It hasn’t been a bad week for fishing despite the constantly rising river sending people scurrying for the small streams, their favourite 3 weight and a box of dry flies in hand. This is not a bad thing and once again we are looking at a season with less fish killed than in past years when the river remained low for long periods throughout the Spring. This lack of pressure means that it’s mostly the better fisherman (who mostly release their fish) that you will find walking it’s banks; which means that we should see some terrific edge fishing over the coming months as most fish go back in to be stalked again.
This week we finally had some confirmation that the majority of predictive models are showing a rapid return to El Nino conditions. This will mean a drier, hotter and longer summer and should also equate to excellent willow grub hatches. I have only but days to make good on my promise of previous reports that the grubs will show up this month. I still think it’s at least even money on this happening. We just need another burst of hot/dry weather.
One surprise terrestrial that showed up Saturday week ago was the cicada. Last year there was such an amazing hatch of them that we weren’t holding out much hope of a repeat performance so soon, but already in the evenings there are huge choirs of these large (and disgusting!!) critters chirping away. The sheer volume of them up in the forests e.g. Snob’s Creek Falls, would suggest that we are heading into another good summer of large terrestrial fishing. We will keep you posted as to what eventuates but suffice to say that I already have my drift boat loaded up with large imitations of these guys.
Ants and beetles are now everywhere and on the warmer days they fall onto the water in big numbers. Fishing these guys in tandem has been quite good for my clients this past week but you can always sling an ant off the back of whatever dry fly you happen to be using during the day and expect that it will be eaten at some stage. Blind fishing with a variety of terrestrials has been successful and for me this has meant diverting from the usual attractor patterns.
Hatches continue throughout the day in reduced intensity due to the river level, but the evenings have been superb. We have been finding really good dun hatches by being in the right place at the right time. The Breakaway has been better than up this way in terms of both quantity of bugs and number of species. You will need to be able to match the main Maylfies in emerger, dun and spent spinner stages. Caddis haven’t been as sought after by the larger fish and so we haven’t been fishing them. We have caught numerous smaller trout on patterns such as the Yellow Sally fished in the late afternoon/early evening before the Mayfly really get going.
Still having said all of that it would be remiss of me to leave out the mainstay of the daytime fishing these past few days. Backwater fishing. Stalking the edges with dry flies (occasionally) and small nymphs (mostly) has resulted in some very large browns to 4.5 lb. My guys haven’t got fish to this size this week, 3.5 lb would pull out best fish up, but many others have been catching them. Some days are better than others. Light is a huge factor and I choose which side of the river I’ll fish based on the time of day. Sometimes early and late when the sun is lower in the sky, it is better to fish the opposite side of the river to where the sun is. This minimises shadows and the lower angler of light situated head on, floods under the tree canopies and provides very even, bright light.
I also forgot to mention that it’s been a ghost town this past week and a half. While our cottage has been booked out all month and we have been busy, it’s not been worth keeping the doors open of late and there is really no one on the river. The smaller streams are a somewhat different proposition as many are intimidated by a high flowing Goulburn, but the Goulburn has had no pressure to speak of.
The Swampy has been producing 5-10 fish for the guys most days. Definitely down on recent years but understandable given the extremely low flows and the warm water from the lake. Yesterday they finally increased the flows to the river and filled the dam with cold water from up top. Hopefully today should be epic for David’s client and for his one day off in two and half weeks tomorrow. I have insisted that he go fishing for the day and I am sure that he will listen to me for once.
On our end there is a lot going on. We have a Beginner’s Two Day Workshop running this weekend and another scheduled for December 13/14. The guys head to Patagonia the first week of December and then we are off to NZ. Speaking of which we just had someone pull out to due health reasons (Get Well Soon Leo!) and so there is an opportunity to join a group of long-time regulars on January 18-25th. Let me know if you wish to discuss the trip and the others in the group to see whether it’s a good fit.
Evening drifts are available every night and this is a great time to be doing them. $300 for one or $350 for two is great value to be able to cherry pick the best time of day and stalk some large rising fish as well as see a heap of the river from a completely different vantage point.
We only have three spots left for Montana in July 2015. This trip is going to be epic and we have a good mix of 40 somethings and guys in their 60s-70’s. Outside of NZ this is my favourite trip, with dry fly fishing unimaginable to those that have not fished in the Rocky Mountains and a great atmosphere amongst the group. This year’s trip is comprised of a week in a lodge on the Henry’s Fork in Idaho – fishing the thirty odd waters within easy drive. The second week will be spent on the fabled Missouri River at Craig. The Missouri is often called ‘the world’s largest spring Creek’ and it offers probably thirty miles of some of the best wade/float water in the USA.
