Rush to the spawning streams
  |  First Published: May 2013

There is a lot of excitement in the air at the moment right across the Monaro. Every time it rains or snows, there is a mad rush to the trout spawning streams, especially the Eucumbene, Thredbo and Murrumbidgee rivers, to see if the browns have started their pre-spawning run.

The reason for that is that when the browns emerge from the depths of the lakes, especially Jindabyne, Eucumbene and Tantangara, they move into the rivers where they are more accessible to anglers than at any other time of the year.

They spend several days to several weeks in the rivers on their run upstream before they find suitable water to spawn, afterwards falling back downstream to the lakes.

During that run they may or may not be feeding but certainly are in no mood to muck around and can strike at flies and lures with considerable aggression because of hunger, agitation or sheer perversity. When you watch their reaction to a fly or lure you get the impression they strike sometimes from hunger, sometimes to get rid of a presumed competitor and sometimes just to stop one of those competitors from getting an assumed juicy morsel that enhances that competitor's strength, vigour, colour, power or sexual attractiveness.

Fish moving upstream sometimes hold in open water but more commonly move from pool to pool in response to spates from rain or snowfall in the catchment. Fish commonly gather in ‘suicide holes’, where rock barriers and the like prevent further upstream movement until the next spate.

While many anglers fish suicide holes, and it is legal, some consider it a bit infra dig, whereas fishing in open water is seen as fair game.

Lure fishing similarly is frowned on by some, probably because so many fish are jagged rather than taken properly in the mouth.

While this may seem a little like fly-fishing elitism, I should point out that some fly anglers also consider fishing the entire spawning run a breach of the ‘fair play’ spirit of trout fishing. Each to their own opinion.

Trout moving upstream tend to hug the bottom and specialised techniques are needed to get the fly or lure down to them, especially when the stream is running hard.

Lure anglers commonly use a three-way swivel with two leaders attached.

One leader is fitted with split shot that pull off the line if the rig becomes snagged. The other usually is fitted with two flies, commonly a Glo Bug egg imitation and a trailing nymph.

The rig is cast out and carried downstream to a fish facing upstream in the current. The intention is to get the fish to strike at the fly; jagging commonly occurs and is not considered fair play.

Fly anglers commonly use sink-tip or full-sinking lines to get wet flies down to the required depth. Long leaders help get the fly down quickly, especially with heavily weighted flies incorporating lead in their construction. Heavier bead heads and tungsten nymphs also are used.

Some anglers use one wet fly, others two or even three. Others prefer a dry fly as an indicator and one or more wets or nymphs deeper down.

Where the fish is visible the technique is to cast well upstream and try to manoeuvre the fly into its mouth. If the fish engulfs the fly, well and good, but unfortunately many anglers resort to jagging, hooking the fish anywhere in the body and then claiming it as a fair catch.

It isn't, of course and their behaviour is reprehensible.

Most of the fish caught, not being in a fit condition to eat, are released to go on their way to the spawning grounds. The better-sized ones become dear in the memory, with photos to help maintain the memories for many years to come.

And that's why there is so much excitement on the Monaro, right now.


The lakes provide an attractive alternative. By now the fish that went deep during the heat of Summer have returned to the surface and the shallows and provide some excellent fishing on bait, lure and fly.

Try slowly trolling one to three colours of lead-core line with a Tasmanian Devil, small hard-bodied minnow, Wonder Spoon or a single large trout fly and you could be pleasantly surprised.

Power Bait or Gulp fished off the bank on a light running sinker rig could be productive. Mudeyes or late-season grasshoppers fished under a bubble float also are worth a try.

Fly-fishing usually is most productive late in the afternoon and early evening. Try a Western Mudeye, black mudeye, Craig’s Nighttime, Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer and Woolly Worms or Woolly Buggers.


Native fish are still worth a try. Many of the golden perch and Murray cod have moved from the rivers back to the safety, depth and warmth of lakes but if the weather is not too cold they can still be tempted into taking a bait or lure.

Shrimps, yabbies, bardi grubs and scrub worms are worth a try, either left in the open to bring fish to the berley or sound trail they emit, or bobbed on steep rock walls or against flooded trees.

Trolling with spinnerbaits and deep-divers is a favoured way of searching large areas in the shortest possible time and can be very productive.

Burrinjuck, Wyangala and Blowering are among the better waters but if you want variety close to home, you couldn't do better than Canberra's five urban lakes and Googong Reservoir.

Who would pass up the chance or a fat cod or golden or the 50 million redfin that are plaguing us at the moment?

country, are the ultimate prize for a fly-fisher prepared to tackle the tough, cold country.

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