What a difference a week can make when it comes to a tailrace river? It wasn’t long ago that the Goulburn was running at 8,000 MLD and we were fishing #8 dry flies all-day, every-day. It then dropped to 6000, then to 5,000, then to 4,000, then 2,000 on the 8th and now to 1,000 today! While the drop down to 4,000 was scheduled, this recent crash was brought about by one thing. All of this rain.
This drop in level is something the many Goulburn aficionados wait for each and every season; even more so in a season such as this one, where the river was run at high levels right throughout the springtime. As such I think that upcoming weekends may get busy as the word gets out there that the river is indeed wadeable and easily accessed along its entire length.
Nevertheless I hope it will stay reasonably quiet this weekend as people read of flood warnings for the Goulburn River (of course it doesn’t flood up here just below the dam!) and the perception is of poor weather and high rivers with discoloured water. Even if it is quiet in the coming days, it won’t stay that way for any length of time. In the internet age nothing remains a secret for very long.
The river looks superb. The abundant weed beds that had grown thick and to the surface after months of 8,000 MLD + 15 hours of sunlight per day, are now stranded on the surface and cut off from the main flow in many places. Backwaters have drained, gravel bars have reappeared and fish that have had very little reason to change habits since November, are suddenly forced to relocate and switch to new food sources. Nothing like the huge and instant decrease in levels of a tailwater to stir things up.
When working in the shop I am regularly asked about hatches in the Goulburn, and for good reason. It is one of the best rivers in the country when it comes to caddis and mayfly hatches and visiting anglers quickly learn that you have to have a selection of flies to match whatever hatch is going on, as well as a bit of background info as to the when/where side of things. We often have fly fishers ask about why the hatch isn’t great in the middle of summer and it really is simple. Aquatic insects hatch when the conditions are most conducive to a successful outcome, with Mother Nature hedging her bets and letting a few go at times that are less than ideal, in order to ensure the overall survival of the species.
The confusing part of this equation for most people, is that in an irrigation based tailwater system, the normal cycles are reversed. In autumn, winter and spring the water runs lower and warmer than in most undammed rivers and in summer these tailwaters run higher and colder than these other streams. In mid-summer when the Goulburn is running at 8,000 MLD, the gravel on the bottom of the river is alive with bugs ready to hatch at a moment’s notice, but for the most part they don’t. Water pressure, lack of light intensity on the river bed and other factors brought about by the huge volume of water being released, delay the vast majority of these nymphs/pupa from making the journey to the surface. In essence the river is in flood, albeit and artificial one, and the insects do not hatch in great numbers. Then the river drops, just as it has done over the past 7-10 days, and anything can happen.
What is interesting is that we have finally had a break (major autumn rain) before Easter for the first time in a long time. While we can argue that this is the latest that Easter has been in recent times, this is the heaviest rain that I have seen in a number of years, given that it’s only early April. It’s also pretty disturbing that we have gone from 30 degrees to this in little more than a fortnight.
What is interesting is that we have a lowish river by April 10th and we still have a month of the irrigation season to go and no doubt plenty of great autumn weather. You know the days. Frosty starts, blue skies and little in the way of wind. If the river stays below 3,000 MLD, we are in for some amazing dry fly fishing with terrific hatches on the cards. Also of interest is the rumour that the Goulburn will be run at 1000 MLD throughout May when the irrigation season ends, rather than the paltry 130-250 MLD legally required minimum riparian flow. This is shaping up to be one of the more interesting ends to a trout season in recent years. (The closed season for salmonids in 2014 is from midnight on Monday 9 June, to midnight on Friday 5 September.)
All speculation aside the fishing at the moment has been good with moments of excellence. Most of those that came up in the past couple of days did really well with nymphs. This is hardly surprising given that the river is rapidly retreating into its original bed and everything that has lived along the margins has been forced to relocate; insect and fish alike.
The main trick has been to keep flies small in size and dark in colour with a tungsten bead. You want your fly small enough to match the hatch and dense enough to sink to the proper depth ASAP. A black or gold tungsten bead is the answer in such a situation. Flies such as the Copper John in black and the Pheasant Tail Flashback have been working very well. Some are using small indicators with double nymph rigs while others are fishing a small attractor pattern on top; a ploy that will bring better results in the coming days as the rain disappears and more caddis appear on the water’s surface..
