I don't know what we have done wrong in Canberra, but obviously we have upset the rain gods somehow. When Sydney and the whole east coast gets flooded with up to 400 mm of rain in a couple of days and we get a measly 3mm, you have to ask questions.
Some wag has said that if it ever did rain again for 40 days and 40 nights, the best we could expect around here is a little mist. If I thought it would help (but not have me locked up for public indecency and associated laughter) I would strip off and do a Full Monty on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, chanting rain songs until I got some response from Huey. But I don't think he is even listening.
Most of the local rivers are dry, dead and lifeless. Only the Cotter River and the lower section of the Murrumbidgee are running, and only then because of a legally enforceable daily environmental release from upstream reservoirs. The regional reservoirs, too, are nearly empty. Burrinjuck is an algae-ridden sludge pond. Wyangala is as low as I have ever seen it. You could drive semi-trailers around the exposed bed of Googong. Blowering is so low they have even cancelled this year's Murray River crayfish season. It's a grim scene.
Thankfully, there is a bit of water in our artificially-controlled urban lakes. They have been our fishing pop-hole for the past couple of months and the fish have been reasonably obliging. Local youngsters have taken modest numbers of redfin on lures and bait and a few golden perch to around 1.5kg.
Most of the cod have been around 3kg to 5kg but Hans Haalebos took a superb 25 kg fish in the Molonglo River just upstream of Lake Burley Griffin. It took a chartreuse Hot N Tot and his son, Tom, landed a 9kg fish in the same location on the same lure the next day. Hans was lucky to get his fish because after he had played it to the boat, he realised his landing net was hopelessly too small. Luckily, a thoughtful angler on the bank nearby volunteered to strip to his jocks, then wade in and herd the fish ashore. It was then weighed, photographed and released.
Lake Jindabyne is holding reasonably well around 61% but Eucumbene has dropped to an measly almost 50% and its muddy, claggy foreshores are claiming dozens of vehicles each week in unexpected boggings. One couple who unwittingly drove into the mud at Cemetery Point sank almost to the floor plates and spent a cold, wet, miserable and scary night in the car. The lady tried on one occasion to walk out but sank deep into the mud and lost her gumboot. It was a two-hour search after dawn the next morning before they found a Hilux hero to pull them out.
On the up side, both lakes are fishing brilliantly. For once, the hoped-for crop of stocked rainbow trout juveniles has matured into a batch of good-sized fish, with most averaging just over a kilo. Among the best lures have been a goldfish look-alike called a Humbug, especially when trolled on three colours of lead-core line at a walking pace and three new yellow-winged Tasmanian Devils which I have created.
Maintaining the protocol of giving them interesting names, they are called Anglers Arty, Yellow Fever and the Canberra Killer. They have done well and one angler caught nine large browns and rainbows in five hours on the Canberra Killer before losing it and not catching another fish. In Jindabyne, the Humbug went well for one angler, with three fish – 2.5kg, 2.1kg and a ‘little’ one about 1.5kg. Another husband-and-wife team scored 13 fish to 3.6kg using it one weekend. Best fishing in Jindabyne has been along the East Jindabyne shoreline and in Eucumbene around Seven Gates and Yen's Bay.
Fly anglers also have fared well on the pre-spawners working their way into the Eucumbene River. Recent catches included fish of 5.4kg and 4.2kg and best patterns have been large Woolly Buggers, Woolly Worms, Alexandra, Sloane's Night Fly and Steve Williamson's Goldfish fly.
Yabbies also have been a big attraction in Eucumbene. Each angler is allowed to use five drop pots in the lake and can retain 200 yabbies. The tasty crustaceans are so prolific this year that some visitors are there for them and nothing else. It has been easy to catch the bag limit in a few hours and even the pelicans have been feasting on them, picking them up and gargling them down in the shallows in gracefully co-ordinated groups of five or six birds at a time.
While the rain has been welcome at our coastal bass lake at Brogo, 250mm was perhaps a little much and we fear that many of our stocked fish have gone over the wall, as in previous years. Prior to that, some good fish to 42cm had been taken on small lures and Wooly Worms.
We won't fish Brogo again until Spring and that’s when we will find out whether we still have a population of catchable-sized stockies or whether we will have to start from scratch all over again.
Hans Haalebos with his big Murray cod that took a Hot N Tot lure just upstream from Lake Burley Griffin.
Author Bryan Pratt with a small Murray cod about three years old, typical of those that have survived the drought in the Canberra region.
A catch-and-release golden perch in perfect condition illustrates the drought resistance of these unique Australian native fish – a great companion to the equally-tough Murray cod.
Trout preying on small specimens of goldfish in Eucumbene and Jindabyne can be tricked using look-alike Humbugs and new yellow-winged Tasmanian Devils such as the Canberra Killer.Reads: 1918