North-east Vic and Snowy Mountains road trip

Fishing new places is always interesting. Mental pictures of fabulous fishing fill your head from all the books and magazines, and you want to be the successful fisher in those articles. There are many, many new places to fish but the streams of the Snowy Mountains have always been lurking in the back of my brain. I’ve never fished the Snowies and I don’t really know why. I’m not talking about the spawning run (which hasn’t appealed to me) but more the solitude of the sinuous streams meandering through wide open plains. After asking a few angling friends about locations etc, and finding a few days of leave when son Scott was available to join me, I had the chance for a road trip to take a look at the area.

With no real set agenda apart from streams rather than lakes, and traveling light with just swags, a couple of chairs, the camping box and a fridge in the ute, we hit the road towards Kiandra and chatted about what might lie ahead.

Ogilvies Creek

First stop was Ogilvies Creek for a few small rainbow trout, but no brookies sighted. The numbers (and size) of march flies here was phenomenal, and it was seriously distracting, while trying to watch your fly to, have several on your legs trying to bite through your pants (the odd one did!) and several more particularly persistent buzz-bombs flying about your face and hands. Best pattern was a small caddis. The hopper patterns we had on at first may have been a bit large looking at the smaller hoppers streamside, although the fish just didn’t seem interested in grasshoppers anyway.

We camped at Three Mile Dam for the night and only saw a few fish moving some distance offshore. We had the gear set up, but we didn’t fish into the night. Top spot for a camp.

Ideal campsite at Three Mile Dam.

A quick morning dash down the hill to Adaminaby was on the cards as someone had forgotten to buy bread! Then it was back up to the Eucumbene River. Although there were fish about and we spooked a couple in the shallows, otherwise there was only an occasional splashy rise.

A move was in order and we decided to give the Murrumbidgee a look above Tantangara. A few brumbies on the way in were a bonus – and so was a hook-up in the first pool on a hopper. Although this was an encouraging start, the subsequent action was slow and despite long leaders and careful stalking, we only managed a couple of small rainbow trout. Scott tried a few other flies but the fish just didnt want to play. With dark clouds on the hills and a change on the way, we made a move up to the Long Plain area for another try, but the fishing was shortlived as the rain hit and we retired to the car to contemplate our next move.

The upper Murrumbidgee.

Back near Three Mile, mobile reception gave us the BOM radar and forecast, which showed rain for the next few hours and into the night. We weren’t setting the angling world on fire in the Snowies, so it was an easy decision to avoid camping in the rain, and we made the call to drive out the southern end of the rainband and back towards Victoria. We decided there was a good chance we would make the Nariel Creek before dark and leave the rain behind.

The plan worked and the evening rise on the Nariel was hectic but short. Several fish were up and about and we landed three rainbows; two on caddis and one on a mayfly emerger, with a couple more fish pricked. The biggest was maybe 13 inches.

Scott hooked up on the Nariel.

The next day saw us head across to Benambra and on up to the Bundara. The day was spectacular and the air was filled with the sound of clicking grasshoppers. However the actual fishing was slow until about midday, when things started to look up. We ended up with four brown trout by the time we were back at the car for a late lunch in the blue sky and sunshine.

Bundara brownie.

We were off again after lunch to camp on the Big River for the night. Before the car was unpacked at our prospective campsite, I flicked a hopper pattern into the river and a trout immediately grabbed it! Another couple of casts in the same run had two more fish to hand. We were convinced we’d made the right choice and that this would do us for as a camp.

We fished for the rest of the afternoon and finished with 17 trout before going back to camp to rest, feed and wait for the evening rise. The trout were not large, with most in the 10-14 inch range. The nice thing was, they were feeding on hoppers and sitting where you’d expected. Casting along the banks with a good natural drift, or in the bubble-lines in the runs, was often be rewarded with a trout. It was very good fishing.

With a cold wind and cloudy skies, the evening rise was a non-event. Although there were some caddis about, and the odd orange spinner, there was not a lot of surface feeding action. The cold change had well and truly hit. It was time for an early night and into the swag for warmth.

A solid Big River brown on the hopper.

The next morning we fished for about an hour for slower action on the hoppers. We got three more trout (all browns); two on hoppers and one on a swung wet, before packing up and heading for home.

A bit of fun fishing with 2lb tippets and ultra-small flies in the aqueducts around Falls Creek ended our fishing and we left the mountains; heading towards Milawa for some cheese tasting, and then on to home.

Although the fishing in the Snowies was not so good for us (in terms of trout caught, not enjoyment!) I put this down to not knowing the subtleties of the waters and insects. We may also have been in a bit of a rush to look at more streams than we had time to fish properly. Although we fished those bits of Snowy streams we did tackle with patience and a range of dry flies, we were obviously missing something. Maybe we should have tried indicator nymphing? A couple of days in the area really doesn’t do it justice and having so much water within half an hour or so’s drive, means you are spoilt for choice. For me, there’s a lot to learn about those open tussock-lined rivers, and I’ll certainly be back to give them another go.

Nariel rainbow.

Having said that, the fishing on the way back through north-east Victoria was very, very good. The Nariel, Bundara and Big (upper Mitta) are all nice streams and are fishing very well this season. While it’s exciting to travel to new locations, to echo Paul Kelly, there’s so much water, so close to home.