Come May there is a some-what unusual, yet predictable hatch that takes place in the Australian Snowy Mountains. The ‘4x4 hatch,’ spawning from right across the Eastern seaboard across Aussie, congregating in high-viz, shoulder-to-shoulder on the banks of our lower margins of the freestone systems that lead into both the Eucumbene and Jindabyne fishing systems.
Both the Jindabyne and Eucumbene lake systems are large. Jindabyne at capacity is three-times the size of Sydney Harbour and the Eucumbene dwarfs both these systems as it at capacity is about 12 times the size of Sydney Harbour. Both lakes are the holding places of the largest populations of brown trout in Mainland Australia and come May and June many of these very cool creatures go from lake dwellers to river runners for spawning.
In fact, these brown trout are a totally self-sustaining in these lake systems. Brown trout releases have not occurred for decades in both systems, indicating a resilient and prosperous brown trout fishery.
EUCUMBENE & JINDABYNE FISHING TIPS FOR WINTER
Now I should make a disclaimer, I’m not a big enthusiast of fishing the main beats people are drawn to over the spawn run these days, but I don’t begrudge those who do. I just don’t enjoy the experience of fishing a beat that can attract a population of a small town, walking the banks, jostling for position to make a cast. But in the past I have had my fair share of experience and certainly in the last few years, I have enjoyed and dedicated my time to some lesser-frequented systems here in the mountains that produce just as impressive sized fish and good numbers.
For those of our #manicmates hitting the Snowies for a spot of fly fishing in the last couple of weeks of the season, I want to share a couple of ‘quick- tips’ that may be able to help shape your decision making while you’re out on these fisheries this season as they come to a close.
#1- READING THE CURRENT
Like world famous systems like the Tongariro, these fisheries fire up with a fresh. Fish smell that precipitation and a switch is flicked in their brains to go river bound, and in most cases this fresh is off the back of our first wintery south-westerlies. Temperatures plummet, winds pick up and deliver a healthy dose of rain and snow. And like in any fresh, we get heavy currents!
These lake-based fish new to the river environment are typically impeccably conditioned. The fish will push up the river, seldom stopping their run until they find a desired spot to stop and do their thing for the future generations.
The high flows can prove challenging for the angler as any interaction with these fish will require your flies to get down deep and in front of their faces. But through purposeful observation that develops a deeper understanding of currents and how fish use these currents you can really unlock these critters.
What we may see is a raging torrent of water on the surface, a little bit of time and careful observation will spell a myriad of complex currents from one bank to another. Or, how I like to the think of it, from book-cover to book-cover are pages, paragraphs and sentences that build a fishing habitat story.
Look carefully you’ll pick up sections where seams exist; the transition of fast water meeting slower water, or eddies. Fish will use complex currents built from river bed structures and eddy currents off river bends to work up the river.
Simply explained, where there is a current and an obstacle in its path, water displacement occurs. Where there is water displacement, we will inevitably experience eddies, or water filling back in the voids created by obstacles. These seams and eddies are like underwater escalators for the fish; and there is no doubt in my experience, hit the seams not only will your flies get in the required depth zone, but also in the face of the fish as they use these areas of the river to navigate these fast flows.
On a macro level, these complex currents are also created by undulations and obstacles in the river bed. Being freestone rivers characterised by granite rocks, these are aplenty and so will be the fish using them as resting and transition points. Although these complex vacuums and back currents are occurring under the surface of the water, they can be translated, or read on the surface of the water.
Standing washes indicate a large obstacle like a boulder where a cushion of water will exist on the front side and a vacuum of water on the backside with seams pushing off either edge of the broken water. Fish will reside on all four features.
Long rolling unbroken waves indicate depth and usually a vast volume of water over an undulated stone-featured river bed. It’s pretty hard to get those flies down deep, but fish are down there on the bottom navigating those features. These sections of the river, I’ll use a current feature like a river bank seam to get those flies down deep.
Long riffles of nervous broken water will often indicate smaller river bed features like gravel bars and shallower volumes of water. This time of the year these areas particularly in lower light where fish will be moving more freely are great locations to target, particularly for a novice angler - you’ll get great bang for your buck!
When the sun is high in the sky, focus where those riffles lead into drop-offs where fish are lining up to push forwards later in the afternoon/evening. A drop-off will be illustrated by the character of surface water and colour. Depth will eradicate the riffle to a glide and transparent/clear water turners to greener shades, indicating depth. Pretty simple, but very important.
I could go on and on... but for your sanity, I won’t!
However, read and use currents as your focal point when approaching the water and have a mindset on breaking these down with your approach to covering the water. Not only will your flies be getting good drift-time in the zones, but will also support getting your flies to the right depth where fish numbers are plentiful, which leads me to my next quick tip.
#2 - FLY DEPTH MATTERS
Very simply, if you’re not on the bottom, you’re not in the game and there are some good tell-tale signs if you’re not in the zone. If you’re euro nymphing you should feel your flies stumbling down the river bed and your rod tip should be tipping along. Under an indicator you should see your indicator stuttering and micro-pausing as your flies tip along the river bed throughout your drift. In either case, if you’re not experiencing either of these results, you’re receiving really valuable feedback that illustrates that you’re not in the game because you’re not on the bottom!
Double-teamed weighted flies, slack-line fly cast presentations, weighted sink-tip heads if swinging flies is your thing, are all wonderful ways to get those flies down. But rather than presenting a thesis on all these wonderfully effective techniques, seldom they are solely responsible for getting your flies in the zone.
It’s critical we use these methods and fly choices in combination with the observations and knowledge built on currents to get your game-plan working. As already visited, current is a powerful thing at the end of season.
If fishing upstream is your thing, indicator nymphing with something like a Death Metal Pheasant Tail nymph, or Simon’s Ugly, tailed by an unweighted spawning egg pattern a couple feet behind really can be deadly.
Simon's Ugly | Green & Red
Death Metal Pheasant Tail
Otter's Soft Egg | Tangerine
Although you may be throwing bombs, they are simply not getting down unless you’re hitting those seams where a somewhat neutral zone of current exists, providing a hydrology environment where things are able to sink quickly; rather than torn away at a rate of knots in the fast water.
For me, I thoroughly enjoy swinging big streamers like the Manic Sex Dungeon off my Scott T3H two-hander, teamed with an Airflo skagit line and a fast-sink Airflo leader. Springtime snow melt and those early winter conditions really do lend themselves to Spey casting if it’s your thing.
For whatever method you plan to enjoy your end of fly fishing season trip, I encourage you all to wear a mentality of learning out on the water; don’t fall into a sense of complacency when things are, or aren’t working. Challenge yourself to reason with the successes and the struggles, as they both are full of lessons and you’ll be a better angler for it.
My time on the water has gifted me with so many lessons and of those, I hope these couple of quick tips will equip you to enjoy those end of season Eucumbene and Jindabyne fishing trips in the NSW Snowies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Snowys local and fly fishing guide, Matt Tripet, is also the great man behind the amazing initiative, The Fly Program. The mission of The Fly Program is to use the outdoors to get guys together and tackle issues around depression, post-traumatic Stress Disorder and suicide in the Australian male community.