There are plenty of mayfly about with good dun hatches going on right through this poorer weather we’ve been experiencing. This will lead to some decent spinner falls over the weekend and the caddis that have hatched these past few weeks will be back out when we get a break in the weather and a couple more degrees in the air. We are also going to see a major hatch of kossie duns get going in the days and weeks ahead. Last season it went right up to and beyond the close of the season so you should have some #8-12 parachute ties if you’re planning to fish until last light.
The Goulburn is an easy river to read <2000 MLD. It embodies the classic, text-book trout stream with riffles, runs, pools, bubble lines, drop offs and all the things that make fishing for trout so immersive. It really is a pleasant place to fish at times of diminished flows. The wading is easy. You can get away with the classic 8 foot 4 weight and fish can often be stalked, rising in a pool tail-out, where one must do everything right in order to partake. The reward no more than the joy of releasing a brown trout unharmed after an instant of deception and a few moments of excitement.
All wanky prose aside things are looking good for the Goulburn as we head into the weekend before Easter. The smaller streams have all gotten a huge shake up, which they needed, but the rain will no doubt render them useless until at least Saturday afternoon. Sunday could be worth a look on some of them but who’d be bothered when the Goulburn is at 1,000 MLD.
Expect to fish small nymphs. Don’t be too proud to swing a streamer into a deep pool and be prepared for rising fish at any time of the day. Have everything from your caddis, mayflies and midges to your ants, beetles and crickets. We are still in that transitional period and we could still see a bit of everything; although a week of colder weather will certainly bring us closer to putting away all the terrestrials and replacing them with Blue Winged Olives, Griffith’s Gnats and tiny parachute emergers.
We hope that you make it out in the coming days. It’s hard to be cooped up in the office when you know that the fishing is good but you can justify your absence from work, family and life in general, by accepting that the end of the season is nearly upon us and that every outing now counts. Don’t forget that there are other tailwaters too. The Mitta Mitta River above Eskdale, the Swampy Plain River below Khancoban and the Tumut River above Tumut are all close to prime condition right now. This report is not a hard-sell on the Goulburn to get people up here. The next month offers some superb fishing on all the aforementioned rivers and if I had the time I would fish all of them.
Footnote: If you come up in the coming days be aware that the further down river you fish, the more likely the chance of discoloured water. While the Rubicon will clear quickly (low end always dirtier than the bridge at Tumbling Waters), drains and gullies can have an impact further downriver. Feel free to phone us for the latest info or just head up this end of the river to ensure that you have clear water. If the Breakaway is clear it is worth checking it out as it has been very good of late.
STOP PRESS – THE RIVER DROPPED TO 4000 MLD THIS MORNING!!
The river dropped to 5,000 MLD yesterday and triggered a phenomenal caddis hatch up and down the river. While the bugs really started to get going again when the river went from 8000 down to 6000, it was yesterday’s drop to 5k that really sparked a huge hatch of bugs and a good rise from the fish. There were numerous caddis species as well as spent spinners, with everything from caenids to rustys showing up in numbers. We are also seeing plenty of grannoms now as well.
From the Pondage down through the Breakaway, there are a lot more rising fish and we are now finding a lot pockets of fish-able water mid-river. Extensive weed-beds now block a lot of the edges, forcing fish out into the bubble lines where they are more easily targeted. David is drifting right now and we have float trips and guide jobs every day this week; so there will be plenty of up to date info in the days ahead.
We are finally arriving at a distinct change in the seasons in regards to hatches. Terrestrials are getting thinner on the ground with smaller critters like beetles and ants now more common than the larger hoppers and cicadas. In any case it’s the caddis and mayfly that are making a resurgence and we will be seeing terrific hatches in the days and weeks to come. Kossies will start up again any day now and most likely occur every night for the rest of the season. Tie big dun patterns with pale bodies if you can. We have already started tying to get a stock of them in the shop to at last meet the day to day demand of customers.
It’s great to see such huge shifts in the fishing after a long summer of super-high water and fishing limited to 2.5-3″ dry flies with 15lb tippet. It has been a blast but it’s time to get back to the fundamentals of finesse fishing. Accurate, delicate presentations. Matching the hatch. Emergers. Long leaders with fine tippets. You know. The stuff that separates fly fishing for trout from all the other species.
The smaller rivers are fishing well but they are very low. Rising fish can be stalked throughout the day in the slow bubble lines that dissect the pools. I won’t write too much about them here but suffice it to say that if the Goulburn at 5000 doesn’t get you excited, there are more than enough small stream options to keep any fly fisher satiated.
