There’s quite a lot to report since my last post, so stick with me! First up, last Friday Andrew Connell and I finally delivered 10 flyfishing outfits to Evolve (www.evolve.org.au) an organisation based near the Rose River that uses bush therapy to help at-risk kids. Evolve’s CEO Paul Stolz, himself a keen flyfisher, was there to receive the outfits. This was a fantastic outcome that began with a fundraiser at the Fly Fish Baw Baw event late last year (see my earlier post). Very special thanks to JM Gillies, Mayfly Tackle and The Fly Guy for allowing us to get great value for the money raised. Incidentally, Evolve has some ideal accommodation on their property, and as part of their future fundraising plans, they will soon be offering fully catered flyfishing packages. With the King, Rose, Dandongadale and Buffalo rivers all nearby, it’s a very central base. Watch this space for details.
After Evolve, I headed over to Bright. Some months ago, the North-east CMA’s Andrew Briggs invited me to help open the Ovens River Fish Habitat Enhancement Project near this township. After some delays due to the Harrietville Fire, we finally went ahead last Saturday. Around 100 people turned up for the opening and despite thick frost at first, it turned into a beautiful blue sky day. I spoke about the importance of projects like these for better fishing, not to mention the good environmental outcomes. I also gave a quick flyfishing demonstration in which no fish were harmed!
The project takes in 2.5 km of river, well accessed by paths and vehicle tracks. Funded by recreational fishing licence fees, it incorporates a number of elements including willow and blackberry removal as well as native species revegetation. There are also lots of informative signs explaining the project and the fishing benefits. However the key feature is the strategic placement of structure, both logs and boulders. Coincidentally I’d fished this stretch several times prior to the project, and the change to this previously quite featureless water is remarkable. While the resulting habitat variability, cover and velocity refuges will undoubtedly benefit the local trout and blackfish populations, trout cod are already well established further down the Ovens and it’s hoped this project may encourage their return to this part of the river.
After nearly 2 days in the north-east I still hadn’t had a proper fish, which felt decidedly weird. Not that this was a fishing trip and with the rivers running at just 6 C, I wasn’t missing much there. But I’ve never in my life been to this area without enjoying at least a few casts so with a couple of hours to spare Saturday afternoon, I decided to head to an old favourite, Lake Catani. This pretty alpine lake lies among the snowgums atop the Buffalo Plateau and it normally wouldn’t be my first choice so close to winter. But the sunny skies and light wind promised conditions that were at least comfortable, so I drove up the mountain and walked down the gentle slope to the lake. In the sunlit ripple hardly a fish moved, but in the shaded water closer to the wall, they were rising by the dozen for midge and the odd late caddis. The water here was very cold, just 6 C too, and the trout moved in that lazy, almost lethargic way of trout in icy water. I missed the first two rises to a little Klinkhammer because I didn’t allow for the slow motion rise, but I managed to pause long emough to hook the next two, both browns about 12 inches long and beautifully coloured. By then my fingers were starting to go numb, and I noticed there was still unmelted ice in the gaps among the lakeside boulders. It really was time to say goodbye to the north-east until spring.