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Focus on mountain lakes
  |  First Published: December 2010



From more than 10 years of drought, the Canberra-Monaro region in just a few months has leapt into one of the best, wettest, greenest and happiest-looking seasons on record and the countryside has never looked better.

The big mountain lakes have been the focus for trout anglers.

Jindabyne was up to 80% capacity last time I looked but, curiously, the high level has made it more difficult to fish. Many of the bays and beaches where anglers previously camped for the day or fished through the night are now under water, which is right up into the trees.

It has been genuinely difficult to find a place to fish. Many anglers have opted for boats and bait and lure action has been productive.

The rainbows have been relatively easy to take on bardi grubs, scrub worms and PowerBait and the first of the mudeyes are showing to add to the variety of bait available.

A few browns have been taken on PowerBait but they show a distinct preference for grubs and worms and, sometimes, local yabbies.

I stress local yabbies because even when you catch fish stuffed full of yabbies they will not take yabbies carted up from Canberra. It’s difficult to believe anything could not like something from Canberra!

GOLDFISH

One of the interesting sidelights to bait fishing in Jindabyne is the big population of goldfish there. They provide wonderful food for the big browns and commonly can be seen around weed beds on sunny days.

They can be absolute pests when you are fishing with PowerBait. They like the stuff so much they are constantly nibbling away at it.

You can sit watching the rod tip twitching away and you just know that your precious bait is being removed before a trout finds it. All you can do is shift elsewhere, preferably well away from weed where the fish live – or you can wind in every few minutes and replace the bait.

One bloke I know who likes to berley at Jindabyne has been driven to distraction by goldfish, to the point where he is thinking of giving up berleying or shifting to Eucumbene.

Flatlining with yellow-wing Tasmanian Devils or small minnows such as Baby Merlins, Min Mins or Rapalas is a useful technique in the morning until the sun gets well up.

After that it pays to switch to lead-core line, using up to five colours of 18lb line to get down 7m to 8m where the big browns lurk.

You can also attract some of the big browns using ultra-large lures – some 15cm and more suited to barramundi – trolled deeply and slowly in front of the weed beds where those pesky goldfish live. It’s well worth a try if you are looking for just that one trophy fish.

EUCUMBENE

Eucumbene hasn't filled as much as Jindabyne, peaking around 27%, but it is a huge waterway with a massive volume of water in storage.

It has been the favoured fishery this season, partly because the ease of access around the shoreline and partly because of the immense numbers of rainbows feeding in the shallows.

Most anglers with PowerBait, scrub worms and bardi grubs can bag out at accessible locations such as Seven Gates, Old Adaminaby, Yens Bay, Cemetery Point, Anglers Reach, Buckenderra and Braemar.

The fish are in excellent condition with firm pink flesh that goes superbly in the smoker or under the griller.

Browns have been harder to catch but a few are taken on bait among the rainbows and there are better catches on minnows and Tasmanian Devils on lead core. Getting down deep is the key to finding them.

Best fly results have been just after dark with large wets such as Mrs Simpson. Craig’s Nighttime, Hamill’s Killer and Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers but day anglers have taken some good fish with nymphs fished with sink-tip line or floating line with a good indicator such as Hairwing Coachman or Humpy.

Some of the best fly action has been at Tantangara, which has risen to a remarkable 38%.

The fish are up in the grass feeding on worms, grubs, beetles and other goodies washed out of the flooded soil and they are bursting with energy.

Try them on Stick Caddis, dark beetles or a Stonefly Nymph and you could have a ball.

FLOODED LOWLANDS

Lower country lakes have been a joy to look at.

Burrinjuck has filled for the first time in 14 years and has overtopped with more recent flooding.

The fish have responded well and although hordes of bait-stealing carp have been a problem, most anglers have been able to find a few natives.

Woolgarlo, on the Yass River Arm, was the hot spot for golden perch and one angler in the caravan park, where the rising water was actually lapping his van, caught four on bait from his patio, together with a heap of carp.

After that there were continuing good catches further up the Yass River, at Good Hope and Hume Park on the Murrumbidgee Arm and at Wee Jasper on the Goodradigbee Arm.

A couple of trout also came from the Wee Jasper Arm, presumably having migrated down the Goodradigbee River.

It was nice to see a couple of silver perch taken at Good Hope. These lovely fish, once a mainstay of the local fishery, have been almost wiped out by the EHN virus and are now a rarity in the region.

Predictably, a lot of Murray cod were hooked during the closed season. Most anglers I heard of did the right thing and returned them to the water unharmed after a quick photo.

REGIONAL RISES

There have been good reports from other reservoirs, too. Blowering is almost over the wall and fishing well for redfin and golden perch, and the cod should be on the move by now.

Burrendong is reported to be over the wall and bursting with big redfin.

Wyangala missed out somewhat but still managed a rise and has fished well for golden perch from the bank and from boats.

Googong is over 80% and yielding a few goldens and redfin; it should fish well as soon as the tea-colour disappears and the fish can be more easily spotted among the newly-flooded weeds and shrubs.

All in all, things are looking fantastic. The green growth at the moment, together with full reservoirs and flowing rivers, some chockers with fish, can only bring a smile to your face. My thanks to that great lady of the climatic world, La Nina.

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