Water level plays a big role when flyfishing tailwaters like the mighty Goulburn River, affecting trout feeding patterns and behaviour. Mostly, the Goulburn’s level is governed by irrigation needs downstream. I called the Goulburn River flow advisory number (03 5774 3928) on my way to the river early last Saturday morning and learned that flows were to be increased from 2000 ML/d to 2500 ML/d at 10am.
I planned to fish two days on the Goulburn with two different flyfishing buddies. I met up with mate Shane for day one and we headed to the river. I had a feeling the trout would be entering backwaters and exploring the food-rich holes a little more frequently as the river came up. It’s always interesting to watch the river slowly rise in front of you. Trout are being pushed out of their spots in the main current by the bigger volume of water. There are fewer prime feeding lies left in the middle and feeding lanes change. Being territorial, trout chase each other and fight amongst themselves for a while as new positions are established.
For the next few hours we walked along the river, checking every reverse backwater, eddy and log jam. We found a few fish but they seemed unsettled and spooked at the slightest intrusion: a hat, a reflection or small movement. Finally, we stopped at a fast run. I tied on a pair of black-beaded Copper John nymphs and after a while I picked up a nice 1½lb brown.
By now the day was wearing on and Shane had to leave soon, so we headed back towards the car. On the way, we stopped at a high bank for a quick look and there, waiting patiently on the edge for food to come by, was another brownie. It going to be a tight, difficult cast; and with logs, blackberries and a fast current nearby, my bet was on the trout! However, Shane placed his Yellow Sally dry perfectly, 2 feet from the bank. The fish swam straight over and engulfed it. Hook up and hang on! While the battle unfolded I jumped down the steep bank to be ready with the net. Soon after I netted a nice fish. After some quick pics and release, I pulled the blackberry thorns from my skin and climbed back up the bank. Time was up for Shane as he headed back to his car for the trip home, but there were smiles all round.
On my own now, I reassessed the situation and moved back to a likely spot for the evening rise. Here, I hoped some good fish would be taking advantage of the extra food being pushed down the river.
As I approached, I could see the tip of a nose appearing every 15 seconds or so, tight in against the bank. It looked like a nice fish, sipping on emergers, only barely revealing itself in the way of bigger trout. I laid out a cast and with no hesitation the fish gently sipped my caddis emerger. I lifted and my 5 weight was instantly bent to the cork. After a crazy run and a few powerful head shakes, I was starting to win this one and soon after Mr Brown gave in and entered the net. He was a little bigger than I originally thought, maybe 3 pounds. I took a quick pic and released him. A perfect end to the day.
Day 2 and the water level had settled as I rigged up and set off again, this time with another friend, Florant. I had a feeling we might be in for a day of spooky fish – more interested in fighting and squabbles than feeding. So we focused on the shallow, fertile water under the willow canopy where the trout would hopefully be feeling a bit more relaxed. However after we spooked fish left, right and centre, Florant decided to try searching using his native French nymphing technique, and soon caught a couple of small rainbows.
Meanwhile, I headed to a nearby backwater. As I approached I couldn’t see any movement, so I found a spot where I was hidden from view and watched & waited. I was about to move on when a nice brown quietly appeared, eating everything in its path. I’d tied on my favourite caddis emerger to 3x tippet; risking a refusal with the thick tippet, but knowing I’d likely get dusted using 4x. A bow-and-arrow cast presented the fly about a metre ahead of the trout and it swam up and sipped it in. I lifted and hung on – this was obstacle city and I couldn’t give any line. I jumped into the backwater slipping and tripping and managed to net the fish quickly. Florant wandered up and asked, “What are you doing down there?” Good timing! A quick happy snap and Mr Brown swam off to fight another day.
All in all, another cracking weekend on the Mighty G.