It’s been a long time since I’ve had the chance to visit my favourite local stream so I was looking forward to the trip for several months.
I love and hate this place. I love it for its isolation and variable fishing and hate it for the same reason. The walk in is tough and getting tougher every year that I age. 5 hours with a 15-20kg pack sucks but there is no other reasonable way in. The fishing can vary from sensational to very average depending on rainfall, time of season, temperature, dam levels and some other factors which I haven’t worked out yet. There have been times when the stars have appeared to align but the fishing disappointed and vice versa. This weekend was a case of the latter. The reality far exceeded all expectations.
Poor rainfall for the last month had me convinced that the rainbows wouldn’t be keen (or able) to run up the streams and I was prepared for a rough time fish wise. When we arrived at the main river it was a foot lower than I’ve ever seen it. We crossed easily without getting our knees wet. When we arrived at the reliable feeder stream it was dry at the point where it runs into the main river and as far as I could see upstream! I had been talking it up to my mates and they both just looked at me and bowed their heads. After a 5 hour hike with heavy packs, this was pretty depressing. I mumbled that it could be better upstream but I was scared about what I might find.
As we walked up to my favourite camp area things improved. The stream was running (just) and the big pools were still looking good. With such little rain, the water was gin clear. We unpacked, set up camp and wandered out to the bend of river near camp just on dusk to one of my favourite pools. First cast and my mate caught a nice 40cm rainbow which became dinner. I was onto a 45cm rainbow on my first cast too. Then I looked closer at the deepest pool and saw a swarming mass of large fish which we hadn’t spotted on arrival. We were focused on the main channel and disregarded this back eddy. I was gutted. Carp have a prominent presence in the main river but I’d never seen them in this stream before. We stopped fishing to let the water settle and watched the school of fish. Neither of us said much for a while until my mate said, “I don’t think they’re carp”. I was thinking the same thing but was taking time to process it. We crept closer and they didn’t seem phased. They weren’t carp. It was a school of 20-30 rainbows and the vast majority were decent fish. I’ve never seen schooling behavior like this so it was a first for me. We left them alone and went back to camp as it was now getting dark. We were very keen to get dinner and the night done so we could come back and fish!
The next day we fished further up the stream and pool after pool we found schools of 20-30 solid rainbows. My theory is that they ran up earlier in winter and then got trapped as the water fell. They were schooling but I didn’t see any evidence of mating. Their condition was ok but not as healthy as normal so I suspect they are hanging in there waiting for rain so they can run back down to the dam.
We caught half meter fish until it got boring and ultimately abandoned fishing much earlier than normal as we’d had our fill and didn’t want to stress them out further. Normally I fish upstream for 3-4km to catch one or two good fish. This time we only ventured up 1km and caught over 10 each. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. 95% of those caught were rainbows with just a couple of browns.
The successful tactic was quite different to what we’d typically employ. Normally we’d fish the standard method of stealthily creeping up from downstream and popping a little blade or minnow well upstream into breaking water and bring it back through likely channels and pools at a low-mid depth. While this still worked on occasion, mostly the schooling fish weren’t interested. We then tried irritating them to get them back for frustrating us so much. This involved dropping a metal blade on top of them and letting it sink into the school and then jigging it erratically up and down in the ‘hot’ area. More often than not one of them would get sick of it and hit the lure. It didn’t seem to matter how many times we did it. The school would hold the same position and would not take flight. It was possible to catch many fish from the same school even after it was disturbed.
Other than the fishing, the mountains served up their usual offering of flora and fauna to keep us interested in the surroundings. Half a dozen orchid species were out in flower, including some impressive clumps of Speciosum (Sydney Rock Orchid). Plenty of kangaroos as normal, as well as a skinny little red bellied black and a large lace monitor. The mystery find though was several clumps of cow pats. I’d heard about a mob of wild cattle in the area but I haven’t heard of anything reported for 15-20 years. I’d be interested to know if anyone has any knowledge about this? Not sure that I’d like to come face to face with a wild bull out there.
YouTube clip with some images. Sorry about the pic quality: