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Chronicling the Times
  |  First Published: February 2003



For me there are lots of memories from the past year.

A great trip to look at the tackle scene in China. Some great kingfish in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand in June. Some great trout fishing in the South Island of New Zealand in February. Great trips to Tasmania to fish Bronte, Penstock, Arthur's, Pine Tier, Little Pine, Dee and the Western Lakes. Endless sorties to my home saltwater base at Bermagui chucking flies and lures at flathead and bream, salmon, tailor and heaps of offshore pelagics. The occasional shot at a marlin or yellowfin. Backwards and forwards to Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Tantangara, up and down the road to the coastal bass streams and Brogo Reservoir. Quick trips to Burrinjuck, Wyangala and Blowering. Short sessions on the urban Canberra lakes. Odd trips to regional trout and native fish streams.

And there was lots of writing and photographing. Looking back, I wonder how I fitted it all in. It's been great fun, however, and the most important thing about the writing bit is that it forces and encourages me to communicate with a wide range of anglers of all ages.

It doesn't matter whether they are experienced or complete amateurs, soothsayers, truth-sayers or fib-tellers, they are interesting and fun to listen to and talk to. They bring to fishing a wealth of funny stories, interesting anecdotes and glimpses of human nature, irrespective of how perfect or imperfect that may be.

For me there is one tinge of sadness in 2002 – the end of a fishing column that I have been writing for the Canberra Chronicle, a free throw-over-the-fence newspaper that prints about 130,000 copies a week, for the past 35 years. One thousand seven hundred and fifty columns of fun, anecdotes, fibs, great stories, news, views, verbal abuse, legends, jokes, vendettas, campaigns against environmental bastardry, irrigation water wastage and a hundred other topics. Even a few true stories.

Now it has come to and end. The reason is I have been recruited by the parent paper, the Canberra Times, where the column will appear weekly but with a much wider circulation. The Times is a great paper, one of the most prestigious in Australia and I look forward to my involvement. But, as before, I will need your help. The column, after all, is my translation of you, in print.

And the even better part is that the best of you and your activities finish up here in NSW Fishing Monthly, which is enormously satisfying to present because it gives me the opportunity of sieving all that has happened in the past month and combining it with all that you predict is going to happen in the next month. It's wonderful when we get it right, screamingly funny when we don't. Either way, it is you, the anglers, who make this column and this magazine, and at the beginning of another fishing year I thank you and salute you for you assistance, your contributions and your great stories.

Drought continues

The drought continues and, as water levels drop, we watch with mounting concern the effect on exotic and native fish.

In the trout streams, most of the fish have retreated to the big lakes wherever this is possible. In the others, there has been and will continue to be mass die-offs. Brown and rainbow trout are Northern Hemisphere fish suited to cooler, well-oxygenated water. They do not fare well in drought-warmed streams low in oxygen and we have lost a lot of these fish.

It has not been worthwhile undertaking the annual stocking of streams with fingerlings. We stand to lose a significant proportion of our stream trout and things will be pretty grim for the next couple of years.

There have been a couple of exceptions, however. For reasons we cannot yet fathom, lots of trout have stayed in the snow-fed Thredbo River this year. Normally they would head back to Lake Jindabyne after spawning in August-September but this year they have stayed or come back to the river in droves. There have been lots of them and they have been big fish, so they have provided some great angling opportunities.

Best flies have been Glo Bugs, Mrs Simpson, beadhead Tom Jones, beadhead nymphs, white moth, grey and brown caddis and grasshoppers. The latter came early this year, presumably because of the dry conditions.

Mountain strongholds

The mountain lakes, in contrast to the streams, have been holding reasonably well. They have fished well on lures, especially Tasmanian Devils. The most popular routine has been to fish the yellow-winged No 36 or No 89 first thing in the morning, then switch to No 50 (Frog), No 3 (Four-X), No 48 (Brown Bomber or No 7 (Lady Beetle) later in the day. The great majority of the fish have been four to nine metres down so lead-core line or downriggers have become standard tackle.

Bait-fishers have done well with mudeyes under a bubble float or mudeye waggler, as well as on Bardi grubs and on PowerBait. I still maintain PowerBait is nothing more than flavoured play dough but it catches an enormous number of fish.

Fly fishers have done well with traditional patterns such as Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer, Red and Black Fuzzy Wuzzy, Sir Roden's Killer, Tom Jones and dark nymphs. They have also done well with red and black ants during the numerous ant falls experienced during the hot and humid afternoons, and on grasshoppers, which arrived five or six weeks early this year.

The hoppers are everywhere, chomping their way across the landscape, and they are so hungry I was told they even ate the green paint off Lanyon Homestead, to the south of Canberra. True story. Scout's honour.

Fly anglers also have done well matching the hatch when there have been mass emergences of white moths, black spinners, grey and brown caddis and small midges. Mudeye patterns have done well on darker nights.

This fishing pattern is expected to continue for some weeks but with the fish going a little deeper during the warmer and brighter parts of the day and showing increasing tendency towards maximum activity in the early morning and at night.

Local Lakes

All of the local lakes have remained clear because of lack of rain throughout the catchment and anglers have had a ball lure-fishing for redfin, Murray cod and golden perch. Even the carp have been taking lures, especially as the grasshoppers and cicadas become more prominent on the water.

Some excellent catch-and-release cod have been taken, including a couple over 35kg in lakes Burley Griffin and Ginninderra and 12kg to 15kg in the newer Lake Tuggeranong. Googong Dam has dropped to a record seven metres below top level but is still producing some great golden perch. Fishing has improved recently as the redfin ranks have been significantly depleted by the annual onslaught of the lethal EHN virus.

Captions

1

Chris Lee about to release a massive Murray cod, estimated around 35kg, caught on a Storm Wee Wart in Lake Burley Griffin, right in the heart of Canberra. It took 30 minutes to land on 6 kg tackle.

Photo: Adam Casha.

2

Shane Jasprizza with a nice Murray cod taken on a lure in suburban Belconnen's Lake Ginninderra. Not bad for a fish stocked as a fingerling just seven or eight years ago.

3

Plump golden perch in perfect Summer condition have been taken on lures in the clear waters of Googong Reservoir. Lure fishing has improved recently as lots of interfering redfin have been removed by the EHN virus.

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