On a commercial front we have a few trips going at the moment. Firstly this is a great time to do an evening drift and we offer them every day (although we are quite booked already). The hatches are now starting back up, makin those last three hours of the day particularly interesting and the river is coming down to a level that makes blind searching a viable option. Great news for those that wish to drift.
We also have a couple of spots on the Tumut left (Tuesday 8th and Sunday 13th), should anyone want to come up and fish it with us. We had a cancellation for the 8th; the only reason it is available (get well soon Jen) and the Sunday is the only date that has remained un-booked.
We are taking New Zealand bookings now. A few spots left but most have people trying to negotiate with work and significant others to book. Check the website by clicking here to see if it might work for you.
The Patagonia trip for December is on and we are taking bookings now. A week of fishing with our friends at Patagonia River Guides with the GVFFC team leading the group. A terrific experience that takes in a couple of nights in Buenos Aires and a superlative week of fishing, food and good company at PRG.
All our guides are now back from New Zealand and we are teaching, guiding and floating every single day for the remainder of the season. We also have a handful of high end rods (brand new) at discounted prices. We are talking of rods that go for $700-$990 going for $575-$750. I’m not posting details here but if you are after a new top of the line 5-6 weight, drop us a line on 0418 995 611.
Have a great fish if you get out there. April is one of our favourite months of the season with the fish beginning to feel the onset of winter and feeding with vigor as a result. Plenty of great weather to come in the next 5-6 weeks as well as we head into Autumn proper.
Hope that you get out there at some stage before it slips by for yet another year.
Join us for a week of superlative fly fishing in the deep south of New Zealand’s South Island next summer. Everything except flights and alcohol are included in the price, and the Sunday to Sunday format with a guide:client ratio of 1:2, see this trip book out each and every year with an astonishing 80% client return rate.
Come on your own or bring a friend. All skill levels and ages catered for with an age range this past summer of 19 – 83. Family groups a specialty.
Click on this link to check the available dates, prices and for general information on the trip. Alternatively you can phone us anytime on FreeCall 1800 458 111 or 0418 995 611
Spend a long day of drifting (9am-dark and 25km +) on this famous tailrace and experience everything that this wonderful river has to offer. The Tumut River is one of the best in Australia, with a great headcount of fish and a huge variety of options on any given day.
Endless gravel bars, massive runs, and huge pools offer a diverse array of opportunities for the fly fisher. Hatches can come off at any time but we should see some overlap of the ‘tail end of the terrestrials’ and the recommencement of the better caddis/mayfly emergences. This is a great time to fish it.
The cost of this float is $850 for the day regardless of whether it is for one or two people. It includes lunch, drinks, flies and an all-day fully guided drift boat session with the most experienced drift boat guide in the country.
Dates are strictly limited and run from Sat 5 Apr – Sun 13 Apr inclusive. There is $50/day discount for those doing two or more days. Great value considering this is not your standard 8 hour float trip.
Sing out if you have any questions and don’t forget we still have two spots left for Idaho-Montana in July and NZ bookings are being taken now!
Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
Free Call 1800 458 111 or (03) 5773 2513
Just a reminder to those contemplating joining us in NZ next summer that time is of the essence. With twenty six of the forty four spots already filled by returning clients and at least ten more set to re-book in the days ahead, the number of remaining spots is already very low.
This incredible return rate is simply a reflection on how well this package works. One week away. One direct flight. Good food. Comfortable lodgings. Hard working and extremely experienced guides. A variety of waters to fish. Plenty of big brown trout.
We focus on the fishing; not the extraneous things that tend to push up the price and lower the amount of time spent on the water. So you’ll never have to leave a hatch early in order to get back home in time for pre-dinner drinks or pack your cravat! This is the sort of trip you get when guides, rather than lodge owners, are in charge of the format.
I have barely been back from New Zealand for a week and yet I haven’t had a spare minute to compose even the briefest of fishing reports. It has been a very busy summer with a skeleton crew running operations here in Oz while the others guided in NZ. The good news is that we only have a week and a half to go over there and then we will have a full complement of staff on which to call on. Hallelujah. We’ve nearly made it.
The river fished exceptionally well this summer for larger brown trout on big dry flies. I can hardly remember a single time where a nymph was required and we caught a LOT of fish in the 3-4lb class. Hopefully this is not some anomaly but rather the sign of things to come.
