The waters are alive
  |  First Published: March 2012

It's amazing the impact La Niña has had on the Canberra-Monaro district this season.

We've had regular rain sometimes in a gentle pitter-patter for a few hours, sometimes in a massive dump with all the drama a thunderstorm can muster.

It's all welcome and means a countryside bursting with energy; immense grass growth, green foliage on the trees, dust-free undergrowth, flowing streams and creeks, lakes at high levels and a general sense of vigour and wellbeing.

Birds are everywhere – some have bred twice instead of the usual once a season. Conditions have been so good we have even attracted visitors from the north – water whistle ducks and spoonbills among them.

It's great to again see frog spawn in the pond margins, tadpoles squirming at the edges, adult frogs chirruping, booming, hooting and burping late into the night.

Snakes, too, are back in big numbers. Anglers everywhere have reported encounters with copperheads, browns, blacks and the occasional tiger, most of which politely slither out of the way when disturbed but which occasionally bring a quickening to the throat when a foot is a little too close for comfort.

There are skinks. sleepies, bluetongues, bearded dragons, water dragons and others in every available niche. They add to the flavour and fun of the outdoors and the skinks and water dragons that snatch an unwary newcomer's fly or lure result in great guffaws of laughter among the older hands.

The insects are the lifeblood of our fish. This year may well be the Year Of The Insect. They are everywhere – caddis, mayflies, grasshoppers, beetles, midges, gnats, duns, emergers, parachutists, fallers, fliers, creepers, walkers, swimmers, ants, dragonflies, damselflies, blowflies, march flies and the rest. All are potential food for fish.

No wonder the fishing has been good.


The smaller streams and creeks are full of fish. The trout seemed to sense ongoing rain and moved into the smaller waterways early in the season and stayed there.

Browns and rainbows have provided great fun for fly anglers and lure tossers in all the small waterways attached to the upper Thredbo, Eucumbene, Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Tumut rivers and to many of the lowland streams such as the Boorowa, Lachlan and Abercrombie, where recent stockings have revived drought-devastated trout.

Best lures have included Celtas, Imp spoons and blades and small minnows from Rapala, Strike Pro, Merlin, Attack and others.

Best flies have included a range of dries such as Red Tag, Hairwing Coachman, Coch-y-Bondhu, Iron Blue Dun, Royal Humpy, March Brown, Tup's Indispensable and wets such as Coachman, Greenwells Glory, small Woolly Worm, brown, green, grey and black nymphs, black and red matuka and Purple Nymbeet.


The larger streams also have been productive. The Thredbo, Eucumbene and Murrumbidgee above Jindabyne, Eucumbene and Tantangara have provided unexpectedly good fishing.

Because of the high flows, fish that normally would have returned to the big lakes after spawning have stayed upstream and have provided some delightfully heart-stopping moments on fly and lure, especially early morning and late afternoon.

There has been a revived fishery in the Murrumbidgee below Tantangara this season. Normally almost devoid of water, the flow has been restored to send more water down to the ACT and there has been some splendid fishing for browns and rainbows.


The mountain lakes have fished well. Plenty of small rainbows and occasional larger browns have been taken from the bank on PowerBait, scrub worms and bardi grubs, with the best fishing on overcast days and at night.

Trollers also have done well, mostly by flatlining with Tasmanian Devils, blades, minnows, Flatfish and deep divers early in the day and with lead core line or downriggers later in the day.

Fly fishers have had some wonderful sessions, fishing blind or during major hatches and falls with ants, stick caddis, Woolly Worms, Woolly Buggers, Craig’s Nighttime, Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer and Muddler Minnow.

Warm nights with just a tiny ripple on the water have been excellent.


Native fish have been just as active.

In Canberra's urban lakes there have been continuing catches of Murray cod and golden perch on scrub worms, bardi grubs, yabbies and spinnerbaits, blades, and deep divers.

The lakes have been a bit murky because of rain so lures have not been as productive but regulars who put in the hours still report good fish.

The cod have ranged from 30cm tiddlers to more respectable adults over 90cm and in one recent bag of golden perch from Lake Tuggeranong there were three typical fish measuring 50cm, 48cm and 45cm.

At Googong Reservoir some of the fish have been even larger. Recent catches include three cod over 1m and a 6.7kg golden perch, all taken on Outlaw or Mudgutz spinnerbaits.

Burrinjuck has been the big success story. It has been full all Summer and the water has cleared nicely, so lures and bait have been good.

Bait anglers have taken golden perch and cod on local shrimps, yabbies, scrub worms and bardi grubs.

Blades, spinnerbaits and deep divers have accounted for some sensational fish. Ben and Cris Lemmon landed the biggest cod reported this season. It took an AusSpin spinnerbait near Wade Island and on 4.5kg braid with 15kg leader took 30 minutes to subdue.

Ben said it couldn't be weighed but at 115cm it must be one of the largest cod caught in the lake. It was released in good condition.

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