day attaching a brown fur fly to my 8 weight, rigged with an intermediate line. We jumped into Ken’s tinny to navigate the dam, and then pulled over to the bank when we felt the water held potential. As we travelled around, we were even lucky enough to spot a few fish cruising the shallows, and although they were too smart for us, the sight fishing added an extra sense of expectation!
It was quickly apparent that water temperature and line retrieval style were two keys for success. Anything less than 16C water temperature proved to be very slow, without a single follow or hit and anything greater produced follows, hits and catches. Secondly, I began observing Ken’s well thought out retrieve. I noticed that a continuous strip or a constant retrieval with only a very short pause failed to produce a take or follow. In contrast, a varied strip with short and long pauses proved to be most effective. The successful patterns were fur flies in a variety of colours. One of my mates, Shannon Kitchener ties a very effective fur fly he calls the ‘Donnie Brasco,’ and this purple and black combo was a favourite.
It was not long after putting these factors together, and mimicking Ken’s retrieve, that I was graced with my first take. The fish took by a hard hit and followed with a solid fight. I was extremely stoked to add this new species to the list, a gorgeous 60cm yellowbelly.
The fish appeared to be holding in 10-20 feet of water so my choice of line was an intermediate sink tip. We fished 8-9ft of straight 12 pound fluoro as a minimum and all flies were attached with a loop knot for optimum fly movement.
We fished throughout the day, landing a few more fish, and losing some others. There were plenty of follows and hits to keep us entertained on what shaped up to be a beautifully sunny spring day.
NSW’s trout streams open this weekend so I know this will be front of mind for many. However, after the past weekend’s experience I am thinking hard about getting back out to Windamere. I know it will now be a number one early spring option for me in years to come. Give it a go.