One of the more pleasing things about our part of the world is the extent to which the seasons change throughout the year.
If you live in northern Australia, for example, you have two seasons a year, wet and dry. We are lucky enough to have four – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Bloody Cold.
Right now we are deep into Autumn. The seasonal pattern is a familiar one. Willows and poplars have gone from green to gold and dropped their leaves, frosts are becoming more regular and early snowfalls are common enough to be a necessary part of planning for any trip to the mountain lakes and streams.
Trout anglers have shifted from Summer-weight waders to neoprene thermals; bass-chasers are scouring the coastal streams for the last of the feeding fish before they head off downstream on their pre-spawning run; native-fish hunters are enjoying a last burst of pre-Winter feeding activity among the cod and golden perch, and redfin lure-tossers are having a ball with these hungry predators. It's a testing but pleasantly interesting time of year.
I have mentioned in previous columns the developing threat to environmental releases – the deliberate release of water from storages simply to maintain the health of river systems downstream. It's an eminently sensible way of conserving the health of the total aquatic and riverine ecosystem, ensuring that plant and animal communities, including the sporting fish we chase, survive and flourish.
The do-gooders don't like that and there is an increasing clamour in the media and elsewhere to stop this ‘waste’ of water. Water that could otherwise be used for such wonderful purposes as growing English-style lawns and gardens in this, the driest continent on Earth. Or washing cars, driveways and patios to remove a bit of dust and a few leaves that have lodged there.
Don't underestimate this clamour from the chattering classes.
Unless we keep reinforcing the sense, the absolute importance and the vitalness of environmental releases we stand to lose our fisheries, our recreation and a lot of the satisfying natural values in our lives. Do your bit and promote environmental release at every opportunity.
Do this and you can make your voice heard as loudly and strongly as the city and country-based Luddites, cretins, poseurs, wankers and environmental rapists who wouldn't know a river from a stream of piddle.
Trout streams in the region have been flowing surprisingly well, despite only intermittent rain. Some have been maintained by the environmental releases described above and include the Cotter, Murrumbidgee and Tumut rivers, where some nice fish have been taken on lure and fly.
In addition, there has been limited recovery in some of the streams badly affected by the 2003 bushfires. Some reasonable browns have been taken from the Gudgenby, Yarrangobilly, Thredbo and Eucumbene Rivers and there has been an especially good run of early pre-spawning browns in the Eucumbene River.
Good fish have been reasonably easy to take on grasshopper flies, small brown nymphs, brown beetles and the Royal Humpy and Hairwing Coachman. Using the latter two patterns as indicators, with a nymph underneath, has been a deadly technique and one angler recently landed and released a 4.5kg fish caught in the lower Eucumbene River on this rig.
Soft-plastic chuckers also are gradually improving their catch rate. A colleague has been doing well with soft plastic Wilson frogs in a pale green colour and has found them especially useful in the fast-flowing Tumut River where otherwise-favoured dry flies commonly get swept under and rendered ineffective.
All of the mountain lakes continue to fish well and the most common response these days when you ask is that Jindabyne or Eucumbene is ‘fishing a blinder’. It's a long time since we heard that description but it's true.
Whatever NSW Fisheries has been doing in recent years, it has certainly paid off, with anglers repeatedly coming back with stories of bagging out on 1kg to 2kg rainbows and larger browns on bait, lure and fly.
Best baits have been mudeyes, scrub worms and PowerBait but occasionally someone cracks it with a yabby. An angler at Seven Gates on Lake Eucumbene recently landed a 4.6kg brown on a yabby and when he cleaned it, he found it already stuffed full of local yabbies.
Fly fishing has been good through the day with Royal Humpy, large Hairwing Coachman, dry Brown Beetle (especially those with a thick foam body), large heavy grasshoppers and cicadas doing the trick. At night it has been the realm of Mrs Simpson, Craig's Night-time, Hamill’s Killer and the Taihape Tickler.
Lure fishers have done well trolling Tasmanian Devils in various colours and patterns and I have been pleased to see the high degree of success of my own models, the Canberra Killer, Anglers Arty, Eucumbene Bomber and Yellow Fever.
A lot of fish also have been taken on small hard-bodied minnows, notably Attack, Baby Merlin, Strike Pro, Rebel Crickhopper and Deception and on slow-trolled Flatfish.
Flatlining has been effective but trolling with lead-core line has been more effective and has yielded bigger fish, especially browns, during the brightest part of the day.
Downriggers, particularly used with a cowbells or Ford Fenders attached to the bomb, have been effective in getting to the giant browns in Eucumbene and Jindabyne that are otherwise out of reach of trollers and lure-casters.
Murray cod and golden perch have been right on schedule this year, feeding heavily through Autumn to ensure they can get through the coming Winter with limited food availability. They are mostly pretty quiet in the mornings but become more active later in the day as the temperature rises and they continue to feed through the night. They tend to stay pretty deep and few have been caught in the shallows except after dark.
Some anglers have done well with slow-trolled or retrieved deep-divers such as Hot ’N Tots, Double Downers, Poltergeist, Deception, Golden Child and Extractors but there has been a lot of successful experimenting with spinnerbaits.
Some fish have been caught on trolled or cast spinnerbaits but the best success has been through jigging them deep down on steep rock faces or alongside flooded trees. This technique has worked extremely well in Burrinjuck and Wyangala and although it is time-consuming it has produced some good hauls of cod, golden perch and large redfin.
Live bait also has been useful. A group fishing shrimps and live yabbies at Carrolls Creek in Lake Burrinjuck recently landed over 50 golden perch in a night session. One angler also pulled out a massive cod which escaped by rolling down the bank and breaking the line – not unexpected given the circumstances on a dark night with much hilarity and an angler in a certain condition from after-dinner drinks.
Another group did well fishing live shrimps in Lake Cargellico, on the Lachlan River. They reported catching lots of small cod, with the best 48cm, and great golden perch to 57cm.
They were surprised, given the current drought status of much of eastern Australia, to find some holes six metres deep in the lake.
Canberra's urban lakes are still producing plenty of redfin, mostly on worms and spinnerbaits, with occasional golden perch to about 2.3kg and some nice cod among the snags in the Molonglo River upstream from Lake Burley Griffin.
Two anglers at Googong Reservoir also had a great thrill when the second of two large cod they had caught was grabbed by another, massive, cod estimated at 40-50kg and almost swallowed it. They now hope to capture the fish for a trophy photograph but have no intention of killing it.Reads: 486