King Parrot Creek begins its life in the southern slopes of the Goulburn catchment, travelling north through the Flowerdale Valley, Strath Creek and finally ending its journey in the mighty Goulburn River near Kerrisdale. Back in the 1800s, explorers Hume and Hovell were forced to stop their exploration at a place they named Mount Disappointment because of the tough terrain. When finding their way out of this area, they discovered the beautiful King Parrot Creek, which was named because of abundant native king parrot birds.
This creek is picturesque and I visit it on a regular basis. However, to really learn about the fishing opportunities of this waterway, I caught up with local angler, Ray Butterworth.
Ray lives only a stone’s throw away from King Parrot Creek, where he runs a private fishery and guiding business. He has fished this creek for over thirty years. I recently visited his property to talk about the King Parrot and why he loves fishing it so much.
Ray told me that this creek is very consistent, has few fishless days and is a great water to teach streamcraft, which is the number one ingredient to fishing success in moving water. There’s also very little unfishable water for the entire length of the stream.
The main targets in King Parrot are trout ranging from 0.5-2lb, with the occasional bigger fish to be caught. Macquarie perch are native to the river and fish between 1 and 2lb can be caught. These fish are protected and in this water, must be released unharmed as soon as possible.
King Parrot could be broken up into three sections: an upper section from King Lake west to Flowerdale; a middle section from Flowerdale to Strath Creek; and a lower section from Strath Creek to the Goulburn River.
There’s no doubt in Ray’s mind that the upper section provides the best trout fishing due to the clean gravel rock bottom and abundant aquatic insect life. Also within this section are many tributaries that offer good fishing, such as Silver, Wallaby, Stony, Chyser and Pheasant creeks. These tributaries are hard to fish and a great challenge for flyfishers.
The upper section can also provide good fishing opportunities for lure casters and Ray suggests using small spinners because the stream is quite shallow. Bait anglers can also give this section a go although suitable water will be hard to find.
Ray says that the middle section offers good fishing but receives a great deal of pressure due to its easier access. Here all methods do well, with bait fishermen having access to slow edges and a number of backwaters. Again, lure casters should use small spinners, while flyfishers will do exceedingly well with dry flies. This section will also bring success for those who like nymph fishing, but you’ll need to make a few adjustments to the weight of your flies and the way in which you work the water column.
The lower section has poor fishing due to siltation and also because it overheats in the hot summer months. However, when conditions are right, some trout and Macquarie perch can be caught. Bait anglers fishing the bottom with worms will do well on redfin and Macquarie perch. Lure and flyfishers will find the going tough in this lower section with big wet flies and lures the best chance for success.
Ray only fishes dry flies and rarely uses nymphs. Of the aquatic insects, caddis exists in the highest numbers, with his favourite adult caddis imitation being a Goddard Caddis because of its great flotation.
Surprisingly, there are only spasmodic hatches of mayfly on the stream and Ray believes that most mayfly hatch out at night because he just doesn’t see many dun hatches during the day.
One remarkable aspect of King Parrot Creek is the abundance of trees and vegetation that line the riverbank. This explains why terrestrial insects are the mainstay of King Parrot trout. There is no doubt that the most productive of these land dwellers is the beetle. A close second is the termite and in the summer months you’ll struggle to better a grasshopper pattern, as the real things are everywhere in the warm weather.
Ray’s favourite imitation for the natural beetle is a fly that he developed himself called the Movie Star. It has a highly visible white post and is easy to spot during twilight. For the termite, Ray suggests a size 14 Yellow Ant and for the hoppers, Ray usually employs a foam-bodied hopper.
Although you can fish many baits in King Parrot Creek, anglers will find earthworms and scrubbies the best choice in the early spring, while live grasshoppers collected and drifted down the runs are recommended in the summer months.
Spinners and small hard-bodied minnows are most popular with lure casters. Some good options are no.1 Celtas in red/black, green/black or all black, Min Min lures, Wee Wobblers, Strike Pro Pygmy-205/71, Raider 10 and the Maniac 7. Soft plastics are also worth a try with stick baits or single tailed grubs productive.
I asked Ray if the fishing in King Parrot Creek had improved or declined in his 30 years of fishing. He told me that back in 1975, the powers that be decided to remove river snags like fallen trees and other such fish cover to create ‘river improvement’. This period of ‘river improvement’ was the only time that the fishing took a turn for the worse.
Interestingly, Ray said that the best fishing he has ever had in the Parrot was in February 2004 after there was an unseasonal flood that removed lots of the silt from the stream bottom. There was an insect population explosion with hatches occurring everywhere. In a word, it was fantastic fishing!
In the early 1990s, Ray wanted to learn more about the King Parrot Creek and its trout population so he approached Victorian Fisheries in regards to a tagging program in order to study their movement in the creek. Fisheries wasn’t keen on the idea so Ray decided to start the program with some friends anyway.
To tag the creek’s trout, Ray stamped a number to a plastic bread tie and threaded a stainless steel whiting hook through it, which was then attached to the dorsal fin of the trout. [tagging or marking fish in Victoria requires written permission from DPI Fisheries – Ed.]
Over a five-year period, Ray and a few friends managed to tag, on average, over 300 hundred trout a year. Many trout were recaptured within one year of release. However, two years after tagging, Ray recaptured only one trout. He wasn’t sure whether the trout had moved on to other river systems in the catchment or were caught by fishermen. Of the recaptured trout, 99% were found in their original release location. Also, one trout was recaptured five times in the same year.
Ray hopes that the King Parrot Creek will one day become a catch and release fishery. He thinks it is great to see habitat improvement programs, such as the plan to remove willow trees, and hopes that the Mt. Robertson pine plantation is monitored properly to quantify siltation, and hopefully, effectively minimise it.
In Ray’s opinion, the native fish have been badly affected by the siltation, which affects their ability to breed. Ideally, de-snagging won’t occur again and perhaps, where possible, artificial snagging could be undertaken.
After fishing the King Parrot for such a long time, Ray has seen many changes in the creek. Some of these changes have been good but most have been bad. Ray hopes that in the future, people will take care of the creek and try to preserve this beautiful wild trout fishery that’s so very close to our state’s capital.Reads: 9015