After a few false starts involving booked out accommodation, muddy water and artificial floods, Peter and I managed a few days away last week. One of the great attributes of flyfishing is how things sometimes just work out, and although fishing around Myrtleford wasn’t our first or even second choice, in the end it couldn’t have been much better.
All my life I’ve loved autumn in north-east Victoria – the colour on the trees, the soft misty mornings, the warm settled days minus the sharp heat of a month or two earlier. The rivers always seem to be at about the ideal height (tailwater flushes excepted!) and the water is as clear as it gets. The trout seem pretty laid back; sipping quietly in the foam lines and pool tails, or nymphing away at the bottom of the deeper runs away from the full force of current. So it isn’t always fast, flashy fishing as you can find during summer evenings or when the hoppers are about. Instead,a steady, methodical approach seems to suit the winding down of the season. It feels good to spend ten minutes working on one sipper, or to thoroughly nymph every inch of the drop-off at the head of the pool.
From the Kiewa to several of the Ovens River tributaries, Peter and I never had a blinder. But we caught several fish a session, and some good ones too, with the better browns and rainbows pushing 16 inches. These fish and the more common ‘pannies’ were all in good condition, proof as if it were needed that they’d made it through a fairly hot, dry summer just fine.
After we were all spoiled by a couple of wet, high flow summers, there’s been lots of talk this last one about trout decimated by cormorants, fires and low, lethally warm water. Don’t believe it. Trout are very good at staying out of sight when they want to, and then as soon as things are favourable again, out they come from the nooks and crannies. Maybe there aren’t quite as many fish as during the high points of 2011 and 2012, but there are plenty all the same. The north-east rivers – including the burnt ones – will be just fine. As ever, they don’t need artificial stocking, that will just upset the natural recovery. The good numbers of fish already present will soon be spawning in ideal river conditions, and the resulting fry will grow quickly over spring, as will the many fingerlings already present. Roll on next season!