THE TROUT season opens in the streams this month and that’s usually is a cause for rejoicing after a long, hard Winter. It’s a time to gather with friends from far-flung places to enjoy a dram or three while chasing one of the most elusive and enjoyable introduced fish in Australia – trout.
This year the opening will be muted. Most of the lower country and marginal streams are so short of water and fish they will hardly be worth fishing. Indeed, some of them are completely devoid of fish, thanks to the drought. So for those of us who loved it on the Badja, the Big Badja, the Kydra, Kybean, Numeralla, Sherlock, Ballinafad, Queanbeyan, Bobundra, MacLaughlin and Rock Flat Creek, things are going to be tough.
It’s not all bad, however; some areas have had rain and some higher country streams have benefited from snowmelt. The best of the streams will be those connected to a reservoir where there is a surviving head of fish that can recolonise the upstream section of the waterway and provide broodstock for spawning and recruitment of new fish.
The Thredbo River is a good example. We recently stood on the bridge over the river upstream from Lake Jindabyne and watched in awe as dozens of big fat rainbows gathered together and then dashed off upstream to the spawning grounds. Within minutes their place had been taken by another group, equally as eager to get upstream to breed. It’s an inspiring sight that is being duplicated at Lake Eucumbene in the Eucumbene River and a few other places, but sadly not in enough waterways.
That's why restocking of the rivers with browns and rainbows will be so important this season, provided it rains enough to ensure fish survival in the rivers. It is assumed the restocking will require all of the fry and fingerlings that the NSW government hatcheries at Gaden and Ebor can produce, and the rest will have to be bought by tender from private commercial hatcheries. All in all, restocking will be a mammoth task, so thank goodness for some funds being potentially available from licence fees.
Despite all the woes associated with stream fishing, the lakes are fishing well for trout. Eucumbene and Jindabyne are low, but anglers reckon that's OK because it means more fish in less water so they should be easier to find. They are probably right, because many anglers have been bagging out each day in both lakes and in some of the smaller lakes like Tantangara, Talbingo, Tumut Ponds, Jounama, Khancoban and Island Bend. Even Three Mile Dam, with reputedly the most uncatchable trout in Australia, has yielded a few fish.
Access to some of these lakes has been a problem during heavy snowfalls, and anglers familiar with the harsh Winter conditions have had to contend with record numbers of snow tourists, many of whom have little knowledge or capability when it comes to fitting chains or driving on icy roads. There have been numerous crashes involving motor vehicles and unfortunately some fatalities, but at times you wonder why there aren't more. Just recently we had horrendous conditions with heavy snow, a screaming gale that managed to tip over boat trailers, campervans, cars and a semitrailer on the road out from Jindabyne, yet people were still driving around as though it was a pleasant Sunday afternoon – except that some of them were driving sideways, some backwards and some even upside down.
The best fishing in the lakes has been with bait from the shore or lures tolled on lead-core line or with a downrigger. The best baits have been Power Bait and bardi grubs, but with increasing numbers taken on scrub worms.
The best locations have been along the shoreline at East Jindabyne and Kalkite and near the dam wall at Lake Eucumbene. Good fishing can be expected at the same locations for at least another six to eight weeks as the post-spawning browns and rainbows come searching for food after the stresses of their breeding migration.
The best lures will still be yellow-winged Tasmanian Devils, small minnows such as Galaxia Strike Pro and Pygmy, Attack, Scorpion, Rapala and Rebel Crickhopper. Any pattern remotely resembling a goldfish is worth a try in Jindabyne, especially trolled slowly on lead core.
Polarising also has been good for fly anglers. This is deliciously exciting and demanding fishing. The trick is to slowly walk the shoreline, being careful to keep back from the water's edge, looking ahead for anything that might remotely resemble a trout. If you see something solid, even though it may be a rock, log, lump of weed or just a shadow, cast to it. More often than not the object you cast to then moves, either at great speed away because you have spooked it or more delightfully straight up to your fly, which it then inhales. Wonderful, suspenseful fishing at its best. Try Jindy Horrors or any small Woolly Worm.
Native fish in the lowlands generally start stirring about now. Murray cod, which have been pretty quiet during the winter, will start spawning in about four to six weeks. To protect them during that period of hormone-driven idiocy the closed season will operate again during September-November. A couple of small cod have already been caught on lures in the Murrumbidgee River, and a few to about 8kg came from Wyangala Reservoir. That's a good sign the cod are moving and the golden perch shouldn’t be far behind, so this month some good goldens will be caught. Large, slow-trolled lures and bobbed live yabbies and shrimps are productive ways to target them.
One sad loss this season will be part of the already-residual population of Macquarie perch in the Abercrombie River which feeds into Wyangala Reservoir. The river has dried to just a series of small pools and unfortunately many of this protected, endangered and enormously valued native fish have been lost.
We are \\looking forward to an early bass season along the coast. We've already discovered that stocked bass in Brogo Reservoir will bite right through Winter but the real romance is in the streams. A few estuary perch and possibly bass have been reported already and we hope for a big rush of fish later this month. Small surface lures and big fat flies should be the go.
A nice run of bass could offset the anticipated poor stream trout season, but it would have been nice to have both. How about getting out there and joining me in a prayer for rain?Reads: 535