Mudeye madness
  |  First Published: December 2002

Mudeye madness
NIGEL WEBSTER just loves those gentle mountain evenings when the trout go crazy over emerging dragonfly nymphs.

The warmer months traditionally spell a fantastic period of trout fishing in the Snowy Mountains.

As water temperatures warm into the mountain Summer, so begin the hatches of various aquatic life forms. One type of hatch in particular, the dragonfly nymph or mudeye, sends our trout into somewhat of a frenzy. With its expansive timbered bays and weed beds, Lake Eucumbene is often the centre of this superb fishing. Although mudeyes can be found in the lake all year round, they will hatch from December through to March, peaking in January and February.

Growing up in Canberra I was able to do my apprentice years of fly-fishing on the Snowy Mountains lakes. I fondly recall some of my earliest fly-fishing memories, casting rough and ready mudeye imitations at Eucumbene’s trout.

There is something special about standing on the lake shores on a still summer night, slowly twitching a fly back to shore. One tends to get pleasantly lost in the moment, only to be brought rushing back when the line is violently ripped from your fingers and an explosion on the surface somewhere out in the darkness suggests that you have an angry fish on your hands.

I recently took the time to return to Eucumbene to find that the nights are still as enjoyable and the trout still susceptible to a well-worked mudeye imitation. I usually stay at Buckenderra Holiday Village, due to its proximity to some great night fly-fishing locations. This location is near Middlingbank, an area is central to a number of generally well-sheltered bays that host expansive weed beds and drowned timber. A change in ownership over the two years ago has really bought Buckenderra Holiday Village along in leaps and bounds. The facilities and location are great and hosts Phil and Gerald do a great job of catering to everyone’s needs.

Tackle and Techniques:

When searching for suitable locations to fish your mudeye imitations, look for weed beds, timbered areas and telltale signs of mudeye hatching-grounds, for example, shucks (empty mudeye shells from which the dragonfly has hatched and fled) on timber and tussocks. I tend to fish bays a lot, mainly because they offer some form of shelter from the mountain winds.

During the peak of mudeye hatching season you can take fish in the middle of the day. However, anglers tend to have most success fishing from dusk and on through the night.

The last few nights before the full moon often correspond with some of the better catches. I have found during these periods, however, that the best fishing coincides with clouded conditions or when the moon actually disappears over the horizon. A full moon can produce relatively bright conditions that seem to discourage mudeye migration and increase the wariness of patrolling fish.

The dragonfly nymph, when it is ready to emerge, has to run the gauntlet and make its move for shore. They tend to travel close to the surface and move in short fits and spurts. Trout rising for mudeyes often produce what is described as a ‘gloop’-sounding rise that is produced as mudeyes are taken just below the surface.

A number of good mudeye imitations are available but anglers may have to do some searching for some of these. The Alpine Angler store in Cooma is a good place to start when looking for those hard-to-find patterns.

Having selected location and fly, one is ready to start shooting a line. More and more these days, I find that getting the right stripping speed greatly adds to my success and I place great emphasis on it.

Strip techniques

When the fishing is slow, I tend to experiment and vary the retrieve but I have found most success has come from a set cast-and-strip pattern. I shoot the fly line either blind, or out towards rising fish, give a couple of quick strips to get the fly and leader wet and then wait for 10 to 15 seconds.

I then start a very slow retrieve of 5cm to 10cm strips, which I repeat three or four times before pausing again. The slow retrieve is realistic and creates less line disturbance on the surface, giving the fish less reason to doubt your imitation. However, as is often the case with fishing there are always exceptions, and I have had bumper sessions through varying my approach and speeding up the retrieve.

With Eucumbene lake levels remaining reasonably high, there is a good chance we are in for a great Summer season. As water temperatures start to warm, the fishing in the mountain lakes should really kick into gear, so do yourself a favour and get out there.

When passing through Cooma, I highly recommend taking the time to stop in at the Alpine Angler to get the latest updates on the fishing. The guys are always good for a chat and a coffee and that local information can often make all the difference. Have an enjoyable and safe holiday season and see you up there.


Photo 1:

Daniel from the Alpine Angler plays a sizeable Snowy Mountains brown trout. Although fish will take a mudeye imitation during daylight, these flies are fished with a lot more success through the night.


Dusk is a great time to begin working a mudeye imitation in the many bays of Lake Eucumbene.

Photo 3

A solid 2kg brown trout that fell for a Dodd’s mudeye imitation fished in the hours prior to sunrise.

Photo 4:

A 2kg Eucumbene brown trout and a kilo of rainbow that fell for mudeye imitations fished by the author in the last few hours of darkness before sunrise.

Photo 5:

A well conditioned rainbow trout taken on a mudeye imitation in one of the many bays around Middlingbank.


Mudeyes love crawling up timber or bankside vegetation to find a dry place to hatch.


Quiet bays towards sunset and a mudeye hatch on the way – what a way to enjoy the Snowy Mountains.

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