Spring, although late as always, is definitely here in the Cooma-Monaro district. Wattles are blooming, snow is melting, creeks and rivers are flowing, brown trout and most of the rainbows have finished spawning, the trout season is open, the Murray cod season is closed, the bass season is open and the Murray cray season is closed. It's a busy time of year!
Anglers are out in droves eager to tussle with the local fish and the portents are good. Dam levels are high, snow-fed rivers are running well and if we get intermittent but continuing rain, the smaller streams will have enough water to accommodate fish looking for room and food, as happened last season
The first few weeks of the trout season in the streams are the most exciting of the year.
Prospects depend largely on river flow. If there is plenty of water the fishing usually is good; low water means poor fishing. This year things are looking pretty good and we can expect a continuation of last year's excellent fishing.
Recruitment from spawning has been better than expected in the big rivers such as the Eucumbene, Thredbo, Goodradigbee and Murrumbidgee, all of which are carrying a good head of browns. Anglers should watch, however, for late-spawning rainbows and give them a wide berth.
Across the rest of the Monaro there should be some good fishing in streams stocked with fingerlings in 2010 and 2011. In most there has been a good survival rate and the fish have grown well.
Most streams are on private property. If you want to fish them, get a map and go and knock on the cockie's door and ask permission. That way you will learn a lot about the countryside, meet a lot of nice people and enjoy some excellent fishing.
Lure anglers will fare best with smaller patterns such as Celta, Mepps, Insect, Imp spoons and small minnows.
Fly anglers have a multitude of choices but I like to fish wet rather than dry and my favourites include small red and black Matuka, Greenwell's Glory, Hardy's Favourite, Purple Nymbeet, Stick Caddis and Hamill’s Killer.
And of course, when in doubt you chuck out a brown nymph, the greatest fish catcher of all time.
Lakes Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Tantangara have been fishing well. They carry plenty of water, the fish are rising well to insect hatches and rainbows in particular are constantly searching the shoreline for food. That means they are both hungry and accessible.
Bait anglers have fared particularly well with PowerBait, Gulp, scrub worms and bardi grubs. Almost anywhere around the lake you are almost guaranteed two to four rainbows and an occasional brown per session. Catches of 10-15 fish are not uncommon but anglers are reminded to stick to the daily limit of five fish per person or 10 in possession.
Night fishing is not yet a reasonable option because of the cold but those who have toughed it out have accounted for some nice bags of rainbows and large browns.
Shore-based lure fishing has dropped in popularity because of the ease and success of bait fishing but some nice rainbows have been taken on the Wonder Spoon, Celta, Wonder Minnow, Pegron Tiger Minnow and Tasmanian Devil.
Small soft plastics also have done well, especially when fished among flooded, weedy bays and big timber.
Trollers have taken a few fish on flatline but have done markedly better with lead-core line. Try 1-2 colours in close then 3-5 colours out wide, with Tasmanian Devil, Baby Merlin or Rapala minnows and you should get fish.
Fly fishers have had a great run. Rising fish have been easy to find, especially in the smaller bays, and they have been keen to take chironomids, Klinkhammer, Iron Blue Dun, midge balls, small dark unweighted nymphs, Woolly Worms, beadhead Woolly Buggers and Craig's Nighttime.
Most of the fish have been close to shore, in shallow water and easy to reach, but many have become entangled in flooded weeds and shrubs.
One Eucumbene angler recently provided a great laugh for his mates when he waded out in his full-length waders to free and net a big brown that had become tangled in a drowned bush. As he turned to return to shore he tripped on a flooded log and pitched headlong into the 4° water.
He struggled ashore to the cheers and yahoos of his helpful mates, then headed for dry clothes and a fire, happy with his catch for the day.
One interesting catch at Eucumbene was a 3kg brown which had a 22cm goldfish in its throat. Goldfish are common in Eucumbene and Jindabyne and form an important part of the trout diet.
Several tackle companies have responded by producing special look-alike goldfish lures and Jindabyne guide and NSW reporter Steve Williamson has even designed a very successful goldfish fly.
Canberra's urban lakes have been quiet during Winter but are emerging from the doldrums. There have been reports of redfin to 33cm and golden perch to 1.5kg on bibless minnows, scrub worms and yabbies in Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Ginninderra.
Anglers also had some fun trying surface lures on Murray cod before the season closed. One youngster tried a new real-looking mouse lure that recently became commercially available but was smashed up by a big cod in Yerrabi Lake on his very first cast. I'm sure we will hear a lot more about these lures when the season reopens.
Burrinjuck also is coming on. Murray cod of 75cm, 82cm and 96cm were caught and released just before the season closed. They took spinnerbaits and an AC Invader deep diver.
Some nice golden perch have been taken from the shore on scrub worms at Hume Park and the Main Basin. Several silver perch, rare items these days, also have been caught on worms.
Redfin, especially small ones, have started to show and carp already have been a significant problem for bait fishers.
Anglers are enjoying some good lure and bait fishing at Wyangala Dam. A 1.2m Murray cod was taken on a lure before the season closed and some nice golden perch have been caught on bait from the shore.
One regular, who normally finds a sunny spot out of the wind while he reads the Sunday paper and drowns a worm, said he was too busy on a recent trip to do anything except pull in fish.
In a couple of hours he landed eight golden perch and 15 carp.Reads: 1458