Now for those who read through our synopsis of our upcoming trips we bring you the reward for being loyal to us. The river has come crashing down to 6000 yesterday, 4000 today and it will drop again tomorrow to 3000 and hopefully stabilise for a few days. In any case we are looking at epic fishing again throughout the weekend. The hatches of a week ago will return in earnest and there should be excellent fishing up and down the entire river. The drift boat fishing will be excellent and both David and I will be available for those wanting an enjoyable afternoon or evening.
We hope that you can get out on the water sometime this weekend. Not long until the Christmas rush starts, so it’s a great time to sneak out for a flick.
It doesn’t take all that much to make the Goulburn fish well in late spring. Leaving the level steady somewhere between 2000-6000 MLD is a pretty good start. Keep it at 3000 MLD with water temps up over 12 degrees from the pondage and you have conditions that will bring about superb fly fishing for trout.
This past week has been brilliant. I don’t often say that. Look back through previous reports if you must. But there is no need to downplay just how good things have been since the river came down just before the long weekend. This past week it has been exceptionally good with those anglers putting in the hard yards, able to find fish in the edges throughout the day; as well as plenty of rising fish out in the open. On top of this the blind fishing with attractor patterns, nymphing on shallow bars and evening rise fishing has been as good as it gets. The one proviso being that you approach each piece of water with a plan and adapt as you move along.
Starting with the edge fishing, I have to say that I am finding as many fish feeding as I do in January when the cicadas and grubs are on. Sure most of these fish are ‘head down; tail up – like a permit eating crabs – but about 30% are freely rising or will come up to a dry placed carefully in their path. Some banks have revealed a feeding 2-3lb fish every 15-20 yards and I have felt for some of the guys in the front of my boat unable to take advantage of this gluttony of chances due to their lack of experience with the long rod. You really don’t get a lot of shots at these wary edge-water browns; but it’s a lot of fun regardless of the end result. Big fish at close-quarters e.g. 2-3 rod lengths is as exciting as fly fishing gets.
These fish are eating snails, waterboatman and smaller baitfish – the latter busting into big balls of leaping minnows after herding them into still pockets close to the bank. The ‘snailing’ fish are often seen breaching the surface with their tails waving and slapping the surface as they sift through the weed and mud of the shallow edges. We watched on 3lb fish do his thing on Saturday and it was like being in the Western Lakes of Tasmania. We could hear this fish’s tail slapping away long before we located it in a shady edgewater. Great fun to see fish oblivious to our presence and doing what they do.
We have also been finding rising fish out in the open along slow drift lines adjacent to banks and also in slow bubble lines in the centre of the river. The water is low enough in many spots to allow fish to hang shallow to the surface; something they will do for long periods if the bugs are there. We’ve picked off a lot of fish to 3lb this week in spots that I’ve not seen occupied in the past ten years. These fish have been among the easiest to locate and catch as they are reacting to whatever is going on (mostly ant falls) and as such fly selection is simple and the fish are on the job.
Blind fishing with attractors has also been a solid option. We did a couple of drifts with fellas this week where we decided not to stop and fish but rather to just float 2-3x the normal distance for a given length of time. This fishing of dry flies only, often two at a time, is a lot of fun and allows the fly fisher the opportunity to fish water as shallow as a few inches. Something not possible when a nymph is suspended below.
Evening rises have been immense and the old ‘Evening Drift’ package that we offer has been super-popular these past ten days. Once again we have been drifting long distances, bringing fish up blind and only stopping if we find a riser. We have then been spending the last hour drifting amongst dozens of rising fish, trying to pick off the better specimens. Emergers have out-fished the duns on every single night and a combination of emerger/spent spinner has been immense for us.
Lots of reports in from customers, clients, guests and our staff this past week. Most people are getting quite a few fish on last light but matching the hatch has been crucial. Some evenings it was necessary to fish spent spinners, then ants, then emergers, then duns, then back to spent spinner, then the kossie duns. Werner and Bo (our staff) have been getting 6-12 fish most nights with 3lb pulling them up. Most are in that 1.5-2lb range with the odd sprat. This needs some explaining as people will say ‘BS – I only got small fish’. It’s about reading the water and locating the most likely spots, then choosing which fish looks the best (an easy task for the more experienced fly fishers) and then choosing the right fly and presenting it correctly. You can’t consistently catch the larger fish without ticking those four boxes.
