At the beginning and the end of the trout fishing season fly anglers have the opportunity to target spawning trout that have run up some of the rivers that flow into the Snowy Mountains major trout lakes. The Eucumbene and Thredbo rivers are the two that receive the most attention as they both have excellent spawning runs, but there are others.
No doubt this is in some way due to the significant trout stocking Lake Jindabyne (the Thredbo R.) and Lake Eucumbene (the Eucumbene R.) receive. No Brown trout stocking takes place in either lake and these are deemed self-supporting wild populations. The Rainbow trout though are heavily stocked for a number of reasons, which include less success in the survival and hatching of their eggs, as well as the fact that many are removed by the various kinds of lake fishers each year. The lakes are basically managed as put and take fisheries.
As I write this the Brown Trout run is underway and there are some nice fish already present in both rivers. There can be some very large fish in these in runs and they tend to attract fly fishers from around the country. Night fishers in the vaccinity of the river mouths usually take the largest of these trout and they usually use something big and black, but that's not what we're concerned with at the moment.
Both these large rivers are normally classified as Blue Ribbon (2 fish over 25 cm. bag limit), but as from the 1st of May each season their regulations and classification changes to 1fish over 50 cm "Spawning Rivers". This regulation is designed to help conserve most of the spawning Brown Trout while still allowing for the taking of the odd big fish. It should be remembered that this regulation pertains to all flowing water - including stream mouths and any smaller Rainbow Trout caught in the rivers at that time must also be returned. Personally I prefer catch and release at all times and why people would wish to kill and eat poor tasting spawning fish is beyond me!
At the season's beginning in October we have the Rainbow Trout spawning run and the rivers are classified Blue Ribbon then. As you can no doubt see, these regulations can be a bit confusing and complicated but we're working on that - one fish over 50cm all season sounds simpler and better to me! The Rainbows tend to be on straight up at the season start. Usually there's plenty of water with the snowmelt - with too much water the fly fishers biggest concern. The Browns on the other hand can be fickle and don't begin to run well until there's a "fresh" down the rivers. This often may not happen until there are only days left in the season - so this years run should provide more opportunity than we've had for some years.
There are differences when fishing the run for either Brown Trout or Rainbow Trout. The Browns tend to be harder! This can be for a number of different reasons. Firstly the water is often a little lower in late autumn when they run. Browns are also simply far more catholic in what they eat at the best of times and the spawning run is no exception. Both Browns and Rainbows can be spooky but often when they're intent on spawning and chasing each other they can ignore their own safety - such is their strong urge to reproduce. This tendency has at times left them vulnerable to unscrupulous poachers. It should be noted that even though the season may be open it is still technically illegal to fish at fish in the act of spawning. It is also illegal for anglers to walk/wade on the spawning beds or redds, as they are correctly known. These are the areas of 50c piece or less sized gravel at the back of pools and can also be in shallow glides and runs.
The most commonly used rig during the spawning run is without doubt the Bead Head nymph and Glo Bug combination. Usually the Glo Bug is on a dropper about 30 - 40cm behind the Bead Head. The nymph is usually a Tungsten Bead Head and it's size and weight can be varied to suit the flow. These days this combination is fished with the aid of a strike indicator. The positioning of the indicator also varies depending on how deep fish are and also the water flow. In strong flows and when fish are holding deep the indicator is often only 25cm from the fly line itself. The actual nymph pattern varies and the Glo Bug can also vary in size and there's a lead eye weighted Glo Bug known as the Muppet. The most important factor is definitely presentation and getting the fly to pass trout at the same depth they're lying in is paramount. Remember the fish are not really feeding well at this time and the won't move far for the fly. They're also expecting eggs (that's what our Glo Bug represents) to be drifting along the bottom and definitely not floating! Glo Bugs do tend to work much better once some fish have spawned and there are eggs rolling down the river. As the run progresses many fish will spawn on the same gravel and be digging up the eggs of earlier spawning fish.
As I said, presentation is very important and getting the flies down to the trout's level isn't always easy even with heavy flies. Good mending skills are important and throwing in some slack so the flow doesn't pull on the line and leader will keep the flies heading toward the bottom. Remember that in heavy flow you'll need to cast the flies well above where the trout are lying, so as to be at the fishes depth as they pass. This may mean 20 feet or more above the where you think the trout are lying. Interesting the Rainbows can be very easy when they're on and take dragging flies or other generally poor presentations. It can even be possible to catch many from one position and in plain sight. Not so the browns! This is no doubt why the Rainbow run at the start of the season is more popular.
