The river has come crashing down as the demand for irrigation dwindled courtesy of state-wide rains over the past 48 hours. Looking back its kind of hard to believe that it was at 9000 MLD for so long a period so early in the season. Especially when you’re confronted with the river at 1000 MLD; a level that is a lot more in sync with the month of November than the previous height at which it was running.
In any case what it means is that the river is very low and easily waded along its length and the fishing has shifted from sighting trout in close to stalking rises mid-river and searching the gravel bars. While I would much prefer the higher flows of recent weeks, for most out of town fly fishers visiting the Goulburn, 1000 MLD is definitely a more user-friendly level and brings into play all of your regular methods used on the smaller rivers.
Crossing on all the gravel bars is easy at 1000 and will mostly remain that way when the river slowly creeps up to 2000 MLD tomorrow. Hatches have not improved greatly as of yet, but there are more bugs (mayfly/caddis) throughout the day and first light has again come into play.
Perhaps the best option right now is the terrific nymphing, something fairly predictable on any major rise/fall of the river. Yesterday we all snuck out for an hour here and there with certain nymphs dragging fish after fish from some of the runs. We will hopefully have a repeat performance this afternoon before the weekend anglers arrive.
Daytime rises are not so much to the beetles and ants of previous weeks but back to your regular caddis/mayfly/midge imitations. The balance may shift again over the weekend as the temperatures increase, but for the moment you should be thinking more about imitating the aforementioned classes of insects. Of course if you are stopping by you can always pick up a handful of the right patterns from our store.
The smaller rivers have a little colour to them and some are a little higher than the same time last week. I would imagine that they will fall away and clear by tomorrow, at least in their mid-upper reaches, and also offer decent fishing. This fresh will hold them in good stead in the weeks to come and the timing is rather fortuitous.
We have a couple of spots left for our beginner workshop for this weekend due to a client mixing up their weekends! If you know of anyone that wants to learn fly fishing, please let them know as they won’t find a better deal anywhere and the rivers are in great shape.
Also on the booking front we have taken several NZ bookings this week and wish to let people know that we still have about 10 spots remaining. This trip is something to consider as we go into a strong El Nino event which will severely limit the options for fly fishing in Australia in the New Year. Luckily we have water in Eildon and so the Goulburn will fish well throughout. But much of the rest of SE Australia is going to bake this summer while the South Island will continue to fish well despite the conditions here in Oz. See our ad in this update for more info or visit the website/phone us anytime to discuss.
It has been an interesting couple of weeks. I refrained from updating last weekend as I didn’t want to cause a stampede on our rivers. Something I am happy to report was avoided with us seeing very few anglers along the Goulburn on most outings. The fishing has been very consistent for some time now and this drop in river height is desired by most, it has thrown the form guide on its ear with everything having now changed.
This is not to say it’s a bad thing and it’s the reason why so many of us love this river. You can fish the smaller rivers every day and they won’t change all that much other than a steady decline in levels through the season, punctuated by the odd rain event that raises them for 24-72 hours before they drop back to their former levels. Everything is much the same throughout the season, the fish are in the same exact lies and it’s all rather easy.
The Goulburn however is in a constant state of flux. The height can change by a foot or more in an afternoon which then effects everything from the insects to the fish to the dynamics of the river itself. Personally I prefer the Goulburn and the other tailwaters of VIC/NSW. They are bug factories and the fish that live in these waters are always onto whatever it is that is hatching. Clear water and lots of bugs can make for some tricky hatch based fishing but that is what is so enticing about it.
Hope that you are all well and see you on the river. I’m headed there right now.
This is just a quick update before I have to head back out on the drift in about an hour from now.
We’ve had steady water flows this week with 5000 MLD the new standard and the fish slotting straight into it as if it were their preferred height over any other. Backwaters remain important but the runs and gravel bars have been quickly brought into play. It really is a big difference from the 9000 MLD that we were used to but the fact of the matter is that you are more likely to just catch fish now; no matter what your approach.
While for many this is great news, it hasn’t yet heralded the sort of excellent daytime hatch activity that we have become accustomed to when the river is low in October, other than for say at evening time. But there are more fish rising to the plethora of terrestrials that are still falling in all day; every day.
If this sounds strange to hear, you can rest assured that it feels even more bizarre to write. We just don’t usually see so many terrestrials so early in the season. I guess you can lay the blame at the weather patterns of the past few months, starting back in August when it refused to rain and culminating that heat wave at the end of September.
