Brother Mark and I have been making a late December pilgrimage to the upper Murray area most years for the last 30. In all that time it was easy to imagine we’d fished most of the water available. But of course the western slope of the Snowys coupled with the Murray tributaries on the Victorian side, present more trout stream kilometres than could be fished in three lifetimes, let alone three decades.
It was our friend Paul who put us on to this new spot. The 4WD track in for the first part of the route sounded steep but passable in Mark’s Nissan, followed by a rough, trackless walk for the final pitch into the Indi River gorge. So on a cool sunny morning, we left the more familiar stretches of river behind and drove right back into the mountains.
The bit on foot proved the most demanding as we inched down a series of small waterfalls on a tumbling side stream. Once or twice it seemed our route was blocked by an impassable boulder or log jam, however if we scouted around, there was always a small gap that allowed us to continue. Eventually, we burst out of the rainforest and into the bright light of the main river valley.
The river here looked sensational, but initially the fishing was inexplicably tough, despite clear, 17 C water. Dries failed, as did nymphs and dries. No big deal – we’ve often found dedicated deep nymphing necessary to catch trout in other parts of the upper Indi, even when conditions seem ideal for the dry (see ‘Upper Murray Christmas’ back in issue 5 – click on the Magazine tab above). But when even this failed, we began to wonder – was there some strange reason this stretch was lacking fish?
The first clue came as I stood on small bluff above the river and casually swung my Stimulator/ Green Drake duo at the end of the drift. From my elevated position, I watched a good rainbow fly up from the depths and slash at the nymph. I missed that one, but I was ready with a slip strike a few casts later and landed a 12 incher. Another half hour of conventional upstream nymphing and nymph/ dry produced just one possible take between us, so working on the scant evidence available, I rigged up for some across and down nymphing – Green Drake on the dropper and a small Olive Woolly Bugger on the point to suggest the original owners of the giant 5 cm mudeye shucks that clung to many of the riverside boulders.
The result was immediate. If cast and mended well enough to get the flies down on the swing, every second or third presentation was hit. In less than an hour I had 5 trout versus 1 for the previous two hours. It was hard to believe that the trout – all rainbows – had ignored drifting nymphs so comprehensively, but given that three fish on the swing came from water we’d just upstream nymphed, the evidence was conclusive.
Even if you add in the couple of little trout Mark managed from the feeder creek we’d followed down to river, it was hardly the session of the trip; at least from the perspective of fish caught. However for landscape, beautiful water and the sense of discovery, it was one of the finest days I’ve had in 2015.
There were pools and runs visible from the mountainside stretching up and downstream into the distance that we never got to fish, but a goat track through the tea-tree and tree ferns promised more access points. Something to explore in 2016…