Once they fish are running well there will be plenty of fish about, so you may find them just about anywhere. Many fish will be resting up and some will be near good gravel areas. These fish aren't really feeding so you won't find them in the usual feeding areas. Long glides and deeper riffles can be very good as can the bottom of deep pools. The latter being the most difficult to reach. They will usually avoid the pool run in and other strong flows. They are generally on the bottom using the features of the riverbed to hold position easily and to avoid wasting energy fighting the flow. The male trout want to save that for spawning and fighting each other!
Persistence can certainly pay when the fish are proving difficult and the constant casting of at team of heavy flies can be a real pain. Two flies tangle a lot worse than one and fly rods were originally designed to cast small weightless objects. Heavy weight rods perform this kind of fishing better and 6 or 7 weight rods are best.
Unlike the glorious days of summer dry fly fishing, fly fishers at this time can expect plenty of company on the stream. Normal etiquette sadly seems to go out the window. Other fly fishers walking in front of you and starting to fish ahead of you is not uncommon. All I can say is put up with it and avoid confrontation. It should be remembered that that sort of thing is definitely unacceptable in the normal part of the season and will be met a justifiably angry response, then the basic etiquette rule remains - first in best dressed. This is not North America and we do normally have plenty of water.
The fishing can be very exciting during the spawning run and often many fish are caught. So remember to limit your kill, not kill your limit. A good photo of that big one will last forever
There are a lot of different types and brands of leader on the market these days and it can be a bit confusing for the less experienced fly fisher. Hopefully the following advice will make things easier to unravel than the leaders themselves.
The leader serves a few purposes in fly fishing. First and foremost it keeps the fly well away from the fly line and therefore the fish are less likely to spook as it lands on the water. The taper and design aids in this and it also gives us some thinner less visible line to tie our fly to.
Leaders are made up of three parts. The butt section - heavier nylon. The taper section - with most of the taper, and the tippet - the fine nylon we tie the fly to. Many years ago a fly fisher by the name of Charles Ritz came up with a basic taper design that has stood the test of time an will handle nearly all normal situations.
Basically it's based on 60% butt, 20% taper and 20% tippet. This design usually allows good turn over and presentation into all but the strongest of winds. It's also necessary for the butt to be about 60% of the diameter of the fly line to allow the power of the cast to travel through the leader so as it will unroll correctly. Obviously some reasonable casting ability is also required. Interestingly I've seen at least one brand of leader marketed as " a fine butt for better presentation".
There is also some argument on wether stiff nylon or more supple nylon is best. Horses for courses -I personally don't mind stiff butt material but definitely prefer supple nylon for tippets - especially when dry fly fishing.
These days most people buy factory leaders rather than tie their
own. This has a few advantages such as less knots to catch weed and scum and
of course, less time and hassle. Sadly not all leaders on the market are well
designed. The cheaper ones are usually to thin in the butt and are simply
a single taper. This equates to 30% butt, 30% taper and 30%tippet and likely
a 30% chance of turning over properly!
Generally a butt section of at least .021of an inch or 0.55mm.is best. I prefer them even heavier. You may also have noticed that as in most things fly fishing, imperial measurements are still used.
So as you can probably note some leaders are better than others, especially when it comes to tapers. Most of the well-known brands offer correct tapering and therefore turnover better, but you may have to experiment.
As far as length is concerned, it depends on the water you intend
to fish. A small overgrown stream with plenty of hungry fish will be fished
well with an 8ft. leader, where as fish in slower clear water may require
a leader of up to 16ft. to be successful. Then there's every thing in between.
I often find less experienced fly casters using short leader as they do turn over far more easily, but the down side is that you'll catch less fish. Just as good stalking skills are important so as not to spook wily trout so is a suitable length of leader. The fine and far rule comes to mind. In other words always use as long a leader as you can handle and the situation requires - and if you're having trouble, then try to become a better caster.
When attaching leaders to fly lines it's important to have a smooth join. I use two methods. The tried and proven nail knot (you can get a tool to make these easy) or a super glue join. The super glue method is time consuming and fiddley. I work a hot needle into the end of the fly line until I can easily insert about ½cm. of the leader butt and then glue it in place. Careful you don't get you fingers stuck!
Many people use a loop connection, but this tends to slow the
transition of energy down the fly line and if your using a leader longer than
your rod it can cause problems at the worst times. Fish can be lost if the
knot catches in the tiptop. Oh well we're releasing them anyway!
I hope this helps, but as you can see there are never any truly simple answer when it comes to catching a few trout on the fly.
The N.S.W season starts on the October long weekend, so late winter is a good time to check all your gear and make sure everythings in order.
Starting with the fly rod - its a good idea to give it a clean up with a bit of mild detergent. While your wiping it down and removing any old slime or weed etc. Caught on the guides and you can also check the reel seat to make sure its working ok and is secure. Also that the guides themselves arent loose or misaligned. I find giving it a clean up lets me find anything wrong before it becomes a problem. The tiptop should be free of grooves that can prematurely wear an expensive fly line and effect the rods smooth casting ability. These are usually held in place with hot melt glue and are fairly easy to replace.
