The Goulburn and tributary streams have been fishing their trout off! Good flows in the tribs and relatively low, stable flows and clear water over summer in the main river, have contributed to a very, very good season. But even the best season in years gets a bit the same and the mind wanders to wondering how other locations are fishing. So, with a period of stable weather and a few days up my sleeve, I decided to leave the Goulburn and its great fishing to go further afield on a bit of a fishing road trip.
First stop was Pretty Valley Dam. Now a confession here. I’m not a lake fisher. I’ve read a lot about fishing them and have even heard that people actually catch fish in them, but I’m not a fan and my lake fishing knowledge is poor. Lakes are a black art to me. My previous lack of lake fishing success is a major factor in my extremely low confidence level when staring at these large expanses of water. However, when I arrived at Pretty Valley late afternoon, I was greeted with flat calm water and fish rising periodically across the whole lake! At least I knew there were trout present, and they were up and about feeding. But on what?
Walking across the dam wall, there were a few gum beetles along the edge. I’d seen pictures of these and read about them from Tassie lakes, but I didn’t contemplate them as an option when I left home. My lack of alpine lake knowledge was exposed again! No gum beetle flies in my possession.
But not all the rises were large. There was something else going on with the subtle breaking of the surface by a fish one or two times, and then nothing. After a bit more looking, I saw the midge.
It wasn’t enough that lake fishing was a challenge to me in normal situations, but now I had to contend with uber-frustrating midge feeding trout. Why did I go to Pretty Valley? Why lakes? What was I thinking?
Time to find a midge fly in the fly box… this exercise almost turned out to be harder than lake fishing! I have lots of flies but most representing caddis, mayflies, various nymphs, grasshoppers, etc, and not tiny teeny specs of feather tied on microscopic hooks. But searching through my fly boxes I did finally manage to find a couple of Griffith Gnats tucked away and, to my surprise, I even found a couple of forgotten midge pupae!
In a river, the water moves but the rising fish are generally stationary. In a lake, the opposite is true, the water is stationary but the fish move. This does my head in. The rises indicate where a fish was, not where it is, so trying to get an idea where to cast to intercept a trout can be extremely frustrating – to say the least.
After walking a lot of the shore and throwing heaps of casts at and around rises, thankfully night fell and I could give the fishing away, go and unroll the swag near the Pretty Valley hut, and have a feed. While I’d ended up with four small trout for the session, it involved lots and lots of casts and I feel someone who knew what they were doing would have had some really good fishing.
Next morning, I was back at the lake but walking up Cope Creek. This creek has been a disappointment for me on previous visits, but it is such a nice stream in a fine location, I can’t help but check it out if I’m in the area. It didn’t fail to disappoint again. While I did manage to hook one of its unicorn trout, I dropped it. I had no other interest despite fishing some great looking water, so I gave it away.
Walking back to the car, there were still some fish rising in the lake and I managed another small trout on a Griffiths before heading down the hill to the Big River.
Ahh, the Big River! What a difference current makes! Back on familiar and moving water, the Big River was a joy. Walking to the water’s edge, there were small grasshoppers everywhere and this made fly selection easy. The fish were willing to eat off the top and although nothing large was landed, there were enough eager fish caught to really enjoy the fishing.
The daytime hopper fishing was best, with only a few fish up on evening. I spoke to another angler who was also having success fish a nymph under dry.
Next day, it was off to the Bundara and the Victoria rivers. I arrived on the Bundara a bit early with some of the valley still in shade, dew on the grass and the fishing action was very slow. I thought I’d made the wrong decision to fish it, but by the time the temperature rose, and I had to take my jumper off, the hoppers had also warmed up too and the fishing really improved. Lots of fish, great scenery and a pretty river under pure blue sky. A very nice stream to fish. But time to move on. I still had the Victoria River to check out and maybe even the Ovens, daylight permitting.
I’d tried to fish the Victoria River last November; however the access track was mush and I had issues getting out without becoming seriously stuck. But now things had dried out and there were no such problems. After walking a bit downstream to fish through the grass plain back to the car, two fish from the very first run set up the scene for some fantastic hopper fishing. Again, the trout were not large, but they were no tiddlers either, and they were feisty. The explosive take of a hopper feeder continues to put a smile on your face; it just does not get old. Fish were everywhere you would expect and a drift touching the grass was generally met with an enthusiastic eat. This narrow sinuous grass-lined stream is a great water for hopper fishing.
Back to the car, and down the mountain on the way to Bright. The lure of the Ovens was strong, so I thought I’d break the drive with a short session just below Harrietville. Using nymph under dry I caught a few small rainbows, and then a decent Ovens rainbow was a fitting way to end my road trip.
Passing through Bright, the autumn leaves were just starting to turn, a sign winter is on the way. With limited time left for good weather and ‘warmish’ days, it won’t be long until dry fly fishing at least will be restricted to a short window in the middle of the day, and then fade out as the season closes.
It’s been a great trout season already, but if you want to wring it out further, and get every last drop out of it before the weather closes things down, then head up the hills as soon as possible. Enjoy large flies and stream fishing while you can, before you have to resign yourself to those bleak, wind-swept lakes, and those frustrating midge!