The lead up to Christmas signifies my favourite time of year and no, it isn’t due to the approach of the big day. Instead, it’s time for my annual pilgrimage to my favourite place in the world, Lake Eucumbene, where I began my flyfishing journey some years ago.
I set off at 2am with good friend Nick for Buckenderra Caravan Park. After a big drive, we met our friends Michael and Brooklyn. We wasted no time setting up camp and fuelling the bodies.
The whisper was that midge were present in abundance – exciting news, although midging trout can be very frustrating at times and extremely selective. After lunch we boarded our boat and set sail, bound for the shelter of Tri-Villa Inlet. At first, there wasn’t much insect activity or surface movement so the plan was to find some weed and fish a tandem midge pupa rig. As I walked towards a weedy area, I couldn’t believe my eyes: a 4lb brown was lurking in the shallows. I cast a metre ahead of the cruising fish and as it swam toward the flies I gave couple of twitches to entice it. Instead, the trout stopped and then turned and made a quick exit into the deep. A rookie mistake but good to see a decent fish early.
Later, we headed to a favourite spot, Homestead Bay. Here Mick and I soon noticed a fish working the shallows, followed by another and another. Within 10 minutes of our arrival there were fish moving everywhere. The midge were in abundance; the tough part would be working out what stage of the hatch the fish were tuned into.
I focussed on the rise formation and noticed the trout were taking emerging midge sitting in the surface film so the fly of choice was Brian Chan’s Lady McConnell. It was the right choice, but after about an hour of fishing my confidence was pretty much destroyed as I had missed at least 10 fish! I’m not sure what I was doing wrong but I assume I was probably a little overzealous with my strike. Fortunately for my co-fishers, they had some success although they also had issues dropping fish and missing takes.
Eventually, we decided to head back to camp for a couple of drinks and feed by the campfire. I consoled myself with the thought that tomorrow would be a new day.
The next day, we decided to get up around 4am and as predicted the fog was thick and heavy. We jumped into the boat and headed back to Homestead. The water was bubbling with rises! Mick and I headed to the other side of a gully where we could see some tracking fish, then we split up.
I noticed the trout taking emerging midge so I locked and loaded my own tie of a size 18 emerging midge pattern and prayed it would do the trick. I got into position to target what looked like a nice brown working the shallows. I cast ahead of the fish and it came up twice tracking towards my fly… it sipped it down and with a gentle lift of the rod I was on. After a decent battle I finally landed my first fish of the trip, a good brown. Hallelujah!
We continued to fish the morning out landing another 5 fish between us, all on emerging midge patterns.
Later I caught up with a good friend from Canberra and headed out for another fish. The weather looked promising: humid and overcast with about a 20km/h breeze, which was ideal to get some ripple on the water. Again the tactic was to hit the gutters and gullies. Once I got to the water’s edge I tied on a three fly rig: two midge pupa and a small emerging midge on a leader totalling 18 feet long.
After about 15 minutes of casting and working this particular gutter, my line tightened and to my delight another thumping brown was on the end of my rod. After a few persistent runs and leaps, I brought a 3½lb female brown to my net. It had taken one of the midge pupa. I then carefully released her back into the deep where she swam off to fight another day.
After a quick discussion with my mate I was back in the water and with my first cast, bang! I was on again, another Eucumbene brown. My confidence had been restored. I continued to work the area but without any more luck; no surprise after pulling two rippers out of one gutter. I moved on to a soak where I noticed a fish working the shallows. I didn’t have much time to see what it was eating so I took the punt and cast my three fly rig. A quicker retrieve in the skinny water and a few twitches, a massive thud, and I was on. This trout took off for the depths and tried every trick in the brown trout spit-the-hook book! After a 10 minute battle a ripping 4lb brown was guided into my net. Once I released the fish, I sat down to take it all in.
“This is what it’s all about!” I called out to my mate. He laughed back that I was a tin arse! We fished on for another hour, landing a couple of nice rainbows before we decided to head back for dinner.
That evening, we decided to split up into two groups. Mick and I landed around 10 fish in the 1-1½lb range; all healthy rainbows which did make for exciting fishing, though they weren’t the big bruisers we’d been hoping for.
Our last day found us again getting up at 4am in search of some morning sippers so we headed back to Homestead. As per the previous morning, I decided to hit the shallows, looking for tracking fish using a single fly. After a few casts and a few dropped fish I finally hooked into a nice 1½lb brown which fell victim to my emerging CDC midge pattern.
I continued to patrol the shallows for the morning session, ignoring the rising fish out a little further in hope of finding a decent brown cruising in close. Unfortunately this didn’t quite go to plan, although I still found myself landing another couple of browns around the one to two pound mark. The boys then whistled me to head back as the wind was starting to pick up and we didn’t want to get trapped on the other side of the lake. Once we got back to camp the plan was to wait out the incoming storm and then head up to Brookewood Bay. However the weather didn’t let up until later that afternoon. I guess it wouldn’t be Eucumbene without a storm, would it?
As the conditions finally settled, we jumped into the boats and trekked up the Buckenderra Arm, optimistic that the fishing would still produce. Sure enough, we arrived to find trout moving everywhere. However at the same time we could see a massive thunderstorm approaching. We’d no sooner thrown our jackets on than it hit with hailstones the size of golf balls. We had no choice but to sit it out for about an hour. As the storm passed, the sky turned a beautiful dark pink and the fish slowly started to show themselves again. We fished for the next 2 hours, landing a few nice rainbows and browns before we decided to call it a night.
Around the final campfire that evening, we counted it as a very successful trip with about 80 fish landed, ranging from a pound to 4 pounds. A huge congratulations to Nick Sherrif who landed his first Eucumbene fish after joining the same trip last year with no success. Nick has really worked hard to improve his lake fishing over the past year, and it shows. Well done mate, and I can’t wait for the next trip!