Sitting on a Guthega Dam rock for six hours staring at a foam hopper drifting past, recast, repeat, might not be everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon. But for Rod at age 86, that rock was a blessing; perfectly shaped with a concave seat and a built-in foot rest, it might have been worn down by a thousand bums before – over the millennia. Getting him into position was a challenge, getting him back up the shale and onto the track was a hilarious crab-like effort.
I hadn’t fished Guthega for a while but it was a scorching hot day and as we left Cooma behind and headed into the mountains, all my options flashed by, being discounted one by one as the mercury rose. The few clouds there were stopped moving, and before I knew it we’d passed the Thredbo River and were heading up and up. Rod’s been flyfishing longer than I’ve been alive and there is nothing he enjoys more than a big floaty dry. He could stare for Australia. After two hours of staring nothing had happened and I wandered up after a long walk along the bank and started to chat. As he turned his head to respond (mistake) a fish boiled and rolled over the fly. It was my mouth dropping and my thousand metre stare over his shoulder that alerted him to the tragedy before I got a word out. By the time he’d turned there was just the remnant water disturbance and a few bubbles. Rod spoke first, getting the first fifty colourful words out questioning my parental legitimacy – a cross between a Monty Python sketch and a Billy Connelly stand-up. The second time a fish tried that he managed to get some pressure on it, but it didn’t stick. And then the sun set, beetles dropped, a few duns popped and it was all over before it really started.
The February news is all about a dropping Lake Eucumbene as it has tumbled from 37.2 to 34.5% in a month. The muddy scar of foreshore has made for easy, if somewhat slippery access to the receding water. The fish have become more fickle with fewer in close during the day; perhaps in a response to avoiding stranding but also due to the increasing water temperatures. Surface temperatures have regularly been in the mid 20s. The last hour has been short but they do come in, just as long as the wind holds and there’s some kind of ripple. Which of course is not guaranteed. The odd bit of intelligence is drifting in from around the lake… fish full of stick caddis, a mudeye movement in a certain bay here or there; midge popping last night… This time of year can always be a bit hit and miss, a doldrum of uncertainty.
Anyway, school holidays are over, the campsites are disappearing and the rain in the last few days has been washing away their foot print if not all their detritus. I’m hoping for a good hopper February. There have been plenty of signs, but they look small and green, and we need them big and brown.
Jindabyne has dropped from 76.2 to 72.9% since the start of the new year. Reports are scarce, but there are fish to be caught even if numbers are historically low.
Tantangara has been really low. The foreshore has started to green up and its risen from 9.2 to 10.5% although it isn’t expected to stay up for long as they will reportedly drop it for the Snowy 2.0 construction works. Which is upsetting the fishers at the top of Lake Eucumbene because it’s muddying the waters. Several weeks after the Providence Portal stopped running the top of the lake is still turbid – looks more like Mulwala than Eucumbene. I am told discussions are underway about keeping the flow down a bit to minimise that problem.
The Crazy Trout Hunters have been sending me some cracking pictures. The miles that Rod and Ash cover, and the level of technical skill and thought they put into their fishing puts me to shame. They will spend all day going from remote spot to remote spot. Exploring and logging what they find, and occasionally getting some real nuggets.