With the trout season open a year after the big drought broke, it is interesting to review the different ways of catching trout in our two premier and most productive mainland trout lakes, Eucumbene and Jindabyne.
Eucumbene is Australia's biggest artificial waterway and is fed by the Eucumbene River and a number of small creeks. It is stocked each year with rainbows and has a naturally self-supporting population of browns.
Weather loaches, eels and goldfish also exist in the lake. Weather loaches are an escaped aquarium species and the goldfish have been around since the early 1800s in many Australian waterways. Eels were trapped in there when the dam was completed in 1957.
Jindabyne is a few kilometres downstream of the blocked off Eucumbene River, at a lower altitude than Lake Eucumbene and is fed mostly by the Thredbo and Snowy rivers.
It is considerably smaller and carries a natural population of browns, a large population of stocked rainbows, and lesser numbers of stocked Atlantic salmon and brook trout. It also has weather loaches, eels and lots of goldfish.
Eucumbene is popular because of its easy-to-catch rainbows. If you went up there right now you would pretty well be guaranteed a bag (five fish over 25cm) during the day and certainly at night.
All you have to do is sit on the bank at locations such as Buckenderra, Seven Gates, Yens Bay, Old Adaminaby or Anglers Reach, rig up the two legally allowed rods with PowerBait, bardi grubs or scrub worms and toss out into the shallows. Bingo! A rainbow, then another and another and so on.
Most of the fish aren't particularly big. Some are just legal and others range up to about 1.3kg, but they are in superb condition and just right for the smoker or the griller. The flesh commonly is a delightful pink and the taste and consistency are excellent.
It's hard to beat the delights of catching a nice fat rainbow, cleaning it straight away, popping it in the smoker right there on the bank while you go on fishing and in 20 minutes you have a superb meal.
You can do the same thing at Jindabyne but Eucumbene is far more productive and reliable.
I can sense Jindabyne fanatics shouting in the background, ‘No! Jindabyne is better!’ But all I can do is call them as I see them.
Browns are a lot harder to catch than rainbows. In fact in a session where a group of anglers catch, say, 30 rainbows they can expect perhaps only two or three browns.
You can, however, target browns more effectively in certain ways.
You can fish, for example, in deeper water, at night or fish more with bardi grubs than other baits.
You can also use yabbies as the prime bait, but it is important to use local ones, not others from elsewhere. On many occasions anglers have caught browns that are so full of yabbies that they are falling out of their mouths.
Throw out one of those yabbies and you might hook another fish straight away, but if you put out a yabby brought up from Canberra, they just ignore it.
All the yabbies in the Canberra-Monaro region supposedly are the same genus and species, Cherax destructor, but apparently the fish can tell the difference.
If bait is not your thing you can catch a lot of fish from the bank on lure or fly.
Lure fishers use a lot of spinning blade lures such as Celta and Mepps, spoons such as the Imp, Wonder Spoon and Wonder Crocodile, minnows such as the Baby Merlin, Attack and Rapala and the ever-popular Tasmanian Devil.
Wigstons have just released another 12 patterns of Tasmanian Devil, which means they now have an exciting 100-plus patterns to choose from in the 13.5g model and many in the 7g 20g and 26g.
If you can't catch a fish on one of them it's time you gave it away.
A competent fly fisher can take some good fish from the bank. Overcast weather with enough wind to ruffle the water or a nice still night are the prime requirements for a good fly session.
During the day you can polaroid the banks with nymphs, cased caddis and other small wets and locate some good fish. The rest is up to you.
A long but gentle cast could get you a fish but a clumsy effort will simply scare the quarry back into the depths.
Or you can fish from a drifting boat in standard or loch style and have a remarkable amount of fun on the good days.
Trolling also is a great way to catch fish, but again there are differences. Flatlining often gets lots of rainbows and an occasional brown but if you really want a brown you have to go deep.
Lead core line will get most lures down to about 7m to 8m but to go deeper you need a downrigger. Most downriggers work effectively with a 1.5kg bomb and the trick to getting big fish is to troll slowly as well as deeply.
This is where one of the main differences between the lakes shows up.
If you really want to catch big browns you go to Jindabyne, but you use absolutely outsize lures. Most are the sort you would normally use to catch Murray cod or barramundi, but for some reason they work on the outsized browns.
They can be trolled on flatline, lead core or downrigger and for some reason are especially attractive trolled at night.
Local anglers reckon the big Jindabyne browns live largely on yabbies and goldfish and are used to taking in big prey, hence the success of large lures.
Certainly the story about goldfish in Jindabyne is correct. There are big populations of them and browns caught are commonly stuffed with them.
Local guide Steve Williamson has even developed a highly successful goldfish fly for the region.
With the stream season now well under way, this is my favourite time to stay away from those same streams.
I don't like crowds. I don't like lure, fly and bait anglers competing brutishly for the prime fishing spots, I don't like anglers dropping in ahead of me when I am working up a nice stream and I don't like the ‘catch and kill some meat’ attitude of some anglers.
Often on opening day the manners are deplorable. All too often courtesy, commonsense, fair play, streamsmanship and respect for fellow anglers go out the window and the day or week is a disaster of frayed tempers and poor experience.
I will stay home for a while until the invading horde goes home with their freezer full of poorly-gotten gains.
Then I will venture out to meet my more respectful colleagues, share a dram or three and plant a tempting fly in front of a creature with a brain the size of a pea but which manages to outwit me so much of the time that I have to go back and try again.Reads: 4186