It’s been a long season here on the Goulburn and we are finally getting some time to catch up on all the jobs that get relegated to the ‘too hard basket’ during the hustle and bustle of the regular trout season. It’s already been a good break and with trips to Idaho and Montana to come in the next few weeks, I am sure that we will return home completely refreshed and ready to tackle the new season head-on with a new found gusto.
It may seem like the dream job to many, and don’t get me wrong it is a lot of fun most of the time, but working nearly seven days a week for nine months is pretty draining. The only thing that keeps us sane is the fact that we have a tremendous crew who really look out for each other, and if there is a break in the work and one of us wants to go to New Zealand for a week or up to the Swampy for a few days, we cover for each other. It has always been that way with the two of us and it is why after 20 years of working together and a 28 year age difference, we are still business partners; and more importantly, friends.
The thing that has made the past couple of years much harder for me has been the arrival of my two children (Sasha 3 y.o. 4mo. and Ava 16 mo.). I am often running on 3-4 hours of sleep as I play Mr Mom 4 days a week while also running the shop. This has seen me getting less and less time for my own personal fishing as well as plenty of late nights catching up on emails, orders and general organisational work. Apologies if I’ve messed up one of your orders this year; it’s been a difficult time on this end!
I run most nights sometime around 8pm-11pm (once the kids are asleep) and then I catch up on work when I get back. As a result I never get to bed before 2.30am. While not a bad thing if the World Cup, Tour De France or Wimbledon are on. But barring some world class sporting event; it is physically and mentally draining. If you have seen the movie ‘Fight Club’ you will recognise these words from the narrator – ‘With insomnia, nothing’s real. Everything’s far away. Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy.’ That’s life for me as a father/fishing guide/business owner at the moment.
If there is a yin to my yang it’s that David my business partner is getting more time than ever to do a few interesting fishing trips, as the business ticks along and people like Werner, Bo, James and Cameron help out more and more. All the while it seems that I am always in the shop with two kids attached at the hip or rowing a drift boat or organising trips for people. While it’s great to see that David has Idaho/Montana, Patagonia New Zealand and Venezuela on the agenda for the next 6-9 months and plenty of local trips to places like the Swampy and Tumut. I’m nevertheless jealous.
Sometimes it’s very easy to forget that others have already done this parenting thing and that they too went through much the same experiences. Not much consolation I’ll admit, but sometimes it’s worth saying out loud, or in this case typing it, as it forces one to actually think about how short a stage in life this is.
That aside it’s been an incredible year. So many great days on the water with so many interesting people; ok except for the couple that fought the whole day without let up in the 42 degree heat while I rowed, offered them drinks and generally kept score on the important points and counter-points of their bout! That was the toughest 9 hours of rowing I’ve had in years.
A guide’s job description should read 10% fishing skills, 10% rowing ability and 80% psychologist; be it just your garden variety therapist or a couples counsellor of some sort. In fact this leads me to believe that we should significantly up our day rate because eight hours of providing numerous fishing opportunities, lunch, drinks, flies, shuttles, rowing a boat and ‘listening’, is worth way more than $500. At least in America the guides get tipped as well.
OK. Now I’m letting rip.
For me the highlight of the season was definitely the Goulburn River terrestrial fishing in December, January and February. It started out with Andrew, a surgeon and long-time client from Melbourne who willingly fished my untested monstrosity, since named the ‘Serbian Ant’, on what was a slow fishing day. Several great fish in the space of two hours led me to the distinct feeling that I was onto something which then gave me the confidence to insist to my new client that we fish it the following day. From the start of our float we immediately did well, scoring a great brown within 50 metres of Thornton Bridge and only 10 minutes into our drift. This was followed by another solid fish 5 minutes later and yet another just above Gilmore’s Bridge. A great session by anyone’s assessment. Yet the fish kept coming.
The weeks that followed were filled with outsized fish, the most remarkable session being 13 fish over 2lb and the biggest 4lb. Now many of you will know that we don’t boast about size and numbers of fish,you really can’t when you live in Australia, but this was something totally out of the ordinary and the best ‘big fish’ fishing I can ever recall on the Goulburn. Even better than the peak of the willow grubbing 2-3 years ago.
Which brings us to the biggest let down of the season in terms of expected hatches and events that never happened. The once ubiquitous willow grubs.
The summer of 2013-2014 was as bad as the previous year for these little green eating machines. For whatever reason, the grubs never really got going this summer and they were sporadic at best, to the point where we just fished huge terrestrials 99% of the time and kept on drifting by whenever we saw a willow grubber; or threw the Serbian Ant at it with disdain.
