Snowy lakes update – hop into Autumn

Grace Lea Island, Lake Eucumbene -perfect ripple.

For me, autumn arrives on the Snowy lakes when the surface water temperature consistently drops below 20 degrees. On Sunday we tried four fishing hot-spots (normally) and the highest we saw was 19.5 degrees. It wasn’t a particularly chilly evening but friends camping on the Murrumbidgee said they had a frost, and most nights it’s getting down to 4 degrees or less. And the poplars at the bottom of our hill on the Monaro are gold.

So, where were the fish? Because we didn’t catch any. Meanwhile, Stephen was in Sydney Harbour and there were squid everywhere. He hates that. If the squid are easy to catch the fish aren’t chasing them. The other charter boats were chattering away complaining about a lack of fish in the Harbour, along the coast, and offshore. Just food for thought really, but it was not a memorable fish day and not just on the lakes. Something does happen to the trout though, at this time of year as they start to get into breeding mode. Their behaviour changes.

Mudeye shucks on every tree branch.

The lake fish have had a good year no doubt. They’re in good condition and maybe won’t have to work quite as hard as normal to get up to their spawning weight? Col reported fish rolling around in a bay, uncatchable – that’s normally pre-spawning behaviour. Bays that produced browns all summer are now only producing rainbows, fat and fit, if not in good numbers.

Dismembered but not eaten yabby – yabby-on-yabby duel perhaps?

I had a call for advice mid-week. What would I do? Well, first, the hoppers aren’t done yet. What shaped up to be a good hopper year didn’t really ever get going. Yet they’ve been kind of on, if not really on. But the banks of every river, and lakeside grass banks, still have plenty of hoppers; a lot of which are now yellow-winged and highly mobile. So casting a hopper along any river or lake bank would still be a good choice. In a river, hard against the bank because the fish are coming from undercuts. In the lake, three to five metres off a steep bank, because the fish are patrolling the drop-offs. Using the hopper as an indicator, with a stick caddis or a small nymph 60cm hanging off is also a real option for the lakes. Apart from that, my best advice is to keep your flies in the water (always a good way to catch a fish!) and mix up the patterns a bit. Mudeye patterns on the change of light because they are definitely still on, Woolly Bugger, small nymphs, and work the different water layers. I spent a fair bit of time with sinking lines trying to find fish on the weekend.

Last week’s hopper-caught brown – with background dissolved for added mystery!

Just a couple of thoughts. There were a few size 12-ish beetles dropping on the water on Sunday, but nothing taking them. There were a stack of ladybirds around, so it must be their ‘time’. Half an hour after sunset there were caddis everywhere, but again, no fish visibly feeding. There was a lot of evidence of yabbies, which is a great sign for the browns. And after a wet summer, we could now do with some rain – and a lot of it. When it comes, the terrestrial feed getting washed in, especially into the rivers, will be a good reason to get off the couch. At home, we have a plague of frogs – biblical proportions. I’ve been relocating them down to the Michelago Creek but last week’s pool dried up (the creek is being pumped dry) so they’re in the water trough at home for the time being.
The top of Lake Eucumbene is quite dirty with Tantangara water coming through the portal – which isn’t very inspirational if you’re relying on fish seeing your fly – but no doubt there are fish there. Eucumbene River reports are mostly of smaller fish which is nice for next year. Thredbo River reports suggest somewhat of a resurgence with some really good fish all over Facebook. Lake Jindabyne fish reports are scarce and not encouraging – but the lake looks amazing!

Ladybirds in abundance.

Lake levels are a mixed bag. Eucumbene is at 31.8% and still falling steadily as it has been pretty much all year (and of course everyone knows the fish hate a falling lake). Jindabyne is being held pretty steady at 74.4.%, as it has been all year (keeps the town looking nice), Tantangara has the plug out again with the portal open (a bit) into Eucumbene and is at 9.7% and falling, being kept especially low for the Snowy 2.0 development.
That’s it for now. Get out there and enjoy the cooler fresh air.

Superb sky looking west to the Eucumbene dam wall.