We have been blessed this spring with plenty of snow left on the peaks, and the tablelands saturated, meaning the rivers in the eastern Snowy Mountains/Monaro area are looking prime for summer. With the beautiful weather we’ve had the last month or so, the bugs and fish are starting to go nuts! This all came together during a recent outing with good friend Clint Palmer from Southern Cross Fly Fishing in Victoria.
Clint had organised to fish with my father Rod Allen and I for the weekend. Prior to Clint’s arrival, we had scouted out a local river and we planned to fish some unexplored water as well. Clint arrived at Crazy Trout Hunterz headquarters (my house!) in Cooma late Friday night, full of excitement and anticipation as we told him what we were expecting to find. After a few beers and tying up some PTNs, we decided to have an early night so we’d be fit and ready for the expedition ahead.
Day one had us on a stream where the old boy and I had done well a few weeks before. We set off downstream from the car – not ideal as this water is a very exposed network of slow pools connected by small runs and glides. Walking downstream you can easily spook fish in the almost flowless mini-lakes and runs that meander through grass rather than bush. Staying below the horizon was absolutely critical and we moved with stealth. However after spooking a couple of good fish, we decided to change our approach. We tried long down-and-across casts quite a distance upstream from the intended target, swinging wets and nymphs. Action was instant! Clint coaxed a ripper out of the depths but unluckily the brown, around 4 pounds, swiped at his Woolly Bugger but didn’t hook up. Some fly changes had the fish chasing a tandem rig to Clint’s feet a few times before the trout eventually retreated back into the depths.
In the same pool I connected to a nice fish; maybe a little smaller but full of power. This trout was in a tricky spot under a lone overhanging willow and it easily broke my tippet on a run for the willow roots. Two disappointments, but at least Clint had seen the average size of the fish in the system. And it seemed slender damsel nymphs with nice wriggling marabou tails were working. We continued downriver and encountered more fish, including one brownie which would have cleared 3kg easily! Unfortunately as the spotty shark cruised its beat, I made a subtle move and sent a tidal wave up the flow-less pool… Arrghh!
After a long trek back to the car and a late lunch, we decided on a another stretch. We spotted a few nice fish that were very flighty and Dad managed to hook a ripper that spat his damsel out in mid flight. With no evening rise as hoped, and with tails between our legs, it was time for tea and a few beers. A hard day, but at least we had chances.
Day two arrived and loaded with Clint’s beautiful nymphs, our luck began to change. We chose a creek we’d never fished; however on arrival we were confident if we applied the same tactics as the day before, we would find a trout or two. This time we walked upstream from the car and on the first big pool, just a few casts in, I heard Clint gasp. While fishing fairly deep, he’d had a nice brown inspect then reject his offer on the hang.
Five minutes later, the old man yelled a Hank Patterson quote, ‘Jammies’! We looked up to see his Loomis under load and he soon landed a nice brown around the 2lb mark. After a quick pic, the fish was released and we celebrated with a high five and a sandwich.
After our morning tea, we continued searching this big pool and got a few refusals right at our feet. By this stage we’d noticed some big brown duns sailing by. Yet although the hatch soon became quite thick, nothing responded. I was tempted to tie on a dun imitation, but something said, ‘Why? You’re already encountering fish.’ We eventually got to the head of this epic pool where a nice gravel run flowed in. Plenty of duns floated down on the current, but still no rises. I decided to swing my damsel nymph across the head of the pool anyway. Right at the beginning of the journey, the line tightened up and a respectable brown trout exploded out the water. After a few good leaps the fish was brought to the net. Following its release, there was another small celebration. Clint was already in love with the Monaro. He was unlucky not to have a couple of big fish and he agreed this was totally different to his home river, the mighty Goulburn.
Clint decided to work the top half of the pool again with different patterns to what I’d fished. Great idea – 10 metres downstream from where I’d landed my fish, Clint had himself attached to a beast! The fish charged up and down the pool down deep and eventually, after a few scary netting attempts we had a 5lb brown trout in Clint’s small stream net. What a moment! We took a couple of pics and sent the big brown back home in great health. We were that satisfied, we called it a day by 3:00pm. Clint drove back to Melbourne a happy man, while Dad and I had found another gem close to home. Win/win!