This is a good time for fishos. The weather is warm, trout and native fish are active, many of us are enjoying our annual leave and hopefully Santa has left some new angling goodies under the tree for us.
With good late-season falls of snow and rain, many regional trout streams are carrying good water and lots of fish. It's been the best I've seen in the Canberra-Monaro district for many years – perhaps almost as good as the heady and productive years of the late 1960s and 1970s.
There has been some good natural breeding of browns in some streams and further stocking with browns and rainbows generally has been a success. Many thanks to Gaden and Ebor hatcheries and NSW Fisheries and volunteer workers who have bred, nurtured and distributed the fish.
Lure fishers can now work the streams with confidence, using a selection of lures such as Celta, Mepps, Jensen Insect, Imp Spoon, Wonder Crocodile, Baby Merlin, Strikepro Flatz, Smelta and Galaxia minnows, Rapala minnows, Rebel Crickhopper and minnows and Min Mins and metal blades.
Lures are most successful cast upstream and worked down with the current, or upstream and across. Where the flow is especially strong and there is good cover from bank vegetation, you can try casting downstream and then working back against the current.
The size of the waterway will determine which is the best technique.
Bait fishers can plant scrub worms and bardi grubs on the bottom with a light running sinker rig, float unweighted grasshoppers, worms, bardi grubs and mudeyes downstream or any of the same baits under a bubble float.
Fine line with the least drag generally means easier fishing and a better catch rate.
This is a superb time for fly fishers to take advantage of regular morning and evening rises and intermittent rises when something special is hatching or moving on the day. At this time of year you can expect bogong moths, the first of the grasshoppers and Christmas beetles and even a few cicadas, depending on the stream elevation, flow and adjacent forest or paddock vegetation.
Expect plenty of caddis and mayfly hatches, lots of beetles and ants and myriads of other insects.
Regular patterns worth a try include White Moth, Elk Hair Caddis, Black Spinners, Red Tag, Royal Coachman, Royal Humpy, Iron Blue Dun and Ti-Tree Beetle if you are fishing dry.
Useful wet patterns include Purple Nymbeet, Stick Caddis, Black and Red Matuka, small Woolly Worm and standard and beadhead nymphs. Big wets such as Craig's Nighttime, Mrs Simpson and Hamill’s killer are often more productive in larger pools.
Fly fishing is all about knowing how to fool a fish into believing that what you are offering is the right food for the moment, pitting your brain against its, the chase for a hook-up and the thrill of the hunt.
You can get it from other forms of fishing but hunting fish with a fly is hard to beat.
Bait fishing from shores of the lakes is very successful at this time of year. You can try the artificial Power Bait, Gulp or Trout Bait or scrub worms and bardi grubs on a light running sinker, or mudeyes, worms and grasshoppers on a bubble float. All work well on their day.
In general terms the artificial baits are better for rainbows and the rest better for browns but on some days the catch is about equal.
It's the same with trolling. Flatlining sometimes is the way to go but when the sun is at its brightest it often pays to get down deeper with lead-core line or a downrigger. Trolling deep and slow is most commonly the way to get fish.
Fly fishing comes into its own in the lakes in Summer. Sometimes during the day there are sudden hatches of caddis, mayflies and midges, matings and falls of ants or an eruption of beetles, and you have to be ready for them.
Have the right patterns at the ready in the fly box and learn to re-rig with the most appropriate pattern at a moment’s notice; the hatch or showing of a particular insect may last only a few minutes so you have to be ready for them.
Night fly fishing is often at its best now. You need a good casting arm and receptive ears to hear and cast directly to a working fish in the darkness but it is hard to beat the thrill of hooking an unseen fish somewhere out in front of you.
The satisfaction is often manifold. You hear the fish, then you measure the distance and land the fly in just the right spot, then you get the hook-up and the pleasure of playing your unseen quarry until it comes to your hand or net.
You can expect golden perch and Murray cod in all Canberra's lakes, and at Googong and Burrinjuck.
Bait fishers can expect fish on scrub worms, bardi grubs, shrimps and yabbies on light running-sinker rigs or less commonly on long leaders under bubble floats.
In Burrinjuck a favoured technique is to bob a live yabby or shrimp up and down a flooded tree or a steep rock face. Or you can simply cast from the shore, put the rod in a bank holder then sit back with a cold drink.
Where water visibility is satisfactory, lure fishing comes into its own. Most cod and perch stay deep and you have to go down after them with sinking or deep-diving lures.
There are myriad patterns on the market, with special favourites such as Craftmaster, AC Invader, Predatek and spinnerbaits, but I have a great load of classic patterns from yesteryears to choose from. These include the legendary Shakespeare Helldiver, Big Pike Getum and Deeper Dan, Heddon Tiny Tad, Tadpolly, Hellbender, Deep Six and River Runt, Voblex, Burke Big Dig, Mudbug, Cisco Kid, Water Dog, ABU HiLo, Hot N Tot and heaps of others.
I've got about 5000, which my wife insists I sell so if you are in the market for any let me know when you will be in Canberra and we can have a look at the magic goodies.
Finally there is the mystery of the missing redfin. Normally by this time of year we are overwhelmed by millions of the tiny pests. This year, though, they are curiously absent.
There some big ones around but very few small ones. Reasons suggested include cold weather in November-December and an earlier than usual onset of the EHN virus that kills a significant proportion each year, but at the moment that’s simply guesswork.Reads: 1097