Best results upstream
  |  First Published: November 2013

As with the Kiewa Valley area, the Ovens Valley saw a very slow start to the new trout season back in September. A few trout were caught in dribs and drabs, but nothing too much worth bragging about. Last summer's severe heatwave certainly took its toll on the trout fishing in this area.

If you want to chase trout this month, try heading high up into the hills, where the water is usually cooler and the water flows are a bit more reliable. Places like the far upper reaches of the Buckland, King and Buffalo rivers will be worth a try.

The Ovens River itself is a sad state of affairs after last year's devastating bushfires and flash flooding saw massive amounts of mud, ash and all kinds of other muck wash into the river. Once the water settled after that flooding, there were absolutely no reports of trout being caught in the Ovens River itself.

On a positive note though, there are a lot of little tributaries and feeder creeks up that way that were not affected by the bushfires and therefore held onto their trout populations. In coming years, as streamside vegetation slowly starts to grow on the banks of the Upper Ovens River, and insects and other food sources start to return, the trout should soon re-establish themselves in the river. Before too long, the premiere trout fishery in North East Victoria will be back to its former glory. But for this November, the Upper Ovens River outlook is gloomy as far as the trout fishing goes.

Lake Buffalo will be well worth a visit in November. The water temperatures are starting to rise, and the newly flooded ground is inviting the yellowbelly to come out and play. There may not be huge numbers of yellowbelly in Lake Buffalo but there are some real thumpers.

It is the same with the redfin. Ever since the yellowbelly stockings began in Lake Buffalo a few years back, the redfin numbers have declined – but the average size of the redfin in the lake is bigger than it used to be. From time to time you get some rippers in there amongst the small ones. Try using lipless crankbaits around the rocky outcrops for the yellowbelly, and if you are specifically targeting redfin, head up the Buffalo River arm and fish in some of the open shallow areas over the flat ground with small soft plastics.

The redfin should also be starting to fire across at Lake William Hovell, with most of the fish caught being quite small. Although there are bigger redfin in Lake William Hovell, the best time to catch them seems to be in autumn. Still, we know they’re in there and they have to eat sometime, so you’re always in with a chance.

The trout should still be on the chew in November in Lake William Hovell as well, especially early in the month before things get too warm. If you’re targeting trout, concentrate on the low light periods of the day and try trolling with winged lures like Tassie Devils and Lofty's Cobras.

Downstream around Wangaratta, the Ovens River will provide a lot of fun for people wishing to wet a line and drown some bait. At this time of year, the main species on offer is, unfortunately, carp. There are a few yellowbelly in the river, but they are more common in the far lower reaches from Peechelba downstream. Around Wangaratta itself, yellowbelly catches are rare.

I fish the Ovens River a lot around Wangaratta in the springtime, but I only ever bait fish and I only ever use worms for bait. The reason for this is that it’s the closed Murray cod season, and I don’t want to risk catching a breeding fish. Studies have shown that when a Murray cod is caught while spawning, the stress will cause the fish to abandon its nest and the spawn will fail. That means several hundred baby cod are lost to the fishery.

By using worms, I mainly catch carp, the very occasional yellowbelly, and if I do catch an out-of-season cod, it is usually only a small fish and not big enough to breed anyway. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy fishing in the Ovens River, just downsize your gear to avoid interrupting a breeding cod, and let the carp keep your cravings under control for a few weeks. After all, after November comes December so it's not long to wait!

Once December gets here, I will replace my worms with bardi grubs and large lures, and I will talk more about that in the December issue.

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