Conversation doesn’t change
  |  First Published: December 2016

The conversation around here hasn’t changed in many months. It’s still all about the weather, high water levels in streams and lakes, and the value of stocking waterways with natives. It’s supposed to be summer, but it still feels like spring. Anglers have had to respond accordingly. We’ve had continuing rain, relatively low temperatures and lingering snow on the mountains. That’s not summer.

The trout streams are still the centre of attention. Water levels are high, but the water is generally clear and there are worthwhile numbers of fish showing. It’s interesting that many of the fish are not in the main bodies of water, but in the small feeder creeks. They are there capitalising on the large amount of water available and the abundance of food – a rare situation in most years. Many of the fish are small, but they are providing great fun for fly and light lure anglers who revel in the tight fishing conditions.

Flyfishers are faring best with small wet patterns and nymphs. The most visual fun is with small dries such as Royal Coachman, Red Tag and Tups Indispensable. Casting a fly to the appropriate target zone while contending with masses of overhanging vegetation requires intense concentration and at least a reasonable level of skill, which makes any capture even more satisfying.

The fish are a mix of browns and rainbows, mostly in the 15-33cm range. Occasional larger specimens to 38cm have been caught. It’s strictly catch and release here, otherwise the resident population would quickly diminish to the point where it would no longer be worth fishing.

Light tackle lure fishers have also had some fun using small Celtas, Mepps and other spinning blade lures. Small spoons such as Imp, Wonder Duchess and small Rapala and Strikezone hardbodied minnow patterns are good too.

Larger Streams

Fishing has improved in some larger streams, as the water clears and rainbows finish spawning to come back on the bite. Flyfishers have caught a few nice browns in the Thredbo River on ant patterns, browns in the Eucumbene River on Woolly Buggers in the tree line above Denison and some post-spawning rainbows on dries and wets upstream from Kiandra. These rivers should continue to provide good fish until they drop back to normal summer levels and the fish retreat to the big lakes.

Lakes Fishing Well

Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Tantangara have all fished well recently. In Eucumbene, flyfishers have taken some nice browns to around 1.8kg and rainbows to 1kg on dark nymphs, Woolly Buggers and Hamills Killer. Lure fishers have fared best on hardbodied minnow patterns fished on 1-3 colours of lead core line. Bait fishers have scored mostly small rainbows on PowerBait, wood grubs and scrub worms.

Jindabyne has yielded similar fish and surprised many during the Snowy Mountains Trout Festival with a 3.5kg rainbow, as well as other good fish on scrub worms and mudeyes fished on the bottom. Tantangara has been the most pleasant surprise. The water recently backed up to 68% of capacity and lots of fish are feeding over the newly flooded ground. Numerous browns have been caught by Loch style fishing with three flies and one bait – usually wood grubs.

One downside of the good fishing in the big lakes is the amount of damage caused by 4WD vehicles. The landscape has been churned up to unacceptable levels in many locations, especially around Seven Gates, Middlingbank and Yens Bay at Eucumbene. It has been necessary to temporarily or permanently close off access to these areas.

Natives On Move

Canberra’s local lakes have suffered unsightly outbreaks of blue-green algae and surprisingly continue to fish well. Lake Burley Griffin has yielded some nice golden perch to 59cm on Jackalls, Burrinjuck Specials and Berkley black grubs. Redfin have been around 25cm, but one specimen weighed 1kg.

At Burrinjuck, golden perch are still migrating up the Murrumbidgee Arm to the Murrumbidgee River and can be caught easily at Good Hope and Taemus Bridge on yabbies and scrub worms. One angler also landed a 61cm trout cod on a scrub worm.

Cod Opening

There is great excitement about the cod season opening on 1 December. We have deliberately refrained from reporting accidental cod captures during the closed season, but it’s obvious that there are a lot of good fish around and it looks to be another ‘Year of the Cod’ coming up.

The good fishing for natives is the result of aggressive stocking programs by the ACT and NSW governments and supportive angling groups in recent years. Even a small addition of fingerlings to a waterway can result in improved fishing within a couple of years and is to be applauded and supported. It’s a wise use of scarce financial resources and we should be doing more of it.

Lake George Filling

There is great interest in the potential for a new native fishery to be established in the rapidly filling Lake George. The lake is now carrying a huge amount of water, expected to last for at least three or four years, even if there is no ongoing heavy rain. This could develop into one of Australia’s best and most spectacular fisheries if it is stocked without delay. Local anglers are keen to get involved in fundraising and stocking straight away, but will need permission from NSW Fisheries before any action can be undertaken.

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