IN A WONDERFUL mixed metaphor, rain can be a two-edged sword.
Recently we had the most significant rainfall in the Canberra-Monaro region for about three years more than 100mm in most areas.
The initial impact was wonderful. It washed the dust off the landscape, started the streams gurgling and flowing again and removed significant quantities of bushfire ash, silt and other material that had lain in the waterways for the past year or so. Regional lakes such as Blowering and Burrinjuck started to fill and the fish thought it was wonderful to be swimming in water so deep they weren't even scratching their bellies on the bottom.
But then it rained some more. And that's when the trouble started. Steep slopes, bared in last year's bushfires, started to erode and there were landslips and slides of varying magnitude right through the region. Fine particulate matter washed into the waterways, creating the very problem we hoped the rain would help alleviate. So we are almost back to square one.
There is a difference looming, however, in the immediate future. Rain means that plants will grow and that trees and shrubs will regenerate. That means improved soil protection and less polluted run-off. Flow in the streams will enable trout and native fish to move to new feeding and breeding grounds. Food supplies will develop quickly in the nutrient-enriched waters. Murray cod, trout cod and the few remaining silver perch, Macquarie perch and blackfish hopefully will be stimulated to breed. And in the reservoirs, the water will settle, stabilise and clear and we could have some good lure, bait and fly fishing ahead of us.
Golden perch and Murray cod will be the big targets this month in Burrinjuck, Wyangala, Blowering, Googong and the urban lakes in Canberra. Bait-fishing with yabbies, scrub worms, bardi grubs and tiger worms has predominated to date but, as the water clears, lure fishing will take over. Most lure anglers will stick to the traditional deep-diving minnows but increasing numbers are experimenting with spinnerbaits and soft plastics. Spinnerbaits have proven useful in a variety of waters but really come into their own when you want to dredge the bottom in ultra-deep water or bounce over snags in otherwise too-difficult locations.
Soft plastics are fun to experiment with because there is a multitude of new patterns to play with and because they are cheap enough not to generate suicidal thoughts when you lose one to a fish or a snag.
The most welcome news for fly-fishers, in particular, is the return of water to the trout streams. Most are flowing again, although not many have fish in them. They could recover reasonably quickly, however, with stocking and with migration from lakes where there is a direct connection.
Some of the larger, higher-country streams such as the Thredbo, Murrumbidgee and Eucumbene have carried plenty of water and good trout right through the season and are still fishing reasonably well. We've had the impression that the trout have sensed the intensity of the drought during the past year and have stayed in the streams far longer this season than in the past. Fishing will improve even more this month as the grasshoppers and cicadas arrive and bring the fish to more regular surface feeding.
The European carp also dearly love cicadas and grasshoppers. In all of the local waters, as soon as one of these flying critters lands on the water there is a mad rush of the ‘swamp rats’ to be first at the feast. If you stand up high and watch, you can see 10 or 12 fish at a time rushing to the source of kicking legs or buzzing wings as the unfortunate insect hits the water. Chuck in any large floating lure and give it a few twitches and you get the same reaction – and a hook-up on the swampy that is likely to tie you up for the next 20 minutes or so before you lead the obscene mass of fat, fins and scales into the shallows and inhale that unmistakeable odour before you pull the hooks out and kill it.
Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Tantangara dams have all fished well in recent months and look to continue in coming months.
Eucumbene is still well down but good fish have been taken from the bank, mostly in deeper water, on bardi grubs, Berkley PowerBait and scrub worms. One lady angler has been doing well with a two-bait rig, a live cricket at the surface and a worm or grub hanging below. She scored one brown over 4kg in this fashion recently and discovered that the greedy bugger had swallowed both baits. She later lost the rig when she hooked two big fish at the same time.
Lake Jindabyne is close to top level and fishing brilliantly with lead-core line and some of my new Tasmanian Devil patterns – Yellow Fever, Anglers Arty, Eucumbene Bomber and Canberra Killer. These have been outstandingly good lures. I did the inventing and Garth Wigston was the enthusiastic maker. If you can't find them, ring me and I will tell you which shops can supply them.
Fly-fishers working from boats have fared exceedingly well in Tantangara using mostly small Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers in dark colours tied on No 12 hooks. Sink-tip and intermediate sink lines have given the most success.
Bass made an early start in our coastal areas and are at peak activity. Best fish to date is a 53cm specimen from the Shoalhaven, with a 49cm from the Clyde and a 43cm from Brogo Reservoir. All of these areas are well worth a look this month, especially with surface lures early morning and late afternoon, tiny spinnerbaits during the middle of the day and flies at any time, but especially in the shadowed areas during the day.
Finally, if you want to try what sounds to be a top location for redfin, head for Carcoar Reservoir in central NSW. A colleague lure-fished there recently for 33 massive redfin weighing between 1.5kg and almost 4kgkg –the biggest specimens he has ever encountered. All were taken on spinning-bladed lures fished down deep.Reads: 947