As the days shorten and the nights cool there’s a sense of anticipation. The river season will close in June and the feeder rivers for the Snowy Lakes will soon start to fill with brown trout starting their annual spawn run. Legend amongst these is the Eucumbene River with the Thredbo a close second, and the Murrumbidgee not too far behind.
The fish are about as easy as they will ever be to catch. All that’s needed is a Glo-bug and a split shot, maybe an indicator if you’re not sight-fishing or high-sticking. Every addict understands the urge to go fishing. The irritability of abstention. The withdrawal after a successful trip. And there’s no better way to get your hit of dopamine and fire up all those neurotransmitters than fishing the brown trout spawn run.
Sometime in April is when it all starts to happen. Usually triggered by rainfall, the fish smell the fresh and start to mill around the river mouth. Driven by primal urges, they then run up river. Watching big browns steam through moonlit shallow rapids with their backs out of the water is a spectacular sight. I visit the river in the weeks leading up to the Queen’s Birthday long weekend when the rivers close, hoping to see the big fish lying against the banks, with the rub marks in the pool sediment that show the fish have passed this way, on their way up river. Quite apart from the chance to catch a fish, it’s just a wonderful thing to watch – in my head I hear David Attenborough nattering on about the wildebeest migration.
Anyway, I’ve been out and about over the last two weeks and so far it’s been quiet; I’ve fished Tantangara, the Murrumbidgee, and lake and river Eucumbene. Amazingly I haven’t blanked a day yet, but its been close! In my opinion, despite the occasional skite in the Twitterverse and on Facebook, there are no spawn run fish in the river to speak of at this time. That of course doesn’t mean there won’t be tomorrow. When they come they all seem to come at once. For the time being, I’ve been indicator nymphing and flicking an orange beaded blue/black Woolly Bugger. I did give the river an hour on a dry but it didn’t raise any more interest.
A couple of points. From 1 May the rules change on the rivers, with. a daily bag limit of one fish, and a minimum size of 50 cm. The season closes on Monday 10 June. It helps to accept that there’s a pause in fishing etiquette during the spawn run. Like I said, it’s an addiction, so don’t expect eye contact from that bloke furtively moving in on your prize spot. And from a moral point-of-view, it’s worth remembering that some of the world’s most famous salmon and steelhead fisheries are all spawn-run fisheries.
Lake levels are all suffering as the drought continues. Eucumbene is 25.37% and more or less stable; Tantangara is now stable, back at its 26% benchmark level where it should stay through early winter (which means the Portal from Tantangara to Eucumbene is closing – if not closed); and Jindabyne is down a touch at 77.7%. All river levels are low and the water isn’t that cold for this time of year.