Following widespread rain throughout the catchment and significant snowmelt in the high country most streams were in superb condition for the season opening, with some running high and clear and others a little discoloured.
Some veterans say it was the best opening for many years and reminiscent of the halcyon days of the 1970s when anglers regularly bagged out on prime fish on opening day and week after week in streams that ran strongly for the entire season.
The largest crowds were on the two prime spawning rivers, the Thredbo and Eucumbene. Most lure and fly anglers I spoke to bagged out easily, sometimes in the first hour and many hooked and landed at least 40 fish for the weekend.
The Eucumbene River produced spectacular fly-fishing. One group of nine hooked at least 150 fish for the weekend, landing 68 legal size (25cm) specimens.
One youngster just learning to fly fish and happy to put in the hours landed and released 34 prime fish, nearly all rainbows from 28cm to 42cm. Most were in superb condition, fully recovered from spawning.
There were some latecomer rainbows in the upper sections of the river that had not yet spawned and these were given a respectably wide berth by considerate anglers.
Although most fish in the big rivers were taken on fly, some took lures such as Celtas, Rapala minnows and small spoons. In the shallower, clearer and slower-flowing sections of the rivers fish were easily spooked by lures and the best catches came only after the initial run of anglers eased and the fish came back on station.
Fly anglers fared best with weight-forward, sink-tip or sinking lines which got the fly down deep where the better-sized fish were. Many anglers predictably opted for the slower-flowing sections but the best fish actually were in the faster and to most anglers the least-attractive water.
This was difficult to fish because of the high flow but the most successful anglers used Glo Bugs or small nymphs weighted with a single split shot.
The trick was to fish one or two flies simultaneously, with the split shot attached to a piece of trailing leader. If the rig snagged on the bottom a sharp tug pulled the shot free and a fresh one could be attached.
It is a testing technique and requires a sensitive touch to successfully strike a fish at just the right time as it engulfs, then tries to spit out, a passing fly.
The technique can be deadly but it is not without its problems. Dredging the bottom means that you lose a lot of flies as well as split shot. One angler also lost an expensive custom graphite rod when the split shot hit the rod at high speed on the forward cast and the blank exploded into a mass of unrepairable fragments.
There already has been some satisfying dry-fly fishing. Even on day one there were brief hatches of stoneflies and other grey and brown insects that could be easily matched by a size 12 Iron Blue Dun and other patterns.
In one long section of the Eucumbene River, anglers counted 50 fish rising during a single minute of observation and after switching to floating, weight-forward or double-taper lines with long leaders, they landed excellent fish to 2kg-plus.
Despite the success and high hook-up rate of wet fly fishing, it is hard to beat the drama, tension, artistry and sense of anticipation of dry-fly fishing.
Lake anglers have reported large catches. Most have fished from the bank at Eucumbene and Jindabyne with PowerBait and bardi grubs, easily bagging out on rainbows of 28cm to 42cm range occasional larger browns.
Boat anglers scored good fish on Tasmanian Devils, Rapala minnows, Celta, Imp Spoon, Wonder Spoon, Mepps and Flatfish.
With the last of the snowmelt yet to come and the promise of more rain in the region, stream flows are likely to remain satisfactory for months, so anglers can look forward to some exciting and productive fishing.
One of the factors underlying the success of the big fly fisher turnout this year was is the annual pre-season fly-fishing clinic staged by the Canberra Anglers Association.
The free classes are on the lawns of Old Parliament House for two Sundays prior to the opening of each trout season. Anglers are taught the rudiments of casting, then on the third Sunday go to the Eucumbene Trout Farm to try their newfound skills.
This year the students had a ball catching and releasing rainbow and brook trout to around 1.6kg on a variety of flies but especially small Woolly Buggers. Most will undoubtedly go on to become firm and capable fly fishers.
Canberra's lakes are still too cold and murky for good lure fishing but a few fish have been taken on lures and a number on bait.
Golden perch to 2.5kg have been caught in Tuggeranong and Burley Griffin and in the stilling hole at Lake Ginninderra. Redfin are slowly coming on the bite as water temperatures rise.
Googong has filled to 65% and has produced just a few redfin and golden perch. Several brown trout to about 2kg have taken golden perch lures. Robert De Cecca landed one excellent fish on the legendary Burrinjuck Special while trolling from his canoe near Rabbit Island and another angler lost a big one when the hook pulled as it came to the bank.
Burrinjuck has taken in a spectacular amount of water, rising from 36% to 100% in a couple of weeks. The inflows have stimulated the golden perch, which are avidly taking live yabbies and scrub worms around Woolgarlo on the Yass River Arm and Good Hope, Hume Park and Taemus Bridge on the Murrumbidgee Arm.
You have to put up with a lot of carp but the fishing is spectacularly good and will get better as the water clears.Reads: 2228