Fishing usually hits a peak this month for trout, native fish and redfin.
Trout at this time of year are still showing the predictable pattern of lots of activity near the surface during the early morning, late afternoon and evening but with most of the fish staying deep during the day.
That's changing, however, as the days shorten and day and night temperatures fall. There is a lot of surface food around, especially grasshoppers, cicadas and caddis and these tempt fish to feed more in the upper layers of water. Regular and ongoing mudeye hatches during the night also tempt the fish to feed close to shore.
Fly fishers have had a good time of it with many of the 20 or so artificial grasshopper patterns on the market. The best technique has been to bang the fly down hard, simulating the way a real hopper lands when it is blown off course onto the lake or stream.
Mudeye patterns have been particularly useful late in the afternoon and at night, fished with a short jerky retrieve right to the rod tip. Larger and darker patterns have been the most successful to date.
Lure fishers also have done well with yellow and brown Rebel Crickhoppers and a few fish have been taken on small River 2 Sea Cicada poppers more commonly used by bass fishers.
Many anglers have resorted to using real grasshoppers. They can be superglued to a hook but are more usefully used pierced through the collar on the back of the head with a small No 10 Daiichi Mudeye hook and fished with a short leader and a bubble float. Mudeyes are similarly fished with a bubble float and the same Daiichi hook pierced through the wing cage on the back. This enables the mudeye to be fished alive and as it whizzes around underwater with its jet-propelled action, the trout often find it irresistible. Some anglers have done well replacing the bubble float with a slim upright float known as a Mudeye Waggler, which tends to be less easily moved around by wind.
Murray cod and golden perch have provided good sport on lures, with generally clear water conditions in Googong, Burrinjuck, Wyangala and Canberra's urban lakes. Two of us had some spectacular action at Burrinjuck using deep-diving Burrinjuck Specials, Custom Craft and spinnerbaits with cod to about 18kg and goldens to about 2.5kg.
Other anglers have done well jigging spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits deep down on vertical rock faces and flooded trees.
Redfin were scarce at Burrinjuck but have provided plenty of sport for anglers in Canberra's lakes. Most of the fish have been small but on some occasions schools of fish to 2.5kg have turned up, attracting big crowds of boat- and shore-based lure-tossers. Redfin are excellent to eat and are our most popular table fish.
Carp are a problem because, having by this time of the year eaten much of the available food, they are grabbing lures and flies as well as baits. It happens every year and we caught about a dozen in two days on deep divers at Burrinjuck.
I guess it is inevitable that as more and more anglers spend time outdoors each year they generate interesting interactions with wildlife.
Most of us have had run-ins with snakes – browns, blacks, tigers, copperheads and the like – and most of us have learned to just leave them alone to get on with whatever they are doing – catching frogs, grasshoppers, cockroaches, mice or just sleeping in the sun. But occasionally things go wrong.
At a lake venue once I went to push aside a big red-bellied black that unexpectedly slithered up in front of me and the lure on the end of my rod got stuck in his scales. Not quite sure what to do next, I went looking for a stick to prise the lure loose but the creature took off at a rate of knots into the long grass. I had no choice but to feed out line and follow on foot until I figured out what to do. Luckily, the lure eventually snagged in the grass and came free but it does raise the interesting question of just what I would have done if it hadn't come free!
I was reminded of all this recently by a swag of stories of animals and humans getting together in the wild in the most interesting way.
One angler seems to have a thing about kangaroos. A while back at Jindabyne he encountered a kangaroo which invaded his camp while he was out fishing and stole and ate a rainbow trout he had stored in an esky. True story. Kangaroo ate a trout. Never been reported before, or since.
Another angler arrived back at camp at Jindabyne after a session out in the boat to find a kangaroo had eaten all the chicken legs and most of the vegetables cooked in his camp oven. All it left behind were some apparently unpalatable chat potatoes.
The same angler camped in the same area a year or so later and was woken in the middle of the night by his wife, who said something was in the tent. Sure enough, when he switched on the torch he found it was a kangaroo which somehow had got into the tent. Predictably, it panicked and wrecked half the camp trying to get out. Not a good night's sleep followed, he told me.
Troublesome kangaroos seem to infest Jindabyne. Another group of anglers, camped on the bank at night, were surprised to hear the drag on one of the reels in their boat screaming. They knew they hadn't put a line out since returning from a trolling session.
It turned out to be a kangaroo which had got into their boat in search of food, become tangled in a braid line and took off in panic. They spent half and hour chasing it to recover as much of the line as they could before the big hopper disappeared with the rest.
More recently, an angler fishing overnight in the upper reaches of the Murray River was surprised to find a kangaroo had chewed all the Hypalon grips from his rod left sitting in a rod holder on the bank. Now we all know of mischievous anglers who surreptitiously rub sardines or fish slime on an unsuspecting mate's rod to tempt a water rat to chew the daylights out of it while fishing at night, but this was just a plain old fishing rod.
He suspects it might have been searching for salt from his sweaty hands. Or perhaps it just liked the taste of Hypalon.
Rats, of course, feature in lots of anglers’ stories. They will eat anything, as a colleague found recently when he visited his caravan which he leaves at a South Coast caravan park. When he opened the door he discovered a rat had been eating his waders. He knows it was a rat because he found it dead, with its belly stuffed full of wader bits, elsewhere in the van. I never knew waders were toxic.
Birds are always good fun in the great outdoors. Well, nearly always. One bloke who thinks otherwise lost his entire supply of precious, expensive and hard-to-get bardi grubs one night when some wild ducks sneaked around the rocks at the back of his camp and ate the lot. Apparently they have a great liking for them. And yes, it was Jindabyne again, where the wildlife seem to have a thing or two about humans.
Eucumbene also has troublesome birds. An angler who placed a big load of frozen bardi grubs out to thaw at his camp while he walked down to the lake to cast a line came back just in time to see a heap of crows finishing the last of his only bait – $65 worth! Can you imagine the language that ensued?
Horses feature a lot in incidents with humans. One angler at Eucumbene lost the top 30cm of his expensive Hardy fly rod when a horse chewed it off during the night. It was in rod grips on the roof of the car, just at the right height for an inquisitive nag, it would seem.
Another chap, camped down on the Goodradigbee River well away from civilisation, lost his entire week's supply of cigarettes when a Shetland pony chewed them up on his first day there. I have no truck with smoking, which I dislike intensely, but I can sympathise with his pain of nicotine-withdrawal for the next couple of days.Reads: 911