There is something very special about the Snowy Mountains lakes in winter. They can be soul-destroying, bleak and barren places, whilst at the same time creating opportunities and thrills. Days are short, temperatures chilling, and the weather unpredictable. Like no other time of year, you need to pick your days – sometimes just 48 hours or less before you go. If you can drop everything, and just head off, you’re going to get pole position. Find a high bank with submerged yabby beds or weed, the sun at the right angle, a contrasting lake bed, and just walk and spot fish.
It’s also a time when private dam owners are stocking their paddock puddles. I spent three days recently shipping fish from the trout farm at Tumut, observing the countryside.
I drove past Jounama Pondage and Blowering Dam, and they are full of water. They look amazing. The Tumut River is running flat out up to the banks. Meanwhile, water is still heading west from Lake Eucumbene, past Murray 1 and 2, and down the Swampy Plain River.
I could spend a lot of time wondering where all this water is going and why, but I think I may have the answer. I recently switched my electricity retailer to Amber. With Amber you get a price linked to the wholesale rate on an hour-by-hour basis for both solar outputs, and consumption. And there’s a really cool app with SMS alerts for price spikes so you can turn off your heaters and cookers when its expensive. So, whatever thoughts I previously had about demand-driven price spikes, they didn’t include the idea that producers sold their power on a competitive basis in a real-time auction. On windless and sunless days, when there are no solar or wind renewables, and when that coincides with peak use times, the forecast price spikes are, for example last Monday at 6.30 pm, between $40 and $130 per kWh. If that isn’t an incentive to turn off a bar on the heater and put on the cardigan, I don’t know what is.
So at the end of all that, my thinking is that Snowy Hydro, as a profit-driven enterprise, is making power while the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, and Lake Eucumbene has water pouring out of it and down through the turbines. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!
Anyway, back to the fishing. All this water, and a forecast wet winter, means spring is going to be a ripper. I went up to Tantangara with David. His first trip for months and he out-fished me with his calm, measured, slow Woolly Bugger retrieves whilst I persisted with my mix it up strategy.
The lake is in the grass and the only problem is that the lake level is getting so close to the Snowy 2.0 worksite that we got moved on and told this part of eastern shore is closed. Together with the seasonal closure of other access tracks and roads, this blocks a lot of the foot-only access for those without boats. Anyway, I’ve asked Snowy 2.0 to look into it.
Meanwhile Ash and Rod, Crazytrouthunterz group on Facebook, have been mercilessly exploiting the yabby-chasing browns in Lake Jindabyne and in shallow waters around the southern arms of Lake Eucumbene.
The Lake Eucumbene level has flatlined at 22.4% since the end of June, so the fish are in close. Middlingbank, Rushy, Frying Pan and Seven Gates are all worth a look, and if you’ve got a boat, the eastern shoreline looks pretty good.
Tantangara reached 31.4% in early July but is now down to 28%. With the next batch of weather I expect it to level off and maybe even tip up again in a week or so. The boat ramp turning area disappears under water once it gets a bit over 30%, so it’s worth a walk down to assess your ‘reverse and launch’ strategy if the lake is high.
Jindabyne is steady at 76%, where it’s been all year – give or take. It looks amazing, apart from me wanting a few more fish! Rod and I spent a day there on the boat for a couple of small rainbows and a brook trout. We did see one monster fish roll on the surface close by, possibly one of the ex-broodstock salmon, but it looked and felt much better than it fished.
I’ve got a charter boat back on the Snowy Lakes so feel free to get in touch if you fancy a day out.