Browns get down to business
  |  First Published: May 2007

May is an interesting time in the Snowy Mountains as the brown trout really get fired up in readiness for their spawning run.

Not all of the brown trout enter the Thredbo River at the one time; some trout spawn early and some late. Usually every time we get a major weather change some fish will run into the river.

The best spawning runs occur when we get rain and the more rain we get and the faster the rivers flow, the better the run of fish. The biggest of the brown trout will mostly wait until the rivers are in flood and there is enough cover from the extra water flow.

The big browns like to run in safety and that means when they can’t be detected by predators.

So if we manage to get good rain in May, you can expect some great fishing in the rivers. With no rain it will be fishing as normal but, so far, with the rain and cooler changes we experienced in April, conditions are looking great for the month ahead.

May is when the Thredbo River rules change to only one fish per day per angler, and that fish must be over 50cm long. I think it’s a silly rule but rules are rules and you must abide by them.

This is when we can often target some of the monster trout that Jindabyne is renowned for and since not all fish spawn at the same time, there are still plenty willing to take a bait. Bait anglers know that the best fishing is in May and early June when the edge water is cold enough and the fish come into the shallows to feed. Spin anglers also have good success for the same reason.

The browns ready to spawn will hang out at Creel Bay waiting for a rise in the river. Lake trollers will often do very well when they fish this area as a cold change comes through, but at other times you most likely will waste your time trying to catch fish that are shut down.

Lake levels are still worrying a lot of anglers but they need not be concerned because the fishing is great and you can still launch boats. Lake levels are not going to change until Spring when the snow melts and how much the lake will rise then depends on the depth of snow this year. I’m hoping for a bumper season with 3m of snow on the ground!


This is one of the best months for the bait angler around the lake edges. Most rivers and streams in the Snowy Mountains are fly and lure only so first check with the DPI Fisheries as to which rivers in the area you can legally use bait fish on. If in doubt, don’t use bait.

The best baits for big brown trout are bardi grubs or local scrub worms. The natural oils in the bardis help them float off the bottom so they need to be held down with a running sinker. Scrub worms are best fished with no weight, just a worm on a hook and tossed into the water preferably with the line greased to help it float off the bottom and out of the weed.

Another good bait is a bunch of tiger worms suspended one to two metres under a bubble float at sunrise and sunset.

Worms teamed with an artificial bait like PowerBait and fished off the bottom work well at the moment on Lake Jindabyne. They’re sure to result in a rainbow trout, which just love the PowerBait. I like orange or pink in Autumn and Winter.

Best areas over the next couple of months will be Waste Point and the Snowy Arm, Hatchery Bay, Hayshed Bay and Creel Bay for the early spawners.


The Gillies Spina in red/gold is a good lure in the river this time of the year. Unless we get rain, the Thredbo River level is normally low so small, slight spinners are always best.

When we get rain, minnows like Rapalas, Legends, StumpJumpers and similar are effective when the big fish enter the river on the spawning run. These fish are territorial and very aggressive and will swipe anything that looks like a small trout.

At this time the bigger the minnow the better, but only when the river level is high. Use sinking or deeper-diving minnows when the river is high and stick to smaller lures when the water is low and clear.

Drift rigging is an old technique that you don’t see many anglers using these days but it is very effective. New on the market is a line very much like the old Siglon Float line that we used to use for drift rigging many years ago. The new Sunline Siglon Fine Float line is bright yellow and easy to see, which is important when drift rigging because you need to strike instantly when the line hesitates.

The diagram shows a nymph and a Glo-Bug but you can use two Glo-Bugs or even two nymphs, depending on what the fish are taking. In the early part of the spawn run you might find the fish will actually take the nymph but once the trout start to lay eggs and other fish start to eat them, that’s the time the Glo-Bugs work best.

The number and size of the split shot will depend on the flow and the depth. The flies need to be fished close to or on the bottom, where the fish, are to get best results.

You cast up into the faster-running water and, by keeping your rod tip high, you should feel the split shot tumbling along the bottom and you should be able to see the line hesitate even for a split second. Then you lift the rod tip sharply to strike.

Should the split shot snag between rocks, a bit of a tug and the shot that is stuck should just slip off the end of the line. Then it’s just a matter of winding in the line and adding more.

Remember, if you haven’t got enough weight and the flies are not near the bottom you will not catch fish. If you want to know more about this method, I do guided trips that will teach you all you need to know.

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