Drag out your fly reel and give it a good clean as well. You should take off the spool and remove any old grease thats probably been contaminated with dirt and other grime. I usually use a bit of methylated spirits or kerosene for this. Give the spindle a good wipe and apply some fresh reel grease and itll be running smooth again. If the reel has a drag system it should also be checked for smooth operation.
If youre a bit lazy like me, you probably havent cleaned your fly line since last season - its hard to keep enthusiastic about maintenance at the end of a season. You should strip off the line you regularly use (40 to 70 feet approx) and give it a good clean with a quality line cleaner. This will keep it running smoothly through the guides and help it float high (floating lines) and last longer too. While doing this you can check the condition of the line. Look for signs of fine cracking in the first 15 feet or so and if its a weight forward line you should also check for wear at the rear of the head/start of the running line. A cracked fly line wont cast or float well. Sadly fly lines dont last forever and if its starting to show fine cracking its time to invest in a new one. While where at it we might as well tie on a new leader.
Its also the time to shake the dust off your fly vest We all tend to load these up with all sorts of things so now is the time to check theyre serviceable. Check that your nippers and pin on reel are still there and working properly, your forceps are ok and the fly floatant container actually has some floatant in it - nothings worse than finding a good early season hatch and you cant keep your fly floating! Vests have a lot of pockets so check them all and make sure every thing is ok. This can also be the time for a spring clean and the chance to toss out anything you think is simply dead weight. Are you carrying a few spare leaders and enough tippet material in the sizes you need? Any spools older than a season or two should be replaced as most nylons have a limited lifespan - flurocarbon is said to last a little longer. Check and top up your fly boxes and remove any used and matted flies. You can revitalise dry flies by holding them over steam with forceps for a while and wet flies and nymphs can have dried scum removed in a bit of hot water. You should also check used flies for hook sharpness. A quick touch up with a hook hone will do the trick.
Those small leaks in your waders should also be repaired before they get any worse. Simply fill them with water and mark the spot with a pen. Hang them up to dry out and apply some Aquaseal.
Now were ready to go for another season.
Wandering the shoreline of the major hydro lakes in the Snowy Mountains on a sunny day can be a lot of fun at various times. Late winter (August) to early summer will see trout returned from spawning and cruising the lake edges searching for food in an effort to regain condition lost during spawning. Many fly fishers tend to concentrate their efforts at Lake Jindabyne, but certainly all the lakes in the mountains can provide some sport.
The fishing varies dramatically at times, with fish being apparently suicidal one day and nearly impossible the next. This behaviour is most apparent in late winter. At this time the lakes are not usually rising and there isnt really a lot of food about, but the fish are hungry and will take a well-presented fly. The light is softer at this time of year and there is often not much cover available. Walk slowly scanning the water well ahead to the limit of your vision - it goes without saying that good pair of polarised sunglasses is a must. When you see a fish, plan your cast and approach. Is it heading away or toward you? Do I need to sneak out wide and get ahead so as to lay an ambush? These questions and more need to be asked quickly and then the cast can be made. Some times the fish will only be available for a short time, so reacting quickly is important. Many fish will cruise an area regularly be prepared for them to show up again in anything from 30 seconds to an hour or two. This beat cruising behaviour means that many fish become quite educated to the ways of fly fishers and can at times be very testing.
Some useful flies to try are wooley worms, Bushies horrors, Mrs. Simpsons etc. in the larger patterns - these generally represent yabbies and the like. Smaller flies representing sand caddis, shrimp and midge lava also work well, especially on the tricky fish. Try olive nymphs, hares ear nymphs and small midge pupa patterns.
Generally it pays to allow time for the fly to sink to the fishes level or even have it sit on the bottom and perhaps give it a tiny twitch as the fish approaches. This can be tough, as sometimes you need to lead the fish by six metres or more to avoid spooking it. Rods and lines in 4 -6 weight floating are best depending on your casting skills, as are long fine leaders.
As things warm up (October on) and the trout season begins the rising lakes offer more varied food and insect activity. Fish will patrol fertile bays seeking drowned grubs and worms etc. Aquatic insects such as caddis and midges begin to hatch. You should now be able to catch some of the fish you see on dry flies. Beetle patterns work very well through spring and early summer, as do flies imitating specific midge, caddis, ant and mayfly hatches.
Now the sun will be higher in the sky and aid in seeing trout
further off, but certainly sunscreen is now a must even if you are wearing
a good hat as reflected glare will burn you badly. Depending on the year,
as Christmas approaches most trout will head for deeper water during the day
and polarioding will become less productive.