Brown trout bonanza

Whilst the rainbows are surprisingly scarce, Eucumbene is turning it on for lovers of brown trout – in their thousands.  The Snowy Trout Festival has over 600 registered entrants and the place is abuzz. It took the Melbourne cup to get even a few of them off the water and into the pub despite the torrential downpours on Wednesday. For fly fisherman fishing remains tough but the trollers (a name in common usage long before twitter users had reason to fear them) have been “brainin-em” – unfortunately from my personal perspective, quite literally.

For Gerry, Mark and Michael a three day trip to Eucumbene and Caddigat Lakes started on Sunday evening. Gerry, a retired surgeon from Kew in Melbourne was the team’s elder statesman regaling us with yarns from twenty years of fishing at Arnie Crows when the lake was flooding in the 60’s and 70’s. He told us they’d stayed in the old Eucumbene Station and fished for 5lb rainbows amongst the drowning ornamental shrubs of the station gardens. I’d never wish my life away but I’d pay a handsome ransom to be teleported back to those halcyon days when the snowy lakes were flooding, or even Lake Pedder in Tasmania.  Somewhere I’ve still got a Betamax video of Lake Pedder given to me in the early 80’s which I am sure is at least partially responsible for my migration.

We started with a Sunday evening gentleman’s fishing trip to Caddigat Lakes. Everyone who fishes there knows it’s not always guaranteed to produce the goods, but you’ll see fish, and the access is easy. No giant hikes to reach the best spots, just giant trout lurking.  And so it was as we fished Spring Dam and Dixieland Dam, the usual round of cursing and laughter as flies and tippets were lost to crashing trophy rainbows, and groans as other flies were ignored by fish tailing in water shallow enough to bathe a baby. Gerry showed his patience and craft delicately placing fly after fly in front of fish after fish with swirls and boils I would have sworn were takes, but weren’t.

Monday morning we got off to a good start, launching in a fresh nor-wester at Anglers Reach. I planned to fish Three Fingers Bay, and Hughes Creek, and then drift loch style around Providence flats. Hughes Creek provided the first fish of the day to the old master. I spotted a fish right against the shore. We used the electric to get in position and Gerry tricked a nice brown with just a few casts into the zone.  We saw several other fish and Michael caught a couple of fish on the bank – each time just after he’d seen black snakes as thick as his arm. A good way to keep your concentration up and deter a quiet sit down and relax on the bank in the sun!

When we got to Providence portal it was shut off and I fished my favourite go-to bay where Mark landed a fish within a few casts and Michael hooked two more.  The flats were less productive, with last year’s gun rainbow fishing yet to make a show.  It was a long day and we fished until after sunset with the biggest ant hatch I’ve ever seen. The water was a carpet of insects but with the exception of a few small fish surface feeding close to shore and the odd boil further offshore there were surprisingly few fish enjoying the potential feast. Very frustrating.

On Tuesday we headed for Buckanderra and with a light northerly set off for Wainui Bay. Once again the water looked superb but we fished every bay and soak without reward. As the wind strengthened into the nor-west we headed back into the main run of the lake and surfed our way back to Tri-Villa inlet, dropping off Mark and Michael en-route to fish the northern bank deepwater drop offs. Both hooked up on good browns whilst Gerry and I fished from the boat repeatedly casting to fish chasing dragon flies so close to the bank you’d think they were about to grow legs and walk out of the water. We finished the day with another crack at the Caddigat rainbows. More bust-ups and colourful language before fish started to come to shore. I broke the guides’ rule and had a few casts myself and oops, caught a very nice fish for my trouble.

At 4 am on Wednesday morning the tin roof rattled in the heavy rain. I wondered whether we’d fish at all that day before falling asleep and waking at 6 to a misty light and steady rain. I hoped the team wouldn’t bail out but they were as determined as ever and we set off for Old Adaminaby fully clad in waders and wet weather gear. Despite the rain it was hot under all the layers at least until we headed south for Cobrabald and got a bit of wind chill turning raincoats into mini fridges.  The long shores looked inviting and we resumed the previous day’s tactics with Michael and Mark on the banks and Gerry and I in the boat. After two hours of fishing without sighting a single rise we headed to pick up Mark who waved us away as he pursued a giant fish cruising a beat from a high bank in deep water. As we neared Mark he’d just landed another good fish. Sticking to the plan we fished near Crow’s camp site and then Copper Mine before throwing in the very wet towel and calling it a day, wet, cold but everyone seemed happy.

All in all not spectacular but as Gerry hypothesised, the determination of Mark and Michael linked to their German and Dutch extraction made the difference to what could have been a lot worse trip.

In terms of techniques and tactics we fished super long leaders with teams of three flies when drifting loch style, using every style of retrieve we could imagine. Big heavy woolly buggers on the top dropper to get the flies down, teamed up with smaller WBs, Tom Jones and a variety of nymphs. Working the shore line with the electric or from the bank we used single or double fly rigs and quickly settled on large black WBs with plenty of bling for the cruising and rising browns. I mixed it up with a few other patterns but the big WBs seemed to do the trick more often than not.

The next few weeks will be a bit slower on charters as the Pajero goes under the knife for roo-repairs.

Tight tippets!