AH, the joys of fishing in a Monaro Winter!
While I'm sitting in a warm office preparing this column, the snow has been pelting down for about an hour down to 700 metres, which means most of Canberra and all the surrounding hills and open spaces are dressed in white. The temperature last night was –5° at home and –8° in the higher country. Our top temperature will be about 7° but at Thredbo it will get up to only about –3°.
The snow around here will melt in a day or so but in the higher country it will be metres deep for weeks and months to come. Hardly shorts-and-thongs weather, but interesting, you have to admit.
Having said that, you might be surprised at how good the fishing has been in lakes Eucumbene and Jindabyne. Both lakes are low but very clear and eminently inviting for those who like to fish – sensibly dressed and without a lot of competition.
The brown trout initially, and then the rainbows, have been steadily working their way up to their eventual spawning grounds in the feeder streams and some large fish have been taken.
Many of the Jindabyne browns have been feasting on goldfish, which are common throughout the reservoir, having been trapped in there since the Snowy River was dammed in 1969.
Anglers have been targeting the browns with a variety of flies and lures, sometimes with goldfish look-alikes or just any pattern which is moved interestingly among a school of the bait fish.
One fly angler recently landed four browns in a morning session in Creel Bay, using Wollondibby Wonders and Woolly Worms, with the best fish weighing 3.3 kg. Neither of these particularly resembles goldfish but both are good general attractor patterns.
All four fish were stuffed with goldfish, the largest of which was 20cm and as large as a man's hand.
Anglers who want to try goldfish imitations have plenty of choices. Steve Williamson's Goldfish fly, which looks a little like a pale yellow Hamill’s Killer with gold, flashy fibres in the tail, is effective and very popular. The Jindy Horror, in a long Matuka style with jungle cock eyes, also is useful.
Lure anglers have a multitude of choices. River 2 Sea produce several good goldfish patterns with swivel tails and a ripper called Humbug, in colour SO6. Other useful patterns include gold Wonder Wobblers, yellow Flatfish, Ugly Duckling, Strike Pro Galaxia 2 and Pygmy, Baby Merlins and Attacks.
The classical way to troll all of these lures at this time of year is deeply and slowly, on three to four colours of lead-core line, concentrating on weed beds or places where the goldfish are known to congregate each year. Friendly locals at Jindabyne tackle shops or on the water can help pinpoint these locations.
Bait-fishing is popular in Eucumbene and Jindabyne during Winter. Not only is it effective but you can also have a warming campfire going while you fish. That's a big advantage when you are fishing in weather where your rod guides keep freezing up and your reel gets harder and harder to turn as it freezes and has to be thawed out from time to time.
Scrub worms, bardi grubs and PowerBait are the three most effective baits. Each can be fished alone but the bardi grub-PowerBait cocktail, with a bit of each on the one hook, is deadly.
The trick is to use a fairly light hook which allows the PowerBait to float off the bottom a little and free of algae which might obscure the bait from a passing fish.
The synthetic PowerBait continues to confound the experts. Nobody except the manufacturers knows what's in it but it’s outstandingly effective, fished on its own or in combination with other baits.
I recently sent two anglers to a spot near the Eucumbene Dam wall, each with a bottle of PowerBait and they returned the next day ‘complaining’ that their fishing day was over in a couple of hours, having caught their bag limit of five fish. All of the fish were big fat rainbows, in splendid condition and, in reality, these people were totally chuffed about their day out.
Others I sent to Eucumbene had different and mixed values.
One bloke caught only one fish during a long, cold session at Anglers Reach but was grateful for that as he was looking forward to feed of grilled rainbow. While he was cleaning it, however, a cheeky water rat grabbed it and dragged it into the water.
Without waders, he couldn't go in after it and his ‘mate’, who was wearing waders, was to frightened to go near the rat because he had heard that they bite. The ensuing conversation is unsuitable for print in this family magazine.
Numerous other visitors have tangled with local wildlife. One bloke totalled the engine compartment of his Holden when he hit a wombat which, he swears, waddled away after the incident.
Dozens of cars and kangaroos have had meaningful interfaces, with the roos driven to the roadsides by the drought and blundering in groups into oncoming traffic. One ute driver had a roo hit the side of his vehicle, smashing in a door panel, while another landed on his roof and a third finished up on the tonneau cover.
Another driver I came across was bleeding profusely inside his wrecked vehicle after a roo came through the windscreen and thrashed about wildly until it escaped. The moral of all this is simple: Don't trust water rats and drive slowly in kangaroo and wombat country.
Canberra's urban lakes have been pretty quiet. They are still clear because of the drought but the fish are hardly stirring. Anglers have reported a few small redfin and just one Murray cod on a lure and it will be a few more weeks before the water, and the fish, start to warm up.
Googong Reservoir, which had been closed to boating and/or fishing for some months, has reopened with a new concrete boat ramp leading right down the side of the depleted reservoir to the water and could be the hot spot to fish for Murray cod, golden perch and trout from now on. We'll be trying it tomorrow.
Burrinjuck and Wyangala are low but fishable. Most reports are of European carp infesting the shallows with just an occasional golden perch on a bobbed shrimp or yabby about 10 metres down, under flooded trees or along steep rocky banks.
We have solved the question of whether stocked bass on the South Coast remain active during Winter. A group of anglers recently fished Brogo Reservoir, near Bega, which has been stocked with bass for the past five years, and caught dozens of them on lures.
They were all small fish but hungry and in great condition, which not only answers the question of whether they behave differently in a reservoir to those in the rivers, but augurs well for a future sport fishery when the fish are larger.Reads: 1015