It’s been a lot of fun to be here this past week and while we have been putting in huge hours on the water every single day; it doesn’t quite feel like work at the moment. We have another four days of low water scheduled for the rest of this week; combined with a stable weather pattern and the fishing should continue to be excellent. If I don’t fill my schedule I am definitely getting someone in the shop and fishing for the next three days while it’s going so well.
I cannot end this report without a bit of speculation. Firstly I am putting the farm on the willow grubs showing up soon. Secondly I heard cicadas as I ended my float on Saturday night. Surely we can’t have two years in a row of superb cicada fishing?!?!
On the business front we have a two day workshop on SAT 22-23 NOV and SAT 13-14 DEC. Both are half filled already so get in quick if you want to attend. We have just the one spot left for NZ next year and a few for our other OS trips (Patagonia <<DEC 6-13>>) and Montana (JUL 12-25). We also have a top of the range rod that we used for 1 day to shoot a promo video that we are letting go for $150 off RRP and throwing in a new flyline with it. The rod is new and undamaged.
That’s it for now. Hope that you can make it out for a fish this coming week. If you are coming up feel free to stop by for mud-maps and the appropriate flies. There are some interesting hatches and terrestrial falls going on that require specific ‘match the hatch’ fly patterns.
The Goulburn has really chirped up since it dropped in level last week. While 8000 MLD is fine when the cicadas and hoppers are about, levels between 1000-5000 are generally better for hatches. Evening drifts last night produced 3-5 fish and today things have already started well, with plenty of terrestrials going in on this strong wind, as well as a few caddis popping off.
Some good fishing is no doubt on the way for the remainder of the week. There have been some excellent evening rises on both the Goulburn and the ‘small stream whose name shall not be mentioned publicly’. Goulburn hatches have been going for as long as an hour in recent days.
The good news is that the Goulburn received almost no pressure this past weekend. Unfortunately I cannot say the same thing for the smaller, more fragile waters.
Things are finally back to normal up this way with a lowish river and a return to spring conditions. Rightly or wrongly the river has been used as a conduit for the transport of huge volumes of water downstream this past fortnight, which has effected all forms of recreational use and has made the fishing much tougher than it ought to be at this time of year.
Massive releases of cold water from the bottom of a deep release dam, really inhibits the hatches, as the bugs react to this ‘artificial’ flooding by sitting at the bottom of the river and ‘riding it out’. It’s what they’ve done for eons when things flood, and be the flood natural (i.e. undammed rivers) or otherwise (i.e. tailwaters), the bugs are just not going to hatch en masse when conditions such as these prevail.
The flip side to this, is what we saw during the middle of last week when the river dropped. That is huge hatches once the river got down below 5000 MLD and even bigger hatches as it fell away to 3000MLD. Evening rises where comprised of a myriad of species of both caddis and mayfly with the ubiquitous rusty duns and the elusive kossies, appearing in great numbers on most nights thereafter. It really has fired things up and made for some superb evening drifts for our clients.
Since then the river has remained stable at 3,000 MLD and if the information on GMW’s website is accurate, there it shall stay for the rest of this week. This will produce some excellent fishing with a mix of backwater edge fishing, nymphing on gravel bars, excellent insect hatches and the chance to just bring fish up to the fly blind. At this level there are almost too many places to drift a fly.
On the insect side of things there has been a definite and noticeable increase in the number of terrestrials about of late. Lots of beetles in all shapes and sizes; with blacks, browns and iridescent greens the main culprits. This is great news for those that love to stalk the edges, as it will no doubt soon mean that you will be as likely to find rising fish as you are to find fish feeding sub-surface. For the time being though, don’t forget those snail and backswimmer patterns.
Termites will again make an appearance on the next muggy afternoon that we get. It should be stated that they are omnipresent at this time of year, as confirmed by every single seine of the bubble line that I have done from 5pm onwards. Even on days where there are none to be found in the air, I am finding large numbers of them trapped in the surface film. Make of that what you will, but you could do worse than to hang a termite off the back of your primary dry fly as the afternoon shadows begin to draw across the river.
Continuing in the same vein it is worth noting that there is a general feeling that we are going into drought cycle, or at very least, an exceptionally long and hot summer. I mention this not as a sort of ‘whinge by proxy’, but rather to introduce the thought that we could be set for the best willow grub year in recent memory.
