Most years my stream fishing is well and truly over before June and I’ve settled into the lakes. On the Queen’s Birthday Weekend just gone though, I split the difference. Andrew and I decided to squeeze in a trip we never quite got around to high season, and headed over to central Gippsland. This wasn’t going to be a dedicated fishing trip, but more a check-up on some fine fly waters we hadn’t visited in a while.We started on the Macalister River above Licola. The June day was fairly cold and grey, but the river looked a picture, flowing strongly and very clear. A bit of indicator nymphing turned up two good takes and I spooked another fish, but nothing landed. Next we drove to the nearby Wellington River. This little stream was lower than its big cousin and about as clear as I’ve ever seen it. Again we had to settle for a couple of misses before the night raced into the narrow valley, and a meal at the Tinambla Pub became the sensible option.
The next day dawned bright blue and frosty cold. First stop was the Dargo River, rushing like something from New Zealand’s Nelson Lakes through shadowy undergrowth and dripping ferns. Somewhere beyond the ridges far above the sun shone in a clear sky, but the valley remained in shadow. I finally caught a small brown on a tungsten beaded Flashback Nymph and wondered if it was my last for the season.
After a couple of hours, Andrew and I decided some sunlight might be nice, so we turned the car towards the broader Wonnangatta valley. It was a good decision and the river looked magnificent under a midday sun; almost spring-like. The illusion was enhanced when we fished a long run and found to our surprise that a solid dun hatch in progress. Size 16 BWOs trickled steadily off the river. Nothing rose in the 8 degree water, but I assumed fish must be nymphing underneath. Sure enough, a few drifts with the Flashback brought a good take and miss, and then I hooked a respectable brown of a pound or so. The fish was in great condition and together with the mayfly and the overall shape of the river, we found ourselves asking why it had taken us a whole season to get there.
There was enough daylight left for one last session, this time on the aptly-named Crooked River. It too flowed clear and strong, and I wasn’t surprised when a reasonable brownie snatched the nymph at the head of a perfect pool. Minutes later the sun drifted behind the mountain overlooking the valley and any illusion that this was a kinder time of year was gone. My wet fingertips began to feel the bite of the cold air, and my breath fogged on the way back to the car.
Just a day later I was back in my natural winter habitat, fishing Tullaroop Reservoir with my brother Mark. The lake is looking magnificent and with water clarity at least 3 metres, it was possible to polaroid the odd fish from the steep edges. Few trout moved consistently, but by the end of the day we’d landed a brown and two rainbows in the 2-3 pound range. Mark was unlucky not to land a couple of better fish, one of which broke the hook on his Woolly Bugger MKII. On the walk back to the car in the fading light, it occurred to me that the last hours of trout stream season 2012/13 were ticking away, and I wondered briefly if anything would be rising on that broad Wonnangatta run 300 km away.