On a trip earlier in the week to the mid Goulburn catchment, I jumped in to a stretch of the Murrundindi River that’s been kind to me in the past, and got ready for action. It was a sunny morning and although a little cool, the grasshoppers were already bouncing along the high banks. I fished a yellow Stimulator on its own, knowing a rise was only a matter of time.
Three ideal pools and runs later, nothing. Hmmm. Maybe a foam hopper was needed? Still no good. The first hour ticked by with a single miss on the nymph (reluctantly added below the dry) to show for it. Next came the Royal Wulff. At least it got eaten, if only by an eight inch rainbow. However, that fish proved to be a one-off, not a turning point.
For no good reason other than the need for a fresh start, I moved a few kilometres to a new stretch. Things started out much the same way. One decent fish spooked while crossing a log, and a charm bracelet on the nymph. The day was warming up nicely, but my confidence was cooling just as fast. Ahead lay a virtual tunnel, formed by a fallen tree and bordered by blackberries. I’d bypassed such inconvenient water all morning and was about to so the same, when I paused. Although overgrown, this run looked really nice, with reasonable depth, virtually continuous cover on the blackberry side, and a little logjam at the bottom end. To top it all off, there was a steep, grassy hopper bank just visible a hundred metres upstream. In short, it might be difficult to fish, but it was a decent place for a trout to live.
I removed the nymph, leaving the yellow Stimulator on its own. Sneaking up to the logjam, I fired a bow-and-arrow cast and held my nerve as the fly drifted down and almost into the timber. At the last possible moment, a brown materialised and confidently ate the Stimi under the rod tip. Yes!
Well, the relief in landing that fish was replaced by sheer delight as I bow-and-arrowed up the run and caught another three respectable trout. In 50 metres and 15 minutes, I’d had way more action and encountered more trout than over the preceding 2½ hours. My ‘run’ continued when I got to the aforementioned hopper bank, and cast right in under the roots. I caught two more fish – both decent rainbows – before I snagged the Stimi halfway up and had to disturb the rest of the pool to retrieve it. But that was okay; a small price to pay for constantly putting the fly where the trout were. One more fish came to another bow-and-cast among the willow branch-choked run above, then I was back at the car and it was time to go.
It’s usually about this time of year that a few of my fishing mates (some of whom have a fisheries science background, no less) idly speculate on the reasons for trout – from New Zealand to the Snowys to Victoria’s fastwaters – becoming generally more spooky and harder to catch. Is it the cumulative effect of a whole summer/ holiday season of fishing pressure? Or is it simply the low, clear flows making the fish feel more vulnerable, while also allowing them more time to pick fault in flies, careless flyline delivery, or tippets that stand out like hemp rope? Perhaps it’s a bit of both.
In any case, my Murrundindi session reminded me of a couple of simple solutions: fish the places where the trout are going to feel safest; and/or make it really easy for them to eat the fly without undue exposure to predators. Getting the fly into those tight spots isn’t as hard as it initially seems. You can often approach nice and close in the first place because the trout aren’t as edgy, and you can soon adopt a mindset which says the odd snagged fly is perfectly acceptable. Just take a deep breath, retrieve the fly, and move on to the next hot spot.