Winter solstice midges on Lake Eucumbene.

Mark Kelly MKImages

All set for a good session.

An old friend, in every sense of the word, had a heart valve replaced this week. He’s 85 and it all went well and he’s back into life with a vengeance after just a day’s rest. He’s an amazing man who thinks political correctness is being able to spell Labour properly. He does not suffer fools gladly and thinks angling writers have an easy job. It’s easy, he says, as he winds up for a speech: “I woke up this morning and thought I’d go for a fish. I looked out the window and saw the sun was shining. I hooked my boat to the four wheel drive and headed south to try my luck on Lake Eucumbene”. And so he goes on, winding and winding. He is seriously missing the know-when-enough-is-enough gene and I’m going to scratch that as a P.S. on his gravestone; an opportunity I imagine is still a long way off.

Mark Kelly MKImages

Top of the lake, beyond Anglers Reach.

Anyway, as he’s already written my preamble, I’ll get down to a bit more detail. Lake Eucumbene is amazing in June. The spawn run wildebeest migration has finished and there is literally no one in town. A few die-hard trollers, an odd bait fisher huddled round a bankside fire. The rest is all for us. I went with Mark Kelly, my photographer mate, who takes the photo credits.

Mark Kelly MKImages

High tide marks.

The water level is at 28% and there are tide marks up the bank showing it’s been a bit higher recently. The level has been creeping up for a month or more now, enough time, even with water temperatures at 7C, for healthy weed beds to establish. We both thought this made perfect Woolly Bugger prospecting conditions and decided to fish variations on that theme in terms of colour, bead, weight, and depth. I fished intermediate and Mark fished a floater. We boat-fished everything from 2 to 5 metres; drop-offs, shallows, soaks, tree structure… and not a skerrick.


But that kind of didn’t matter. It was an amazing day. A light breeze, and enough sun to make me cranky that I hadn’t put on sunscreen. We decided to fish the hour before/hour after sunset evening session (starts at 4 pm this time of year) from the bank. With the same tactics. I like to prospect with a WB and then if there’s a hit or two, think about what will actually catch them. The water was nicely rippled and there was the occasional dusty grey midge on the surface. Almost as soon as the sun went over the hill, a good boil caught my attention. I cast in the general direction but it was probably 10 metres beyond casting range. Then another closer, and another, and another. Mark was hailing from 100 metres along the bank, seeing the same thing. It lasted an hour. I covered at least 15 fish and now regret I didn’t take off the WB and fish a midge and stick caddis.

Be kind to me. There was already a frost and I was just dreading trying to put on two tiny flies with numb fingers. So I persisted as I have done before, but this time without a result. But what an amazing sight – these boils and sips a few rod lengths from shore – in mid June! Once back at the car, there, on the already-frosted car windscreen, were a couple of caddis.

Mark Kelly MKImages

Finally – a nice brown on a metal blue WB.

I did actually catch a fish the next morning. Doing what I knew would eventually work. I was fishing three flies from the boat. A small green nymph, a stick caddis, and a metal-blue WB on the top dropper – and managed a nice 2½ lb brown, a beautiful silver fish without a hint of spawning colour. On the WB of course. We spotted fish right against the bank; saw big boils in shallow water; had a leaper 20 metres from the boat; follows right to the boat, but just didn’t really convert. It could just as easily have been a ten fish trip.

That’s it for a couple of weeks. Work, socially-responsible socialising, and the ever-growing list of home chores take priority for now.