The last time that we had conditions like these was in the spring of 2010 leading into the summer of 2011; a time when the willow grub emergence was enormous. While we pray for rain, the likelihood of a wet/cold NOV-DEC is low and as such we can at least hold onto the fact that we may have an exceptional summer of grub fishing. The next five to six weeks are key. We don’t want any really cold snaps as in recent years where snow at 1500 metres was seen in early summer.
Nevertheless the fact remains that nymphing will produce the best results at the moment on the Goulburn. There are just too many exceptional gravel bars at this level and there is an incredible amount of activity going on beneath the water’s surface. A couple of facts that lead us to deduce that the fishing on top will not be as consistent as that down deeper. Evening rises are the exception at the moment with duns, not emergers, the only thing to bother with. The kossie is a strong swimmer in its nymphal stage and doesn’t seem to sit beneath the meniscus for long periods; unlike many other mayfly and caddis that we see. As such you can get away with imitating the dun and spent spinner stages only.
I can’t think of much more that needs to be said that this point in time. The Goulburn has been a ghost town these past few days. I crossed Gilmore’s Bridge three times on Saturday and never saw a single car. Werner said the same thing. Dave and I have also been floating it, and other than a couple of people drowning worms in Thornton Caravan Park, we’ve not seen any people fishing. The smaller rivers haven’t been so lucky, with many believing the Goulburn to be at 9000 MLD and not even bothering to check it. Yay for us!
This is no doubt partly due to the fact that I didn’t update my report last week (as I was tramping/fishing in the Snowy Mountains backcountry). But mostly it is because of the poor weather in Melbourne and the inaccurate forecasts for our region. Today is warm, dead still and blue skies despite forecasts predicting the opposite.
I think David has one or two spots left on the Swampy over the coming fortnight and we now have only the one spot left for New Zealand next summer. There is also a spot or two left for Patagonia next month and our ad in the upcoming issue of FlyLife will attempt to fill the last few spots for Montana next July.
Other than that we have a two day fly fishing workshop scheduled for SAT 22-SUN 23 NOV and float trips available every day for the rest of this month. This will no doubt change the moment this report goes up and I advise you regular floaters to get in quick as the drop in river height and more importantly, the onset of summer, will see a lot more dry fly fishing regardless of the river height.
All the best from us here at GVFFC. It’s been a hectic fortnight and now that we have put this difficult period behind us, you can once again look forward to regular updates both here and on Facebook.
PS – I just took a cancellation in the time it has taken me to write this report. As such I am available for an evening float tonight!! Sorry to all those that I knocked back throughout the week. Hopefully this reaches one of you in time to take advantage.
No report today but I did add a short video clip to make up for it. The video says it all. The river is running high and the fish are mooching in close- well away from the main river flows. Plenty of fish for those willing to put in the hard yards – the smaller rivers are the safe bet though for those less experienced at edge water sight fishing.
Have a great weekend and watch for snakes!!
I’m really pressed for time this week with guide jobs every day of late and now a two day weekend workshop starting first thing in the a.m. The shop still needs cleaning, my inbox needs urgent attention and I forgot to order the meat from the butcher for lunch tomorrow; which will thrill him no end when I clean out his window display. So I had better be succinct and to the point tonight.
We had guide jobs, both wading and drift boat, every single day this week, and there were some tough times interspersed with decent fishing. That whole thing about ‘fortune favouring the brave’ is a crock. It’s more a case of if you are out there often enough something is bound to eventually happen.
Outside of paid guiding/teaching jobs, I have been out on the river making the most of every spare minute that I could steal (from family and work). It’s not often that you see the Goulburn at these huge levels (Werner thinks its well over 10,000MLD+ despite the GMW message saying 8750). Then again it’s seldom this big and the memory of such terrifyingly high levels does fade with time.
Today was the first decent day for light and air temps so far this week. We had quite a cold week that saw us all in hoodies and beanies each night on the boat and the insects must have felt similarly, as they were a no-show most of the week.
The trout did what trout do when there is no hatch and we were left to try every desperate measure to elicit a response. A few fish for the week was about as good as we could have hoped for. More often than not it was using sub-surface methods and targeting certain banks with sink tips and streamers. Not what the Goulburn is famous for.
Then came today.
