Most people will be aware that much of the Snowy Mountains area was devastated by the worst bushfires in history in late January and early February.
Now the big question is, what about the trout and the fishing?
If you believe half of what is printed in the press and posted on the internet, then all the trout are dead and the whole of the Snowy Mountains trout fishery is finished. That is totally untrue.
Except for a few of the smaller waterways that have had large areas burnt right to the stream banks, most of the fishing is as good as it could be, given the drought. The fires have had very little effect.
On the lakes scene, Jindabyne and Eucumbene are in terrific condition and the fishing is actually better than it has been for many years. It is true, however, that we were catching ‘smoked trout’ straight from the lake a little while ago, but that just saves you having to smoke them after you catch them, doesn’t it?
Jindabyne and Eucumbene are big lakes. Remember, Jindabyne can contain 1.5 times the volume of water in Sydney harbour and Eucumbene can be up to nine times Sydney harbour.
It’s going to take a hell of a lot off ash to destroy the fishing in those lakes. Both lakes are in great condition and with better than average water capacity for this time of year.
On the rivers, what the uneducated people are saying is that when the ash washes into the rivers, it will de-oxygenate the water and all the trout will die.
In fact, we have since had good, soaking, steady rain and the undergrowth is growing quickly. The rain has actually saved us from any problems and things are now looking nice and green.
Some of the smaller alpine streams have sustained a little damage from the fires but it will be only a season until they can be re-stocked again by the Gaden Trout Hatchery near Jindabyne.
It will, of course, also take time for these fish to grow.
Looking on the brighter side, the lakes are fishing brilliantly at the moment and I would see no reason why this should change.
Autumn is now well and truly here and all trout anglers know that the fishing at this time of year even gets better.
Over the next few months, the water will cool down as we approach Winter and the trout will again start to come closer to the surface and feed closer to shore, making them easier to catch for the land-based angler.
It is at this time that the shore-based bait angler can often outfish the trollers. If you can still get mudeyes, then the trout will certainly eat them. If you can’t get mudeyes, try the humble old bunch of worms suspended about one to two metres under a float.
Try fishing early and late in the day for the best action but if you have the time to keep a line in the water longer, you should be able to catch fish all day long.
Spinning will almost always catch fish in our lakes and while most spin anglers will work the shoreline of bays early and late in the day, you can catch trout at any time if you find some deep water and allow the lure to sink a little deeper before retrieving it.
The best lures to use would be small bladed spinners such as the Gillies Killer Spinner, a Celta’ or a Mepps. During the brighter parts of the day, you need to throw the lure out farther and let it sink deeper, so the 13g Tasmanian Devil in gold or yellow colours is very effective when retrieved slowly over areas where there are a few snags which the trout hide among.
Fly-fishing over the next month or so will be better on the lake, not just because of the effect that the fires have had, but more so because of the lack of rain. The streams and rivers are still a little low and when they are like this, the fish tend to be spooky and best left to the very best of fly-casters.
Unless you are a real gun, you would be advised to do a little casting on the lakes and at this time of year, the better fishing is very early or very late in the day if you are land-based.
If you have a boat to cast from then you can try sinking lines on the lake and you may be surprised that you can get some excellent rainbow trout even in the middle of the brightest days, just by drifting around with flies down to about five metres deep. Don’t keep stripping in the fly all the time, just leave it in the water (that’s where the fish are!) and twitch the tip of the rod about five to 10 centimetres.
The best flies using this method are bigger ones. Flies like large No 4 or No 6 black or green Woolly Bugger is always worth a go, as is a large Mrs Simpson.
If you are land-based and fishing early and late, a Mrs Simpson or Hamill’s Killer are good flies. When fishing in the little sheltered bays, you had better tie on a Williamson’s Gold Fish, which was especially designed to represent the feral goldfish that hang around these locations.
On the trolling scene, the next few months are when the fishing gets to it’s best. Surface trolling Tasmanian Devil lures in gold and green (such as No 50) and plain gold colours like Tassie No 36 will be best.
Once the water temperature cools down to around 14° you will find that the fish will get into the spawning mood and you should change lure colours to Tassie Devil No 55 Pink Panther or the No 56.
Although 8kg leadlines at three colours (30 metres of line out) will still work best in the middle of the day, surface trolling lures will be best early in the day around the edges of the weedier bays.
As I said, the fishing is fine in the mountains and the rumours of the trout kills have probably been spread by anglers who want the fishing to themselves, so come on up and spoil their day! There are plenty of fish for everyone.
We will hold a Trolling Clinic on Lake Jindabyne on April 26 and 27 and there will be a prize bag with more than $200 worth of lures and other goodies for the first two readers who book and pay for the weekend. For more information or a full itinerary on this or any of our fly and trolling schools, phone me on 0408 024 436 or email me. I will be available over the coming months for personal guiding, fly-fishing tuition and lake trolling trips. Lessons start at two hours and trolling trips run from three hours to a full day. For the latest in fishing conditions just give me a call or check out my website at www.fishnet.com.au/snowyfish
John and Anne Crookes, of Brisbane, with a pair of 1.4kg rainbow trout caught on trolled No 36 Tassie Devils.
Mick Bartlett, of Sydney, caught this kilo trout trolling a No 50 Tasmanian Devil.
Ken Nicholson sent out a mudeye under a bubble float at Mill Creek inlet on Lake Jindabyne for this choice rainbow.Reads: 584