Fishing, and thus life, is looking good in the Canberra-Monaro region right now. Rivers are flowing, lakes are well-filled, the trout season is open and the Murray cod season is about to open.
Most of the snow has gone, the chills of Winter replaced by pleasantly sunny days and warm nights. And with daylight saving operating, that means that after work there is ample time to go out and chase a fish in the best conditions imaginable.
The rewards are there, too. The trout season opened in fine style and has continued with plenty of fish in the high country streams, especially the Thredbo, Eucumbene, Yarrangobilly, Tumut and Murrumbidgee, and in the Moonbah, Goodradigbee and Cotter.
Unfortunately the streams east of Cooma weren't as productive as the high country waters. In most there was a small to reasonable flow but they were still recovering from the long drought that broke in 2010.
The minimal stockings made that year are just starting to produce reasonable-sized fish. With adequate stocking and ongoing rain, they should fish at their best again in 2012 so we will leave them alone for a while.
Most of the fish have been rainbows, with a scatter of browns. Fly anglers fared well with wet flies, with some of the best fish taken on brown, green or black nymphs, especially beadheads, small red and black Matukas, stick caddis, Stonefly, Greenwell’s Glory, Purple Nymbeet, small Mrs Simpson and Hamill’s Killer and Coachman.
In the larger waters Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers were the standout patterns.
While t most anglers fished wet, a few persisted with dry flies and landed fish on the Royal Humpy, Hairwing Coachman, Iron Blue Dun and early season Bogong Moth. The most dominant hatches were light-coloured caddis but there were a few midges and nondescript moths moving throughout the day.
Lure anglers caught most of their fish on the Celta, Jensen Insect, Mepps and other spinning-blade lures; Imp spoons, Crocodile and Wonder Spoons, hard-bodied minnows such as Baby Merlin, Rapala and Strike Pro and a great lure from the past, the Wonder Wobbler.
Some anglers did well with small soft plastics, particularly the Atomic Fat Grubs and Squidgy Fish and Bugs.
One of the significant features of the season to date is the pleasingly high numbers of fish that have invaded the smaller creeks as well as the main rivers.
One angler fished only tiny waterways for three days straight and landed 35 rainbows and one brown, all of legal size (25cm).
This is fish behaviour that we have not seen since back in the 1970s and suggests the fish have confidence that there will be ongoing flow in these waters. Maybe they know more about the predicted El Niña than we realise.
Another interesting feature was the movement of some traditional lake fish into the streams. Some thumping big browns were seen in the Thredbo and Eucumbene rivers and the Murrumbidgee above Tantangara and one of our newest fly students caught his first-ever fish, a large Atlantic salmon, way up the Thredbo River.
All of this is indicative of fish having confidence in the ongoing health of their aquatic ecosystems and that bodes well for future angling.
One of the nicest things about fishing the streams at this time of year is that the awful crowding and bad manners that typified the opening weekend of the season are gone. I stay home and leave them to it.
After they have gone the gentlefolk fishers return to the streams and they are a delight to fish with.
Lake Jindabyne has been an exciting place to fish. The level got up to almost 90% at one stage but there was a big release in October to provide a flush for the Snowy River downstream. It was a spectacular event; the first major flow since the dam was completed in 1967 and hopefully will bring some much-needed life back into the waterway.
Fly-fishers have done well fishing blind or polaroiding the patrolling browns with a mate as a spotter and good polarised glasses.
One angler recently spotted 32 fish in one day along the western shore of the lake, spooking 24 of them but landing eight, the best of which went 3.2kg. He initially spooked that particular brown cruising the shallows but waited 20 minutes for it to come back on station, then got him on the first cast with a cased caddis.
Lure anglers also have done well, casting Tasmanian Devils from the shore or trolling.
One adventurous group has been taking huge browns by trolling at night. Their best success has been with a large deep-diving lure normally used for Murray cod, the Strike Pro Hunchback.
Soft plastic specialists also have done well. Two that I know have had five grand slams in recent weeks – a brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and an Atlantic salmon in the one day – and I get the impression that this form of fishing is going to become a lot more popular in coming months.
Eucumbene and Tantangara also are fishing well. Some good fish have been taken on wet flies on sinking line, from the shore or from boats, and trolling has produced excellent results.
Bank fishers generally bag out pretty easily in a full day or overnight session with bardi grubs, scrub worms and PowerBait. Most of the fish are rainbows but some nice browns have been caught in deeper water, at night.
After a slow start Canberra's urban lakes are starting to fire, with golden perch and redfin on worms, yabbies and lures and catch-and-release closed season Murray cod.
Yerrabi and Gungahlin have been the most productive and the largest golden perch to date weighed just over 5kg.
Burrinjuck also is fishing well with golden perch in the Yass River Arm and the Murrumbidgee Arm, where one recent catch consisted of nine golden perch and a rare 42cm silver perch. An out-of-season 28kg Murray cod was caught and released at Wee Jasper.
Wyangala Dam also is fishing well, with lots of smallish golden perch, some tiny Murray cod but one massive 26kg fish that took a lure.
Catfish, once abundant in this delightful lake, have been worryingly absent in recent catches.Reads: 3210