Speculation was rife but my unscientific take on this poor showing by the grubs, is that it was simply due to the weather. For the second year running we had a wet/cooler lead start to summer and it was obvious that the grubs were being killed off nearly as soon as they hatched. A burst of warmth would bring them out in huge numbers and a couple of days later a heavy rain would knock most of them off the leaves and the cold overnight temps would kill the rest. Of course there is some research from other parts of the world that suggests a cycle of booming populations (4-7 years if I recall) after which they do so much damage that they actually kill the tree. Obviously not the case here as we have more willows than ever before and most never even got stripped of their foliage this time around; such was the poor showing of the grubs in 2014.
The good news for the willow grub aficionados out there ( but bad for every other living creature ;-) ) is the prediction for a >70% that we will head into an El Nino cycle this spring/summer. All the best willow grub years have coincided with such weather patterns with the main difference that we have plenty of water in the lake this time and so the river will remain cold throughout the season, unlike those El Nino years when the Goulburn was often<500 MLD in high summer and got as high as 28 degrees.
I have to admit to being rather excited at this prospect. Sneaking away in the middle of the day is much more likely a proposition for the father of young kids than, say at last light. So I will gladly trade a dusk spinner fall or dun hatch for a lunch time sortie on willow grub feeders. Self-interest is a curious and wonderful thing and something I don’t even try to mask in a socialist guise. This blog is about me after all. ;-)
One thing I learned this year that surprised me given the previous umpteen seasons guiding on the Goulburn and not ever seeing anything like it before, was simply how many ‘large fish ‘were willing to take huge #6-8 terrestrials drawn across their noses. This makes no sense in a river like the Goulburn where water is released from way down deep, free of sediment and where the bugs are mostly small.
OK the fish smash huge dries like this in many similar rivers in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming but those rivers are home to huge #6-8 critters called ‘stoneflies’; whereas we only get the diminutive cousins that hardly inspire the trout to ridiculous feeding binges.
My only explanation for the willingness of the fish to eat such large dry flies this season, is that it was the year of the gigantic black cicada and the fish were used to such large bugs. To further back up this theory of mine is the fact that this summer is the only time I have seen a fish eat one of these live cicadas (we speaking of a bug that is 4″ big) on the Goulburn; and only because Mark was on my boat and said ‘there’s a fish trying to eat a cicada just off your oar’. I was watching the bubble line along the bank rather than looking back into mid-river and 20 feet of water. Sure enough the fish was ‘just off my oar’ – read 5 feet off it and it took three attempts for the plucky brown to successfully drown the cicada. Understandably the fish never returned to eat the fly that we cast over its last known position a further 54x. No doubt it was on the bottom of the river with a Mylanta saying ‘why, why, why – never again’ like a relapsing alcoholic waking in an alley; morning sun in their eyes and bird-cage mouth.
So we played around with moving the fly a lot of the time when the regular methods failed. Using such large, high riding patterns constructed from foam, we were able to get sneaky and let them float down into likely spots ahead of the boat, allowing them go deep under canopies and twitching them out before they fouled up; only to have large browns come out from the cover and smash or sip them out in the main river current. Sometimes up to 5 metres away from where their curiosity was first piqued. Extraordinary behaviour for otherwise wily and picky Goulburn River brown trout.
This leads to the most amazing thing I saw this season. I had backed the drift boat into a log jam in a huge off-river bay to have a break for some lunch. We were in the shade of a tree, a patch of dark not much bigger than the boat, yet the water that surrounded us was in full sunlight. I stood while the guys relaxed and immediately spotted a great brown of about 3lb cruising the edge of the bay to the rear of the boat. After watching it do a few loops and coming as close as six feet from us on the nearest pass of the boat, we bow and arrowed a fly out in the path of the fish’s beat and waited.
A minute later the fish ate the fly, less than a rod length from the back of the boat, we hooked it and played it for a few seconds before it came off. We watched in horror as the fish tore off, heading back up the edge of the river, 100 miles an hour, clearly irritated. But he didn’t go. He was clearly disturbed but he did another pass of the bay at 3x normal speed and then began rising. We immediately ‘bow and arrowed’ the ‘Serbian Ant’ less than a rod length off the back of the boat into the spot where we had hooked and dropped this fish only a minute earlier, and waited. Within 15 seconds the fish was back, he nosed the huge dry in 2 feet of still water. I mean he nosed it. Three to four seconds. One inch away. Pectoral fins flared like some sort of ‘trout-brakes’. Then he ate the #6 dry fly constructed from 2/3 of a standard thong.
