Monthly Archives: October 2012

Caddigat tailers

Caddigat Lakes.  Julian and Steven from Victoria visited on Sunday afternoon.  Beautiful weather, with a light ripple most of the day driven by a favourable southerly.  This is always a good wind here because it makes it easy to fish the deeper water near the dam walls.  In lakes where there is so much food on the lake bed this can be the difference between catching fish – or not. Fish rose intermittently throughout the afternoon and there was a small hatch of red spinners on Spring Dam which unfortunately didn’t prompt a noticeable increase in surface activity. To their credit both Steven and Julian persevered with surface rigs, and a variety of nymphs and other wets were tried.  Overall Julian did very well with half a dozen nice fish to over 7 lb whilst Steve got off to a slow start catching one in Spring and one in Midway both of which “self-released” after all the hard work had been – done before his grand finale in Dixieland Dam.

The best fishing of the day was in Dixieland Dam.  The beasts were tailing in the shallows, at times 3 or 4 fish within close range casting distance.

A size 16 woolly bugger did the trick for Steven, whilst Julian did well on a small black pheasant tail with a glass bead head. But whichever fly did the trick, the fish were playful and there was no doubt when one wanted the offering with huge, pulse quickening bow waves, telegraphing their intention to grab the fly.

 

 

 

Tight tippets!

When did you last see your father?

I managed to get away to Tantangara for the evening. the climb out of Adaminaby through the broken boulder countryside and onto the forest road is plenty long enough to build a solid sense of anticipation. Half way along the 18 kilometres from the Snowy Mountains Highway to the lake you cross Nungar Creek. A good flow looked almost fishable and I’m looking forward to Monday when I’m heading up the lake on a charter with the boat to check it out.

I decided to fish the eastern shore so made my way over the dam wall driving past the Murrumbidgee River and over the bridge (the river was loving an environmental release) before snaking my way up the hill and and then back down to lake level.  The scar from falling water levels seems to add to the beauty somehow; at a little over 20% the hydro would let a lot more out before it stopped at around 10%.

The breeze was from the south with a touch of west and there was enough warmth in the setting sun to make it comfortable with a light jacket on.  I didn’t think I’d have to walk far to find fish, it looked perfect.

I started to fish with an intermediate line. I knew the water dropped off enough to keep a fly off the snaggy bottom but after half an hour of blind-fishing a few fish started to rise a little offshore and I switched to a floating rig.  That felt better.  I had several fish to cast to within the first few minutes but it took a change of fly to a gun-metal-bead black nymph to start catching fish.

As the sun dropped over the western hills the water started to come alive with fish. I walked up the bank for a kilometre through the first three or four soaks, doing nothing but sight casting to moving fish. Always hoping one would be a nice brown or a fat rainbow – but not today. The parents were away and the kids were having a play.  The fish ranged from about 150 to 300 mm and were lean. They looked hungry and attacked the fly with some vigour.

I didn’t stay after dark but if I had I imagine the bigger fish may well have come in close, perhaps even a brown or two.  That’s for the next trip!

Tight Tippets!

Fly Fish Baw Baw

Before I got involved with the Fly Fish Baw Baw project I didn’t know much about this unique and spectacularly beautiful spot about 120 km east of Melbourne – mainland Australia’s southern most ski resort.

Mount Baw Baw is one of several peaks on a rocky plateau separated from the rest of the Victorian high country by river valleys.

The highest point in the range is 1,567 metres. You drive up through the lower slopes of eucalypt forest with cool temperate rainforest in the creek valleys. Above 1,200 metres it’s typical snow gum woodland; with more sparse subalpine grassland and shrub above 1,300 metres. It’s an amazing view from the terrace in front of the restaurant facing south straight to the coast – seriously, you can stand in the snow, and look all the way to Tasmania.

Much of the area is in the Mount Baw Baw National Park. The climate is subalpine and the plateau is covered in snow for most of June to September – this year it’s still there in late October. They get an average of nearly 2 metres of precipitation a year. The area has its own unique small berry, the Baw Baw Berry; and an endangered frog species, the Baw Baw frog.

So, this unique area is hosting the Fly Fish Baw Baw event from 23 to 25 November and I’ve been working with Victorian Fisheries Chairing a stakeholder working group to help bring it all together.

It’s going to be a great family weekend. A chance to try fly casting, watch fly tiers, and if you’re already into the sport to check out the latest gear, try some of the Baw Baw region’s excellent waters, and check out some of the latest fly fishing movies from the Rise Film Festival for a small donation to a great organisation (www.evolve.com.au). There are good out of season accommodation deals at the Baw Baw Alpine Resort and plenty of activities organised for family members not so interested in the fishing side of the event.

