Snowy Mountains – river opening & lakes update

The Eucumbene River in high flow. Just half a metre below the high bank level on Providence Flats.

Amazing what a year and a half of on-and-off lockdown, and some good wet seasons can do to improve a trout fishery! The trout are more abundant, and bigger. Absolutely, beyond any doubt. Let’s hope someone at DPI Fisheries is looking at this and maybe, who knows, is thinking about some proactive regulations. How about a 2 or 3 fish bag limit on the lake; and a zero fish bag limit on the Eucumbene and Thredbo Rivers? Maybe we can make this fishery last more than one season once the lockdown ends. Why not just implement it for one or two years, as a trial, just to prove the world won’t come to an end.

Meanwhile, the river opening in the Snowy Mountains arrived with little fanfare. The only people fishing were the Monaro LGA residents and a few Snowy 2.0 workers. No Canberrans, Sydneysiders, or Victorians. Sadly, DPI Fisheries reported a few pre season river fishing compliance breaches with travellers coming up from Albury. Seriously? We’re in lockdown and they decide to come up for a fish?

So, the day arrived and there were a handful of people on the river. It was really nice to be able to take the time to chat without the usual rush to get to the next spot before the other guy. Looking back, this was an enjoyable part of the weekend. I started my day at the Kiandra Bridge pool not long after first light. First cast was a bump; third cast my first fish and the monkey off my back. Several nice rainbows later, I moved upriver but didn’t get past the first few pools (less than a kilometre before I was overdue to meet Col at Providence).  Beep beep. A good friend from Tasmania sent me a picture of our Kiandra opening day five years ago in heavy snow.

The river at Providence was substantially bigger, but surprisingly clear. Providence Portal was roaring and I didn’t fish the river below – it was a torrent. No surprise that the lake level has risen to the point where it’s visible underneath Mount Denison, from the Portal car park.  The new Snowy Region Fisheries Officer, Jesus (originally from Venezuela) stopped for a licence check and a chat, and took a picture.

With the high flows, a lot of fish have been taken on big Woolly Buggers fished across and down. But there was a lot of insect activity. The swallows were everywhere when there were hatches; I saw plenty of caddis and small stonefly, and the odd mayfly. Although I didn’t come prepared to fish a dry, I heard they worked well on the Thredbo where reports were of a similarly quiet weekend angler-wise, but with good fishing for locals permitted their lockdown exercise. I fished Gang Gang Creek, and the Murrumbidgee River below the Tantangara Dam wall which was enjoying a healthy montane release.

Lake Eucumbene is now at 38.4%, on the verge of the 2021 high of 38.45%. Once it’s on new ground the flyfishing will go from good to extremely good! It’s certainly my pick. Lake Jindabyne is at 85.6%, the highest it’s been since December 2017. Tantangara has been stable for a week is at 31.6%, with inflows matching outflows. Water, water everywhere! Before the river opened I had some great lake sessions on size 16 midge pupa. I’d say with the warmer weather, it’s 3 or 4 weeks ahead of last year. Plenty of midge, stick caddis, mudeye (already), and I saw my first cow dung beetle larvae last week.

Soon, the lockdown will end. If you’re planning a visit, drive carefully and don’t rush: there’s plenty of water, and plenty of fish. Easy for me to say I know, but the rivers will be in good shape until the New Year, and the lakes will all fish well. I can’t believe I’m actually sitting here writing a post and doing some work, and not actually fishing! Enjoy the sample of pics from my weekend.

This little fella was skipping around the mob trying to get someone to play. Eventually, a big buck came over to exercise some discipline but he just hopped all around him!

Fishing on your own means you don’t get many pics. Thanks to Jesus for this pic of a Providence rainbow heading back to the lake.


4 lb of rainbow. Landing fish in high flows, with no shore and high banks is exhausting – but in a good way!


This pair watched me from the river bank upstream of Bullocks Creek on the Eucumbene River. They didn’t even look like they were going to give way so I turned around! A fair bit of cattle dog in the mix.


The new track barrier about a kilometre upstream of the Suicide Hole on the Eucumbene River. Check out the flood high tide. The flattened grass, and the grass wrapped around the base of the poles.


The Providence Portal in full flow. There are fish there, but the boulders make it impractical and probably not that safe to chase them downriver. The noise is deafening.


Jake from Cooma caught this rainbow near the Portal junction as I was driving by. A nice Covid-safe photo out of the car window.


The Eucumbene River at the gorge upstream of the Kiandra road bridge. Doesn’t really do the high flow justice.


This was my only landed brown from the weekend, although I know I dropped a corker on the Eucumbene River. I literally couldn’t get it to the net, so thanks to Col for the video to prove it was actually on. This one came from the Murrumbidgee River, and grabbed a swung Woolly Bugger.


Freshly flooding ground on Lake Eucumbene between Frying Pan and Seven Gates. I can already imagine those tailing fish in another couple of weeks.


A lake rainbow. A lot of fish are in the 1.5 to 2 lb range, with the odd one up to 4 lb. Rod Allen was nearly spooled the other day. He said he’d never had that much backing off his reel. Look at the size of that paddle!