After a hot summer with good days and bad, it was the season of autumn and I arrived to find the Goulburn River peacefully flowing through the countryside.
This time of the year is one of my favourites and like spring, it produces cold crisp mornings that are calm and windless. By lunchtime, the sun comes out and the temperature climbs, inducing aquatic insects to begin hatching and trout to start rising. With any luck, the insect activity lasts all afternoon and into the evening with spectacular surface rings of feeding trout.
At this time of year, water releases from the pondage into the Goulburn River reduce from their summer highs of up to 10,000 megalitres to between 500 and 1,000 megalitres. There are two advantages of these lower flows. Firstly, insect hatches improve. Secondly, anglers have access better access to fishable stretches of the river. From the moment I’d left the car I took advantage of the low flow conditions and waded across the river in water that did not rise beyond my waist.
Early in the day, air and water temperatures remain relatively low meaning that surface insect activity is limited. In these conditions, it pays to start fishing with a nymph. Most of the time I’ll select a pheasant tail nymph or a gold bead head nymph in a size 10 or 12. A floating line can be used because the weight of these two patterns will take them down to the feeding level of the trout.
Rising trout are unlikely at this time so streamcraft is required. Although many fishable areas may be found, those where small running rapids enter slow moving pools are the best bet.
Fish the nymph by casting out on a 45 degree angle and allow it to drift and sink until the slack line is taken up by the water current. At this point in the retrieve, the current will slowly draw the line and attached nymph up to the surface, imitating a natural nymph. It’s worth remembering that you can fish other insect imitations this way too, including caddis, midge, mudeyes and mayfly.
On this particular day, I remember the great freedom I felt as I fished from pool to pool. Watching my flyline drift down amongst the ripples waiting for the tug of a wild trout. What a great way to start the day!
After catching a few pan-sized trout, I noticed the first of the sun’s rays poking through the cloud and the slow disappearance of the morning fog. Instantly I knew the section of river that, despite its short length, had a perfect depth of 3ft to 4ft with a gravel bottom full of insect life.
I sat and watched, waiting for the hatch that would begin soon. Baetis mayfly would be the insect. In autumn, as the rivers cool, Baetis hatch in big numbers on the Goulburn. Not far behind them are nearly always some good rising trout! If overcast conditions persist through the day, so will the fishing action.
Isn’t life sweet! Sitting there watching the silver surfaced water and observing the first Baetis mayfly for the day. Before long, their numbers grow, some with their wings upright, drifting along like tiny sailboats. And then finally, the first rise and then another. The hatch intensifies and the trout rises appear everywhere. I tie on a size 16 Para dun and prepare to cast.
The action was intense! Sessions like this make up for those when one hooks, then loses more fish than you’d care to remember!
Like everything in life, all good things come to an end and so did the rising trout. The mayfly hatches slowly reduced to nothing, probably as a result of the reducing air temperature. Before I knew it, late afternoon was upon me. I reeled in my line and sat down on the riverbank. I’d wait for the evening rise.
In these conditions, an angler could take out a nymph pattern and fish on but my experience suggests the yields are pretty poor. In my book, watching nature is a more productive way to spend this time. If an angler can read the weather, then he can make the decision to go home or wait for the evening rise. On this day, the mild weather encouraged me to wait for another hatch.
My gamble payed dividends. An hour before dark a few caddis began fluttering and dipping their tails through the surface film laying their eggs. A fly change was called for and I had to chose between an Elk Hair Caddis or one of my own creations, a size 14 Creel Caddis. I backed myself and tied on the Creel Caddis.
A few trout kept rising here and there but attention was drawn to a gravel rift in a slower part of the river. There appeared to be very small neat rises that suggested big trout were feeding. By the time I had got into casting position, trout were rising consistently, some showing their big dorsal fin as they porpoised over to eat their prey.
Casting away from the rising trout reduced the chance of dropping my line on their heads and spooking them. My fly landed upstream of the last rise and drifted toward the target area. I prepared myself for the take. And there it was, right on cue, a 3lb fish! And what a fight. This big trout tore line off and the screaming reel echoed up the river. Eventually, the golden coloured brown trout came to hand. With a simple turn of the wrist the embedded fly came free and the fish was freed to fight again another day.
By the time dark had set in the trout had stopped feeding on top. All that was left was a walk back to the car and some fond memories to savour.
During autumn, there are certainly more options than just the Goulburn River. Many of its feeder streams are also worth a look.