When the snow’s gone, Australia’s alpine regions turn into a play ground for trout fishermen (and I’m sure other things go on as well!). This has huge economic spins offs for these areas who rely heavily on fishing tourism. So support your regional economies and come along and see what its all about – not just for this event but all the time. Stay-at-home fishing tourism – there’s more to see, plenty to catch – and no international airports.

All the details at: http://www.mountbawbaw.com.au/whats-on/events/fly-fish-baw-baw and http://www.flyfishbawbaw.com.au/ For more info email me.

Cheers

Steve

(Image courtesy of Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort)

One Tree Bay delivers… sort of!

David and John were guests for the day on Fly by Night and the weather looked great.  A light southerly after a heavy frost made me glad we’d set 9.30 as a start time and by the time we’d had coffee, finished the lawn mowing and eaten John’s rhubarb cake (cake credit to Dorothy) it was 11 by the time the boat slipped off the trailer at Anglers Reach.

The lake was calm and the air temperature warming nicely as we chugged out of the bay. The sounder went berserk. The last time I’d been out the fish had been so scarce I turned on the fish alarm – this time it was chirping away merrily, in fact annoyingly.  We slowed and looked as the HDS8 screen filled with fish at 15 metres, then disappeared.  We went back across as I ordered John (who clearly wasn’t used to taking order) to get the fast sinking line ready.  The fish reappeared and there seemed to be 2 distinct schools, sitting under a thermocline.  Figure that one out. We didn’t spend too long trying. In the absence of something involving lead I don’t think we were getting close to the fish; and John was losing interest in this semi-harling style so we carried on with the mission, which, by the way involved cruising around the lea shores looking for cruising fish in the mirror.

We stopped at one tree bay and jumped off the boat.  I walked right around and snagged a couple of browns but it wasn’t firing so we headed along for the timbered southern shore line en route to Providence.  Still quiet and 2 hours loch style through the bay and some serious bank time didn’t get us any success.  Team talk.  We decided to stick it out and fish through until dark.

One tree got the vote and we cruised back enjoying the afternoon sun and the warmer westerly and then northerly breezes.

We fished it hard for two hours and had a good midge rise. There were fish to cast to pretty much all evening and whilst the rainbows weren’t big, they gave a mighty fight and spent plenty of time in the air. Only David, didn’t connect.  As a new fly fisher with only three casting lessons he had all the bases covered under close supervision but the fish know you know and refused to cooperate.

It was great to see every creek and soak full of water. David fished optimistically right where this feeder ran in strongly.

All in all, I’d say things are hotting up and there was certainly no shortage of fish, on either the sounder or on the evening midge rise.

Providence flats continues to disappoint, but maybe the squadrons of shags and pelicans – presumably there for the fry – are part of the problem.

Tight tippets!

The Monaro Wind!

Sunday was a write off on Lake Eucumbene. It blew hard and a boat trip was cancelled so off we went to the Monaro to give the McLaughlin another go.  The day started in a promising way; light breeze in the valley, the odd fish rising in the bigger pools, intermittent duns and spinners, pairs of dragon flies zipping from spot to spot. The water was still quite dirty in the bigger pools from the flood rain two weeks ago but the river itself was quite clear.

I started off (on Corro’s advice) with an emerger nymph on a greased up leader to be aimed at fish once they’d been spotted.  I drew the attention of two fish but didn’t convert.  One spot at the head of a pool had at least two fish rising but as soon as the wind came up they of course disappeared – and search as we did in other pools the wind definitely had an effect and the fish had gone down.  I tried Corro’s plan B, a nymph under a Geehi beetle but it wasn’t to be.

After lunch I fished a pool near a river crossing and saw a fish in the same spot I’d seen one on the last visit. It even appeared to have the same cormorant scar on its back as it rose through the water column twitched its head to feed and sank back into the pool.  I didn’t see it again.

I fished down and back up the river. No fish, and again fished the pool near the crossing. I fished it blind, but where I knew the fish was holding and second cast got my reward.

This was a nice 1 kg brown that was as fat as a barrel. Definitely no shortage of food in the river. So I’d christened the new WF4 line, and the new waders, and I’d been carrying the camera – all well know jinxes to catching fish.  I wandered up stream for another kilometre.  A long pool featured a solitary rise. With squadrons of duns coming out of the run at the head of the pool you might have expected to see more. Then the other Steve and Steve appeared from nowhere and that was it for another day.

