It’s been a funny old week up this way with decent weather on every day except Monday and moody fish on the Goulburn making for some interesting fishing.
First up the weather has been brilliant right throughout last weekend and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I mention this because many see what’s happening on the Melbourne side of the hill and think that we are getting the same bad weather. As most of you know, the worst of many low pressure systems stay on the south side of the divide. If you were to be picky about the past few days it would mostly be due to the wind TUE-WED and the lower air temps. Other than that there has been enough light to sight fish the Goulburn and enough cloud to keep the fish active in the smaller streams.
I have spent many hours walking the banks of the Goulburn this week looking for fish to photograph and it has not been that easy to locate my subjects. There are numerous fish sitting tight to the bank in fast water; but most are staying within 24” of the bottom and are loathe to come to the top. While this is death to me with a camera in hand, it represents a decent opportunity to fish some appropriately weighted nymphs on a short line.
The bad news is that it’s not and is not going to get any better until the level drops or the hatches fire up; and when this will be remains uncertain. My guess is that one will follow the other. More specifically the river will crash down and the hatches will go right off both as a result of the drop and also because it’s about time that our big caddis emergences get going. Traditionally October 1-5 is the starting point of this annual event on what is our most prestigious river.
Evening rises are non-existent. Nymphing for the most part is difficult in anything other than the edge seams, with the flip side being that it can be quite good as fish are forced to line up in the few spots where the current allows them both relief from its full force and a steady supply of bugs. Think inside corners of bends and anywhere with a long, irregular shaped bank that creates some variations in the flows.
Drift boat fishing has been difficult but today was the best day of the season thus far. It still wasn’t great but we managed three really nice fish. I won’t go into the details but all the fish were pulled from cover and we watched them come out after the fly. We only saw a handful of fish rise and there were only a few duns in patches; with few of them sitting on the water for long before flying to the relative safety of the streamside bushes.
There are a number of options nearby in terms of smaller waters to take a look at. I’ve heard some very encouraging reports from several of them and things are definitely running ahead of schedule when compared to the past few seasons. None of us here in the shop have been up these streams since the weekend, as we have to be out there figuring out the Goulburn as often as we can, but I know that a considerable portion of our beginner’s workshop this weekend will be spent on these smaller waterways. The Goulburn at 7000-8000 MLD in September is no place for a beginner fly fisher.
Of course these smaller rivers won’t be mentioned online so as to avoid any unnecessary pressure. With the Goulburn up at such high levels, many anglers are looking for somewhere to fish and these small waters cannot handle the pressure exerted on them by the ‘fillet and release’ crowd.
The weather for the weekend is once again looking very good with the only problem for the average fly fisher being the level of the Goulburn. While this is a disappointment for many, at least we are not dealing with super-high water events on the smaller streams as well.
We have teaching sessions and drift boat trips running every day at the moment and as such we will have a lot more detail to share in our next online report. Same goes for those that stop by the store for flies/advice. On a further positive note vis-à-vis the weather, the Bureau have modified their forecast to say that it’s heating up again towards the end of next week. This will help with the bugs but I have to say that it’s a relief to go back into a couple more spring like weather patterns. That 27 degree day we got about a week and half ago was a real shot across the bows and brought back bad memories of that terrible drought that only recently ended. Thankfully spring has returned with a vengeance.
That’s it for the moment. If I get a chance to write more over the weekend I will. Either way I hope that you all get out for some time streamside this weekend. It’s looking like another pearler.
The Goulburn is massive at the moment with the powers that be deeming that wasting 8000 MLD in September is something that we should be doing as we enter into what is being described as ‘the mother of all El Nino events’. Sarcasm aside this is ridiculous with only 2000 MLD actually coming into the lake at a time of year when incoming water usually far surpasses what is being released.
At the moment we have 8000 million litres a day passing by the back door of our shop and the fish are tucked up and not doing much. I walked some favourite banks this morning for nearly two hours and saw nada. Not a thing. On top of this the water is still discoloured from this massive rise in water releases. I won’t call it pea soup as that would be a little bit of an exaggeration; but it’s not far off being deserving of such a descriptor, with visibility down to about 2-3 feet along the margins.
The River is massive at the moment. Picking up debris in the form of twigs, leaves, silt and even whole trees.
Still 2-3 feet is plenty of clarity for fish to see bugs and for anglers to spot fish; the problem is that the fish have been lying doggo and not feeding well. Ok there has been the occasional exception to this statement but for the most part, the trout are keeping a pretty low profile. This is most likely a result of the massive downward surge in water temps that came with the increase in water flows. From twelve degrees to nine. Sure the fish and the bugs are staying put and saying WTF just happened.
Hatches have been non-existent over the past 24-36 hours. A few bugs have been falling in off the edges and there is the odd caddis about, but this change in river heights has had a completely negative effect. And while this could change for the better just as quickly as it did for the worse, this would be one of those weekends that I would look to the smaller rivers or even accrue some more springtime brownie points by helping your significant other with anything it is they wish to do for the weekend.