You don’t see this sort of thing every day and it really goes hand in hand with my earlier summation of how good the cicada fishing was this past summer. It was especially exciting to see this happen less than a rod length from us, and to be able to share it with other fly fishers only made it that much more special.
Anyway that’s enough of the reminiscing and my self-centric take on season 2013-2014! It’s time to let you know what is going on here for the coming few months.
1. Our cottage is available at $150/night with access to our lakes included. It sleeps 4-5 people and includes fishing privileges (lakes not stream) on the day of arrival, while staying with us and on the day of departure. It is extremely comfortable, private and great value. Take a break from the Melbourne winter, bring the family or a couple of mates along and have a fish. There are plenty of trout feeding in all our lakes right now, with midge hatches bringing fish to the surface and plenty of baitfish active in the margins.
2. We are about to finish off the works to our pumps and man-made stream and will have it back up and running shortly. Basically we are looking at 25k worth of upgrades in order to get our place functioning as we would like it. Rather than repairing the old pump back at the rear of our property, we have taken the opportunity to fix the much larger one near to our north-west boundary. This is a long-term solution to a problem that has been in the too hard basket since we purchased this place and began cleaning it up.
This pump picks up a much greater volume of water, the shaft is set in deeper and it will allow us to put several million litres through our place in a very short space of time. On top of this we are laying a pipe from this new intake to bring cold, Goulburn water directly into the main lodge lake, meaning that it will now easily be controlled and maintained right through summer. This will result in great fishing throughout the hottest months of the year.
Most importantly of all is that this pump is right at the head of our man-made creek and so we can also divert water into the creek at the flick of switch. This will be done on a daily basis to keep it flowing, and for those wishing to fish it, for which there will be a day-fee for its exclusive use.
From a commercial perspective this is a great thing as we will have a man-made stream open all year around (click here to see photos from when we first dug it out), a stream that will fish even when floods affect the other rivers in the area and where we can manipulate the water temperatures (either pump in water from the river or from the lake in winter if we want warmer water) to suit our needs. As well as this it will give us somewhere to teach streamcraft on long weekends when the area is overrun with visitors!
On a personal level I am super-excited to begin pumping on evenings during the first hatches of spring. We will be seed our creek with bugs very quickly and adding some night pumping during the invertebrate drift will help as well. We will document all of this with numerous blog updates including plenty of photos, as I’m sure that many of you out there will be interested in the project as a concept.
3. We are running a special off-season rate for the duration of the closed season. The 3-FOR-1 deal has proved to be exceptionally popular and means that you don’t have to wait until a scheduled beginner’s workshop in order to derive the same sort of value that you would when joining a scheduled workshop. Being able to split the single person rate 2-3 ways makes fly fishing lessons accessible to anyone and we are pleased to be able to offer this special rate until the end of August.
4. We have a number of trips coming up; from Montana in mid-July to Patagonia in December to New Zealand January through March. See our Upcoming Events Page on our website for more information.
5. Our online shop has been in dire need of a facelift for years and it is finally happening. For several months I have been tinkering with different formats (coding and db’s – oh joy!) and layouts and I am finally making some progress. This is all about making it easier for you, our customers to use, and while we will include more fly patterns in the revamped site, our overall product range will be carefully selected based on both quality and the value to you, our customers.
As always our honest advice is free and available always. If we think it’s worth your while buying elsewhere in Australia or directly from the USA; we will continue to direct you to the store that gives you the best value.
6. There is a lot more I wish I could share here but we are still in the planning stages with some things still being decided. While I cannot divulge much at this point in time, it should be noted that we are setting about changing our business model and hopefully making our wonderful facility and staff more accessible to everyone.
As I get a little older and begin to reflect on where we are/where we’re headed, I really feel that fly fishing in this country is a little too solitary, in the sense that many anglers do not feel as though they are part of a larger community of fishermen. In other parts of the world, particularly the places we visit in Montana, there really is a sense of community. This is something we would like to foster the development of. Not as a profit making exercise, as to be honest I see quite a bit of work/effort being involved on our part and not a lot in the way of a tangible return. I/we feel that fly fishing in Vic needs something like this. A place where we can come together to express ideas, develop skills and build networks of people who care about our natural resources.
Front and central to this theme will be a lot of free events in our store, with the first of them set for the Opening Weekend of the trout fishing season on Saturday 6 September. Keep watching the blog for more info.