The short version from those who know about these things is they don’t think the rivers are back to their former glory – yet – but after a couple of prospecting trips it’s good to see fish in such good condition, even if they are few. Another couple of years of stocking and another couple of years with good rain, who knows!

After some hospitality from station owners Howard and Annie I set off for Canberra via Nimmitabel and Cooma.  Ten kilometres from Nimmitabel a car veered across the Monaro Highway into my path. I swerved and avoided it and watched in the mirror as it plunged off the embankment and disappeared from sight. The young man, Troy from Traralgon appeared physically uninjured and as he crawled, shaken and apologetic up the bank he somehow was still on the phone to his friend. The car appeared relatively undamaged from its 5 metre plunge.  We got it back on the road, changed a wheel with serious damage from a rock impact and he was off again, carefully, to Nimmitabel to get it checked out. After of course going back to the skids and crash sight to get pictures for his mates! Flash backs all night.

Tight tippets all.

Steve

 

Tasmanania!

I don’t travel too much for fishing. When you have the best right on your doorstep it can be disappointing.  But I am opportunistic by nature so Cristina’s family law conference attendance in Hobart presented as an opportunity – so I agreed to be the handbag for a three fifths of a week measure of legal revelry in exchange for a two fifths measure of piscatorial adventure; an excellent cocktail.

I took some advice about where to fish whilst in Hobart (when not in meetings) and this led me to Cornelian Bay on the Derwent River just upstream from the Tasman Bridge.

Here, I was led to believe, one might snag a massive sea trout, one of the brown trout from the Derwent River fattening up in salt water for the spring months on all sorts of small fry darting amongst the sea grass.  Simply watch for the boils of bait fish being scattered by these silvered beasts and lob a suitable fly amongst the action – and hold on.  A trip to The Fishing Connection on Harrington Street for some inside info on fly choices and a new line and some “for certain” flies, and of course a fishing licence and I was ready for action – and a lot poorer.

It was a bit weird down at Cornelian Bay.  I pulled up in a park like area, nice tarmac car park, promenade along the waterfront, dozens of dog walkers with dogs.  I felt a bit conspicuous as I donned the chest waders and fly vest, tooled up the rod and pulled on my favourite hat.  Strangely no one seemed to be bothered, other than one dog who growled at me. His owner said he hadn’t seen one of me before so not to worry.  I was cautious, aware I must be attracting the gaze of the cafe set at The Boat House I walked cautiously onto the beach and headed for water, moving from the shaly sand onto soft green weed with a bit more squelchy mud underfoot. The studded wading boots didn’t get much traction and after a little slippy slide (la de da – nothing to see) I made it back to firm ground, pride intact.  A sand spit headed out into the water and I followed it confidently.  After about 100 metres of wading I was still only in water half way to my knees. At least I was still upright on the slimy bottom. Another 200 metres away two yachts bobbed at anchor which meant there had to be a drop off into a channel. I headed for them and had almost forgotten what I was doing there when a small explosion of bait fish had me scrambling for rod reel and line letting loose a great cast but with no prize.

This happened a few times so I thought it through deciding to try the double handed rollypoley fast-strip. This somewhat undignified means of fly retrieval, frowned on by purists and mostly done when unobserved absolutely did the trick.  A huge wake broke from the school of bait and headed straight for me like something from Jaws. Bang, bang, it was on. I lifted the rod in anticipation of a mighty battle to feel passive resistance as a fine mullet came to surface with about as much fight as a lump of weed. Well, I’d never caught a mullet on fly so that was good. Didn’t know they smelt that bad either. I’ve handled thousands of them at the markets without really noticing but it was strong, and all over my rod handle and jacket. The next species was a small Australian salmon – and so it went on.  Not a sea trout for cooey.  The salmon were sort of fun but after three days all I really wanted was a trout!

So, with the conference ball behind us and with Cristina sporting only a modestly sore head we checked out of the Woolstore (10/10) and headed for Bronte Park – according to the literature just 3.3 kilometres from the geographic centre of the island State.

Here I caught up with fishing buddy Adrian who by coincidence was on holiday with his family (Hi Bec, Stephen and Anna-Beth, thanks for lending me daddy).  We had both received independent advice that Bronte Lagoon was the go-to spot; so that’s where we went. Our first destination was a bit off the mark. Map reading aside, it was a beautiful shore that looked like it should produce the goods.  A three hour hike-and-fish over 4 or 5 kilometres of bank and it didn’t; I saw one fish to cast to – I think Adrian two. Never disheartened we lunched on Adrian’s home baked olive and cherry tomato focaccia with some local ham, and checked the map.  This canal…. hmmm, that’s a long way from the boat ramp we were supposed to be parked next to.