A Goulburn River Ant feeder from this past week
The trees are crawling with beetles and there are ants on the wing even on the cooler days. It really has been just a case of just using the ‘evidence of your own eyes’ and seeing what is on the water. Contrary to how trout usually are in situations where there are a lot of one insect on the water; matching the hatch hasn’t been that important other than when the ants are about. It’s been pretty easy to catch the fish once you’ve found them.
Despite saying that the hatches are not what you’d see when the river is lower, in actuality there probably are a lot of bugs, it’s just that there has been a lot more water running a lot faster than normal. No doubt this has hidden what is going on rather well. I say this as I have been seeing a lot of emerging and spent mayfly and caddis when reviewing my close up photos on the big screen in the office.
Evenings have been excellent at times. Strong hatches of multiple species of both mayfly and caddis have been observed most nights and fishing a nymph in the pre-hatch period leading into dusk has been successful for us. While we haven’t been seeking the rise out on last light ourselves; when we’ve been out drifting I hasn’t disappointed. It’s just hard to wrap your head around hatches when you see that flow of water coming down. After all 5000 MLD is still a decent volume of water.
The smaller streams between here and Healesville continue to offer good fishing. Without giving away too on the internet and causing them to unnecessarily suffer due to overfishing, they are at levels and temps usually associated with mid-late November and as such are quite easy to fish. Stop by the shop if you require assistance with the what/when/where of it all.
We have continued to hear reports of poor fishing from those returning from the rivers and streams that flow into Lake Eildon. Unfortunately this has been the norm these past few years, as the decline in fish numbers post the end of the stocking done by Rex Hunt’s FutureFish Foundation has gradually come into effect. The great work by FutureFish in stocking the lake saw a period of resurgence of the fishing in the streams running into Lake Eildon, but alas the taper into an outright decline has been a long time coming. So much so that one of our guides moved from Howqua to Alexandra a few years ago.
I forgot to mention that we just received a cancellation for this weekend and so have one spot left in our Beginner’s Workshop scheduled for tomorrow and Sunday. At $390 for the two full days you won’t find anything that comes close. Our cottage is also available for the next week as the cancellation took in the next three nights and we already had a substantial gap in our cottage bookings next week. This could be a fortuitous opportunity to head up this way, given that the Goulburn is in great shape and the smaller rivers are also fishing well.
While plugging our services I should say that you should consider doing a drift boat trip now as the river has so much to offer at these sorts of levels. From sight fishing the edges to evening rises to bringing fish up in deeper water to large attractor patterns. It really is a fun way to see and fish this river and a great way to bring a non-fishing partner along for a pleasure drift. The coming period leading into Christmas will fish very well and all indications are of another great summer ahead.
So that’s it for the moment. Our clients for the day are set to arrive at 9am and there are still a few things to be done before they show up.
Have a good weekend and all the best. It looks like a good one right across Victoria.
The small rivers are all fishing absurdly well, which is ridiculously early for them to be so good. I generally tend to leave them alone until about November, with many of them not really firing until just before Christmas. But not this year. We are already up in the hills armed with 3 wts, a lanyard, and box of small attractor patterns. It really is a case of get in now before the true heat of summer hits and much of the small stream fishing evaporates. (Sorry but I couldn’t help myself).
You need only look at the combined incoming flows into Lake Eildon on their daily updated phone recording. When you see things like 500 MLD combined inflow for Big River, the Howqua, Jamieson, Delatite and Upper Goulburn; you know that they are at a level that’s good for fishing. You also know that this scenario is being played out across much of the state, where little rain has fallen since July and not much is likely in the months ahead. Simply put, the small streams are coming online early, hatches are advanced and the fishing is good. We are in fact, in early December when you look carefully at the stats and this is a little hard to contemplate given several good rain years and some late falls all the way into December.
This is reminiscent of the worst of the drought years and does not bode well for the New Year right across south-east Australia. Things are starting early, but come sometime in January the tailwaters like the Goulburn will be one of the few ‘games in town’. Those wanting a small creek fish in mid-summer may well have to limit their excursions to dawn and the first few hours that follow, or they’ll have to have a real local knowledge in order to pick something that is working. They might have to do both if the summer goes the way it appears to be going.