7. Our End of Financial Year Clearance Sale is still on until June 26th. Click here to see what’s left.
Have a great break from the trout if that is what you’ve chosen to do. If you are an addict, enjoy fishing the lakes and any travel that you are fortunate enough to do. Keep watching this space and on Facebook for updated trip reports from Montana and also for the odd update from our lakes/other local waterways.
Exciting times ahead and we look forward to sharing the journey ahead with all of you that read our blog.
P.S. Apologies for typos, grammatical errors, unfinished thoughts or general wafting. I am tired and still have to organise a Powerpoint Presentation for our trip to the VFFA later today. I guess I am going to get to watch Australia V Holland after all
Rubicon: Waste of time
Acheron: WTF are you stooopid?
Smaller Streams: Great for kayaking but B.Y.O. EPIRB, Life Insurance and brown undies
Goulburn: best of a bad bunch but is still worth fishing. Low levels = easy wading and there will be some excellent streamer fishing in the discoloured water. Come further up-river to find the clearest water. Fish the slow pools with large, dark wets and articulated streamers. Black is the new black when it comes to fly selection. Not looking too bad for the next week with Saturday the most likely day for rain and pretty good conditions for the rest of the time. Duns will return in the next night or two. Only saw a few this evening.
I’ll update soon with more info and plenty of photos. In the meantime be thankful for this rain given the warnings emanating from all those in the know vis-à-vis another possible El Niño belting to come. We need to store as much water as possible in the coming months given the predictions being made.
The river is still at 1500 MLD but the fishing has been patchy for the past 24-48 hours. I am hearing mixed reports from folks that I know can fish and we have also noticed a slowing down in the catch rate in recent days while out guiding. This may be a short-lived anomaly but it is something that must be stated plainly as it hasn’t been easy out there. Hopefully it changes tomorrow or the day after.
This slowing down could be due, in part, to the numbers of fisherman getting about this week. I was shocked to see so many people about on Mother’s Day and it has only gotten busier since. Yesterday was a circus with 8 cars at Gilmores when I drove over it and 5-6 at McMartins!!!!! WTF. We are talking a Tuesday in May, but then again it’s a really nice patch of weather we are in the middle of and many anglers seem to be realising that the end of the season is not far away.
Speaking of the weather it is really warm at the moment. I’m talking bare feet and shorts all day. Doors and windows open in the shop and soft light streaming in all day. Perfect weather. Even tonight on my run I nearly died having misjudged the temperatures and going out overdressed. This burst of warmth will no doubt spark some more of a hatch, but don’t go betting the house on it happening throughout the day as per the past few weeks. It’s mostly pared back to the evening rise now with the flip side being that it can last as long as an hour if you are lucky.
Once again those fishing nymphs are seeing better results. The small stuff that we have been using and recommending hasn’t been working as well the past couple of days and whether this is due to a general lethargy from the fish or whether we are just calling it wrong, is hard to say. In any case we will be playing around with a range of patterns through the rest of the week. The Green Drake in about a #12 should work well given the number of kossies coming off on last light. Watch this space for more info.
Despite having to point out that the daytime hatches have waned of late, there is a weak hatch at times in the late morning-late afternoon period. You don’t have to go too crazy trying to match it. Just stick with small, sparsely tied parachutes and you will be in with a chance. As per spring time on the Goulburn; changing to a smaller size is often more rewarding than changing to another pattern of equal size. Oh and presentation becomes crucial from this point on.
We are really lucky that the river is staying at this level. 1500 means more real estate on gravel bars and enough water to ensure the fish don’t get even spookier. Of course the negative half of my brain say’s that this could be ugly if they keep it at 1000-1500 for an extended period into June and then drop it once the majority of fish have spawned leaving the redds high and dry. But then again the Goulburn is such a poor river for natural recruitment, it may not make much difference in the grand scheme of things. Rumours abound that it will stay this way until the end of the month which if true, is a wonderful result.
In any case we are still offering float trips in certain sections of the river. I am personally doing streamer fishing drifts where we fish large wet flies in an attempt to get one trophy fish for the session. David has been fishing more carefully with dry flies and picking up a few fish per drift most days. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out.
The evening rises have been the saving grace the past few nights. Duns. Big beautiful duns have been making an appearance. Sometimes very late. Sometimes from twilight on. The kossies always peak on dark proper.
Some interesting opportunities on the smaller rivers at the moment. Escaped brook trout (fish farm) make up the bulk of what visitors are coming up for and although I hate the fact that these fish are in there due to the damage they cause; at they have provided some sport at a time when the trout are being pricks about eating flies.
