Mid Goulburn Tribs – mid November

By mid-November our rivers have normally settled down after rain and snowmelt to their summer levels. This year’s higher than average rainfall (and various kids’ sport commitments!) have kept me away from the rivers, so it was with eager anticipation that I dusted off the river rods and headed to the Steavenson, Acheron and Rubicon rivers. An overcast, humid day with prospects of thunderstorms had me thinking of potential ant patterns and gentle sippers in long glides.

On arrival at the first spot however, raging rapids and the presence of another two cars brought me back to reality. After a quick chat with the guys who were getting rigged up as I arrived, they decided to fish from just below the bridge whilst I walked a kilometre upstream to give them plenty of room. However after a couple of casts, the occupants of a third car emerged from upstream and slapped their worms into the water about two rod lengths in front of me. Lesson #1: the etiquette of flyfishing does not apply to all forms of angling!

A 'worm-proof' rainbow and I'm off the mark!

A ‘worm-proof’ rainbow and I’m off the mark.

I jumped out and kept walking up to a nice fast flowing section with a boulder in the middle. I suspected it had been bombarded by worms in the last 20 minutes, so I presented my flies more in hope than anticipation. Third cast the fly dipped and I missed. A couple of casts later near the far bank, I saw the dry dip at the same time as the flash of a fish and I was into a lovely fat rainbow that pulled hard in the current, almost got under a snag and made two or three strong surges before I was able to land it. A nice start and lesson #2: recently ‘fished over’ trout can still be willing to take a fly!

Rushing water, but I bet there's a good one right under the log...

Rushing water, but maybe there’s a good one right under the log…

After taking a short swim in the strong current, I moved further upstream to face a stretch of water where I’d previously had trout take the fly – and even hooked and lost good fish – but never landed one. After a miss each on the nymph and the dry, it seemed as though I would add another blank for that run. I’d been fishing the slower water at the edge of the rushing  rapids, but had not managed to get the flies up under a fallen tree where I suspected a trout could be lurking. Last cast, my flies landed safely right under the log and immediately the dry dipped. A lovely rainbow launched itself into the air and then the rapids. A furious struggle ensued with the fish heading into snags and getting downstream of me, until finally I was able to steer it into the shallows. I brought the net under a lovely 2lb rainbow with spectacular markings.

The big rainbow.

A good rainbow.

After that, the rest of the day became even more  glorious. The air temperature rose and the fish started coming up to the dry as well as attacking the nymph. It was exacting fishing – any drag or flies racing away in the rapids and there would be no response. However, if the flies were landed close to the bank in slower water, the fish often struck aggressively. One rainbow smashed the dry so hard it launched completely out of the water.  Another brown almost beached itself getting to the nymph in some shallows.  In one swift section there was a slower area of water at the edge about half a metre wide and a few metres in length. In just that small section alone, four different fish took the dry or nymph. Overall, the turbulent water seemed to make the fish less spooky and you could get quite close to them before casting, which was necessary to avoid drag.

Soft edges like these produced fantastic action.

Soft edges like these produced fantastic action.

As the rivers up here are higher and faster than normal, please take care wading as the force of the water means that some normally fishable spots are for the moment not worth the risk. On the upside, the fish are concentrated in the edges and pockets so by carefully fishing those areas, there is more than enough water to make up for the inaccessible spots.

A tubby brown - the trout are obviously on good pasture this season.

A tubby brown – the trout are obviously on good pasture this season.