Snowy Lakes Update July 2024

A calm bay, belying the southerly gale, sleet, and snow on a wintery Lake Eucumbene.


It’s July already, and the shortest day is behind us. Keith and I were sitting in the Lott Cafe in Cooma, drinking the best coffee and thinking up excuses to delay the start of a winter day’s fishing. Sleet was tinkling on the deserted early morning street, while the cafe was full of the Sunday morning ski tribe. Keith and I looked quite out of place in our drab fishing gear amongst the colourful and beautiful bucks and bunnies.

There was snow in the fields on Slacks Creek Road as we headed for Buckenderra, and the leaden sky threatened to deliver more. Thankfully, the forecast break in the bleak weather appeared to the west just as we launched the boat, showing us the first scrap of anything that wasn’t charcoal. (“Enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers,” as Mum used to say, when she booted us kids out the door to play in woollen beanies, scarves and gloves.) Top temperature of the day was 4°C and we knew only the UV would allow us to stay out until sunset – which it did.

It’s all about the winter browns.

Effort has been rewarded lately, and I can even put up with the trench-like cracks in my frost-ravaged thumbs. The quality of the browns is sensational. Spectacular. The retreating lake level has mobilised millions of yabbies, and they’re small: easy pickings for both browns and rainbows. Every fish we’ve caught this week has been by casting towards a mud, clay, or bouldery bank. I’m not saying it’s easy, but one or two an hour to the boat is enough to keep me happy. Statistically, we’ve been catching 3 browns for every rainbow.

Cormorant strike marks on every rainbow.

Whilst the rainbows are also in great condition, every one has scale damage from cormorant or pelican strikes, the creators of which are in every bay, right around the lake.

Peter’s best brown from Brookwood.

There don’t appear to be any good or bad areas, it’s more about the spots within each area, whether bank or boat fishing. We’ve spent plenty of time in deeper water, to 6 or 7 metres, but we’re not even seeing the fish on the sounder, although the thermocline in the 8 or 9°C surface temperature water is pretty clear down at 5 metres. Look for the red yabby clay. In clear water, you’ll see the holes like Swiss cheese even from the boat. And anywhere where either the wind is stirring up a bit of bankside sediment, or there’s a bouldery bank with plenty of boulders in the water is worth a go. The fish just hang around nearby, waiting for an unsuspecting yabby to stick its head up.

One of Keith’s browns from Rushy Plains Bay.

We always have different fly-lines going. Floaters, sink-tip, and full sinkers, but the depth of water we’ve been catching fish in, means it isn’t really making much difference at the moment. The Black and Gold with orange or chartreuse tungsten bead, continues to be the best fly by a mile, and we haven’t been slow in changing when things have gone quiet. One interesting observation is that I haven’t seen a fish rise all week on either the Eucumbene or Jindabyne trips. I guess the trout’s noses are down in the yabby mud.

Snowy Lake Levels

Lake Eucumbene is falling and is currently at 48.75 percent, down from 63 percent this time last year. Those heady high water days seem long gone! The Portal from Tantangara was opened on 19 June but doesn’t appear to have made a marked difference to the rate of fall, although Tantangara Reservoir itself is dropping like a bomb at 21.5 percent – academic, as it’s still closed for the brumby cull.

Lake Jindabyne is falling and is currently at 62.5 percent, down from 79 percent this time last year. It had a quiet early June, and the level was steady, even coming up a bit, before a big environmental release down the Snowy. A truly spectacular sight as thousands of megalitres poured through the dam wall, headed for Marlo on the Victorian coast.

Winter safety

A safety tip: the dropping lake has exposed a lot of boulders and trees we haven’t seen for a couple years, just waiting to rip off an engine, or worse! Maybe think about clearing the recorded tracks off your GPS navigator and recording some new ones. Take plenty of warm clothes, and wear your lifejackets. I saw a man and a young boy coming into the boat ramp without lifejackets; and two men pulled up and came over for a chat – no lifejackets there either, and clearly incapable of passing a sobriety test. Please wear a lifejacket!

Thought for the day

I swept out the boat this week and grumbled an accusation at my very old and gray kelpie, Briggsy, believing she was guilty of moulting in the boat. However, upon receiving strong denials, and upon closer inspection, it turned out to be hundreds of tippet clippings. Just imagine how many of these we leave bankside. I remember a NSW Fisheries fishing friend Adrian, twenty years or more ago, trying to invent a tippet-clippings-catcher. Time to think about that again maybe?

Tippet clippings – a possible environmental impact to think about.