Once upon a time in a land full of trout, the fishing season was open.
An eager boy with a big belly and wrinkles on his forehead went fishing a few times and all of a sudden, the season was closed.
Well, that’s how it feels like the story goes!
I shouldn’t complain – The season overall has been quite special really, with some great flood fishing early back in August, some of the thickest whitebait runs in years, spectacular mayfly hatches on the rivers in summer and some excellent grasshopper fishing on chosen waters. As per usual, the weather gods played their part throughout, making for interesting challenges and windows of exceptional opportunities.
We missed out on the heavy summer rains that had drenched us in the couple of years prior, which made for more stable water levels. Unfortunately though, we also copped a fair amount of easterly weather in January and February – this weather pattern is renowned for shutting down whole waterways for days on end. I think the saying goes “When the wind blows east, the fish eat least”. They have to eat of course, but they can be rather testing of one’s patience, often resulting in tough days and belted egos.
Such is the whole game I suppose.
Worth noting for me personally were a few memorable outings, starting with my first mission in August after the birth of my little boy. It was still cold and the water was up, but with fish still taking the nymph in likely lies off the main current and even some connecting to the dry fly higher in the St Patricks catchment.
While not anything significant in terms of action, it was such a joyous occasion and although I often head out fishing with mates, my incessant grin reminded me why I regularly fish solo on the rivers and how the infinite time to reflect ticks away with the constant rhythm of the cascading water.
Another moment was my love and hate relationship with sea-run trout. Mostly hate. Sure I’ve caught a few smaller models here and there but I tend to have hard luck stories with decent specimens. I had lost a nice fish in the Great Forester the year prior so tried my luck on a tidal stretch of the North Esk.
The tide was running out and whitebait were thick on the edges and were trying to make a dash every now and then upstream. I noticed a huge commotion further ahead and raced up to inspect. I waited and waited but the fish didn’t show again, so I sent out a dozen blind casts without success.
I cast again with the intention of winding in and soldiering on when an almighty tug ripped the line from my hands with my reaction too late to set the hook. To rub salt in the wounds, the fish rolled on the surface immediately afterward as if to flash a moon. It was a solid fish to say the least.
Next up was a summer jaunt into the upper reaches of the Meander River, where specialty timbers like myrtle and sassafras dominate the banks. I had never been up this far before and a good mate was kind enough to show me around. The fishing was very tough, but if the gradient was anything to go by, I was surprised that there was any fish at all.
We managed a few speckled little numbers in the end but I’ve always had a fascination in fishing new waters or new sections, and this particular outing amongst such wild surrounds really satisfied a natural desire in me to explore and gave me a renewed enthusiasm for protecting our unique ecosystems.
Lastly, I was invited on an excursion in March to float down the Macquarie River. It was a pleasant autumn day that picked up with a gentle breeze later in the day. We started the day blind fishing the edges using grasshopper patterns and I secured the first fish on a Byrneout Stimulator. It was over 1kg and a cracking way to kick things off.
Several more fish came to hand on ‘hopper patterns to our crew of three but in-between pumping up our slowly deflating vessel and bailing out the leaks, I figured out that I needed to slow down my strike when the fish took. As we were floating down toward the fish, I kept pulling the fly clean out of their mouth – Too keen! We even encountered the odd mayfly dun sailing along the water. A dozen or so fish in the end capped off a fun journey that really opens up your options on a waterway of this size.
Rainbow waters are still open for most of the month of May but to get your brown trout fix in the north, you will need to head to either Hunstmans Lake or Brushy Lagoon. These are both open all year around and the latter has been producing some great redfin perch, with one local guru landing a chunky 2.5kg specimen on his range of Strike Tiger plastics.
Don’t be put off by the weather, get out there and fish these waterways over the cooler months – You will be surprised at how aggressive the fish can get in the lead up to spawning, with fish eager to smash a black and gold plastic, chunky wet fly or hardbodied lure.Reads: 904