But we fly fishers are an optimistic lot. I see this everyday with the comments made by both clients and my colleagues. It only takes one lone Mayfly on the coldest, wettest day on the river to get all of us thinking of rising fish, and so it is that our rose coloured view of the world should be applied to the summer ahead. While we don’t know exactly how it will play out, we do know that the small streams are now fishing well. Simply put. Get out and start fishing these waters before it gets too hot. We may not have many options come January, February and into March.
While I could go on and on about what is happening on the small streams; I won’t. They are fragile and need protection. If you need help from us we are always here to assist. You just need to stop by or phone. One thing I will say is bring your favourite terrestrials or stop in and grab some. Ants are the word at the moment. Black, brown and ginger in # 16-18 with the smaller in black being the main one this past week, as these critters are active in the paddocks right through the day; not just during that pre-thunderstorm phase on those stormy days like our good ‘ole friends the termites.
Which brings us to the Goulburn. It has been ever-so tough for most folks thus far this season, the main reason why the smaller streams have been so busy on the weekends, but it really has taken a turn these past ten days or so. Lots of good fish tucked into the edges and occupying the slots and runs, all well and truly settled into the higher flows and brought to life as the bug activity has naturally increased, as we moved into October. September is just that fraction too early to have good dry fly fishing at 9000MLD.
But the fish have been eager of late. We have been doing the old ‘bait and switch’ with a large dry fly that raises fish from the deep, but trailing that is a smaller, more realistic pattern that they end up eating, after refusing the outsized pattern. This has been really effective.
Also worthy of note is that the vast majority of the fish that we have caught this week, have been sighted first. This makes for some exciting fishing and it takes a lot of skill, knowledge and general effort on behalf of the guide to manoeuvre a boat into the right position to find these fish. I am not being boastful but just this week I was explaining to my guest from Texas (originally Alabama but living in Houston), just how long it’s taken to learn how to fish this river as opposed to the Swampy or Mitta, which are a doddle in comparison.
I’ll explain a little here and now, as for once I have some spare time on what has turned out to be a very quiet Sunday in the shop (Hooray for me!)
At some levels fish will occupy certain backwaters and not others. Same goes with winds. The river can be at 6000 MLD but the wind may vary from the SE to the N and then back to the SW over the course of a week. Each of those winds will push food into certain lines and again the spots that the fish take up will change. As the wind and levels can and do change from day to day, so too, do the positions that fish take up.
This becomes vital when fishing to the relatively small number of fish in the Goulburn. Knowing which direction to approach from, given the aforementioned environmental factors, is crucial. Will the fish be cruising at a particular level or on station? Will they even be in the backwaters or did the shift in river flow push the fish out into the mid-river slots? Is there an unseen movement of bugs on the bottom of the river that is not visible on the surface but that we are aware of, as the sudden draw down of water has triggered a migration of larvae? These secrets are only revealed to those that have spent countless hours on a particular waterway, constantly developing and refining both theories and practical skills in an attempt to improve their knowledge, and thereby success rate.
Then there are what I could call the ‘unquantifiables’. Flies (and methods) that work at certain times for which we have no logical reason. How did we work out to use them in the first place you may ask? Just trial and error. When nothing is working you sometimes have to try bizarre things. We also see clients from all over the world who bring their own flies with them, and we often travel to places and see new techniques and patterns that turn out to be fabulous back here in certain situations.
While I can’t give all of this away here and now, I will throw one interesting one out there for those that are unaware. Think purple for some of your next dry flies and nymphs. Google ‘Purple Haze’ or tie your next Copper Johns in purple. Purple looks great but it also works. Go figure.
But I digress. Actually more than digress. I’s just part of a conversation that I had with my American client on Monday and has some relevance here when trying to explain how complicated this river can be, even when compared with the most difficult of trout fisheries.
Right at this moment we are at an interesting juncture in time. Weather more associated with early December is coupled with larger water releases that is pushing the better fish into the banks. And despite the fact that the calendar reads mid-October, there is a ton of terrestrial food going in and the fish something to eat. This was not happening two weeks ago, but the constant barrage of warmer days has expedited things to the point where we are now seeing the sort of numbers that would not normally be seen for another 3-4 weeks’ time.
The water is crystal clear. The fish are relatively easy to find and there are a heap of ants and beetles on the wing. It really doesn’t get much better than it is right now and with the river falling away from 9000 MLD last weekend, to 8000 this week and to 7000 in recent days; it is only getting easier. These incrementally small and drawn out drop in flows over a period of days is not upsetting the fish, and if anything, I have noticed a movement of some of the larger fish into these prime positions. The fish in the video above having ‘kicked out’ the ‘rooster’ fish that I was photographing last week. Exciting times on the Goulburn.