So lunch, laughter and a cup of tea later we headed for the correct spot which, if it was possible, looked even fishier.  But still no cigar after another couple of hours, even after we’d reached the famous Tailers Bay – the stuff of fishing lore where big rainbows come into the shallow water head down arse up feeding on caddis grubs and snails in the weed beds and mud.  I decided to take the Eddie option and phone a friend – Phil reinforced the strategy and as we were talking I finally saw a fish doing the thing. I cast to it, it came to the fly then turned and fled.  I stood back from the spot and warned off Adrian. The fish came back but I lined it and it sped off into the deep water never to be seen again.

That was pretty much it for the day. As Adrian pored over his fly boxes for inspiration, reality set in and we decided to head for the hills. We’d travelled a winding route to Tailers and thought we could short cut through the bracken.  Adrian led, obvious pathways taking us in the direction we though would lead us back to the car.  On our right were power poles and the road we’d travelled in on – on our right the lake – what could possibly go wrong?.  All seemed fine as the bracken grew in height and the paths narrowed before disappearing completely. Some short cut.  Having a 100kg 190 cm fishing buddy does have its benefits. What this stature loses in stream-craft it gains in bulldozing potential. So we made it back to the lake shore and route marched back to the car. Taking off the hat, vest, jacket and waders at the end of the day is hard work and as I disrobed my heart stopped as I realised the camera was missing. The nearly new Canon G1X. We both believed the hike through the bracken had torn it off and I resigned myself to accepting it was gone. Thankfully I had travel insurance and I was religious about downloading pictures. The more I thought about it the more I began to question whether I’d even had it with me and was grateful when Adrian offered to drive back to the first spot to check the ground.  Sure enough, there it was, part-hidden by a tussock.

By the time Adrian dropped me at Highland Cabins and Cottages (10/10) Cristina was well underway with dinner and boy those pork cutlets were good – with mash, green beans and salad.

0600 came around soon enough. In the early light I listened to nothing. No traffic, no dogs, not even the birds were bothering yet.  And not a breath of wind. With that I leapt into action, Tasmania is always windy. No wind meant a calm lake. A calm lake meant I’d be able to see the fish! Ten minutes later I was at the bridge car park by the inlet canal looking for fish. It was overcast, tick; windless, tick; and warm, tick – surely, surely, surely I would do better this morning.

When I know it’s good I get a bit twitchy. My fingers seem to belong to someone else, and the fly knots won’t settle properly. A couple of deep breathes and I double checked all was in order, keys in a zipped pocket, and camera (this time).

I was heading for Tailers Bay again, maybe a couple of kilometres right to the western side. The first 500 metres tracked the inlet canal and there was a good flow through a deep blue channel with a shallow weedy margin.  I wanted to fish the channel with a bomb under an indicator but was too impatient. As I walked the bank fish after fish spooked out of the shallows so I slowed down and watched carefully.  The glare was wrong for polaroiding through the water so I just stared looking for anything, any indication a fish might be lying in wait for a snack. When I was sure there was nothing I’d move forward two or three steps and another fish would zoom off leaving nothing but a boil and a wake.

Eventually I rounded the corner and started to head west on the armoured bank before turning north again into Tailers. It looked magnificent and as I watched for a few minutes all along the bank fish were giving their tell tale signs in the glassy calm.

I caught two fish. One thumping rainbow and a smaller fish that shook off in the shallows.  Both were tailing vigorously and willingly attacked the fly, a small black pheasant tail nymph, as soon as they saw it. Two more fish were tricked. Neither hooked up. Hooking a fish in very shallow water is great.  You can’t have better contact with the fish as it cavorts with most of its body out of the water for most of the time. And there’s never any doubt when you’ve got a big fish on the way it slaps and flops around. This was worth the wait.

I headed back to the car for breakfast and bumped into Peter Tyrell who generously shared some tips and local knowledge – 36 hours earlier would have been better timing but there’ll be a next time I’m sure.  After breakfast and a clean up I saw Peter again, heading to the other side of the lake and he hadn’t caught a fish, suffering the same spooky fish I had on the way to Tailers and a strong southerly wind when he got there.  We took a detour to Lake St Clair and the Cradle Mountain visitors centre and now we’re on the way back to Canberra.

TIGHT TIPPETS!

