Snowy Lakes Update, start of summer 2023

A Lake Eucumbene afternoon thunderstorm followed by a blue sky dawn.

A bit of an editorial and a bit of a whinge to kick off this post…

November is trout festival month in the Snowy Mountains. I don’t think it’s too big a call to say that more trout are caught (and taken home) this month than any other time of the year. Competitions are a major economic driver, in particular for the caravan parks and other local businesses. Hundreds of fishing groups and families descend on the lakes and rivers to win a tinny or a kayak, or any of the plethora of other prizes donated by a seemingly bottomless pit of sponsors wanting to be associated with the trout fishery. It’s big business, and it attracts visitors in their thousands. 

Around the same time, a great initiative by Josh and Jana at Buckenderra is the fly and lure catch-and- release competition. I never do competition fishing, but somehow found my way into this year’s comp., mainly because a good part of the entry fee ends up with the Monaro Acclimatisation Society. The challenge of carting a plastic measuring mat through the muddy foreshore and getting a live fish to lie still for a photo before its liberation proved very demanding, when all I really wanted was to let the fish go as quickly as I could!

This year, the general feedback is the fishing in all competitions has been as good as anyone can remember. I fished on and off for a couple of days with Trevor Stow, visiting from Bairnsdale. We talked a bit about catch and release competitions and he bravely canvassed the issue on Facebook, with more than 100 people buying into the debate. He says the responses were split about 50:50 for and against, with a smattering of anti-trout posts – and asked why are anti-trouters on the Lake Eucumbene site anyway? Trolls (boom boom) no doubt!

In a perfect world, trout spawn and grow, their take is regulated by bag and size limits so everyone gets a share, and stocks are sometimes supplemented with hatchery-bred fish. A few trout grow to trophy size, and if all goes well, everyone walks away generally happy.

An important part of all this is the role of the regulators, whose representatives are, quite frankly, missing in action right now. There’s no local Fisheries Officer, and no sign of a Boating Safety Officer. It doesn’t take long for the rulebook to go out the window where bag limits effectively become guidelines, along with, say, compulsory lifejacket wearing, and the odd drugged-up lunatic taking the law into their own hands. We have rules for a reason, and it’s the government’s responsibility to at least make an effort in this space, and at least to have a presence during one of the busiest times of the year.

Everyone, please: a well-managed and loved trout fishery is really important to the Snowy Mountains. Support regulation and support catch and release.

Snowy Lakes Update

Brown on a Claret Carrot being used as an indicator for a stick caddis in shallow water.

December can be a challenging month as summer gets a foothold, stocks have been under pressure for a while, and lake levels are generally dropping. However, whilst spring is definitely (for me) the pick of the trout year, there is still plenty of action to look forward to. With lake levels dropping, a lot of good trout food is now in quite shallow water, making the sight fishing for browns in shallow bays both exciting and challenging. And already there have been hoppers on the banks. They’re still green and not very jumpy, but the mere thought of a hot windy February day increases my heart rate.

Fly of the moment is a very dark-coloured stick caddis fished under an indicator. I’ve had my best success on a size 10 or 12 hook (noting some 10s are quite large, so not those) and I’ve been using foam indicators (somebody please point me to a small indicator that’s not single use), although I keep promising to stick a hook in a foamy because they get smashed by curious fish so frequently! The midge haven’t made much of an appearance yet. A month ago, there were literally slicks of midge shucks washed up on the shore. But now, we’re hardly seeing a swallow. I expected November to be a good midge month but it was nothing even remotely like it. Don’t get me wrong, the trout will still take a slowly moved or indicator-fished midge pupa, but they’re not getting fat on them, and you can fish right through dusk without ever having to strain the air through your teeth.

Everyone is reporting trout in relatively slim condition. This has not affected their fighting fitness, but they will need some food soon if we’re going to get any growth. There are plenty of random caddis around, but again, not the dense flutters we get some years. More trivia: the collective noun for bitterns is ‘a sedge of bitterns’ but I had to make up one for sedge (caddis) some years ago; a ‘flutter of caddis’ – self-evident really for anyone who’s nearly choked on the things. Or maybe that should be ‘a choke of caddis’? The dragonflies aren’t as prolific as they were a month ago. There are no mudeye shucks on the rocks. Meanwhile, every cormorant in the southern hemisphere is seemingly hanging around the lake. 

A huddle of penguins on Lake Eucumbene? I wish!

Being hungry does tend to motivate the fish to chase my Woolly Buggers. Which reminds me, I had a great Woolly session on the Lake Eucumbene dam wall catching rainbows and small browns last weekend, with several solid browns following the fly in right to my feet, before gliding back into the deep. The Adaminaby Angler, Col Sinclair, is out there on sunny and windy days with his Mattress Fly. Col casts this Lake Eucumbene equivalent of the Chernobyl Ant into the chop, roughly five metres along and off the shore, tempting cruisers up with amazing regularity. The right fly for the right day as they say.

Over to Jindabyne, and reports from the lake are of decent catches of browns on stick caddis and mayfly.

A gorgeous dun on a Lake Eucumbene shoreline rock.

Rod Allen of Crazytrouthunterz said he’d actually caught enough trout on one particularly bountiful day to stop fishing before he had to!

I’m getting very few reports from Tantangara and haven’t been able to bring myself to go there, perhaps in sympathy for tunnel machine Florence, which is still reportedly bogged near the Snowy 2.0 tunneling start-line like some beached whale threatening to bankrupt a whole generation of Australians. I heard gossip (hopefully no more than that!) that Ladbrokes are taking bets on whether the tunnel scheme will be abandoned.

Snowy Lake Levels

Lake Eucumbene is at 62.63%, presenting small muddy scar along the foreshore. Warning… slippery when wet. After holding a stable level throughout winter and early spring, the lake was falling steadily – 2% through November. However, as I post, some substantial and widespread rain may just be turning things around. There has been a 0.07% uptick in the last 24 hours.

Jindabyne has followed a similar pattern and is (was?) 62.62%, but it too has had a 0.3% uptick in the last day. Tantangara is at 9.98% and rising slowly after a low of 9% two weeks ago. If they drop it when it reaches 15% (as seems to be the current plan) the portal into Lake Eucumbene should be open for a couple of weeks in early January. That always seems to wake up the fish.

Snowy Rivers Update

Both the Eucumbene River and the Thredbo River have been fishing well, with strong flows. I was going to start my next trip with a dry, but the heavy rain we’ve been getting this week will probably give the Squirmy Worm box a recall to duty! The Monaro streams will love this rain. The Kybeyan stopped flowing last week, so all the creeks and rivers getting a fresh is a godsend. Maybe it will be at least another month before the summer heat slows things down on those streams.

Incidentally, I’ve had several good reports from the Snowy River, although downstream from the Jindy dam wall, access is tricky, and mainly through private property. Above the lake, low flows are common, and it’s often quite remote and rugged. If you venture in, keep in mind that Snowy Hydro’s artificial water releases are unpredictable, and potentially dangerous in some spots.

Lake Eucumbene dam wall

That’s all for now. This is my final post for 2023. Have a great fishing Xmas and I hope your personal Santa can bring herself/ himself to shout you a Sage R8 or your equivalent fishing-wish-gift. You’re worth it!

(P.S. Santa, I’ve been really good all year – honest!)