Hatches have been pretty good on last light if you can find a suitable backwater. It’s nothing to see 10-12 fish appear near dark and begin to work the dun hatch in the larger reverses. We have been killing this from the boat as we can position it to always be looking into the setting sun; allowing us about 30 minutes of evening rise fishing; although it means we get back to the car in the pitch black.
Oh and that video. I’ve added a short 9 minute clip of a rising fish that I found yesterday morning. The light was poor as it was about 9.30am and it was cloudy, but I shot an almost continuous bit of footage of the fish rising to ants where the fish must have risen a couple of hundred times. I did this as most people have probably never seen how good a true ant fall can be. The fish gorge themselves and I photographed him for nearly two hours; shooting some 2500 frames in the process.
While I’ve never used my still camera to shoot video (I’ve never even read how to access the functions), I switched to movie mode and let it roll for ten minutes and filmed goodness only knows how many rises. The fish never stopped. You have to love ant ‘hatches’. They just trigger this unrestrained and completely fearless reaction from the fish whereby the whole ‘risk v reward’ equation gets thrown on its head. I was no more than 5 metres from this fish and regularly moved to change positions and he never spooked. I left him rising when work beckoned. Like I said. You have to love ant ‘hatches’.
So that’s it for now. If you need more information on any of our services please don’t hesitate to ask. We have group workshops running every weekend, with separate classes for beginners and intermediates, with the latter focussed on deepening participants understanding of streamcraft on both big and small waters.
We also have drift boats and private lessons available every day. Lakeside cottage accommodation is available. We also have a couple of dates left for Swampy Plain drift boating this coming week FRI 23, SUN 25 and MON 26 still available. Plus we still have some availability for NEW ZEALAND this summer. Probably lucky for some as there is little doubt that the summer ahead will be hard here in Australia for the majority of fly fishers not fishing the cold flows of the Goulburn. Most other things could be well and truly too low and hot by then and NZ is looking better and better by the day.
Hope that this report assists in planning your next visit. It was a bit long-winded on this occasion but that’s what you get when I am stuck in the office for an entire morning.
It’s early on Saturday morning as I find myself tapping away at the keyboard in an attempt to bring you all up to speed with what’s happening on the rivers of the upper Goulburn Valley. Despite only managing three hours sleep last night, a direct result of the time difference between here and Amman, and despite having just rowed a boat for the past nine and a half hours; I am here; dedicated to keeping you all informed as to the fishing opportunities up this way right now.
The river is super-high at the moment and this is frightening most anglers away. While this isn’t a bad thing, I should mention that an abundance of opportunities exist for the thinking fly fisher to connect with a fish or two.
These high flows concentrate the better fish into a smaller space. We all know that trout are loathe to waste energy sitting out in the exposed flows of the main current, particularly in a non-hatch situation, and it is this knowledge that allows us to find the larger browns whenever a mini-flood event like this occurs. The past week has only reaffirmed all that we know on this subject, with plenty of good fish tucked in close to the edges and feeding.
This doesn’t mean that the fishing is easy. In fact it is quite the opposite. A lot has to go right if you are to end up with a fish to hand. From finding them, to getting into position, to keeping them out of the sticks if indeed you do manage to hook one; a little bit of luck certainly helps.
One thing that isn’t so critical right now is fly selection. The river being up has seen many fish either cruising the flooded margins or set up shop in the reverse eddies and backwaters. I have been taking a lot of photos this past week and every single fish that I photographed took numerous non-edible items into their mouths before expelling them. I watched fish eat gum nuts, sticks, blossoms, ducks feathers and even bees!
Today we actually had numerous surface eats on a wide-ranging selection of fly patterns. Duns, emergers, chernobyl ants and spent spinners. With more warm weather forecast for the coming week, it would seem that things will really get going with the build-up of terrestrials continuing with each day that passes.
So the Goulburn is actually beginning to fish well despite it being very early in the season for water releases of such magnitude. The drift boating has been good to excellent and there are a decent number of rising and/or cruising fish in close to the edge. A very early start to the Goulburn River high-water fishing for season 2015-2016.
I’m sorry but Im falling asleep at my computer. Enjoy the pics and sing out if you have any questions. Amore detailed report to come next week.
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.