Following a long year at university in Brisbane away from my beloved trout fishing, I’d been dreaming of getting back to it. Having partied suitably hard with my mates following exams, it was straight to the car and a lengthy drive south to the river which holds my favourite run anywhere, the upper Mitta Mitta. It doesn’t have the most fish, the biggest or the trickiest fish but it is the spot where I truly got hooked on trout fishing. I headed down the highway in very high spirits and reached the lower Mitta valley about 4pm, just as Warner and Khawaja were starting to hit a few runs in the cricket. (Sadly, by the time I got reception again, the whole team was out!)
According to the guy in the shop at Eskdale there had been about 2 inches of rain recently, so I was a little concerned I was driving towards a discoloured river. However, I also knew that the upper river where I was heading clears pretty quickly and never gets that dirty anyway. As I drove alongside Lightning Creek on the way up the Omeo Highway it looked clear and perfect and very fishy! But I had a plan and wasn’t going to stop.
Soon after I was on the Mitta with a double Czech nymph setup. The water was cold! I’m pretty sure it would still have been cold if I hadn’t been living in Brissy getting soft all year. The river was also up a good foot on summer level but crystal clear. After fishing away for 30 minutes without touching anything, I decided to walk up to my favourite run where I was confident there would be some fish. I was fishing for my dinner as well. I don’t often keep fish, and very rarely river fish but this was my first time fishing in a while and I was hoping to treat myself. Plus, I had been dreaming of cooking a trout on hot coals in foil with some potatoes, onion and capsicum.
The issue with the first stretch I fished was water speed, it was really pumping through; deceptively so because it was so clear. As a point fly, I was fishing a 3mm tungsten size 10 Pheasant Tail Nymph with peach dubbing at the tail tip, and a size 12 Claret Nymph with a 4mm tungsten bead on the top dropper. The PTN isn’t a fly I use often these days but I know the Mitta trout do like a big meal and will move for the more sizeable food items in the current. I’d tied up a bunch of the large PTNs after their success in Canada at the Commonwealths so I had plenty.
As I walked up river I spotted a nice backwater on the far side. First drift through there was a tug just as the flies started to swing. Next cast, I held the flies where the tug had come from. As soon as the flies stopped the line tightened, I struck and the 3wt Hanak was bent over into a fish of about a pound. This was my dinner and I made sure to check the stomach contents to see what the trout had been eating. To my delight the first thing in its stomach was a big nymph….with wings…a Kossie Dun! There were a lot of other nymphs too, some of which had been eaten on their way to emerge, evident by the big black wing case that was almost detached. The other thing of interest was a large dobsonfly larvae. The trout had eaten the PTN which was quite a good size and colour match for the Kossie nymphs.
As I walked further along, a pale creamy Kossie Dun came down the river, almost bashing its way past me. I watched it, waiting for it to disappear in a slashing rise. But it fluttered up and flew back past me upriver. This was the first of five Kossies I spotted in the next 2 hours or so. I did see two rises but both were while I drove along the river searching for a quieter camping spot, as there were 3 groups of people when I got back to the car. I wasn’t trying to be antisocial, it’s just that my image of my first night on the river didn’t include other camps.
I continued to fish and focus on the softer water which is a relative term as I still needed the 3 and 4mm tungsten beads to fish properly. The fishing was actually very good and better than I expected given the water temperature. I ended up at my favourite run and it produced the most fish I’ve gotten from it so far – which I was hoping for, given it was the first time I had run a Czech nymph rig through it. The fish size was smaller than previous trips with the biggest two trout about 1.5 pounds. Great fish, and they put up a good fight in the fast water. However I normally expect the trout in this run to average about a pound and this time most were somewhat smaller.
I walked back to the car very relaxed and fulfilled to find a Swiss guy who only spoke French picking up a brown snake with his snake handling stick and taking photos of it. Now who carries one of those sticks randomly? At first I thought he must have a pet snake he was photographing however when I got closer, I could see it was a brown snake, and a pretty angry one! When I walked up laughing asking what he was doing, his reply was, “Ahh…my wife….ahh…,” then he gestured her running away screaming! This was followed by, “No English, I’m Swiss, speak French only…venom?…venom?” while pointing at the snake. “Haha, yeah mate, it’s a brown snake, pretty bad,” I emphasised. While he didn’t seem to understand what I said, he apparently understood my hand gestures. I grabbed a happy snap, thinking it might be the last photo of him alive! I’m still stumped why this bloke had the snake handling stick.
The next morning I had a few hours to fish before heading to Melbourne to catch the Spirit of Tasmania for a summer of guiding at Rainbow Lodge. I decided to re-fish my Mitta beat from the National Championships a couple of years ago. I recalled that back then, Bassano fished the beat for 5 trout to my one, so I wanted to run the Czech setup through it and see if I could produce a few more. No such luck – I got a small one but couldn’t get any from the best looking water on the beat.
Instead, the highlight of the morning was a trout a little further downstream. It was holding very deep in quite heavy water, I was fishing a 4mm tungsten with lead under the body and an epoxied body (you cant get much faster sinking!) and a 4mm tungsten on the point. I set the hook and there was a flash down deep and a LOT of weight. ‘You beauty, here we go,’ I thought. This thing was on for about 15 seconds and just holding its position, I couldn’t move it. But then the odd thing was, I could still see it flashing when big fish fighting deep usually have their head down. Plus, the flashes didn’t look that big. On closer inspection, I realised my second fly had pinned the fish to a snag. I tried to pull the trout upstream to get the other fly off, but no luck. I then took all the weight off the rig, hoping the barbless fly would fall off the snag. It did, and the trout was still on! It ended up being a brownie of about a pound.
All in all it was a brilliant little trip and was exactly what I’d been imagining. I think anyone looking for a fishing spot in the coming weeks as it continues to heat up, would do well to consider the long drive – especially if the Kossies really fire. However, I would seriously consider getting some 4mm tungsten beads and making sure you have decent drag management to let the flies get down fast and deep. One other thing possibly worth considering, is that when Bassano, Jarman and I went up there at a similar time of year two years ago to practice before the Nationals, the only way we could get fish to eat on the nearby Bundarra River was by using big parachute emergers to imitate the Kossie duns. We would fish through a run for nothing, put a big cream paradun on and whammo, four fish. Just a thought if you head up there.