Other reports from smaller feeder streams in the region indicate slowish fishing but results worthy of making an effort. Not big fish and not big numbers, but some solitude and enough action to make it an enjoyable outing.
That’s it for now. If you want more regular updates please see our Facebook page. It is just so easy to update it from our phones while on the river, that we end up putting stuff up most days.
And for the record the river is very clear. The tails of the pools are wadeable, meaning you can cross at will as you walk the river. It’s really is a nice time of year with autumn more typical of April now here.
Tip for those coming up is don’t worry about which section of river is fishing the best. Just drive to the access points you know and fish based on where there are the least number of people. It’s what I’ve been doing.
All the best and tight lines.
Just a reminder that our Calendar of Events Page on our website has been updated. Click here from more information.
Trips and Offers include:
- Cottage Accommodation at $150 a night!!! No minimum night stay required. Best value in the valley.
- Fly Tying Workshops – June & August
- Beginner’s Fly Fishing Workshops – August & September
- Idaho-Montana Trip July 2014 1 spot left and taking expressions of interest for July 2015
- Swampy Plain River Float Trips November
- Patagonia December
- New Zealand – January – February – March 2015
- Tumut River Float Trips April 2015
With a small glimpse of what winter has in store for us, now is the time to start thinking about the little time we have left before the fishing stops. No doubt some have already hung up the gloves, but there is a lot of good fishing to go, and a lot of it with dry flies.
The past few days have illustrated just how fleeting the remainder of the season is. Plenty of rain has produced the usual paradox of a low-water Goulburn River while everything else is up. Easy wading (and spooking) means that the entire river is fishable, but a lot of care has to be taken to ensure any chance of success.
Rather than speaking first of what you are most likely to encounter (not much!), I will begin by telling you about the least likely to see because it is far more interesting. A great hatch. For the past three days a handful of fly fishers have reported superb dun hatches on the Goulburn between our place and the Breakaway. It only lasts 30-70 mins and starts between 3.30-4.30 pm and ends well before dark, but it is as good a hatch as you will see on our rivers. When it does come off the fish respond very quickly and rise well. I have heard of a few fish to 3lb being caught during this event and can only advise you that it is worth staying out in the rain to have a chance of seeing this.
Once again the best bet is fishing sub-surface with nymphs and streamers. Upstream fishing with small nymphs under even smaller indicators is the preferred method for those not supremely gifted on delicate, long-line nymphing without an indicator. Remember that we are speaking of the Goulburn and it’s low number fish population so be persistent. If you are fishing across and down i.e. downstream, please respect those working up-river and taking the time to be careful. Walking down river can muck up the water for everyone else fishing up in the ‘proper’ manner.
Evening rises are about a 50:50 proposition at the moment. Some nights are good. Others are shite like last night where two duns hatched where we were fishing. I don’t mean two species. I mean two duns.
I draw this out as I think you can read between the lines about the highs and lows of fishing up here at the moment. If you need more help you can always stop by or phone. While I am thinking about it I should mention that the fire will be going on those cold days from now on.
Not much to say about the business for the time being. Just the usual. Guiding. Teaching. Guests in the cottage. 1 spot left for Montana (see banner above) and quite a few for New Zealand. More importantly we are in the process of getting our creek back in order and setting up a new system to ensure cold water in all our waterways; all year round.
Ciao for now.
We are offering a Free Winston Passport 9′ 4wt fly rod to the reader that can put us together with the right person for our Idaho trip listed in the previous post!!
Share via Facebook, email, phone. Tell the person at the watercooler, phone your grandpa if he’s a fly fisher, mention it to the member’s of your fly fishing club or even post a note in your local cafe – it doesn’t matter!
We need to fill this spot so that the person already booked has someone to fish with. If you can find a suitable candidate and he books; we’ll post you the rod free of charge on the same day.
Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
Free Call 1800 458 111 or (03) 5773 2513
We have a single spot remaining for our USA trip this July. We are looking for someone to fish with a 73 y.o. experienced fly fisher who is rather easy going and of a quiet disposition.
This may be the perfect scenario for someone thinking of coming but unable to find someone to fish with. The bonus being that there are some good deals on flights right now. (MEL-LAX-SLC-LAX-MEL or SYD-LAX-SLC-LAX-SYD)
More details can be found here at the Idaho Trip page on our website. Some photos have also been added below.
This is the last chance to get on board for this year. If you are considering it, we would urge you to contact us ASAP to discuss the options.
Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
Free Call 1800 458 111 or (03) 5773 2513