Snowy Lakes report – New Year 2021

From Chimney Bay – an as-ever beautiful Lake Eucumbene with a ripple full of prospect and more than ‘enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers’, as Mum would say.

In what is now becoming a tradition, the end of the old and the beginning of the New Year began with an exodus from the mountains. Not, this year, an evacuation from bushfires, but instead a mad rush home to avoid Covid quarantine. Which is really tough for local businesses. So those of us who can have been doing our best to spend as much time fishing as possible… to help the economy of course. It’s been a social few weeks with plenty of fishing with Rod, David, Col and others and we have been totally spoilt for choice in almost every way.

The main game in the Snowies at the moment is Lake Eucumbene. Following two years of very low lake levels, snowmelt, spring rain, and the seemingly never-ending Providence Portal flow from Tantangara, has had the lake rising and flooding riparian vegetation. That has been rotting and meanwhile, the aquatic and amphibious weed has been growing. We’ve had sensational midge balling, and the best variety and most abundant selection of insects I can remember. One night, on the way back to Buckenderra in the boat, we drove through a cloud of caddis so dense, I seriously thought I was off course and about to run aground! On another day, there were so many ants and midge on the water, it was like a carpet. The next morning, there was a dense metre-wide black slick of insects on the windward shore – like an oil spill.

Meanwhile, every trip is as memorable for the big fish dropped or broken off, as for all those caught. Like when Rod missed two crackers fishing from the boat; one right after the other. Both occurred on a perfect drift, casting towards a spot just a few feet from the bank. One did a full crocodile roll and showed its massive tail before coming straight for us and spitting the fly; the other bow-waved from the bank to the fly and hit it so hard, the tippet just gave up!

Then, I was supposed to meet David at the boat ramp but was ten minutes late (fishing for a dragon fly leaper…. aarrghhhh!!!!). Turned out that before my tardy arrival, he’d got bored and flicked a big brown Woolly Bugger off the bank, only for it to be monstered right at the ramp. The big rainbow eventually did him in the thistles. I can’t talk about all mine, still too painful!

The abundance of food has at times made fishing tricky but there have always been a few to be caught day and night. When it’s fired, it has really fired. Griffiths Gnat, stick caddis, black midge pupa, pheasant tail nymphs, mudeyes and Klinkhammers should all be in your fly box, as well as small green nymphs and small black Woolly Buggers. Small flies (14 to 18) have definitely fished better than big. The fish are in amazing condition, fat for their length.

Lake Eucumbene has been stable at 37% for the last few days after a steady drop for three weeks from a high of 38.4%. Tantangara has crept up a notch to 10% – the portal finally did close last week. It’s a muddy treacherous fish bowl at the moment so take care. The road in is in fantastic shape but the Snowy 2.0 works for the pipeline to Talbingo are well underway so there’s a lot of machinery around, and a lot of digging going on. The trollers are doing well. Jindabyne is falling steadily and is currently at 75.5%, down from 77.6% in early December.

I thought a pictorial blog might be a good way to look at some of our activities in the last few weeks, so please scroll through:

Hudson’s first day on the lake – cast a bubble float and Woolly Bugger rig like a legend!

High humidity storm clouds in the afternoon mean a buggy night.

These rockets seem to love getting you onto the backing. Given the amount of shrubbery close to shore, it’s very convenient to be playing out all that steam from 30 metres away, although it takes a bit of confidence to keep the pressure on with a size 18 nymph or pupa.

Bright sunny days and big rubber legged hopper-like flies, fished in the ripple, are bringing the browns up for Col (but not me)! “You have to believe,” he says as his size 6 hook plops onto the water!

A cloud-filtered moonrise seems to be auspicious for mudeye migration. Or am I just guilty of fanciful thinking again?

Water boatmen by the billion, all around the lake, might be part of the explanation for small fly preference – seriously, we’ve been catching on size 18 hooks. I didn’t even have any of these in my box until two weeks ago; now they’re everywhere. I bought extra magnification readers to cope with the change in tactics.

Just when you thought you had every bug covered in the box, a stonefly lands on your boat cover.

A real damsel in distress?

After dark, the water has been thick with spider mudeyes. Turn on the torch and there are often three or four in the beam. They hunt the boatmen mercilessly.

Millions of 25mm stick caddis. dodging and jetting around chasing down and eating microbes.

These mayfly were abundant between Braemar and Eucumbene Cove. Small Klinkhammers did the trick.