As a young whippersnapper, I spent endless hours after school catching eels, galaxias and gudgeons from the creeks around Moruya. During my teens, I travelled all over NSW with my family, catching bass, trout, golden and silver perch, catfish and Murray cod.
But recently it dawned on me that it had been 19 years since I had ventured over the Divide to chase trout. Horrified at my negligence of my childhood passion, I was on the phone in a flash and made a family booking to Buckenderra Holiday Village, on Lake Eucumbene.
Ambitions of a trout dinner were high as I made the first cast into the morning mist on day one of our stay.
But freshening north-westerly winds scattered hopes of fishing comfortably, reminding me that some of the best trout fishing can be in tough conditions. A sheltered cove may be pleasant for reading a book but the trout are out patrolling the windswept banks, searching for an easy meal.
We faced up to the bitterly cold gusts that cut through our thermal clothing.
Casting lures into the wind meant weighted lures were the way to go. I tossed a medium-sized minnow in a rainbow trout pattern and it wasn’t long before a plump hen rainbow leaped from the freezing water in a spectacular display.
She showed enormous strength and blistered off across the shallows with amazing speed and power. I’d forgotten how hard trout could fight, and this fish pulled every bit as hard, if not harder, than the big bream I was used to catching and I cheered as I slid her onto the muddy bank.
But over the next couple of hours the wind rise and morale fell. We decided to go home for breakfast and prepare the rods for an evening fish with bait.
The wind dropped as the sun set behind the hills. An insect hatch started and trout began sipping bugs from the surface. We fired lightly weighted Berkley PowerBait in their direction.
In my younger years I would have been more likely to present a live mudeye or scrub worm to these active trout – how times have changed! As the first bait hit the water, a small rainbow was all over it ... amazing!
I was ecstatic because this was my first on you-beaut PowerBait. My wife Trudi also enticed a small rainbow with PowerBait, her first trout ever, so she was over the moon.
Sherbet seemed to be the flavour of the moment, both trout accepting it with gusto.
I’m not sure if colour is relevant and I steer more towards the theory of fishing with confidence. If you’re more confident using one particular colour, you tend to fish it harder and catch more fish.
We stuck with sherbet, believing pink was a good thing. We simply moulded a small portion of PowerBait around a chemically sharpened No 8 hook on a 60cm leader of 4lb fluorocarbon. The other end was tied to a small swivel below a pea-sized sinker running back along the main line.
Mate Steve Starling had asked me to babysit his ‘children’ while he was in Darwin – his Rosco canoe and Minn Kota electric motor, which accompanied us into the mountains.
Blessed with near-perfect conditions on day two, I decided it was time to take Rosco fishing. The girls decided to stay ashore and fish with PowerBait while my son Clayton and I opted to cast Squidgy soft plastics among the standing timber.
While I was in the simple process of attaching the outrigger to the canoe, my daughter Calissa was already into battle with her first ever trout! This male fish put up a great fight and was quite a handful for Trudi with the waiting Environet.
I was so proud of Calissa, who had baited up, cast, hooked and fought the fish all on her own. I was eager to get the boy out on the water in hope of him landing his first trout, too.
I was impressed how well the Rosco handled as we approached the first set of sticks. There was ample room for the tackle bag, icebox, net, camera and fishing gear and with both of us standing and firing plastics across the icy waters, I felt safe, stable and dry.
A hungry rainbow, my best for the weekend, ambushed my squidgy after an accurate cast deep into a snag.
I was desperate to see the boy catch his first trout, as he had tried hard all weekend casting from the shore – with most of his presentations landing behind him in the tussock grass!
I thought a spot of trolling 60mm Squidgy Fish along a weed bank would be easier and we had ventured only 100m before his rod was almost ripped from his grasp and his drag began to howl as I’ve never heard it before.
The big buck rainbow trout circled the canoe and took to the air several times. A nearby kayak fisher came over and shook his head in disbelief as he witnessed a three-year-old boy fight and land a 1.5kg rainbow trout with no help from Dad. That’s my boy!
Clay was overwhelmed with his effort and wanted to show Mum immediately – and to point out that his fish was bigger than mine.
The weekend was over but I had been able to relive my childhood passion and pass it on to my family. I’m so glad my kids enjoyed it as much as I used to at their age, and I hope their memories of this wonderful location will stand the tests of time, as they have for me.
Lake Eucumbene is the largest body of water in the Snowy Mountains and its full capacity is eight times that of Sydney Harbour. These days it struggles to stay above above 30% and at our visit was 26% but that’s still two Sydney Harbours to explore and fish! Eucumbene is stocked with Atlantic salmon, brown and rainbow trout.
At the southern end of Eucumbene in the Buckenderra/Middlingbank Arm lies Buckenderra Holiday Village, set on 40ha of private land with 8km of shoreline. In my books Buckenderra provides the best lake access and fishing diversity on Eucumbene. Bait fishing and spinning from the surrounding banks is great. Across the lake, the steep Middlingbank shores offer red-hot trolling, while shallower sections appeal to fly fishers.
Buckenderra Holiday Village has caravan and tent sites and fully furnished cottages and cabins. The cabins are great value, with ensuite, kitchen, double bed and three bunks, television and, of course, heating – bring your own linen.
The village offers a stack of activities, such as pitch and putt golf, boat hire and tennis. When the lake is low, the private concrete boat ramp has temporary launching provisions. Visit www.buckenderra.com.au or call 02 6453 7242.
• 7’3” 2-4kg light spin rods
• 1000 and 2500 Shimano Sustain & Sedona reels
• 60mm Squidgy Fish in rainbow trout on 3g No 1 jighead
• Strike Pro Bass X minnow, rainbow trout colour
• Berkley PowerBait Trout Dough, sherbet
• 3lb Stren Microfuse line, 4lb FC Rock fluorocarbon leader
• Rosco Bass Catcher X-treme 500 canoe, Minn Kota motor
• Maui Jim polarised eyewear
• Gumboots or waders are essential
• Check the weather before setting out on the lake. Conditions can deteriorate in a heartbeat and Eucumbene has already claimed too many lives.
• Abide by the rules and regulations. An angler is permitted to fish with two rods, provided they are both attended. Check Fisheries’ Freshwater Guide for current regulations and size/bag limits.
• Navigate with care, there are many obstacles and hazards such as tree stumps just beneath the surface
• Boaters should give bank fishers a wide berth – respect their fishing space.