Snobs Creek is a fast flowing stream that has a great deal of vegetation along its banks. The Department of Primary Industry’s hatchery and research centre is located alongside part of the creek and diverts some water to sustain the trout it grows for its Statewide stocking program. The facility also includes the Freshwater Discovery Centre where visitors can look at various species in aquariums and read about the work of the Department. There’s even a touch tank full of small trout for the kids!
I recommend flyfishing below the hatchery. This section contains bigger trout than the upper reaches and is more open, making for easier fishing. The junction of Snobs Creek and the Goulburn River is a good starting spot and in autumn there can be some good insect hatches. Night time fishing in this area can also produce some exceptionally large trout. The best autumn flies are the Craig’s Night-time, Woolly Buggers and Hamill’s Killers.
The Rubicon River starts in the Royston Ranges, runs for a number of kilometres through the township of Thornton, and enters the Goulburn River just above the famous Breakaway. Good fishing locations can be found along its entire length.
A size 12 Nobby hopper or a rubber legged hopper will take some autumn fish but it’s certainly not a patch on the surface action in the warmer months. If you can find ways to get one of your hopper flies to sink, you might be pleasantly surprised at this time of year!
There’s a theory that natural hoppers, towards the end of the season, absorb water whenever they fall in. Why? Well I’m not sure, but a sinking hopper pattern has worked well for me on more than one occasion. One option is to tie up a Nobby hopper without the deer hair head. Replace it with buff coloured dubbing. Other insects worth imitating at this time of year are caddis, midge and crickets. As described in the story above, remember that midday warmth is often the peak of insect and thus trout activity.
The Acheron River runs from the Cathedral Ranges to just below the Breakaway. It’s another good fishing location and produces well in its middle and lower sections.
Caddis, midge, crickets and the odd mayfly tend to be the target of Acheron trout during this cooling period of autumn. For reasons unknown, crickets really bring a response from the trout with the best results in the late evening and into dark.
I’ve found two fly patterns that work well for me, the Letrot Cricket and the simple Black Muddler Minnow. To fish these patterns effectively, search for the slower sections and backwaters of the river. Cast the fly out leaving it to float for a period. If there’s no response, then give the fly a twitch to impart some life into it. Make sure you pay attention to the fly. They can be hard to see in the dark.
To match the odd mayfly hatch, find imitations of Baetidae and Leptophlebiidae in size 14 and 16.
Home Creek starts in the big hills of Mansfield and flows down to the Goulburn River above Molesworth. The stream holds small numbers of trout and fishes well all year round. Cool autumn days can produce good fly-fishing. When the area receives good rain many trout will run up Home Creek from the Goulburn. This is an excellent time to target the streams trout and autumn is no exception.
Caddis, midge, mayfly duns and spinners all hatch in the right weather conditions and the above mention imitations will succeed in catching Home Creek trout.
Home Creek runs through a lot of private property so make sure you ask for permission before walking across somebody’s land to fish.
This lower sections of the Yea River are relatively dirty having passed through stretches of river that receive runoff and sediment from exposed banks. It’s not a bad spot for baitfishing but flyfishermen will find it hard going. Further up, it starts to clear and is more suited to the fly. Small hatches of caddis and midges tempt some trout into rising. When clear, a cricket pattern fished in the late evening and into dark can work well.
The Murrindindi River is a tributary of the Yea River. Walking along the banks of this river can be difficult because of the vegetation. Your best bet is to enter the river carefully and wade upstream, fishing to rising trout as you go.
The best time to flyfish this stream is in autumn when the trout will be starting to feed heavily, preparing for the coming spawning season. Your best fly selection will be a size 16 Red Tag to imitate natural beetles. Crickets and caddis also make an appearance so have a few good imitations on hand. I cannot stress enough how important it is to wade slowly in this river or you’ll create big surface rings that trout can feel at a distance.
The King Parrot Creek is a northern flowing stream that enters the Goulburn River between Yea and Trawool. The streambed in the lower sections is a mix of gravel and silt. Midge and caddis hatch in large enough numbers throughout autumn to make the small trout population vulnerable to the fly.
Further upstream around the township of Flowerdale, midge and caddis abound in similar numbers, but more trout will be found rising. Good flies are Elk Hair Caddis, Creel Caddis, Sparkle Midge and Griffith’s Gnat.
Like other feeder streams of the Goulburn River, grasshoppers are a minor food source. Crickets are also a good option, particularly in the evening and into dark.
Well there you have it, some insights into the cooling rivers of the Goulburn and its tributaries, some fantastic fishing destinations!Reads: 1530