When I texted JD to ask if he could manage a fish with me on Tuesday, the response was (and I quote): ‘Sounds good. Streams are flat chat but we have options.’ Now how much hope is there in those 10 words? JD lives in the middle of the Goulburn Valley, minutes from a remarkable number of streams with trout in them. It has been a cold and very wet spring so far, not the conditions I associate with even passable stream fishing. JD’s text might easily have read ‘Guess we could fish the Pondage’ or, ‘Can you wait and come up in a few weeks instead?’ But no, ‘We have options.’ Beauty!
We started on the natural streams, first the Taggerty, Steavenson, Little and Acheron rivers, then the Rubicon. And yes, they were all running ‘flat chat’; almost unrecognisable for their sheer size and volume. But surprisingly, they were also quite clear. And although it would be a stretch to describe the day as mild, the air lacked the bitter chill that’s dominated around the highland lakes back home.
Things got off to a promising start when, on the edge of the very first pool tail I approached, I polaroided a foot long brown. It swept on my nymph like a falcon as the fly flew by too fast in the main current. A miss, but a good start! Along the soft edge on the other side of the pool, it was easier to drift the fly deeper and slower. The orange indicator hesitated, I lifted, and the first fish came to hand, a lovely brownie in surprisingly good condition for so early in the season.
First pool, first fish! Was this too good to be true? Well, sort of. For the next couple of hours JD and I worked pretty hard for every subsequent trout. We changed spots and even changed streams, looking for those quite rare places where the current and space gave us a chance of getting the fly to travel deep and slow.
No stream produced a blank, but nowhere really fired either. I think one issue I had was finding the right nymph weight and depth beneath the indicator. In really strong currents, having the fly tickling the bottom is often essential. Almost deep enough isn’t deep enough.
And then I found a Cadillac Nymph, one with just the right feel in my palm. After tying it on I fooled but missed a fish in the next decent pool, caught a 14 incher in the one above that, and landed an 11 inch brown in the last pool.
With the daylight beginning to fade, it was time for evening on the Goulburn. We pulled over beside the river near Thornton and in the very first bit of water visible through the wattles, JD spotted a rise. In contrast to the rushing natural streams, the Goulburn was broad and gentle, a true tailwater in reverse. The recent rain had added a tinge of colour, but evidently not enough to discourage the trout from rising to a steadily increasing supply of little duns and spinners. One or two regular risers soon became half a dozen, then three times that, so a long glide provided more than enough water for me and JD to share. A size 16 Parachute Adams seemed about the right match for the naturals, at least in size and profile, and the trout thought so too.
I landed six more trout, most browns of 9 to 11 inches, but the last, rising in the twilight too dark for a photo, was a lovely 14 inch fish. I couldn’t have scripted the end of the day better.