Snowy Lakes late January update

“Well, we did get a summer after all,” I heard someone say. On the lakes, water temperatures in the shallows have at times got into the high 20s, causing the trout to retreat to deeper water. During these warmer periods, when they did come into the shallows, it was mainly after sunset to raid for food.

Lake Eucumbene continues to be the star performer of all the Snowy lakes but it has finally stopped rising, and short of a major rain event, I think it’s peaked for the season at a little under 69%. An important consequence of this is that with no new ground being flooded, the worms aren’t there to drag the trout in close, and whilst growth rates and fish condition have been spectacular all season, the fish will now have to work harder for their tucker.

The day of the dragonfly feeders!

The picture above was not a very summery day. It was cold and wet, and we were surrounded by storm cells. But the fish were everywhere. In the first hour, I must have counted 50 plus dragonfly leapers insanely summersaulting after their targets. A fast strip on a Wooly Bugger got Naomi one good fish; but they weren’t easy and we dropped way more than we landed. High velocity, high power fish don’t stick well!

Blue sky to the east and black sky to the west.

If you fish out of Buckenderra, you’ll recognise these pictures taken from the cardinal mark at the entrance to Rushies. In the end, the blue sky won this day, but the pictures pretty much reflect the weather all summer, so far at least.

Lately, I’ve much preferred fishing in a bay with the wind blowing into it, especially if it’s been from the same direction for a day or two. The food is kept in the bay. Watch the weather, especially wind direction for the days before you fish, not just on the day you fish.

With the millions of hoppers about to take flight around the lake, the wind equation is going to get more complex, and an offshore wind may soon become desirable – at least on hopper days. It’s going to be a big hopper season.

I had a session with Col Sinclair right at the top of the lake near the Denison campground. We stuck with the deeper water, yet it was slow going. Then right on dark, Col summoned an old memory from when the lake was high during the World Fly Fishing Championship over 20 years ago, and he promptly caught a couple of browns on a small Woolly Worm. These did not really look like the uber condition worm fed browns of the lake, and I suspect they were river fish dropping back into the lake as the flows drop and the temperatures increase. Plus, they were too crazy for lake fish and behaved more like rainbows.

Col caught a couple of these on a small Wooly Worm.

So far, the mudeye fishing has been sporadic, and there’s a couple of possible reasons why. First, there is an immense amount of submerged scrub and long grass. This means the mudeyes can make their way to the shore without spending too long exposed in open water. Second, there is just a lot more lake than when they were hatched, so they aren’t as concentrated. The best spots are in the back of the soaks and gullies, where eggs were laid in marshy areas and semi-permanent water before the lake proper flooded.

A huge area of the lake will have no mudeyes at all; it’s all just too fresh. I always check trees and rocks for shucks and have seen hardly any so far. Normally, at this time of year I would expect to see thousands on a good dead tree on the shoreline. So why all the dragonflies reported earlier? These insects are very strong fliers, and after plenty of water for the last couple of years across the whole Snowy/ Monaro, perhaps they’ve migrated from other places. Look out for crazy numbers of mudeyes on Eucumbene next summer! 

Meanwhile, my fly of the month is still the old faithful stick caddis, either on a slow retrieve with a bead head black nymph dropper to get it down a bit; or fished static under a small indicator.

Lake levels

Lake Eucumbene is a little over 68% now but it’s stable. Lake Jindabyne has been dropping steadily and is now at 92%. Anyone crossing the Jindabyne dam wall will have noticed the releases going down the Snowy River from the plume of spray in the tailrace. Fishing reports have been positive, with some excellent polaroiding on calm days on the rocky headlands off the eastern bays. Tantangara Reservoir is at 24% and has been falling like a stone, with the portal into Lake Eucumbene at Providence still running flat out. All in all, there’s a lot of water everywhere.

A quality rainbow from the boat, fishing at Rushies on Lake Eucumbene.

The next big chance to get to the lake will be Easter, so book early – accommodation will again be at a premium. The fishing we have at the moment is of a rare standard, with both good numbers and great quality. I’ve lost count of the number of really big rainbows that have skunked me in the submerged scrub. There are certainly plenty of 5lb-plus fish out there to be caught, and probably a double figure trout or two. But catching and landing are different things!

Finally, if you’re thinking about polaroiding (and you should be), have a look at the Smiths Low Light Ignitor lenses; mine are over three years old now and are brilliant.