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Fishy time of year
  |  First Published: December 2009



This time of the year is pretty hard to beat. Plenty of time to relax, fish, explore new country, try out new lures, baits and techniques and generally delve into fishing as much as your heart desires.

It's aided also by mostly good weather – not too hot for trout, at least for much of the day, but warm enough for natives and other species. Usually that means anglers are satisfied with their lot and this year looks to be no exception, except for that one thing looming in the background all the time – drought.

The current drought is now about 10 years old and although there has been some slackening in coastal areas, inland drought it is still a fierce and challenging. We've seen drying waterways, feeble trickles in once vibrant rivers, dead and dying fish populations, the loss of water birds and other wildlife.

It's anybody's guess when it will end, if ever. The worst-case scenario could be that this is our new, permanent weather and somehow we will have to adjust to it.

DRYING STREAMS

Take the Monaro trout streams. Most of the once fish-rich streams east of Cooma, famed as rainbow and brown trout fisheries, have declined to the point of near or total oblivion.

The Kydra, Kybean, Badja, Big Badja, Numeralla, Bobundra and Maclaughlin rivers and Rock Flat Creek have shown minimal flows mostly incapable of supporting fish. In some cases the streams are a series of puddles or bone-dry.

Worse, the low flows have allowed the entry of carp. I recently checked out the lower stretches of the Numeralla River where it joins the Murrumbidgee and where there used to be some good sight fishing with fly for small rainbows and larger browns. I never saw a single trout but did see numerous hulking carp stirring up clouds of mud.

Even if there were still trout there it would be impossible to sight-fish for them and probably impossible to catch one.

The Murrumbidgee River a long way below the Cooma Weir also was depressing. Where once a flash of colour in the stream meant another trout to be challenged with a fly, now lumbering carp hog prime space in the waterway and generally lower the quality of this once fish-rich water.

There are carp also above the weir and although their upstream movement appears to be hindered by rocky, shallow sections, it is probably only a matter of time before they penetrate the uppermost reaches.

That not only could spell ruin for this section of river but also puts carp dangerously close to our premier trout fishing water, Lake Eucumbene.

It's only a few kilometres from the river to the lake and all it takes is one irresponsible idiot to transfer the pest fish and we will be in real trouble.

It's not just the Monaro trout streams that are in trouble, either. The famous Goodradigbee River, once an excellent trout stream which drains the high country to Lake Burrinjuck, was a depressing sight.

All we saw for kilometre after kilometre of what used to be prime trout water upstream from the lake were carp. There was literally no room for trout and we did not see a single one.

Luckily, a steep, faster-flowing rocky section hinders the potential for carp to spread upstream into the famed Brindabella Valley of the river and there is still a good population of healthy trout there. But for how long?

HIGH COUNTRY

Happier news: There has been some good fly and lure fishing for trout in the higher streams west of Cooma. Aided by late snowfalls, there were good flows and plenty of browns and rainbows in the Eucumbene, upper Murrumbidgee and Thredbo rivers, in particular.

Anglers who couldn't fish the degraded eastern streams flocked here in large numbers and despite the crowding, the behaviour was mostly good and plenty of fish were caught.

Initially the good fishing lasted all day but as Summer progressed, the fish developed the old pattern of showing most activity early and late, except were when there was a hatch of something special, such as caddis, mayflies or flying ants.

From now on it will be bogong moths, grasshoppers and a variety of general insects to whet the appetite.

LAKES FIRING

Lake fishing has been immensely satisfying. Levels rose beyond earlier predictions because of unexpected rain and heavy Spring snow and as Eucumbene and Jindabyne rose over new ground the fish gorged on worms, grubs, beetles and other critters washed from the soil.

Anglers took advantage of fish feeding in the shallows and repeatedly bagged out on PowerBait, scrub worms, bardi grubs, lures and fly.

This good fishing should continue but with the fish activity turning to early morning, late afternoon and evening.

Best flies include dries such as Elk Hair Caddis, Royal Humpy, Hairwing Coachman and grasshoppers. Reliable wets include Beadhead Nymphs, Woolly Worms and Woolly Buggers, Mrs Simpson, Craig’s Nighttime, Hamill’s Killer and Red and Black Matuka.

Lure fishers can depend on small minnow patterns such as Rapalas and Baby Merlins, Wonder Spoons, Pegron Minnows and red and black or yellow-wing Tasmanian Devils. Flatline is satisfactory early in the morning but four colours of 18lb lead-core line is preferable throughout the hotter and brighter part of the day when the fish go deep.

Canberra’s urban lakes sprang into life right on schedule with the warmer weather and the good fishing should continue for several months.

Redfin were the first to fire ands cricket-score catches quickly became the norm for shore based lure and bait anglers and kayak anglers targeting drop-offs in deeper water.

Most of the fish have been small, reflecting the population dynamics of these fast-breeding fish, but occasional specimens of 2kg have been taken, mostly on lures in deeper or rockier water.

Best lures have been spinning bladed patterns, small spinnerbaits, shiny spoons and small soft plastics. Scrub worms and tiger worms have been the best baits but occasional larger specimens have been caught on yabbies.

GOLDENS, COD

Golden perch came on the bite right on schedule, with excellent catches in all of the urban lakes and Googong Reservoir. Most have been taken on yabbies, scrub worms and shrimps but as Summer progresses, an increasing proportion fall to spinnerbaits and deep divers.

Murray cod also have been targeted successfully but almost always on catch-and-return basis. Most have been taken on large deep-divers but fishing twins Daniel and Nathan Walker landed two around 12kg on small bibless minnows in Lake Tuggeranong.

Amazingly, too, Daniel landed one which took a tiny Squidgy soft plastic while he was casting for redfin in Tuggeranong.

With catches like that already under our belt we are looking forward to some more satisfying fishing for the rest of Summer.

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