Having said all of that and given everyone a bunch of reasons to stay away, the flip side is that the fish will get back on the job quickly and we will be able to coax them better from the margins as they come in looking for food in the slower edges. I wouldn’t go betting the farm on anything dry fly (even though Samuel L Jackson would urge you to sell your two year old if it meant a few more dollars in his pocket), but the sight fishing with small sinking flies could be good in the coming days.
Forget evening rises and nymphing gravel bars until the river drops. 8000 MLD is just too great a volume of water to expect much success to be had from these methods so early in the season. The bugs are not going to hatch in the ‘middle of a flood’ and the fish are not going to sit up high in the water column fighting those strong currents.
We have a workshop for intermediate fly fishers this weekend and feel fortunate to be able to show them both some small stream fishing on the creeks between here and Marysville, as well as some edge water fishing on the Goulburn at high levels. There is one spot remaining in this workshop for someone looking to extend on what they already know.
Hope all is well with you. I’ll get back to you with another update once the river drops or the fishing changes.
Once again it’s been a pretty typical start to the opening of the fishing season on the rivers of the Goulburn Valley.
GMW just had to tinker with the flow rates for no other reason than because they can, doubling the releases from 500 MLD to 1000 MLD in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Par for the course on any long weekend or any major event on the Goulburn River.
Dawn broke with a clear sky and cold temps. So cold in fact that ice formed quickly in the runners of the rod. But it turned out to be a glorious day for those fortunate enough to have found themselves walking the rivers of the region, on that one day of the year.
Magpies were bombing people, the odd snake was seen, the fish were scarcer than rocking horse poop and the crowds never failed to impress. Yes. The circus was in town, and with it came every mutant attraction it could muster.
Perhaps the one thing you can nearly always rely on when it comes to the Goulburn is clear water. While the undammed rivers of the state are busy funnelling cold and often discoloured water downstream, the Goulburn is low, clear and running at a pleasant 11 degrees C. That 3-4 degrees warmer than most other rivers in the area. There is a reason why the Goulburn is so busy on the Trout Opening.
Fishing wise the action wasn’t great. It’s just too early. But there were some exceptional fish caught from a 6lb rainbow to a 4lb brown (both released) to several fish in the 3lb class. The return rate however would have been 0.5 fish per angler on day 1 and we’ve seen an approximate return of 1 fish for every five hours fished since then. That includes four drift boat trips and a few bank side teaching jobs. This will all change quickly though and there have been exceptions to this rule.
Sunday was cold which lead into a Monday that was freezing. It hasn’t really warmed up much since, but at least we’ve had some decent amounts of strong sunlight these past few days. This has helped and today I found my first consistently rising fish in daytime hours. But it’s a work in progress for the time being.
Daytime nymphing has been best. I cannot give it all away here as we need people to support us and drop by to get some flies etc. But there are already a few patterns and perhaps more importantly, a few colours that have been producing better than others at this early stage in the game. I say this as half a dozen people managed between 5-7 fish in recent outings and all were using certain colours or combinations of colours. Something you only learn if you have a few competent fly fishers going out, testing and then communicating and comparing their results. Enough said here but as always we will share with those that come into the shop.
Evenings (Monday in particular) have been brutally cold for Thornton but balmy compared to the Yukon in winter. Nevertheless there have been rising fish out and about most nights, right at the death knock. There is a mayfly hatch going and once again you can swing by if in the area and we will do all that we can to help. Ok maybe that’s a bit rich. We will sell you some of the right flies and make sure you are going somewhere where you have a decent shot at some fish.
Tonight the wind backed away and we were left with about 90 minutes of calm and mild conditions. We each got a pair of browns, which was a nice end to what was a busy day on the lawnmower and in the shop respectively. I didn’t fish too hard either. The fish were rising when I got there. Perhaps a dozen casts at the two fish and then back home to get the kids to bed.
The small streams are cold. Repeat. The small streams are cold. This did not deter a few die hards from fishing them over the weekend and some even reported back on some outsized fish. However for the most part, they are some time away from being good.
Luckily for us we usually know when to bother heading over to the smaller streams, as it’s always around the time that we start to see the resident Czech nymphing tragics showing up in the shop; always looking for split shot and a sheep counter. Not that I’m suggesting that grown men who have to hook 50 fish in a session have deep seated psychological issues. Not. At All.
That is officially my first pot-shot at another sub-sect of fly fishers for the new season. Please direct any hate mail to the following address: it’email@example.com
After that glorious segue into my czech nymphing update I say this. It is very quiet. Even my friends of Eastern European heritage that were up on the weekend employing this technique struggled. Although come to think of it, that could simply mean that they were following behind someone else who was czech nymphing and 4/5 of the fish in the river had already been stung in the head, eyes, belly, gills, anus; or all of the above.
Ok this is not going well. Quite simply. The smaller rivers are very cold and the fishing is slow.
