It’s all happening now after a small hiccup that saw the river drop to 1000 MLD for a few days. Thankfully that craziness is now behind us ( I love higher flows at this time of year) and the river has crept back up over recent days to 3000 MLD. One of my favourite levels.
The beauty of 3000 MLD is that there is such variety of water to fish. There are backwaters, runs, gravel bars, strong bubble lines, pools, boulder gardens and extensive weed beds. Couple this with early summer weather and you have rising fish, deep nymphers, afternoon spinner falls, morning caenid hatches, willow grubs, ants, beetles, cicadas, hoppers and evening dun hatches. Like I said. Lots of options for fly fishers of all dispositions.
It also is a great level for drift boat fishing and the next few months will be terrific for this style of fishing. I won’t exaggerate and say that we catch more fish from the boat because clearly we don’t. Wading allows you to find individual fish and work on them until you either spook/catch them, whereas with the drift boat, you often only get the one chance. Nevertheless nothing beats fishing this river from a drift boat, especially when you have one of us on the oars. Twenty years of floating it on a daily basis means that we know every fish holding lie at all the different water levels. The constant sense of anticipation is exciting for us, as our clients drift flies into edges, drop offs and bubble lines where we have seen hundreds of fish caught over the years. It really is a special way to fish.
All boasting aside, I love fishing and guiding from my boat. Cold drinks all day, sandals or bare feet, cool draw off the cold water on a 40 degree day while the bank angler sizzles and constantly watches for snakes. And then there’s those large browns that munch terrestrials on even the hottest of days when any bank angler is hiding in the shade. These fish go unmolested other than for a few seconds when we float on through.
I used to be jealous of David spending three months in NZ each year, but lately the fishing at home has more than been a match for what he was finding there, and on some days we caught larger fish here than he did there. The Goulburn is a rare beast when compared with the rest of the trout rivers of south east Australia. Cold clear water all summer long and very few carp up this end. I say this as someone who has fished the Swampy and Mitta Mitta a lot.
In case you can’t tell – I’m really looking forward to the coming months. The singing of the cicadas outside the shop right now is deafening and there is definitely a sense that things are building to a crescendo.
As to the fishing right now there is too much to mention here. A certain small river a short drive away from us is fishing exceptionally well. Not at all technical with small attractors catching large numbers of fish, many of you will know exactly which stream I am speaking of. It shall remain nameless here as I don’t want to see it get flogged to death in the coming weeks. If you are in the area with your favourite 3-4 weight and need somewhere to fish; drop by and we will do you a mud map.
The good thing about the fishing on the Goulburn is the sheer number of bugs about. It is literally a soup. Today I saw termites, black flying ants, normal ants, about five types of beetles, willow grubs, wasps, flies, march flies, many species of caddis, several species of mayfly dun and their corresponding spent spinners, hoppers, cicadas, leafhoppers and stonefly. While this may seem confusing to the uninitiated fly fisher who thinks that matching the hatch is gospel; in reality it has meant easy fishing as the fish are not keyed into any one thing for long parts of the day. Sure there is the odd fish in super slow water that is fixated on something tiny and they are catchable using >#20 patterns; but the majority of the fish are taking generic beetle and ant patterns until the evening hatch gets going.
Since the river dropped we are getting enormous caenid hatches at first light. Flies in the #22-24 size are crucial if one is to partake in this fun. Caddis are going by 9am with the odd grannom as well. Fishing terrestrials and small attractors has been best from 11-6pm. Then we are often switching to spent spinners from 5-7pm before going to a dun/emerger or spent spinner/emerger combo later on. Noticing a trend here? No mention of nymphs. I haven’t used one for nearly a fortnight.
Willow grubs are now starting to appear along the river. Our property is fair infested with them but along the river you find stands of them. These stands will grow and spread like wildfire in the next fortnight. If you are heading out you owe it to yourself to have a collection of them in a couple of colours and several sizes. Don’t forget your 3X tippet.
Cicadas are everywhere and hopefully the hatch will be as good as last season’s. The hoppers are growing. Flying ants appear from mid-afternoon on and there are so many beetles it’s not funny. I pity the aforementioned guys who just have to match the hatch all the time, as they are going to be pulling their hair out. I have thousands of such flies on my drift boat and even I cannot imitate everything I’m seeing right now.
The spinner falls in the afternoon have been epic and while this doesn’t necessarily result in a huge, general rise; what it does do is ensure a steady supply of easy to capture protein that will drift all afternoon into the nooks and crannies where the larger fish sit. Rusty spinners in #14-16 are best. Don’t be scared to fish them in tandem to cover more ground.
Stop by if you need some new patterns. We have some we’ve been tying for guide jobs that won’t be listed here on the website.
I’m pretty tired on this end after a long couple of weeks of running to and fro like a madman, so I had better wrap this report up. Tomorrow we are on the water all afternoon so the shop will be closed for parts of the day. Phone ahead, text or email if you need flies left out for you. I will be about in the morning and in the evening.
David, Nella and the crew are still in Patagonia. Photos and stories are trickling in and the fishing looks outstanding. The best session I’ve heard of thus far, was 50+ fish from a spring creek one day between two of the group. The guys doing the drift fishing are getting 8-10 fish each per day with some lovely ones among them. If I manage to secure some decent sized/quality pics Ill share them with you.
For the record our workshop running this weekend is full. Sorry to those phoning to join it these past couple days. Also we just lost two of our NZ clients to injury and illness – get well soon fellas! As such there is now a single spot available in each of the month’s we are there (Jan 18-25, Feb 22 Mar 1 & Mar 8 – 15). These are highly sought after dates and would never usually open up, as the same people book them year after year. Sing out if you are interested.
Our Montana trip is now almost booked out as well. We had a run of bookings after our FlyLife advert in the recently published Summer Edition. If you are mulling this one over I cannot stress the importance of touching base ASAP. We secured the best accommodation and guides possible nearly a year in advance but we could only get 16 spots. This allocation is now all but exhausted, so please get in quick if you are at all interested.
If you want to read more about our various upcoming trips you can click here to read our most recent mail out newsletter.
Stop Press. I just got an email and learned that I may have lost my client for this weekend. He had two days of drift boating booked. If you want to float this weekend (great level – great weather); please send me an email or text to confirm your interest. First in best dressed.
More updates from the river tomorrow. If you use Facebook, look out for photos updated live as we are floating. Hopefully we can boat some good fish as I run one of our guides through the last of his of drift boat training.
All the best. Enjoy the pre-Christmas quiet out on the rivers if you are fortunate enough to get out. I am going to be making the most of all my time on the water before the craziness of the silly season starts. January is looking so busy that I we will all be out on the river every day so every moment with a fly rod in my hands counts double at the moment.
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!!