We've had quite a few falls of rain in the Canberra-Monaro region lately and combined with runoff from late snowfalls, it has put a fair bit of water into local streams and lakes.
We wouldn't say the drought was over because subsoil moisture levels are still low and many waterways still need significant replenishment but there is just that tiny optimism that after five of the worst drought years ever experienced, the tide may be turning. About bloody time, too.
The members of the local Cooma Acclimatisation Society think there is a change. They have been busy stocking regional streams with advanced-size brown trout fingerlings from Gaden Hatchery at Jindabyne, introducing about 3000 fish per stream.
Releases have been made in the Maclaughlin, Bobundara, Kydra, Kybean, Badja and others and although the fish weren't big enough for the opening of this season they certainly will be next year if the drought really does break.
The stream season opening wasn't really a time for serious fishing, even though we kid ourselves it is. It really was a chance to renew acquaintances with our favoured streams with our friends and the landholders and with fishing mates from far-flung places who use the occasion to meet up and share a dram or six.
Most of the general public on the opening weekend predictably head to the streams with the most water and reputedly the most fish. That means the Eucumbene, Thredbo, Murrumbidgee and Goodradigbee rivers are crowded with anglers chucking lures, baits or flies at every likely spot. Of course, the fish are put down straight away.
Good manners sometimes take second place as the day wears on and tempers can become frayed as the fish become harder to find but within a few days everything has settled down and the real fishing starts. That's when we make the drams second priority and our rods the first. You'll read the results in subsequent issues.
One of the nice things about attending a tackle show is discovering not just new gear but something really exciting in fishing tackle. This year at the trade tackle show I came across a new range of rods from Xstream Fishing.
Old mate Rod Harrison asked me to have a look at an Xstream rod fitted with a Daiwa Fuego baitcaster, some braid and a casting plug. When Rod suggested I have a cast, albeit in a crowded convention centre, I had a few tentative shots at a rubbish bin on the wall about 25 metres away.
The rod felt remarkably responsive and threw an amazingly flat trajectory, so much so that on the third try I lobbed the plug into the 30cm bin opening. Then I did it again and again, much to my delight while I could hear Rod muttering something about ‘smart bastards from Canberra’.
The range is impressive: Nine spin rods from 1kg to 3kg up to 10kg to 15kg and seven baitcasters from 2kg to 3kg up to 8kg or 10kg. We have since tested a good range of the rods in the field on trout, golden perch, Murray cod, bass, bream and flathead and they are tremendous.
I rate them as among the best I have ever seen. They have been exceptionally good at chucking soft plastics around, especially the lighter ones that take more than their share of fish, because you can get both distance and accuracy with them.
The Woomera blanks are bound by master craftsman Eric Grell. Top marks to this mob, I think they have a winning product.
Lakes Jindabyne and Eucumbene continue to produce quality fish. Trollers have done well using mostly flatline in the early mornings and lead-core line later. Best lures have been F7 Flatfish, Wonder Crocodile spoons, yellow-winged and frog pattern Tasmanian Devils, Rebel Crickhoppers and other small hard-bodied minnows.
I have also introduced a number of anglers to the delight of trolling a single large fly or a whole scrub worm on lead-core line. This can be deadly, especially on big browns lurking deep which sometimes are curiously suspicious of other lures.
The best flies are larger wets such as Hamill’s Killer, Mrs Simpson, Craig's Night-time, Olive Matuka, Black and Red Matuka and Jindy Horror.
The scrubbies are best used on a No 4 Mustad 34007 stainless steel hook, a straight pattern which will not result in line twist, inserted into the end of the worm with the body trailing behind.
Bank bait fishers also have fared well, with PowerBait, scrub worms and bardi grubs most successful.
PowerBait is remarkable stuff. It looks like play dough, has no particular smell, is inexpensive to buy and convenient to carry in the backpack or tackle box for use at any time.
We have found the best method is load it onto a small but strong hook, preferably a black No 10 Daiichi Mudeye pattern, fished on a long leader. This rig allows the bait to float off the bottom, above the algae and other debris.
Foraging fish swim along the bottom looking for food and can't believe their luck when they find a lump of apparently tasty PowerBait right in front of their noses. No wonder it is so successful.
Fly fishers also have had great fun at night and by polaroiding during the day. One colleague fishing Jindabyne with his Spotters Penetrator glasses spotted and stalked 40 fish in one day. He took a number of them on small wet caddis and nymphs and went home very satisfied.
All local lakes except Googong are full and fishing well each time the water clears.
Some exceptional Murray cod and golden perch have been taken from Lake Burley Griffin, mostly on spinnerbaits and medium-large deep divers. The best locations have been among the stumps and trees along the Molonglo River upstream of the lake and deep drop-offs such as at Black Mountain Peninsula and Scrivener Dam.
The cod have been returned, of course, because it is their closed season.
Some of the golden perch have been big. One colleague recently took one on a lure in Lake Tuggeranong which bottomed out a set of 7kg scales and was estimated around 8.5kg.
The same lake also has yielded some big carp recently. One angler took a 6.5kg model on fly and a bait angler landed one on corn which went 12kg.
Googong is still too low to permit general boat launching but canoeists and bank anglers have taken some nice cod and golden perch, again mostly on spinnerbaits. The best fish recently was a short fat fish which although only 78cm long weighed about 17kg.
Wyangala Reservoir is still low and fishing poorly and Pejar Dam is down to puddle status but yielding a few trout on fly.
Burrinjuck is well over 50% and fishing brilliantly as the cod and perch make their annual run out of the main lake up the Yass and Murrumbidgee rivers. Bank anglers have made big catches on scrub worms and yabbies and I am delighted to hear that all of the cod and most of the goldens and the few silver perch caught are being returned.Reads: 688