Despite indifferent weather, with several heavy snowfalls, winds up to 120km per hour and night-time temperatures of minus 8°C, anglers have gathered in large numbers in an attempt to catch a trophy brown trout.
The fish are on their annual pre-spawning run in the Thredbo River at Lake Jindabyne and at Providence Portal and the mouth of the Eucumbene River at Lake Eucumbene. The main access points have been crowded during each day and night with anglers from various parts of Australia. On one occasion there were more than 50 vehicles parked at Providence Portal, many of them Victorian and others from the ACT and NSW. Some anglers also have visited from South Australia. It was all a mad rush to get that trophy fish before the stream season closure on 13 June.
Despite the crowding there has been reasonable camaraderie amongst anglers, and some good fish have been caught. Most anglers have used the traditional Glo Bug and trailing nymph combination, weighted with just enough split shot to keep the rig near the bottom, and used on fly or spinning gear. Other anglers have used straight spin gear and have caught some nice fish on spotted dog coloured Rapalas and dark-coloured Tasmanian Devils.
Many of the fish have been of good size. Fish in the 2-3.5kg range have been common and occasional specimens to nearly 5kg have been reported. Some catches have been spectacular for their size and number. Nathan Walker and Chris Skillin flyfished Providence Portal in an all-night session and finished with 20 and 10 fish respectively, all in the 2.2-4.2kg range. Nathan top-scored with a 4.2kg fish but Chris was more than happy because it was his first ever flyfishing trip.
Even though anglers are entitled to retain one trophy fish per day if it is over 50cm, most fish are released unharmed immediately after the ritual photographs are taken, to continue their pre-spawning journey upstream. There are exceptions, however. One Canberra angler reportedly was caught with two fish in possession, one of them undersized, and was fined $270 by NSW Fisheries who keep a strict eye on the fishery.
One negative aspect of the annual invasion by hundreds of heavy 4WD and other vehicles has been the damage done to river banks and the other wet access areas. Unthinking drivers striving for just that further bit of access have churned up large areas of fragile National Park and there has been no restorative work. Obviously some form of control is desired and discussions are underway to determine whether vehicles should be restricted to formed car parks and anglers required to proceed on foot from there on. It is a serious problem and it is up to anglers to take the initiative and come up with a workable solution to the problem. Failure to do so might mean that vehicles are entirely prohibited in the relevant areas.
Some nice trout, mostly rainbows, have been caught in areas other than the pre-spawning runs. In Jindabyne there have been catches of up to eight fish in a session on PowerBait, scrub worms and especially wood grubs. The best areas have been Creel bay, Hatchery Bay and Kalkite. In Lake Eucumbene there have been some nice fish caught on fly in Rushy Plains Bay and Yens Bay.
Flyfishers have had some good fun with mostly smallish fish in the streams. There have been plenty of insects around, including a surprising number of late-season grasshoppers along the Tumut River, and dry flyfishing has accordingly been good.
Despite the water temperature dropping quickly in Canberra's urban lakes there have been some reasonable catches of golden perch and occasional Murray cod, nearly all on yabbies and scrub worms. One angler has regularly caught two to five golden perch in a session and recently landed an 18kg cod near Scrivener Dam in Lake Burley Griffin. Redfin also are still active and remain the mainstay of the catch for lure anglers.
Burrinjuck Reservoir is back to 33% full after cessation of release for downstream irrigation and a little rain in the catchment.
Most cod chasers have used spinnerbaits and big deep divers, with surface lures in otherwise quiet parts of the lake, during low light periods. Golden perch are relatively easy to find around flooded trees in the Murrumbidgee and Goodradigbee arms using yabbies, shrimps and the now-famous Zerek, StrikePro and Berkley black plastic grubs.Reads: 455