As always, the stream trout season in NSW and the ACT finished in a flurry of activity, for two main reasons. One, we had rain, which pepped up the streams and gave the fish a great late-season boost. Secondly we had the annual pre-spawn run of browns in the big rivers attached to the mountain lakes like the Eucumbene, Thredbo and Murrumbidgee.
The Eucumbene River was the major centre of activity, attracting fly and lure anglers from all over Australia seeking a trophy fish. The prespawning run is the one time of the year when the brown trout, especially the big ones that normally reside deep in the lakes and are considered mostly uncatchable, come within casting range of shore-based anglers and are in a mood to take flies and lures, in an otherwise uncharacteristic fashion. It is the one time of the year when anglers get a realistic chance at a trophy fish, or, as in most cases, a trophy photograph.
It was a nervous wait for the spawning run to start this year. Fish won’t move from the lakes to the rivers until there is a decent flow of water. This year the rivers were low right up to the last couple of weeks before the season closed on the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
The fish were tantalising, building up in large numbers near the river mouths for weeks on end, but not actually moving into the rivers. Some were catchable in the lake, especially at night with big dark flies such as Woolly Buggers, but it was not the stream experience anglers were looking for. Then the rain came and enough fish moved into the rivers to make the spawning run a realistic experience.
There was another difference this year. In previous years there was open vehicular access to the Eucumbene River at Denison, the most popular part of the river. Unfortunately, this opportunity was abused by some anglers and the outcome was a landscape churned up by 4WD vehicles, ill-maintained and obstructive camps along the river frontage, improper fireplaces and poorly-located bush toilets.
To overcome this, vehicular access is now prohibited and all vehicles are expected to park in a newly constructed car park. That means that anglers now have a walk of at least 600m to get to the river, which is not considered particularly demanding. Special arrangements can be made for disabled anglers.
Once the run got underway there were some nice fish taken. Most anglers opted for the traditional Glo Bug and trailing nymph rig, which can be steered downstream to a fish waiting in the current. The crowds were reasonably orderly and there was enough camaraderie, as long as you were happy to have another angler fishing over your shoulder. The bag limit of one fish over 50cm per person per day was reasonably well-observed and the vast majority of anglers preferred to return their fish to the water after the ritual photographs were taken.
Although the Eucumbene River was the main centre of attention prior to the season closure the fish sprang a real surprise in the Murrumbidgee River upstream from Tantangara Reservoir. Anglers exploring the river and the small feeder creeks were delighted to find numerous browns and a few rainbows actively rising to dry flies over several days and had some exciting and rewarding fishing with Red Tag, Royal Wulff, Hairwing Coachman and Elk Hair Caddis. One group estimated that they caught and released nearly 50 fish in a two day session and double fish captures by other anglers were common.
Some other streams in the high country also fished well after the rain. As the season finished, anglers were reasonably happy to take a break or perhaps transfer to some winter lake fishing. The lakes have been fishing well, especially with lures. There were a few surprise captures. One angler at Seven Gates tossed a Wonder Spoon around and landed 16 browns in a session, keeping just enough for the table. Another angler caught his first-ever trout, a 2kg brown, just seconds after he tossed in some PowerBait, also at Seven Gates.
Native fish have settled down again, having fed up well for the coming cold winter. Yabby-drowners have caught a few golden perch in Lake Burley Griffin and although most captures were limited to one or two fish, one angler fishing near the National Museum landed seven prime fish in a session.
A few small Murray cod in the 48-55cm range have been caught in the urban lakes, all on yabbies. Nothing has been reported on a lure.
Googong Reservoir, part of Canberra’s drinking water supply, continues to be the local hotspot for redfin and a few natives. The redfin are all sizes but the prized quarry are the big ones in the 40-48cm range that are schooled up in the deep water offshore. They take lures, scrubworms and yabby baits quite well. When the school gets excited it’s a fish every drop. Spoons and bibless minnows have been the most effective and hooking two fish at the same time on the one lure has been a common occurrence. Most fish have been taken by boat anglers, but the occasional decent specimen has been caught by shore-based anglers making a long cast into deep water.
There have been a few reports of natives and redfin in regional waterways. At Burrinjuck golden perch have been taken amongst flooded trees on shrimps, yabbies and soft plastics. Cod have come from more open water, on trolled wakebaits, surface lures and spinnerbaits. Redfin have been active around the shoreline, especially in the main basin. At Wyangala golden perch have been taken on yabbies and scrubworms, mostly in the Abercrombie Arm.Reads: 637