Snowy Mountains River Opening

Well, what a glorious opening day on 1 October. Sun, cloud, rain, sleet and hail. The rivers and creeks were flowing hard, and the fish were in great form. I’ve never quite been able to avoid the Eucumbene River on Opening Day, and I’m more than happy to work around the crowds just for the joy of being on my favourite river. All the indicators were that it would be good, but after some of the floods we’ve had, I thought maybe all the fish might be back in the lake. It is almost impossible to imagine the river as high as the flood mark at Kiandra Bridge, more than 2 vertical metres above the bank, and hundreds of metres out across the flats. Anyway, thankfully there were still plenty of fish and a couple of beauties amongst them.

The flood ‘high tide’ more than two vertical metres above the riverbank downstream from Kiandra Bridge.

I euro-nymphed and did well, but so too did the indicator fishers. The fish weren’t everywhere, and given the high river levels, not always where you might expect them to be. The trick was definitely to keep moving, and to mix it up. I tend to pick a team of flies and stick with them, but I did change more than usual. Green Hares Ears, black Pheasant Tails, and a selection of Perdigons.

This fish needs a good feed to get back to her pre-spawning form.

There’s more rain to come this week, so it’s not for the faint hearted. I almost fished a dry for a bit, as there were several fish actively surface feeding on one pool… but the re-rigging seemed like too much hassle. No doubt if I hadn’t already caught more than I deserved, it would have been a different story.

… while others are well on their way back to full condition.

The best thing about this weekend wasn’t just the fishing, it was seeing so many people back on the lakes and rivers. Everyone I met seemed to have made a significant pilgrimage, and there was a good level of bonhomie and general information exchange.

It was a long journey from Port Macquarie for this angler, but worth the trip.

Trout fishing was tough for a couple of years, and then we had Covid and we saw no one. Obviously, there are other things people do, but participation had clearly dropped off. But some wet, cool years to help the fishery, and some good reports, plus Covid rules relaxed, and anglers seem to be finding their way back. And to go with the returning angler numbers, it was great to see two teams of Fisheries Officers out and about, one on the Eucumbene side and one on the Thredbo side. 

Meanwhile, the lakes have been fantastic. Whilst Jindabyne spilled earlier in the year, the levels in Eucumbene haven’t been this high since 2016 when it almost reached 57% before they pulled the plug at the end of October.

Rod fishing the Eucumbene dam wall area shortly before landing a 2 kg brown.

It’s currently at 52% and I would bet a chicken dinner we’re going to get to 60% this year. Jindabyne has been rising steadily for a month and is now at a very healthy 92.6%. Reports are the western shoreline has been fishing very well, in particular around the mouths of the Snowy and Thredbo. Don’t be too concerned about the flotilla of boats trolling the deeper water, there are plenty of places they can’t get to.

A dam wall rainbow sparkling in the spring sun.

The lakes are in transition and the big flies we’ve been using all winter are not doing quite as much damage. On the other hand, small Pheasant Tail Nymphs and midge patterns are performing well, although there is so much natural food coming out of the newly-flooded ground, pretty much anything that looks buggy should do the trick if you can find a fish. There have been some good midge hatches already, a few caddis, and a few mayfly.

Col fishing into a deep gutter in front of the lodge at Providence.

My top tip for the lakes is to find the shallower, newly flooded ground, especially if there’s a boggy soak or a bit of water running in at the top – making sure you tread carefully, and don’t get bogged. Wade quietly out to a bit deeper than knee depth and slowly work the downwind water with a figure of eight retrieve and plenty of pauses. If you’ve got the patience, fish under an indicator, and not too deep. On Opening Day, I watched a mate catch a fish on a size 16 nymph fished less than 6 inches under a foam indicator. 

Michael came up from Wollongong for opening day and indicator nymphed some nice fish at Kiandra.

Overall, the message is that the lakes are continuing their months-long run of good form, and now it looks like the rivers are joining in – if you can brave the big flows.