The high hopes we had a few months ago of a glorious opening of the previously drought-affected trout streams at the end of September unfortunately have not been borne out.
There has been little follow-up rain to some tantalisingly heavy storms we had in late Winter and all we have had since are a few isolated falls. What we needed, and still need, are prolonged, soaking, stream-swelling falls and even some flash floods to clean out the accumulated rubbish in the waterways.
The result is that many of our regional trout streams are still not worth fishing. They have either no water, no fish, or both.
There are a couple of exceptions, where streams have filled with snowmelt or are fed with runoff from the Snowy Mountains hydro dams. There have been good flows in the Snowy, Thredbo, Eucumbene, Murrumbidgee, Goodradigbee and Tumut rivers and some of the smaller feeder streams. Although these provide some exciting and productive fly and lure fishing, they are hardly sufficient to satisfy the demand from the large contingent of trout fishers in the Canberra-Monaro region and visitors from farther afield.
If you do want to compete for a space on any of these rivers, I suggest you try mid-week, rather than on weekends when the crowds turn up. And be prepared to walk to the most remote sections possible.
If you are a lure fisher, stick to small spinning-bladed lures such as No 1 and No 2 Celtas in red or green, small spoons such as the Wonder Imp in silver, copper or gold, small minnows such as 3cm or 5cm Rapalas and the StrikePro Pygmy and
Galaxia. A new lure from Storm, the Scatback, has taken some nice fish and also could be worth a look.
If you are fly fishing, start as always with a Brown Nymph, then work through a succession of wets including Stick Caddis, small Black and Red Matuka, Stone Fly, Red Tag, Woolly Worm, Tom Jones Beadhead, Greenwell's Glory and egg patterns such as Muppets and GloBugs.
For dries, try the Iron Blue Dun, Hairwing Coachman, Red Tag, Muddler Minnow, White Moth, Black Beetle and Klinkhammer. Fish with a long, light leader and concentrate on the heads of the pools but be prepared to dredge the depths if the water is running hard and the fish are lying low.
Try the dries in the middle of the day when the temperature rises and insects are most likely to be on the move.
Match the hatch if that looks promising but be prepared to experiment until you find a pattern the fish want. Select flies with a lot of flash if the water is high and discoloured and work the wets with a slow retrieve to give the fish plenty of time to take the fly.
Lake levels are still of concern in the mountain country.
Lake Jindabyne has been reasonable, holding around 50% through Winter and Spring, then rising with the intake of snowmelt from the high country. It has some well-developed weed beds and has fished well from the shore and by boat.
Bait anglers have scored some nice browns to 3.9kg and rainbows to about 1.7kg on bardi grubs, scrub worms and PowerBait, especially around Kalkite, East Jindabyne and Waste Point.
Trollers have scored some nice fish, including a 4.5kg unmarked Atlantic salmon. a wild 6kg brown and lots of rainbows from 800g to 1.4kg. Best lures have been Tasmanian Devils number Y82 (my own pattern), 50, 55 and 89, 7cm, Rapala Minnows in 9cm and 11cm, the Storm Scatback and large deep divers from the Predatek and Custom Crafted range.
Anglers experimenting with soft plastics report best results from teaming frogs, shrimp, wriggletails or shads with attractors such as cowbells or Ford Fenders.
Eucumbene hit a record low of 10% in mid-Winter and slowly climbed back to 16% by the end of September. With continuing snowmelt it could reach a maximum of about 23% by January and although that's a lot of water, it is still only about half of what we started with at the same time in 2006. A grim picture indeed.
Shore-based anglers have taken lots of fish, mostly small rainbows, on bardi grubs, scrub worms and PowerBait but most of the fish have been in poor condition with thin bodies, pale flesh and an unattractive taste.
The smaller numbers of browns taken have been in better condition because they have been feeding on yabbies, which the rainbows generally won’t eat, but they are still less than desirable specimens.
Trollers have had a hard time of it because boat launching has been so difficult, but some better-quality browns have been taken from deeper water on Tasmanian Devils and minnow patterns fished on lead-core line.
Fly fishers have had some reasonable results from polaroiding Jindabyne and are just starting to experience some reasonable night fishing as the weather warms up. Try big wets such as Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer, Craig’s Nighttime and the Taihape Tickler for the best chances. Fish the darker nights before the moon gets up.
Water levels are still of concern in the lower country lakes but some good fish have been taken. It's still closed season for Murray cod but a few have been taken accidentally, then released immediately. The biggest I heard of weighed around 25kg and was caught in the Murrumbidgee River by a bloke now nicknamed as The Bastard because he fished a supposedly secret spot after hearing information from ‘a friend of a friend’. It took a bardi grub and was released unharmed.
I also heard of another large cod, estimated at 30kg to 35kg, found floating in the Molonglo River dead from unknown causes,.
Golden perch have been active, taking baits and spinnerbaits and deep-divers in lakes Burley Griffin, Ginninderra, Gungahlin and Tuggeranong. In Burrinjuck some nice ones also have been taken on green saltwater prawns, which they apparently take with gusto.
Redfin were late starting this season but eventually came good. At Burrinjuck there were schools of good-sized fish feeding along the Main Basin shoreline each morning until about 10am and providing good sport on lures and bait. In Lake Ginninderra Caroline Benag scored one of the largest redfin ever taken locally when she borrowed her boyfriend's rod and tossed out a soft plastic. The fish wasn't weighed but looked to be at least 2.5kg.
Carp also were slow to wake up in Spring but are now highly active. Increasing numbers of anglers are hunting them with fly and Jorge Aguirre was delighted to score his first-ever specimen, a Lake Gungahlin fish of 2.2kg which took a brown mudeye pattern on 2.7kg tippet. It took 20 minutes to land.Reads: 436