So what to expect in the coming days? First off we have to look to the weather at this early stage of the season and it has to be said that the next 4-5 days look terrific. Fine days with highs in the mid-twenties by Sunday, mean that we will see some decent evening rise fishing. You can also expect to be able to polarise a few this weekend. The nymphing in the Goulburn should also be decent as the air temps give things a little push.
In regards to sight fishing, today I found two fish tucked into reverses and rising every so often but feeding reasonably well sub-surface. One fish I actually watched for a good 30 minutes and it was a real glimpse of what is to come. But even with binoculars I couldn’t discern exactly what it was they he was eating. Safe bet that it was midge given I was 40 feet away with the 8.5 x 40s.
For those interested in our workshops or who know someone that wants to learn to fly fish, we have three spots left for this weekend’s Beginner Workshop (SAT 12-13) and three spots left for the following weekend’s Intermediate Workshop (SAT 19-20). The intermediate one having an emphasis on streamcraft, fly selection, entomology and other more advanced techniques.
Great value at $390 for two full days. Click here for more info.
The shop will be open from 9am-5pm over the next few days and then from 8am-5pm on the weekend. The coffee will be hot and an open fire will be going, so feel free to stop by for a chat and the latest info as reported back to us from our guides and customers.
Oh yeah and to all the Czech Nymphers out there that think that I am serious? There is no need for any hate mail. I even own a czech nymphing rig myself, which I sometime use when I want to cull an invasive species from my favourite stream. You just can’t keep them off the hooks (plural)!
This will be but a brief update on the conditions to be found up here right now.
Despite what seemed like a colder than usual winter, spring has arrived in a major way with nearly a week of blue sky days and afternoon warmth; and there’s more of it to come.
The Goulburn is running low and clear up this way and there has been more than the odd fish on the top eating bugs in recent days. A few caddis were popping off this afternoon and there was a weak dun hatch going on at the death knock. While it is too early to make any definitive prognostications about what spring rain we will/won’t get; it feels as though things may run a week or two earlier than what we’ve become accustomed to.
Water temps on the Goulburn are by far the best of all the rivers across the state. The smaller streams are running as low as 7-9c compared with the Goulburn’s 11-12c. This is a normal event and although many of the smaller rivers are slightly lower in level than usual; they are still very cold. This will obviously restrict the bug hatches and see the fish a little less likely to be feeding heavily. But even so, there are several small streams nearby that will not be named in this report, that should offer up a fish or two to those prospecting the shallow runs with a small stimmie. We will assist people that drop by to make the right choice on where to fish based on their preferences.
Some of the slower streams out Yea way (apologies but I couldn’t help myself), just didn’t get any substantial runs of spawning fish due to the timing of the rain that we got back at spawning time. I say this due to feedback from friends that live out that way and not because I believe myself to be some all-seeing, all-knowing guru. I wouldn’t usually mention this but it might assist some of you from wasting time in the morning on water that is not holding fish.
This coming season is a bit of a hard one to pick. I think the Goulburn will fish really well, especially through the spring/summer period; but many of the small streams around the state could be in trouble by Christmas. Those of you who love the more intimate rivers should keep an eye on them over the next 6-8 weeks for any sign that they are fishing early. Once again this is all subject to whatever rain falls in the coming weeks but still worth noting.
Regardless of the rain we are set to get (sorry I did it again), one thing is confirmed, and that is that we are careening downhill, head on to what has been declared a ‘Monster El Nino event’. As fly fishers we know full well how little control we have over anything in the natural world and that we have to adjust to whatever comes our way. As a result we are forever required to see the silver lining to whatever dark cloud looms over us. So with that I will just state that the last time we had this sort of weather pattern, we had several seasons of phenomenal willow grub fishing. Mind you that’s a pretty one-sided take on things given the bushfires, empty lake and general malaise it brought to many regional communities.
So as far as tomorrow is concerned you have a couple of options locally. Hit the Goulburn and just deal with the crowd factor. Walk and pick your moments. Expect it to be very busy early with some chance of some water to yourself later in the evening; Sunday being Father’s Day and therefore the best chance of some water to yourself on the Goulburn. Or you can fish the small streams and just accept any fish as a blessing from above with the main emphasis mostly just on fishing in running water once again. Drop by for some more info and a mud map if you choose the latter.
I had better run now as I have to rig my rod for my annual midnight session. There’s little point for us trying to beat the daytime crowds after sunrise as we have to be back at work for guide jobs. Hence a few fish in the first hour of the new season shall have to suffice until Monday when the river is much less crowded.
All the best wherever you find yourself this weekend. Opening Day used to be some really special back in the day, if the stories told by the old timers are to be believed. While it doesn’t have quite the same standing these days, there are still many of us that do enjoy just getting out, no matter how crowded, to celebrate the fact that winter is now in the rear view and the fishing is once again there to be had.
Tight lines. A more detailed report to come after the weekend madness is over.