Each trout season in Australia feels different and this year has been no exception. After a very cold start, spring has seemed to jump straight into summer, replete with spectacular thunderstorms.
For the second time in two weeks, the forecast was for 3 days of plus 30C heat, ending with a storm. Fortunately, this coincided with both a mid-week day off for me and a drop in Goulburn River levels to 2,000 ML/d. That’s a level I feel comfortable fishing at. This, combined with the fact that my local lakes had recently warmed significantly in the margins, meant that a trip to Thornton was on the cards.
I set out across the field, the mercury already climbing even though it was only 10 in the morning. Reaching the river, which looked perfect, I stood behind a tall gum and it wasn’t long before a trout appeared along the edge of a weed bed. I’d already tied a NZ Blowfly Humpy, so I put it out near the cruising fish, which had just risen for something. Second cast and the trout engulfed my fly. I waited as long as my nerves could stand and lifted into a beautiful 2 pound brown. A few jumps, some side strain and it was in the net. (Although during the netting I slipped on the muddy bank and fell on on my arse. Luckily nobody was around to see that most unflattering display!) It’s always a great feeling to get a fish in the first couple of casts.
The next few trout weren’t so easy, with the Blowfly rejected; although that may have been due to my cast being slightly too far from the fish, allowing too much time for inspection in the slow backwater. I changed to a Para Adams but the trout spooked as soon as the fly landed.
After several hours in direct sun, it was just too hot. Time for a drink, a cool off and a change to another part of the Goulburn. Caddis began to appear, so I changed fly accordingly to a pattern which sat in the surface film. The afternoon shadows had begun to lengthen and I thought that I saw a subtle rise near a log jutting into the current. Looking closely, I could see a nice fish holding station. I popped the fly just upstream and a beautiful 2 pounder took it without hesitation.
Walking back to the car along the bank, I peered through a tiny gap in the willows to discover a lovely trout of around 3 pounds rising happily. After studying it for a few moments, a second, even larger fish rose behind it! Just as I was thinking “Wow, this is great”, a third fish appeared from the glare. But my mind was totally blown when a fourth more dominant fish pulled up station in front of the pod! It looked 5 to 6 pounds easily. They all gobbled away greedily, safe in the knowledge nothing could touch them.
The trout were in tight to the willows, there was a steep bank covered in blackberry and a deep water drop-off. I only had one shot – a 50 foot cast through a metre-wide gap in the branches – to have any hope. The fly would have maybe 3ft of drift in which to be intercepted by a trout, or it would get snagged in the leaves.
I measured out the distance on the ground, and holding my breath, I cast. The fly sailed perfectly through the gap, landing two feet in front of the middle fish. But the alpha trout must have heard the fly land. It turned 180 degrees, muscled the other fish out of the way and engulfed my fly. I stood there in shock for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably a couple of seconds (which in retrospect was probably a good thing), then lifted.
Utter chaos ensued, the hooked brute bolted for the willows and the other three fish, which were previously munching away, scattered like rabbits from a gun. The line was being pulled through my hands like it was a tarpon, then all went slack.
I reeled in and looked at the tippet. The knot had held, the tippet had held… but the hook had straightened. So much had gone right, but it only takes one little thing to fail to lose big fish in tight places.
Anyway, it had been a great day regardless and I can’t wait to go again!