Franklin River puts on a show
  |  First Published: February 2009

One month it’s wet and cold and the next it’s record breaking heat. Welcome to West and South Gippsland!

A mild December followed by extreme weather in January has certainly made for some entertaining trout fishing. The rivers are still flowing well and there is an abundance of good-sized stream browns and rainbows feeding on oodles of flies, beetles and other bugs.

A couple of months ago these fish were still quite small, probably around 100g, but now many are approaching 250-300g, which is a fun fish on light gear and a nice table fish. The population of browns and, surprisingly, rainbows is also a lot larger than this time last year. So, make the most of daylight savings and head out to a stream with a flyrod or light casting rod.

In mid January, I took a trip to the Toorongo Falls Camping Ground, which backs on to the Toorongo River, to catch up with a mate who I hadn’t seen for a while. For some reason, it did not even occur to me to take the fishing rod. As I pulled up I thought to myself that the chances of fish being around, especially after Christmas and New Years Eve, were pretty slim so I convinced myself that forgetting the rod was not such an issue.

After helping my mate and his girlfriend set up the tent, I walked down to the water and straight away I see not one, but three nice browns in a pool waiting for a feed. Straight away I kicked myself. OK, maybe I just stumbled on a lucky pool.

Off I go for a walk to another pool and again I see a nice sized trout around 400g dart off for cover. It was frustrating, but what was more obvious was that the amount of human traffic throughout this area has had little impact on the fish, and there must also be a lot of catch and release going on. Anyhow, the moral of the story is to never forget the fishing rod and don’t think that school holidays or long weekends will impact the fishing. Trout are clearly resilient creatures.

Across on the other side of Gippsland, young angling enthusiast Tom Zanca with his father Steven, fished the upper stretches of the Franklin River above Foster. Like many rivers in South Gippsland, the Franklin meanders through farmland and is fenced in with dense vegetation to control erosion, nutrient and sediment runoff from farms, thus making it difficult to access for fishing. But who said fishing was meant to be easy?

Tom was fortunate enough to have an uncle whose farm backed on to a section of the river. Finally making it to the river through the bushes, he was able to assess where the trout might be hiding. The upper Franklin River is very narrow in parts, but does widen on the bends to reveal some good pools 3-4m wide and over 1m deep. The water is generally a dirty colour but if you can’t see the fish, then they are unlikely to see you.

Tom used a number of methods with great success. Fishing with a scrubworm on a size 8 baitholder hook with a small running sinker, he landed 10 brown trout weighing between 250-400g. Most of the fish came from the same deep pool.

Tom also tried his luck with the flyrod. He used a size 16 brown bead head nymph and on his third cast he landed a beautiful 500g brown; a great effort in the Franklin River. Accompanying the 10 browns were two eels, which Tom tells me he’s preparing for gummy shark bait.

These South Gippsland rivers are also home to good-sized blackfish and freshwater crayfish, but aren’t fished nearly as much as their counterparts in West Gippsland. As Tom reported, the vegetation is the main deterrent for anglers, but the fishing is really good around dusk and dawn.

Waders are essential unless you don’t mind a bit of an adventure through the streamside vegetation. Keep in mind that these rivers wind through farmland so seeking permission beforehand is encouraged.

All techniques for chasing trout are working well, especially hardbodied lures like the floating Rapala F5. Now that the flow has slowed a bit, cast upstream of a pool to avoid being spotted and retrieve the lure to match the flow but giving the lure some action.

The Tarago, Latrobe, Bunyip and Loch rivers are all very productive and it wouldn’t hurt to try Shady Creek, Little Moe and Moe River, and the upper stretches of the Lang Lang River too.

Please feel free to email me any reports, photos or questions. Happy fishing and craying!

Tom Zanca proudly displaying one of 10 brown trout between 250-400g he caught in the Franklin River, near Foster.

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