New era of optimism
  |  First Published: November 2010

With good rain and heavy snowfalls over the past couple of months there is a feeling of cautious optimism in the Canberra-Monaro district that the decade long drought is over.

The rain has been continuous and widespread throughout the region and the ecologically critical subsoil moisture levels are higher than they have been for many years.

Surface flows have invigorated streams, many of them bone dry during the drought and lakes are rising to the best levels we have seen for more than a decade.

Even better, there are predictions of ongoing rain and a return to the wetter El Nina weather patterns rather than the dry El Nino patterns we experienced during the ‘80s and ‘90s.

However due to pressures of modern living and increasing industrial demands on the environment our streams will probably never return to the days of old when they ran clear for years on end and were bountiful with fish and other wildlife.

But must be grateful for what we can get and angling organisations and Government have been quick to take advantage of the changing situation.

The local Monaro Acclimatisation Society has been working closely with the staff at Gaden Hatchery at Jindabyne to stock local streams with rainbow and brown trout.

These fish are expected to have a greater survival rate than in previous years due to the increased water flows and greater ongoing availability of food.

The hatchery has a limited capacity to produce fish for stocking but no doubt the NSW Government will consider buying additional fingerlings from private hatcheries if needed to ensure full stocking of the rivers and lakes.

Modern trout hatcheries have the capacity to produce enormous numbers of fish at low costs, thus playing an important role in the stocking program.

Good spawning run

The further good news is that there has been an excellent spawning run this year.

The browns started early, heading upstream as early as May in response to good rain and river flows. The run intensified during winter, with particularly big groups heading up in July and August.

All signs indicate the trout successfully spawned in the clear, cold, well-oxygenated water and have now returned to the lakes to feed and put back on the condition they lost during the breeding effort.

In August and September it was the rainbows’ turn to spawn; they also ran up river in very pleasing numbers.

Anglers standing on the bridge over the Thredbo River just outside Jindabyne were thrilled to see big groups of paired rainbows, heads in the current, nosing their way upstream seemingly unaware of their onlookers.

Streams Open, Fish Fair Game

Now that browns and rainbows have finished spawning and are back in good condition they are fair game for stream anglers and it’s exceptionally pleasing to be able to enjoy the delights of walking a full, fast-running body of water after such a long break.

Lake fishing can be highly productive but nothing beats walking a stream, tossing a lure or fly, stalking individual fish and wondering what’s around the river bend.

If you want to enjoy the trout fishing try small Celtas, Mepps, Imp Spoons, small hardbodied minnows or tiny soft plastics on ultra light mono or braid on a light spinning rod and travel up or down the stream with minimal gear.

All you need is a small shoulder bag or backpack with room for some lunch, a small tipple or three, plus a few extra lures, dehooker forcepts and polarised glasses.

If you are flyfishing take a variety of offerings including brown nymph, purple nymbeet, Coachman, Royal Humpy, Red Tag, March Brown, Tups Indispensable, Iron Blue Dun, stone fly, stick caddis and maybe a few larger wets as well.

Fish delicately in the tails of pools and more aggressively in the rapids and you can cover a lot of territory in a day.

Catch and release as fish and perhaps keep one prime fish for the smoker at the end of the end.

Lakes Rising

For lake anglers there are plenty of rainbows either side of 1kg prowling the banks for food day and night.

These fish are fairly easy pickings on Powerbait, bardi grubs and scrubworms. Browns are larger and a bit harder to find but are suckers for big fat scrubworms or a lump of bardi grub.

Trollers should fare best with Imp and Wonder spoons, flatfish, small and large minnows including McGrath, Halco, Rapala and Strike Pro.

Fish these offerings on flat line early in the day, with perhaps 3-5 colours of lead core line when the sun is bright and the fish move into the deeper layers.

Flyfishers can try a variety of larger dries during the day including red Humpy, Hairwing Coachman, Red Tag or big nondescript brown or black patterns.

Wets worth a try include Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers, black and red Matuka, Mrs Simpson, Hamills Killer and Jindy Horror.

Fish a weight forward floating line at night and during the early morning, then switch to an intermediate sink or sink-tip when the sun gets a bit bright. A slow retrieve should give the best results.

Natives Active

The big inflows of water to the streams and lakes are the trigger for most native fish to undertake a series of annual rituals.

Murray cod move into spawning mode in spring and subsequently are closed to anglers from September to November.

Anglers can help protect Murray cod by not deliberately targeting them and by promptly returning any accidentally caught fish to the water.

Golden perch typically move from deeper to shallow water in spring and as an example at the moment are migrating in Burrinjuck to the shallow flats around Good Hope and Taemus Bridge.

Fishing should be at its best there from now on with lures and baits until the level stabilises.

All in all things are looking good in all the regional lakes and streams and it’s been a long time since we could say that.

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