It was cool this morning and I didn’t get out until 11am. The day still had that slow start feel to it and the ground was heavy with dew. Walking out our back gate I crossed the lagoon next door and only walked 100 yards across our neighbours’ paddocks before stepping onto a 3-4 foot brown snake that was sunning itself in the morning sun. I was moving at a fair clip and I saw it at the last second as my foot came down on its back; it was sound asleep. All I could do was land my step and immediately push off it and jump as far as possible. Expletives aside the encounter ended well with the snake going in the exact opposite direction to me, which was lucky as I couldn’t see its head as I stepped on it- only about 2.5 feet of its thick body being visible. Great start.
Continuing on at a much slower pace I hit the river about 5 minutes later and really worked over a huge, newly flooded bay about as long as a soccer field but only half as wide. Plenty of movement but it was just a few carp that were no doubt happy to find some warm, shallow, calm water. Thanks GMW for the environmental release of water to ensure that our carp spawning goes well for this year! ;-)
I cut out the next big river loop as the better backwaters are now mostly on the inside bends, and pushed on through three separate magpie encounters; every time I reached a new stand of gum trees I was swooped. Again another nice collection of bays that I know back the front and again not a scale to be seen. Getting desperate now.
Cutting up further river and up around the bend I finally came to another great backwater complex that I often frequent around willow grub time and finally fish. Two fish, both between 2-3lb working within a few feet of the bank and only stopping to occasionally chase each other out of the spot. More accurately, the slightly larger fish was chasing the slightly smaller one, each time they came within sight of each other.
I moved in behind some cover and bow and arrowed a #14 unweighted Pheasant Tail at the larger fish on this approach. The fly sank down and I figured that he must have seen it; but no take. He then chased the 2lb fish out again which gave me time to pop on a small beetle with an 18″ dropper down to the same nymph. At least I could leave it in the fish’s path at the correct depth and be sure he would see it. I am always loathe to change flies in a situation where they are feeding sub-surface in the Goulburn, as more often than not the proper presentation will draw a favourable response.
Anyway I am rambling and time is of the essence. Where was I? That’s right. Fish approaches. Bow and arrow goes in. Shock horror – the foam beetle sinks. Fish approaches. Fish shifts almost imperceptibly, mouth opens and luckily the little fluoro orange sighting tuft of yarn on top of the beetle gives away the movement. Strike. A clean hook-set. I lock up and roll fish on the surface – always a good sign in these edges full of snags as sometimes you can bully them straight into the net. Somehow he instantly dives in under the tangle of logs at my feet and catches the dry fly in the timber which then breaks the nymph off the 5x dropper. Insert Graham Kennedy’s infamous ‘Crow Call’ here.
The next few fish all played ball and I had three to hand within the next hour. All took the small nymph bow and arrowed in their path. All were in slightly easier water and were turned using 8lb tippet that had been degreased. They were all in and around the 2lb mark.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the rest of the afternoon. Somehow work had managed to encroach on my only decent session of the week. Life was better before mobile phones. Or perhaps that should read, life was better when your business partner actually answers the shop phone before it diverts to me.
Tonight was amazing. The perfect night. I snuck over to ‘the smaller river down the road’ for an hour and managed four small browns on rusty duns. There was a weak hatch of Mayfly that the fish keyed in on despite quite a few caddis getting about. It really is starting to look good, as are some of the streams further south on the drive to Melbourne.
We have a superb weekend ahead and hopefully it won’t be too busy. I’m tipping that most people’s reaction on arriving at Gilmore’s Bridge will be to firstly perform the ‘Heimlich Manoeuvre’ on their fishing buddy, who will no doubt be choking on their lunch after seeing the river at 9,000 or so megalitres; before promptly detouring to the Pondage or the pub to drown their sorrows.
My advice is simple. If you are an intermediate to experienced fly fisher; walk the Goulburn. Don’t look for the traditional reverses that you would fish at 3000-7000, but rather the flooded edges and trees where the flow slows to nothing or near enough to. I can’t stress this enough. Walk as far as you need to find such water and then spend your fishing time in these small arenas. I found perhaps 15 fish in a short space of time this afternoon and they were all within 500 metres of each other. Maximum.
If you are a beginner there are better options that won’t make you feel like you’ve just had a piscatorial colonoscopy. Drop by the store for mud maps, advice and flies. Only the flies cost something.
I hope that you all manage some time on the water in the coming days. Spring is returning and we are nearly at the end of this period of increased releases of water from Eildon. The Goulburn will soon return to normal flow rates and many of these larger fish that have magically appeared of late, may become a little more difficult to find.
No commercial plugs this week. You all know what we do and the trips that we offer.
Tight lines to all.
P.S. Some of the flies mentioned in this post: