Trout stream supreme… and an unforgettable surprise

With mid-November being one of my busiest times of year, it takes some pre-planning to slot in a fastwater fishing trip. But whether it’s with JD, Max, Peter, Mark – or any of my other fishing mates – I always make the effort, because this really can be a peak time on the mountain streams. With a little luck, water levels will be dropping from the torrents of early season; just as the air warms up to perfect bug temperature.

Flowers and trout go together!

Time it right, and the whole streamside environment can appear to almost drip with abundance. Aside from the vivid greens, you can literally smell it, as countless flowering plants compete for pollination preference from the busy insects. Meanwhile, water temperatures are warm enough for active trout, but cold enough to make you regret not wearing waders on evening.

Goldilocks water.

Into this happy zone walked JD and I on Monday afternoon, armed with flyrods and a mix of nymphs and dries, then out again this afternoon. We ended up fishing several streams in the Goulburn catchment, including the big girl herself.

Sometimes it took us a few fly and technique changes to get a result; other times one of us was hooked up before the other had even rigged up. (And despite what you might think, I wasn’t always the one with a fly in the water first!)

‘You ready yet JD?’

We fished dry/ dropper nearly everywhere. Although fishing short to places where cover, combined with slightly slower currents, was probably the most successful technique, and gold-beaded caddis grubs and dark PTNs were the best flies, enough trout grabbed the Royal Wulff or Stimi above to make the dry more than just an indicator. Oh, and some very fast shin to knee-deep water also produced.

The dry was more than just an indicator.

The key point was, being thorough and careful paid off, and it often took the two of us at least two or three hours to fish a couple of hundred metres of water.

By the time we arrived at this morning’s stream, I’d already I explained to JD that I’d thoroughly scratched the stream trout itch. Even so, I had no objection to a couple more hours on the water. And I’d still be able to drive home in time to beat the evening wildlife dodgems.

More good-looking water in the Goulburn catchment.

The water looked lovely: 16-17C, and in common with nearly everywhere else we’d fished (besides a massive Goulburn) there was a healthy but not excessive flow, with just a tinge of colour (perhaps from the unexpected rain the yesterday).

And yep, plenty more of these.

I was drawing the fly up to recast in the soft water beside a nice bubble-line, when an unfamiliar shape rose almost to the surface, and efficiently ate the fur and feather. After an initial ‘does not compute’ moment, I was soon concerned with trying to land a deep-diving and strong-pulling mystery fish, while calling to JD to bring the camera.  

Don’t think that’s a trout?

I’ve seldom been so pleased to slide the net under any catch, which we could confirm as not some sort of dark redfin, but a Macquarie perch.

Macca on fly.

Immediately, our priorities changed to ensuring the welfare of this endangered fish. The barbless hook had already fallen out on its own, so after a couple of quick snaps, the Macca was sent on its way.  

Quick, careful release is imperative if you happen to catch one of these rare, special fish.

Two more stunned and surprised anglers would be hard to find. A decent part of JD’s professional life as a fisheries manager, and even a bit of my life as a mere angler, have both been concerned with recovering this iconic but decimated native fish Saving Maccas – FlyStream. I’d often thought how good it would be if their numbers in the wild could be built back up to the point where we could fish for them alongside trout in at least some of our mountain fastwaters. And now, on a stream trout trip, that had happened – albeit by accident.

One of several more trout from the ‘Macca’ stream.

We kept fishing a lot of lovely trout water, and caught a few more of our target species. While it was fun (in fact a lot of fun) I think both of us were pondering how good it would be if the big, handsome fish I’d recently landed, could one day become more than a flyfishing unicorn.  

For more information on Macca recovery efforts, visit: Macquarie perch recovery – VFA