Run of outs

The Fish River

Fish River, O’Connell

Fishing these days is limited to snippets between toddler demands, which would be fine if I lived on a trout stream but the Cooks River is the closest I get. Those dumped shopping trolleys are harder to hook than you might think.

So with the mother-in-law in town and happily assuming my share of child duties I escaped for a morning out to the Fish River at O’Connell.

Luckily I didn’t get out too early because the fish didn’t appear until about 10am. They fed actively, but evidently not on dries. A lack of fishing practice was my biggest hindrance at this point. I lined a fish that surprised me by porpoising on the surface parallel to where I stood.

Eventually, with the casting arm warmed up, I hooked a one pounder on a prince nymph at the head of the pool but the tippet snapped almost immediately. Testing the tippet after (Rio 6X Flurocarbon), I was able to snap it at almost every attempt. Time to invest in some new tippet.

After a beautiful, still morning, the wind picked up at 12pm and the fish shut down. So I set off on the drive back to the Cooks River.

Monaro streams

We rented an Airbnb on a high country property while visiting family in Cooma over the Easter. With family commitments pulling me every where but where I should be (on the trout streams), fishing here was limited to hit and run expeditions while the toddler had her midday nap.

On the first morning I sat on the balcony, coffee in hand, admiring the views of the Monaro plains and googling ‘trout stream near me’ when I realised there was a creek in the valley right in front of me.

Enquiries put to the Airbnb owner revealed the following:

  1. Yes there are trout in the stream
  2. Yes you can access it, it’s public access, Torrens Title
  3. It’s fly fishing, catch and release only
  4. Point 3 is the owners rules. He doesn’t have any jurisdiction to enforce it, but he’s evidently a good bloke.

Rain the prior week, and warm sunshine this week, meant there would be prime fishing time during the evening hatch. The owner had seen some decent fish on his evening constitutional with his wife.

However I was expected at family dinner in the evening. So instead I hit the stream at midday, during toddler nap time. It was a typical Monaro stream with clear, slow flowing pools. And with the sun high, the fish were hiding. Never mind, I told myself, I’ll get down for the evening hatch later in the week.

Snowy River

During the next day’s toddler nap I ventured a bit further afield to the Snowy River. This was another clear, slow flowing stream, so I was surprised to find a trout tailing in the midday sun. I only had about half an hour to spare before said toddler was due to wake up though and this was not enough time to lure that trout into a trap.

The Snowy River
The clear, slow flowing water of the Snowy River

Eucumbene Trout Farm

Yes folks, you read that title right. Instead of the planned venture to fish the evening rise, I found myself with niece and nephew minding duties. And for better or worse, over the years, time with Uncle Jodi comes with the expectation of a fishing trip.

An earlier expedition to the creek with niece and nephew ended in many sticks, stones and children throwing themselves in the water. Conditions entirely unsuitable to stalking trout. So instead I took them to the Eucumbene Trout Farm.

This is about as close as trout fishing gets to fishing for yellow tail off a jetty and therefore entirely suitable to the limited attention spans of eight and ten year olds. Although hooking a trout on powerbait, in a pond the size of a backyard swimming pool with about 50 fish in it, is harder than it sounds.

The real challenge was not jag hooking them, but at the end of the day, two trout were landed and niece and nephew went home satisfied. While Uncle Jodi went home with his wallet considerably lighter and, well, there’ll always be another evening rise.

Gundowringa fish out

Gundowringa homestead

Gundowringa is located half way between Goulburn and Crookwell and is famous for fat lambs and potatoes. What has this to do with fishing? Nothing.

But based on recent stocking figures and the proximity to Sydney, we had to give it a go. So in early March Lakeside Fly Fishing Club descended upon Gundowringa.

Fish stocking 2017:

  • Pejar: 5,000 Brown Trout; 10,000 Rainbow Trout; 4,200 Bass
  • Todkill: 2,000 Rainbow Trout
  • Redground: 4,000 Rainbow Trout; 5,000 Golden Perch

Accommodation at Gundowringa consists of shearers’ quarters accommodating up to 18 people, shared non gender washroom/toilet block, communal sitting, dining room, wood fire, kitchen, industrial fridge and BBQ. As there were only six of us we each had our own room, and at $30 per night it was a bargain.

We had access to Pejar Dam, Todkill Dam, Redground Dam and two private dams on Gundowringa.

Pejar Dam NSW
Jim Screen in action at Pejar Dam (he’s the little speck just off the point)

The lack of rain has made fishing challenging and this was reflected during the weekend. Pejar Dam was picture perfect but the other two dams need a flush out as they could not be fished due to the weeds. The catch rate was disappointing but fine weather and good company made the weekend a great success.

Dinner at Gundowringa
Trevor gets on the sauce

On Saturday night it was planned to have dinner at the Willowvale Mill restaurant. Upon trying to book the restaurant we were advised by the owner that the restaurant would not be open as he was taking his lady friend to the Blue Mountains.

Alex asked if we were invited but he said his friend would not approve. So we all ended up at the Commercial Hotel in Crookwell for dinner.

The Commercial Hotel Crookwell
Jim celebrating the landing of the only trout for the weekend.

Who caught what?

  • Jim Screen – 2 pound trout with beautiful eyes.
  • Alan Steege – a turtle with attitude.
Lunch at Pejar Dam
The Steeges enjoying lunch at Pejar Dam

Jurassic lake

Lago Strobel, or Jurassic Lake rainbow trout

One trip to Lago Strobel is the fly fishing experience of a life time but going twice must be close to visiting fly fishing heaven.

David Screen has visited Lago Strobel in Argentina twice in the last two years. But the fish still have to be caught and landed just like any where else and like any where else the special conditions of the fishery have to be managed.

