I can’t believe it’s taken until mid-February for my first trip of the new year to north-east Victoria – in this case to the Ovens River catchment. New Zealand and other distractions have filled my calendar of available fishing days. Whilst this is not a reason to complain, I have nonetheless been experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
A reasonably mild summer and good rainfall through spring and summer, have kept the countryside looking fantastic and the streams still flowing well and surprisingly cool. Although it’s too soon to call the end of summer, there’s a real feel of autumn starting to kick in. By mid-February I would normally expect the trout to be sulking, lying deep and low and seeking as much cover as possible. But as usual, there is no ‘usual’ when it comes to trout!
Our opening session revealed good flows, cool water and direct sunlight on the first fast, shallow run we came to. I turned to my fishing mate Tim and suggested we push up to shady, deeper water, and he agreed. At that very moment, a trout rose in front of us. I took two steps forward and spooked a good fish!
For the next few hours, this sort of shallow (6-12 inches deep) exposed water, which we nearly chose to ignore, proved to be the most productive, with the trout taking small Stimulators and hopper patterns. Conversely, the deep, slow, shady water and bubble-lines proved difficult to the point that on this seemingly perfect dry fly day, a weighted nymph fished methodically was the only way to extract fish. (Stubbornly persisting with a dry would have taken a several trout off the scorecard!) It was only as the day wore on and shadows became longer, that the trout started behaving in a more familiar way.
Over the weekend we caught many trout; mainly rainbows and a few lovely browns. It was fun catching them of course, but it was also more fun than usual trying to figure them out.
As entertaining as the trout fishing is, in recent times, many of our trips to the north-east have changed somewhat as we pack additional 8 to 10 weight rods. Sometimes, we forego the evening rise to pursue Murray cod, not far downstream from where we catch trout. This shift in focus sees us off the trout water at around 4pm and back in town for an early dinner, before rigging up the cod rods and tying flies almost as big as the trout we were chasing earlier in the day!
For me, cod fishing is mysterious and super addictive. The visual, explosive takes are nothing short of breathtaking. I am enjoying the learning curve immensely! The other benefit of chasing cod in this region is the fact that dragging ourselves off trout water early, enables us to eat out before restaurants close and experience some of the excellent food, beer and wine that is available in this region. Around Bright, the Bright Brewery is a fantastic early dinner option offering great food and excellent crafted beers. In addition to this iconic brewery, there are some very good restaurants in Bright if a slower-paced and more food and wine focused evening is desired.
Rainbows, browns, cod, great beer, food and wine… North-east Victoria is definitely a flyfishing and foodie’s paradise. I hope it won’t be another month-and-a-half before I’m back!