After the initial crowding of the opening weekend of the trout season, things have settled into a regular routine.
Drought has badly affected many of the streams and one-time classics such as the Maclaughlin, Bobundara, Kydra, Kybean, Badja, Big Badja and Numeralla are so short of water they are dry or not running and unfishable or close to it. That will not change until we get much more rain and the streams are restocked from the Gaden Hatchery.
There is a lot more water in the more westerly streams, where there has been more rain and heavy snowfalls extending well into October.
The runoff has kept the streams high and the water slightly discoloured and there have been good reports from the Geehi, upper Murray, Yarrangobilly, Swampy Plains, Moonbah, upper Murrumbidgee, Eucumbene, Thredbo, upper Snowy and others.
Fly fishers have fared best with sinking or sink-tip lines and Glo Bugs, weighted nymphs, smaller Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers, Nymbeet and Stick Caddis.
Many of the fish were hugging the bottom or in the deeper layers and it took a bit of skill to get the fly down to the right level and work it to a fish.
Lure fishers had to work hard to get Celtas, Imp spoons, Wonder Spoons, Pegron Spoons, Rapala minnows and Baby Merlins and others down to the deeper levels but all were useful fish producers.
In the mountain lakes the good fishing of previous months has continued, with reliable catches on PowerBait, scrub worms and bardi grubs.
Many of the fish are feeding close to the banks in less than a metre of water and the rainbows are stuffed with midges, daphnia, chironomids, beetles and white grubs. Browns are eating the same tucker plus a lot of yabbies.
Lake fly fishing has been excellent. One fly fisher working from a boat in Tantangara landed and released a staggering 47 fish in a single day. It looks as though we are in for a good season.
For three Sundays prior to the opening of the trout season the Canberra Anglers Association runs free fly casting classes for the public from a base on the lawns of Old Parliamant House.
The club provides all of the gear and the teachers. It's all free and has become increasingly popular over the years as more people realise how easy, productive and fun fly fishing can be.
All people have to do is turn up with the required sunnies and hat and for the next two hours enjoy free tuition from some of the best casters and teachers in the region.
This year was notable not only for the large numbers of people who turned up but more so for the increased proportion of women and children who participated.
Children are among the easiest to teach, as I have discovered at these classes and at the other free classes I provide in Canberra every other Saturday throughout the year.
They do exactly as you suggest, perfectly mimicking your actions after a few minutes of basic tuition and wonder what all the fuss is about when they master the art of casting within a short time.
Women also make good students and good casters. They are mostly good listeners and good observers.
They do the right thing instinctively by attempting gentle casting without trying to overpower the rod and line. That's the proper way to learn; try for delicacy and precision initially and distance later.
Blokes mostly try to put too much power into their casting and need to be taught the gentleness, rhythm and subtleness of casting rather than chucking the line out over a long distance.
Women also have another advantage in that they can bend and swivel from the hips in a manner men can't. Together with their innate gentleness, that is what makes women better casters than men during a teaching session and many go on to become good casters and expert fishers.
Note the difference; not all good casters are good fishers, although the reverse is usually true.
Women also mostly come to their new sport without bias. Blokes often turn up with a head full of half-ideas from DVDs, books and magazines or well-meaning mates. It's far better if a student turns up, as most women do, innocent of any prior brainwashing, allowing you to teach them properly from scratch without them developing bad habits or misconceptions.
There's nothing I hate to hear more from a new student during a lesson than, ‘My mate said…’
After the fifth or sixth time I usually politely explain that firstly, your mate isn't here teaching you, I am. And secondly I don't care what your mate said; he may be a fly fisher and even a good one, but he is not a teacher.
I then explain that fishing and teaching are entirely different things. It takes a lot of work to learn to be a teacher; you have to get the information correct in a sequential fashion without expounding on a lot of theory.
The trick is to get a rod into the student’s hands as quickly as possible and get them casting. As they go through each fault stage you correct it gently and immediately and within minutes you can have most beginners casting at least well enough and far enough to catch a trout.
Of course, it helps enormously if you teach them with quality gear which, in fact, does most of the work for them without them realising it. That gives them confidence to believe that casting really is as easy as you keep telling them it is, and they take it from there.
I teach with a $1000 Loomis rod and a top-quality weight-forward 6WT floating line that most people fish with these days but the student doesn't need to know all that. You only tell them things like that after they have developed the confidence of casting a line properly.
After two Sundays of tuition, the Anglers Association takes the students to the field to test out their new-found casting skills, emphasising that casting and fishing are different things but that one obviously is dependent on the other.
This year they went to the Eucumbene Trout Farm to fish a lake stocked with trout.
It was a shocker of a day. Gales screamed across the Monaro, it was bitterly cold, snow lay on the ground and there were flurries of snow and sleet throughout the day.
It was a great chance for the new chums to see what fishing on the Monaro can be all about; a testing day indeed.
And I am pleased to report that almost every student caught at least one fish; some caught three or more and all experienced that thrill of catching that first-ever fish on fly – and returning them to the water.
It's an experience I doubt whether any of them will ever forget and I am confident that most will go on to become accomplished fly fishers and to enjoy the sport for the rest of their lives.
And it all started because they all had good teachers in the Association.Reads: 1776