In this particular part of the world cold and wind prevail to a very large extent, in a very rocky landscape. The lake has no outlet but is fed by a constant flow of water from the Barrancoso River that rises in the Andes Mountains.

Where does the water go, you might ask. Well the wind takes care of that and just blows the water away. One has to make sure when making a cast your line goes downwind otherwise you will get a very quick reminder to come to the Club’s casting days.

For those interested (envious) David’s caught and landed statistics from South America are:

2017 – 204 fish landed, 44 fish over 10lb
2018 – 207 fish landed, 106 fish over 10lb

The largest fish was 15.5lb caught in the river followed closely by six 15lb fish, including one caught on a dry fly.

David is Lakeside Fly Fishing Club’s presenter at the club meeting on Wednesday February 6th 2018 at 7:30pm. Come along to hear his tales of Jurassic Lake.

Lago Strobel, or Jurassic Lake Rainbow Trout
David Screen with a Jurassic Lake Rainbow Trout in Argentina.

Billy T’s monster brown

Brown trout caught in central west NSW

Even though I have for various reasons been unable to attend meetings it does not mean I no longer fish. Quite the opposite I now consider myself a fly fishing addict !

The fish in this picture was caught by me a few weeks ago in ‘my river’. I have been trying to catch this Monster, 4lb / 50cm brownie for more than a year.

The waters out west are very low and whilst it is easier to see them the reverse applies. There is bugger all visible flow and most of the fish have reverted to doing beats in pools, rather than sitting in non existent flows.

This of course makes catching them even harder than it normally is. The story has a sad end as I was in a situation I could not revive him, no flow, inhaled fly, difficult to land (reeds etc).

It was therefore with great sadness I took him home and we feasted on him with my neighbours who have been nagging me anyway to bring some catches home!

Tight lines, hope to see you soon at next meeting.

Bill Torok (Billy T ).

Southern Highlands Adventures

Fly fishing Southern Highlands trout stream NSW

Many of you will have read the excellent article by Josh Hutchins in the Autumn edition of FlyLife about fishing in the Southern Highlands. I had never considered this area as a place for trout fishing,  having always concentrated on either the Snowy or the Oberon areas in NSW. My interest was piqued by the article, so my mate Simon lined up a day of fishing down there.

I drove down in excellent Autumn weather, taking a tour of the Highlands area, including Don Bradman’s birth place, arriving at Moss Vale in the afternoon. After a late lunch, I checked in at the Moss Vale Caravan Park, a little way out of town, where we’d booked a cabin. It was just as well we’d booked, as that was also the weekend of the Scottish Gathering at Bundanoon, and the place was packed with grey nomads.

For those who don’t know it, Moss Vale is a lovely little town, with all the facilities you could want, including great restaurants and clubs. After Simon had spoken to our guide Angus about arrangements for the following day, we headed up to the local RSL club for an excellent dinner.

At 8am the next morning, we met up with Angus and his Land Rover Defender in the McDonald’s car park. After a brief discussion, we followed him in our car to a local creek. This was a lovely little creek, but very closed in, and we had to follow an ill-defined ‘track’ a fair way along before we had our first go at the water.

Southern Highlands fly fishing
Angus setting up. Just the other side of him is a sheer 75 metre drop, straight down. That’s why I’m standing this side of him.

Angus showed us the ‘bow and arrow’ cast, which we both used a lot, as it was extremely difficult to get a proper cast in. It was mainly high stick, short line, nymph fishing with small bead heads and some dry fly action thrown in.

There seemed to be a lot of time between being able to fish, as it was always walking through brush, over and under and around logs, up and down hills, and fording the stream backwards and forwards. On one of those occasions, I went for a very cooling swim, stepping off a log straight into a deep hole, but luckily only wetting my fly boxes.

Southern Highlands NSW fly fishing
Tight water

While I didn’t see any fish, Simon managed to catch two, one a nice size for that area. However, I did manage to ‘catch’ a few leeches. Luckily no snakes were sighted, although Angus said not to worry as they were only red belly blacks.

Rainbow trout caught in the Southern Highlands of NSW
Simon’s fish

Around 1pm, we arrived back at Angus’ car. He’d run off earlier and fetched Simon’s so we had the two together. After a very welcome lunch of quiche and fruit, we followed Angus to another local creek on private property. The going was a bit easier here, with better access to the water. Bow and arrow casts, and some ‘dapping’, although we were able to get some proper casting in too.

Again, while we saw a few rises, I didn’t see any fish. Angus reckoned you had to be there on a good day when there was a hatch on, and then the fish go mad. I would have loved to see that on the day.

As we were quite tired, hot and sweaty, we finished up around 5.30pm at beer o’clock, and said our farewells to Angus to drive back to our accommodation.

Again, the delights of the town came to the fore, and we found an excellent seafood restaurant (if you can’t catch them, eat them) for dinner, before going back to our accommodation for more drinks.

All-in-all, I thought it was a valuable learning experience, learning some new casts, and seeing a new part of really close in fly fishing I hadn’t really considered before. Possibly, ‘twig fishing’ might not be for everyone, but I think it’s worth a try, particularly if you get a good day when there are hatches on and the fish are really feeding and aggressive.

Angus is a great guide, a member of the local Acclimatisation Society, and having grown up around the area, he knows the streams like the back of his hand. He was always available to demonstrate a cast, tie on a fly or lengthen or shorten tippet.

Southern Highlands trout stream NSW
Angus and John surveying the stream

If you’re interested in a trip, you can book through Josh at Aussie Fly Fisher, as he’s always been a good friend to the club.

John Vernon