Snowy Lakes Midwinter Update

A five day winter fishing trip to Lake Eucumbene and Lake Jindabyne netted well over a hundred fish for Editor Philip and I, ably supported for two sessions by Stephen Gaynor, who made a one day dash from his kingfish and salmon charters on Sydney Harbour. In short, the fishing was awesome.

Philip and I always seem to fish well together, and this trip was no exception. We were onto fish from the first cast. Chunky rainbows as thick as fleas on a dog, and thumping browns… when they could beat the ‘bows to the food. We stayed at Buckenderra, a handy winter base; particularly if you’re planning day trips to Jindabyne.

On day one, we caught up for our maiden afternoon session, launched the boat, and headed to Tom Try Inlet almost opposite the boat ramp. The first spot I stopped was a bank with a deep rocky edge and I could sense Philip wasn’t immediately attracted… until the rod was nearly yanked out of his hand by the first of many ridiculously hard-fighting rainbows.

The editor, dressed like an eskimo and nervously attempting to bring a good rainbow through last year’s flooded weeds.

Over the next few days, we fished all the eastern shore bays to Tri Villa, and retreated to a couple of western shore bays when we got smashed by gale force nor ’westers. We also spent a morning over at Brookwood Bay on the southern side of the Frying Pan headland.

In every case, we found fish, and there were a number of times when it was literally a hit-a-cast (although our hit-to-net stats were often woeful). This trend continued with our final session on Providence flats. The average size of the rainbows landed was higher at Providence, though not by a huge margin. I put the extra size down to the dominance of older, larger pre-spawn rainbows gathering at the top of the lake.

Providence rainbow.

We managed to fit in a day at Jindabyne, launching at Waste Point and fishing the Thredbo and Snowy arms. The fishing was slower than Eucumbene, but still good. Philip, mostly on the bank, got the rare salmonid quadrella of an Atlantic salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout – his first ever.

The Jindy Atlantic which completed Philip’s first-ever quadrella.

Stephen and I had to settle for sharing in a boat-based trifecta (no salmon). Two solid browns were landed and one lost.

While were messing about on boat and bank, Rod Allen was polaroiding around the corner in Hatchery Bay and giving regular reports of sightings and hook-ups, ending up with several good browns on his big-wet/ intermediate line rig. We had made loose plans to catch up for a fish with Rod, but it turned out his sight fishing was just too good to leave.

Fish like this delayed our catch-up with Rod… and if his regularly-texted pics were anything to go by, vice versa!

Meanwhile, our fishing a bay or two away, while not as spectacular, kept leading to ‘just one more cast’. Eventually, the sun was off the water and we all settled for a short evening fish together. The relaxed chatter reflected a day when everyone was feeling pretty satisfied.

A relaxed finish to another great day.

On both lakes, we saw a lot more fish rising and boiling on the surface than we normally see in July, despite some pretty brutal overnight temperatures – as low as minus 8 degrees! We saw plenty of midge on the water and in the air when the wind dropped and the sun came out, so we suspect these fish were definitely feeding. The water temp was mostly around 7 to 8 degrees, dropping near river mouths and the Portal. In the Thredbo arm, it abruptly dived to 4 degrees when we were still a kilometre from the river mouth and the fishing just stopped. However, over most of Providence, it was barely above 5 degrees, yet the fishing was good.

Seat ice.

As for flies, we mainly used Woolly Bugger variants, with a bit of backup from small nymphs and midge patterns. I’m going to write a separate article about the particular wet fly fishing that worked (and has worked so well over the last few years). In brief, it’s about a bit of bling, tungsten beads to give the fly depth and action, and mixing up the retrieve. However, that’s the bare bones and I’m going to need pages to describe the all-important details.

Where were the fish? Mainly close to shore, often right on the bank. My thought is that the edge water is ‘activated’ by the winter sun and the midge get going, drawing the fish in. We didn’t do any early morning or after dark fishing. It may have worked, but with such good daytime action, snap-freeze conditions when the sun was gone held little appeal.

With daytime results like this, it was hard to get motivated to fish after sunset.

Snowy Lakes levels form an interesting picture. Eucumbene had a slight uptick beginning about two weeks ago, but it has dropped the tiniest amount in the last two or three days. The big lake is at 63% compared to 40% this time last year. While you can easily see the bankside scar from this summer’s high of nearly 69% (making bank walking easy and casting mainly obstruction-free), there is still a remarkable amount of flooded vegetation subsurface – which is no doubt harbouring plenty of trout food. Jindabyne has been falling about 1 percent a week since early February and is currently at 76%, compared with 85% this time last year. This again makes for easy access along the tree-lined river arms… but watch out for a greasy zone just above the water. Tantangara Reservoir is at 36% and is dropping like a hot potato, with the Providence Portal into Lake Eucumbene running water full bore into Lake Eucumbene.

Hooked up to a bank-side brute.

While future forecasts are always tricky, my hot tip right now is for late spring. Given the prospect of potentially lower rainfall, the lake might not rise too quickly, meaning the onset of warmer water should see a lot of decomposing vegetation left over from last season’s massive rise – and that should mean midge-production heaven. Given the amount of midge we saw this week, it’s tempting to make an early call that we may see the best midge fishing for many years. As always, time will tell…