The stars aligned for one more crack at the rivers, and I headed up in a philosophical frame of mind. I’ve learnt over the years that it pays not to set your expectations too high at this time of year, and on the back of another remarkable season, that would have been easy to do.
Sometimes, the first week of May is when the mountain streams begin shutting down. You can potentially string another week or two out of the tailwaters and farmland streams, but up in the mountain valleys, where forest and steep slopes steal the sun for all but a few hours a day, winter arrives quickly.
After a sunny but unremarkable Sunday afternoon on the Acheron and Goulburn, I awoke yesterday morning to the sound of rain. The forecast for another day of blue skies had been pushed aside by a low pressure system off the New South Wales coast, which had driven cloud and showers further west than expected.
Still, abiding by our ‘fish when you can’ approach, JD and I headed to the mountains anyway, adding rain jackets to the gear already in his ute from the previous day.
The winding gravel roads were slick with water, and spectacular vistas came and went with the rolling cloud. On the plus side, where we crossed the lower reaches of the Howqua and Jamieson rivers, they were clear with a decent, yet not excessive flow.
After a cautious descent to our first spot on the Jamieson, rods were soon rigged, and we split up for a short reconnaissance session. We often fish like this in areas with numerous options. If there is promise, we stay; if not, it’s no big deal to move on to location B.
After half an hour, we met up to compare notes. Despite the gloomy skies, there wasn’t a breath of wind, the rain had stopped, and ironically, we agreed, it wasn’t that cold. Most importantly, in that brief period, we’d already caught several fish, and spotted some more.
The decision to stay was an easy one, and as mayfly began to hatch and the rises went from occasional to regular, the problem became not wanting to leave! I’d promised myself one last session for the season on the Howqua, but with the way daylight can slip away in May, ‘just one more cast’ syndrome began to eat into that plan.
Eventually, we drew a deep breath and walked away, making it over and around the high ridge between the two catchments with just enough time for a quick flick; our opportunity enhanced by the cloud abruptly breaking up and extending the daylight.
While at times the fishing on the Jamieson had been almost mid-season standard, in the soft late afternoon light, the Howqua was somewhat slower. And that seemed almost fitting. We worked harder for our takes – if ‘harder’ is an appropriate term for two anglers already well satisfied with the day.
A trade-off, after the rainbow-dominated fishing on the Jamieson, was an increase in the number of browns coming to the net (including some really nice ones). Eventually, the light faded to the point where even the orange mast of my grey dun was hard to find, and I was striking on sound more than sight.
It was soon time to walk back down the track to the car. The forest was quiet and still, the river loud a short distance off to the side somewhere. It was hard to leave as it usually is, although the fact we’d both caught our best fish of the day made, we reluctantly agreed, a pretty good finish.
So it turns out it will be because of other plans rather than poor fishing, that the Howqua and the Jamieson – the rivers of my childhood backyard – will see out the next few months without me. Maybe it was best to go out on a high, and I’ll look forward to us being reacquainted in spring.