Cicadas, hoppers and attractors have done most of the damage since Christmas and matching the hatch has fallen way behind on the more simple approach of ‘get in their face with something out-sized and elicit a take’. While we all love the more pernickety fish that inhabit the slow flowing bubble lines of Autumn proper, there is something fabulous about larger browns crushing huge dries with abandon.
The fishing on the Goulburn is still going strong with my last three drifts since returning from NZ resulting in 6-9 takes on huge dries with the average fish going a healthy 3lb. It may have helped that these fish haven’t seen my boat or a fly for the three weeks that I was away, but nonetheless there are plenty of fish still looking up for a feed of grasshoppers, cicadas and crickets. Long may it continue.
Those confined to walking the banks (including Werner and his clients) have been finding plenty of fish but having to work harder for them. A little secret we can let you in on is that a lot of the rising fish are taking soldier beetles. I mention this as they are often difficult to see, as they sit so low on the water, and as such are much more obvious from the drifting boat. In any case a small black beetle has worked quite well.
Edge fishing has been best with unweighted nymphs. Pheasant tails and Seal’s Fur variants in green or black have been best. 50/50′s and 007′s have also been working. As always you can suspend one below a dry but my favourite approach is to use a single nymph on a fine fluorocarbon tippet that has been degreased. I even use some ‘sinket’ on the fly to assist it in sinking into the strike zone. Leaving the fly on the bottom while the fish is off on its beat and then carefully lift it off the bottom as the fish approaches. Then hang on! Definitely the most effective technique on these backwater feeders at this point in time.
Evening rises have been a bit hit and miss as the river is definitely up, but there is a hatch most nights and it is getting bigger with each passing week. Water temps of over 12 degrees celsius, higher D.O. levels and less flow than a few weeks ago raises the spectre of the kossie duns return. It will only be a matter of days, or at most weeks, before these huge mayfly become the most important bug each evening. As soon as I get some more spare time I will be tying as many of these guys as I can.
The smaller creeks are all fishing quite well. Other than a single session by one of our guests in the cottage yesterday, I have not heard of anyone blanking. In fact I am hearing more of 4-6 fish per session on dries with fish to 3lb being caught (Cameron on Sunday night). Consecutive colder nights, even on the warm days, are heralding the real start to Autumn and facilitating some great fishing. Don’t disregard the hills with a three weight and a handful of dries for a fun day on the water.
While not the last hurrah on these small rivers up high in the hills, it is the tail end of the best fishing in some of them. Soon the first frosts will arrive and the countdown to season’s end will begin in earnest.
There is nothing much happening on the political/fisheries front up here at the moment. The old adage of ‘no news is good news’ definitely applies here.
GVFFC has an interesting period ahead. On the local front we have drift boat trips available every day and will run them for as long as we can this season. We are also about to schedule a week on the Tumut River in early April for those after something different. New Zealand 2015 trips are now booking, we have two more vacancies for our Idaho trip in July and we are about to formally offer folks spots on our Patagonia trip scheduled for early December 2014. Busy times and a lot of fun ahead for all involved.
Thanks for your patience this month while I was away. I purchased a NZ Telecom SIM card for my ipad so that I could keep in touch with you all but they mucked it up and I had no internet access. A real PITA given the need to communicate not only with work but also family. On top of that I lost my camera in NZ and so I had no photos to share. In any case we are back up and running now and my replacement camera has arrived.
We have drift boat trips available this Friday 14, Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 but are otherwise booked out until next Thursday 20. We have guides available for tuition, streamcraft and beginners lessons available every day.
All the best. Keep watching this space and all the best.
Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
Free Call 1800 458 111
We just took delivery of the last of the famous SOS Marine Australian Army issue boonie hats that we and our clients love so much. They are the most durable boonie we have ever sourced and all of our guides use them every day.
They are a great colour for fishing, are quite cool on the head and it takes a lot of use before they begin to fade.
Usually they go for $45 because they cost us over $30 but due to a clear-out by the manufacturer, we can offer them to you at the great price of $20 (in-store pickup) or $29 express posted to you.
We have the following sizes in stock.
X Large: 14
XX Large: 10
Please share this with anyone that you feel may be interested. These are the last of this particular model to be made, so it may be worthwhile picking up more than one. We can of course pack multiple items into the one express post bag so the first hat would be $29 and any others would be at the $20 price!