Winter’s here. The rivers are closed. The lakes are still open and the fishing is excellent, borderline amazing. There’s an old rule-of-thumb that time spent fishing must be equal to or greater than time spent travelling, and it’s always difficult during winter to resolve this equation. Whilst the snow has been slower to come this year, the frosts have not. Early morning eyelet and line freezes cut a couple of hours off every day; and the afternoon winds can be brutal. But find the right day, some nice sun, and a light breeze from a favourable direction, and the effort, the travel, and the occasional bit of discomfort make it very rewarding.
Anyway, Rod Allen called me from the lake during the week; excited and breathless, having just landed a huge brown. He regularly winter fishes the eastern side of the lake in the deep water from Braemar to the dam wall and was doing what he does well; working big flies a couple of metres down, using a sink tip. He’d got a couple of good fish already and was using a non-descript unweighted green Woolly Bugger. The water was crystal-clear and he was hanging the fly at the end of the retrieve when this massive fish came up underneath it. The fish fought doggedly. One of those beasts that like to find a spot and just lie there using passive resistance; you think it’s snagged but it’s actually lying doggo. Rod annoyed it enough to eventually get it mad, whereupon it decided to head to other the other side of the lake. He landed it after an epic fight, on the third attempt because his quite large net wasn’t quite big enough, and fly dropped out of it’s mouth – reminding me of one of our editor’s favourite saying, “Carry a net big enough for the biggest fish you ever hope to catch”. After seeing a procession of big fat fish pics from the river, it’s nice to see a clean lake fish that big in such top condition.
Flat calms can be great days or slow days. I prefer a bit of ripple unless it sunny and cloudless and I can turn it into a polaroiding day, but with only a few middle-of-the-day hours with Doug, we decided to work the edges on Lake Jindabyne. No doubt the fish were there, and we lost count of the number of solid contacts we had, but in the end it was a day for small rainbows for which we are of course eternally grateful. Even Briggsy was wondering what we were doing out there.
Lake fishing reports are all pretty good. It’s big food-fly time of year, and I love a tungsten bead to keep the fly animated, and down in the water column. Fish the drop and the hang and don’t be in a hurry to strip the fly back. Better to work it slow and give it the wiggle and stop, then a few quick jerks. Sometimes, you sense the take rather than feel it, and don’t be slow to strike!
Lake Eucumbene is at 62.84% and stable, up a fraction in the last two weeks; 7% down from the beginning of the year; 22% higher than this time last year. If we don’t lose a lot of water over winter, there’s a distinct possibility we’ll be covering new ground by summer, even with moderate snow and rain. Lake Jindabyne is stable for the month at 81%, 10% lower than this time last year. Tantangara Reservoir is at 30.25% and rising, a little up from last year. Don’t expect it to stay up for long due to the Snowy Hydro 2.0 works.
I’ll be having a four night trip to the lakes in July. There will be hardly anyone there. There will be a windy day; a flat calm day for polaroiding; and two or three nice breezy days with a light north-westerly. How do I know this? Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year and I’ll be out there with my druid mates around the fire, having a good chant, and reminding the fish gods of my sacrifices this year, making absolutely sure; after planting my garlic.