Eucumbeme, Kybean, McLaughlin – too much?

For a lot of fly fishing folk the early season has been a bit underwhelming. The weather has been odd. Stormy, windy, wet, cold, snow, sleet, frost. It’s as if I’ve been tele-ported 25 years back to the old country for a March opening season where we all used to line up pre-dawn outside the gates at Chew Magna lake near Bristol.  Tendrils of Thermos flavoured coffee steam snaking from vehicle to vehicle as we waited for the shotgun start, racing to our favourite headland or bay to hurl our sinking lines and dog nobblers out for naive and unsuspecting stockies, always hopeful for the overwintered 5 lb’er, but always happy with the smaller peas from a pod rainbows probably popped in the day before.

Having to work hard for fish is character building. My character must be as strong as its been for a fair while.   After the initial opening weekend John and James came down to Eucumbene.  James and I had a short session upstream of the Kiandra Bridge without success.  It was a blustery old day with a strong westerly and forecast to strengthen before backing off in the late afternoon. Because the westerly tends to be channeled into more of a northerly by the hills at Middlingbank I decided to take the boat around to Buckanderra and launch there.

We met John at the ramp and got the boat in the water as a small Quintrex headed in from the general direction of Rushy Plains skippered by a bedraggled and soaking wet boatman – shivering miserably. Hmm, good job it was a sunny day!

We set off in that direction comforted by being in a much bigger boat.  After 5 minutes and a dozen waves over the bow we turned-tail and headed south west with the chop on our port quarter to fish the first of the westerly bank sheltered bays.  I have to say it looked unbelievably fishy but after a couple of hours of solid fishing by all three rods we’d blanked and had to make a decision. Either head back and get wet en route, or head to Trivilla inlet and stay dry – but risk a much worse and longer return trip later on if the wind didn’t back off. No contest, Trivilla it was.

Now this looked unbelievably fishy. The foamy windlanes died into streaming currents around the headland surely depositing food as they lost power and direction.  We fished solidly, floating lines with a variety of weighted flies but only James latched onto fish on the high northern bank in deep water, and only after he’d switched to a sinking line.  The green and brown WBs did the trick.

The trip back was very calm and dry after the wind died right on dusk.

The next sortie was to the Monaro with Steve, Steve and Tim to see if the rivers were coming good after the drought. We stayed in “the hut” at Moles Station right on the Kybean River, owned by Rick Hain  The hut is a pit-sawn weatherboard cottage and has all the facilities a fisherman could want – most importantly a wood heater to fend off the cool easterlies and the icy mist rolling in from the coast, just over the hill but a 1000 metres below.

The Kybean is a series of deep tannin-stained pools carved through the millennia into the basalt and granite rock, these days fed by quite a small flow. Some of the pools are 100’s of metres long, others much smaller. The river has been stocked for the last two years and there were signs of fish returning.  Over two days of prospecting we landed 4 fish and missed a few more, the biggest probably an honest 2 1/2  lb.

We also had a sneaky look at the McLaughlin River with similar results.  I’d save my visit here for another year or so. With another good season of stocking and growth behind us this should be excellent; although we did see a few fish rise in one pool on small red spinners, and both Steve Corrigan and Tim landed a fish each.

On one day we had over an inch of rain. The Kybean came up dramatically and began to flow and look like a NZ River.  We fished on the reserve at the Kybean Hall but for just a couple of small fish in what looked a far better prospect. Again, 2 more years and these will be crackers.

 

Not so for Lake Williams at Nimmitabel. Only a small community lake but the past beneficiary of some DPI Fisheries, fishing clinic rainbows that were fit and fat, as well as the annual stocking of fingerlings which were obviously there. I’m not sure I’d go there for a special trip but if I was passing with the rods I’d always have a go. Midge feeders taken on small black nymphs and certainly not naive – or starving. I suspect they see quite a bit of local fishing pressure from bait and lure. Not quite serenity but you soon get used to the odd stares and curious questions of the picnic brigade; and the roar of passing B doubles.

 

Tight Tippets all.

MORE INFO:

The Hut has 2 double rooms with an extra fold out sofa and a floor mattress, comfortable for 4 blokes.  For larger groups another nearby property next to the Kybean River, Gannawarrah Lodge( near Kybean Hall) is also available with 4 double rooms (some with single beds) and a bunk room. Comfortable for 4 couples with kids or 8 blokes. The standard best bed rules apply, the old blokes get the best beds. rickhain@skymesh.com.au or jennyroach@skymesh.com.au  Phone 02 64546138