Snowy Lakes Report June 2024

Snowy Lakes Update June 2024

Bardi grub territory?

Without a word of a lie!

When it’s so cold you can’t hold a small fly, let alone tie a safe knot, it’s the little things that make you laugh and improve your day. Within a 48 hour period I heard, “What colour brown nymph were you using?”; and “I’ve never seen so many penguins on Lake Eucumbene!”. But my favourite was when we were spot-locked over some fish in a bit of deep gorge water, when the skipper of a boat parked on a steep wooded bank, pulled away from the shore, waved and called out something. What I heard was “… bardi….. drill….”. I asked Col whether perhaps the occupants had been successfully drilling for bardi grubs and were giving us the heads up; to which Col looked askance and said all he’d heard was “…barbi… we’ve left the grill…”. Which explained the curl of smoke coming from behind a large fallen tree.

The colour of money

I know regular readers will be familiar with my view that a large part of the social licence we have as trout fishers (who benefit greatly from government-funded stocking programs of a non-native species) comes from the economic value of the fishery. The hordes of fishers descending onto the Thredbo and Eucumbene Rivers hoping to catch a trophy brown trout migrating upriver to spawn, is a key part of that economic benefit to the Snowy Mountains.

Easily the most popular river fishing periods of the Snowy trout fishing year, are early and late season, when lake fish are either on their way up the streams, or on their way back. Now, I’m the first to recognise this is a controversial fishery issue. Traditional flyfishing etiquette flies out the 4WD window on the way to the chosen spot, and a strange fever overtakes normally sensible people. Like so many wildebeest crossing the Serengeti, anglers march up and down the river in a seemingly random way, first one way, then the other, then standing in one place putting mechanical and ever-optimistic cast after cast after cast into pools and runs and riffles, whilst jealously guarding their few metres of prime river real estate.

Now, behaviour aside, there doesn’t appear to be a biological reason why this fishery is a bad thing. It’s been going on for decades (as have spawn-run salmonid fisheries all over the world) and the trout seem just fine. In fact, I’m even happy to mount an argument that the many hundreds of pelicans and cormorants on the lake right now, targeting the same fish, probably eat more trout than are affected by fishers. Meanwhile, it’s the presence of fishers which keeps those other apex trout predators off the bulk of the river.

Even those who are predominantly lake fishers (like me) and who fish the lakes in late autumn, winter and early spring, are catching a lot of trout that are either on their way to spawn, or on their way back and in recovery (which isn’t really any different).

Because of their sheer numbers once in the rivers, these trout provide an opportunity for anglers of most abilities (not just the experts) to catch a fish. This fishing isn’t for everyone, but it is for the many. And it’s the many we need, to support the economics of the fishery, and to help keep our social licence. If you’re going to give the river a go, try a nymphing rod to get the most out of it – speak to the team at Flyfisher online.

The colour of money. This lake male brown was coloured up with golds, reds, and brass with shiny copper hues.

The Lakes

Lake Eucumbene is fishing very well on the good days. A flat calm full sun day was difficult; 30 kms/hour of choppy cold southerly swinging easterly had a lot of prospect but was too brutal to be enjoyable; a light nor’ wester as usual proved to be the most productive. The top of the lake has gone quiet. Launching at Providence Portal is now very tricky and will soon be impossible until we get some more water. A trip to Anglers Reach is your best bet if you want to boat-fish the top of the lake. However, all the southerly lake bays are fishing well. I spoke to one boat full of fishers who’d landed and released 30 trout from the Stockyards (around the corner from Cobrabold) which is better than anything I’ve done for a while. 

Lake Jindabyne has been fishing well with nowhere near the numbers of anglers. Rod Allen from Crazy Trout Hunters sent me a picture of his second monster broodstock salmon in as many weeks – a head only a mother could love (I mean the fish, not Rod of course!). Rainbows are pretty uncommon at the moment.

Tantangara Reservoir is still apparently closed unless you’re toting a high-powered automatic rifle from a chopper and culling brumbies; likewise effectively every bit of trout water in the KNP is closed east of the Snowy Mountains Highway.

Snowy Lakes Update June 2024

You’d hardly think twice about this if it was a surf beach, but this was marginal boat weather, and brutal on the soul.

Snowy Mountains lake levels

Lake Eucumbene has been falling steadily since the end of January and is around 51% compared with 63% this time last year. The banks are muddy and very boggy in places.

Lake Jindabyne has been falling steadily since the end of February and is around 63% compared with 81% this time last year.

Tantangara is at 26%, around the same as last year. The usual pattern of dropping the lake before winter has not been followed this year; thus far anyway. When the lake reopens after the cull, assuming the lake isn’t dropped in the meantime, the lake will be in the grass which would be epic – a man can only dream! The original timeframe for the closure was 6 months from the beginning of April, so if they stick to that, we’ll be fishing the lake by October. As an old pommy fisher, I can tell you that opening day on a lake after a winter closure can be epic!

Snowy Lakes June Report 2024

A full stomach, a good snooze, and time for a bit of yoga before heading off on a mission to remove a few more browns. Odd-looking penguin!

Best lake flies and methods

The quote at the start of this report about the colour of the brown nymphs, followed a run of lake rainbows on an unweighted brown nymph on the dropper. Royce Baxter recommended an orange glass-bead head nymph fished on his top dropper. Others have said any good nymph is working, with size being the main thing – size 14 and not too dressy. Meanwhile, other good fishers have been using heavy bead-head flies like the Humungus. In fact, anything with tungsten and a bit of zonker strip, and I’ve persevered with a Black and Gold. I saw a good brown attack a pink foam indicator right by the boat; and chatted with a fisher at Providence, who said all fish seemed interested in was his orange indicator. I really must invest some time in an actual indicator fly.

The top lake tip is, there are millions of yabbies. Check the inshore shallows for the little holes and the puffs of sediment. The falling lake means they’re relocating, which means yabby civil warfare, and easy pickings for the browns as the homeless march around looking for shelter and competing for holes.

The rivers close at the end of the King’s Birthday long weekend on Monday the 10th June. Snowy Mountains fishing doesn’t stop then however, with the lakes open all the way through winter. And further afield, I’m headed for Sydney Harbour later this month if the weather gods are good to me.