Snowy Mountains Lakes Update – Winter’s End in sight?

Polaroiding heaven. That time of winter when the weather just stops on Lake Jindabyne before launching into spring – and the fish hide under the clouds.

“It ain’t over till it’s over” said Lenny Kravitz singing about his lost love – which is how I feel about winter in the Snowies. I love those crisp winter days, late frosty starts, being blasted by fearsome Antarctic winds, early knock-offs, and the long strung-out denial of spring. It was only a few years ago that I was fishing in October with a foot of snow at Kiandra, and only last year we had heavy snow in November. But sure enough, the long sunny days eventually win out and I admit it’s over, it’s spring, right before summer starts. The analogies are endless.

The last few days I’ve been fishing wearing one layer; two when the wind blows/cloud covers the sun; only resorting to three for the run home in the boat after the sun’s gone. The fruit trees are bursting into bud and with all the fishing that’s going on I’m panicking about whether I’ll get the lawn top-dressed and seeded before the spring rains. Late on Saturday, midge were popping off the water with Lake Jindabyne surface water temperature at 7.8 degrees centigrade. It’s all so confusing. Just a couple of weeks until calendar spring; and around seven weeks until the rivers open. Where did the winter go? Where did the year go for that matter.

While we’re all out fishing the lakes in winter the trout are doing their thing up the rivers. This does create an opportunity for lake fishers. Fish that are preparing to spawn are hungry. Fish that have finished spawning and return to the lake are hungry. And there isn’t much food available for any of them. Ever wondered why Woolly Buggers work so well during winter? Pretty much anywhere where you can find a bit of water running into a Snowy Lake is a good spot to target for these fish. On the topic of reproduction, a good number of trout eggs from a female would be 1,000; of these maybe 100 might get to reach the fry and then fingerling stage; and of these only two need to survive – one male an one female – to maintain the population at the same level.

Ash carefully returning a post-spawn Jindabyne brown. The unweighted Woolly Bugger clearly visible.

Lake Jindabyne has been getting a lot of attention. Funny old place. Clearly, the population of rainbows has flatlined and whilst no one really knows why, there are also clearly a lot of really good browns around. And right now, they’re cruising close to shore. I’ve had reports from the top of the lake, and the western shore accessible from Hatchery Bay, but also from the bank in front of the town, and East Jindabyne. I fished with Rod and Ash on Saturday. All I saw and caught was rainbows; all Ash saw and caught was browns. The sight fishing was good enough to maintain interest (we fished most of the day opposite Kalkite) but this kept us away from some other good-looking water which, with hindsight, might have been a mistake. Not least of all because we were still a long way from the boat ramp in town when the sun went down, the temperature plummeting in sympathy. Either you’re spotting fish and casting to them – unweighted Woolly Buggers or nymphs; or speculating in water next to rocks or yabby beds – anywhere that looks fishy – and hoping to intercept them. Ash noted I was catching rainbows whilst he just caught browns. I was fishing blue/black, and red/black straggle-string Woolly Buggers which are super-blingy which the rainbows just love. The lake level briefly dropped a bit with a Snowy River environmental flow release, and it had a clear scar on the edge. However, it has already started to come back up and is basically stable at 77% +/- 0.5%.

A solid Eucumbene brown from the eastern shore.

Lake Eucumbene is at 26.4%, rocketing up from a winter low of 22.4%; long may it last! I’ve had good reports of solid rainbows and browns along the eastern shore from Yens Bay all the way to Buckenderra; and a good report from the dam wall. Most fish are being caught on Woolly Buggers.

This thick-shouldered rainbow was sitting in a stream culvert spawning right by the road. The picture was taken from the car window!

Tantangara is nearly at 40% and has been rising for most of the last 5 months. The Providence Portal flow into Eucumbene is going flat out, but good snow and rain means inflows are exceeding outflows. The bad news is that the eastern shore is pretty much only accessible by boat because of the Snowy 2.0 works. And the northern and western shores will only be accessible by vehicle again when the current winter road closures are lifted. The dam wall boat ramp turning circle at the end of Tantangara Road is under water so you’ll need to reverse down the hill to launch if you want to put the boat in. I’m just busting for the right day to get up there.

I am brimming with optimism for November. If…., and if….., and if….., it could easily be the best for a long time. In the meantime, don’t miss out on a great day out.

If Eucumbene can turn these out now, what will it deliver come November?

25 minutes from Lake Jindabyne are the snow-loaded Perisher ski fields, from where some of that spring thaw water will come.