|  First Published: March 2005

The Rubicon River begins as rainfall sustaining life within the lush green Royston Ranges. The excess turns into flowing veins of water that form small streamlets to enter the Royston River.

The Royston travels steeply through heavy vegetation of fern and native bush, flowing crystal clear over gravel and small boulders on the bottom. In this water there are small brown trout beautifully marked with blood red spots. Some people like to call them mountain trout, a title that suits them well. For fisherman, great sport can be had with the use of small bladed lures. However, drifting a dry fly imitation wins hands down with the river’s trout always rising to beetles and other terrestrial insects.

The river travels for a fair distance to enter a power station dam created for hydro-electricity. Below the dam is the point we can now class as the birth of the Rubicon.

From the Dam to Tumbling Waters

With the steepness still in place, the water here flows faster than at any other point in the river. It flows over large boulders and at the start of spring with the high rainfall, this section can be almost impossible to fish. Eventually the fast river flow subsides, making way for the lure caster to work heavy lures like Tassie Devils, Wee Wobblers, King Cobras and the smaller bladed spinners like Jenson insects, Hogbacks and Celtas in red, green and black. Some small trout can usually be caught.

Midway between the dam and tumbling waters the river slows, travelling over gravel and small boulders, but still provides classic lure fishing.

Fly-fishermen can now also fish with attractor flies like size 10/8 smelt patterns, Woolly buggers, Matuka, Hamills Killers and more. Fly-fishermen can also work nymph patterns to good effect with the Pheasant Tail, Gold bead head and weighted seals fur nymphs excellent starters.

In the early season, dry flyfishing can produce good catches of trout especially to beetle hatches that within the upper section are prolific and are best imitated with size 16/12 Red Tags and Cocy-bondus. Mayfly and caddis hatches occur in different sections and over the summer months, grasshoppers (both bait and artificial), can account for the odd small trout.

Bait fishermen can have success bait drifting many natural types of bait like earthworms, scrubbies, mudeyes, grasshoppers and crickets in their prospective seasons.

Mr Findlay’s Water Race

It’s this section of the river that has a slice of fishing history by way of David Scholes’ book, ‘The Way of an Angler’, in which he outlines the wonderful story of Mr Findlay’s water race.

Today the water race still exists and the owner continues to have problems with people entering his land (although today, many of these people are probably reminiscing about the story).

Tumbling Waters

Tumbling Waters is the middle section of the Rubicon and it’s here that you’ll find a picnic area and park. Surely there can be nothing better than having a picnic lunch under a shady tree, watching and listening to the river flow by. It’s also a great starting point to begin your fishing. Downstream from here the river slows and the soil is badly eroded in parts, with other sections in nice condition.

Bait fishermen can now take advantage of the river conditions by selecting either the slower edges or backwaters to fish earthworms, scrubbies, mudeyes, maggots and other natural baits.

The trout here are bigger than their mates further up the river and are up to 2lb in weight. Fly-fishermen will find wet flies and nymphs to be very effective when selecting the shallower sections. Insect hatches are much more prolific with mayfly and caddis high on the trout’s menu. Species of mayfly consist of Caenis, Baetis, Leptophlebiidae, Coloburiscidae and Trichoptera (Asmicridea Edwardsi) for the caddis.

Dry fly fishing continues to be exceptional – beetles are hatching and the summer-time grasshopper fishing is really shining with bountiful numbers along the edge of the river. Bait drifting with natural hoppers caught in the early morning then gently cast upstream is a good method, as too is drifting a dry fly imitation in the same manner.

The further the angler walks from Tumbling Waters, the better the fishing becomes due to the single factor of less fishing pressure. Most people don’t like to walk long distances, but for those that do, bigger trout are the rewards. In some parts of the river, trout can weigh up to 4 or 5lb.

Next Access

The next access point is a public road that leads into the Rubicon from the Goulburn Valley Highway about 2km down from the Thornton Township. At this point, one can only fish downstream as old title prevents access through the upstream property. The river is a lot slower in flow and there are more sections of soil-eroded banks. Wood structures are high in number due to fallen black wattle trees and while this can produce excellent trout habitat, it is difficult to dry fly fish as your fly line can easily become tangled on wood projections when drifting. The only way to avoid this is to watch both your fly and the base of your line continually throughout the drift, then mend your line out of the way of these water surface projections.

The trout in this section range from 1-4lb but this area also receives a lot of fishing traffic and a great deal of stealth is needed to fool these trout.

Bait fishermen will find many slower backwaters to fish and the usual natural baits will produce trout.

Lure casters and fly-fishermen will do better searching the shallower sections with the use of Polaroid sunglasses that reveal sub surface feeding trout. In the deeper pools or sections this will be more difficult and you may need to blind search with an appropriate lure, spinner or fly.


The lower Rubicon involves a lot of fishing kilometres and is even more laden with wooden structures that I personally feel hold many of the river’s trout. To fish this section of the river properly, the angler needs to cast and present his bait, lure or fly to every nook and cranny were a trout may be waiting. A 100ft section of river should take the angler a long time to fish, if it is to be completed with success.

Even though all sections of the river produce good evening rise fishing for the fly-fisherman, I’ve personally found that this lower section of the river produces the best insect hatches and there’s no doubt that mayfly, caddis, and midge stand out above all the rest. The fly-fisherman needs to arrive a few hours before dark and without casting a fly, patrol the river, walking upstream until a trout is seen. In most cases trout won’t begin feeding until the start of twilight and by then, insect identification will be known through insect behaviour and rise form. All that’s required is the right presentation of the fly and you’ll be sure to catch some great river trout.

Sometimes it’s over as quickly as it begins but other times the rising trout can continue well into dark.

Sometimes anglers like to park their car at Gilmore’s Bridge on the Goulburn River and walk downstream a few kilometres to where the Rubicon enters the Goulburn, then fish and search their way upstream, which is a very productive method.

Historic Destination

The Rubicon River is a destination steeped in angling history and provides, at certain times of the year, world-class fishing. The beautiful natural surrounds are not only pleasing to the eye but also encourage excellent insect hatches. Go and experience it for yourself!


Because of the great fishing pressure on the Rubicon, many people have concerns in regard to trout numbers within the river. Fisheries in late 2004 conducted a survey on the river and the results showed that the river is indeed low in trout numbers. Many anglers are now calling for new regulations to either enforce smaller bag limits or even total catch and release. It’s my personal opinion that we need total catch and release to protect the trout within this magnificent river. I would like to encourage all anglers to limit their catch or like myself, release all trout that they catch until an official decision is made.

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