Trout in the high country
  |  First Published: November 2004

The Victorian trout season is open for another year. This year’s opening was fairly typical in the high country. Cold weather and even colder streams.

I travelled to Omeo for the opening and fished the Cobungra River. The water temperature was 4C with a little snowmelt in the river. The Cobungra River was hit very badly by the bushfires in early 2003. Last year there was a considerable amount of silt being washed into the stream and also a good deal of ash present following any rain. At that time there was concern that trout stocks would be decimated and the streams would be affected for years to come.

I am pleased to report that situation does not seem to have eventuated. Last autumn, most of the high country streams fished quite well. Good fish were present in most rivers, although the ravages of fire could be easily seen with burnt trees everywhere. Many of those same trees now have new growth and the undergrowth in the bush is mostly lush and green with lots of new trees quickly establishing themselves. Most of the streams are showing little effect from the silt. Winter rain and snowmelt seem to have been flushed out of most of the rivers and, of course, the ash has now disappeared completely.

As mentioned, the high country streams are mostly running high and cold following a year of above average snowfall. Many of our trout streams run off the snowfields of Mt Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Bogong. A few days after the opening of the season we experienced some minor flooding in many rivers, particularly the upper Mitta Mitta River and its tributaries.

Not all our rivers flow off the snowfields. In East Gippsland we have numerous rain-fed streams that are well worth a look. The Timbarra River near Buchan is an excellent example. The Timbarra River is an excellent early season river. It’s presently flowing clear and has a good head of fish present. It normally fishes at its best during spring and early summer. Once we get into the hot summer months, the flow drops and the water temperature increases, impacting badly on the fishing. Other streams worth a look at present include Livingston Creek, Buchan River, Butchers Creek, Little River and Delegate River.

All forms of fishing will be successful over the next few months. With the water levels high it is hard to go past the humble worm – fished without weight in the quieter water, or with some weight attached in the slower, larger pools. Spin fishing will also be effective. On opening weekend, the hardware brigade caught a few nice fish. Also flyfishing will continue to improve as the weather and the water temperature warms up and the water flow drops.

At this time of year look for fish in the slack water and down in the water column. There is usually not much use casting a spinner or a fly into the hard-flowing runs yet. Also there is not much use in running your fly or spinner near the surface. With the water so cold the fish will be holding near the bottom so a lure or fly that will get down in the water column is a big advantage.

Finally, a big pat on the back to members of the Bairnsdale Fly Fishers Club, who gave up their fishing time on opening weekend to participate in a stream rehabilitation project on the Cobungra River. The club applied for, and received, a grant from the Recreational Fishing Grant Project fund (RFGP), which comes from fishing licence funds, to fence and revegetate a 1km section of the Cobungra River over three years. The club planted trees native to the area along the banks and ran a fence down both sides of the river to keep stock away from the river banks. The benefit of this project is that the river banks will be protected from further erosion and the trees will provide shade, shelter and a food source for the fish.

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