Posts Tagged ‘Fishing Season’

I managed a few days in the Snowy Mountains last week. After a long winter, the area was at last snowy in name only, the top of the Main Range the final bastion of white. Mid 20s maximums and sunshine prevailed on Lake Eucumbene and the rivers, providing more than a taste of dry fly action.

In typical early season fashion, stonefly were the predominant insect on the rivers at first, bring a few excited rises as they fluttered too close to the water (although stonefly nymphs are aquatic, adult stonefly emerge on land.) However toward the end of my trip, mayfly duns began to appear, and the dry fly fishing lifted accordingly. My mate Steve, who stayed on after I headed home, gleefully informed me that the hatches have only got better.

On Lake Eucumbene, a combination of ground not flooded since 2006 and the first really warm weather of the season, created the kind of fishing you’d expect. We normally arrived from the rivers late afternoon to find sporadic rises in any shallow bay we chose. Usually these increased (twice, spectacularly, to termites) as the sun sank lower, and continued on into the night as the trout found midges, craneflies and who knows what else.

Many of the trout were rainbows of a kilo or so – typically strong silvery Eucumbene fish that were a battle to keep out of the thistles. Seven pound tippet was a must! Mixed in was the odd brown and rainbow twice that size; all of these I caught came well after sunset.

All up the area is in great condition and as all that flooded vegetation rots, it’s hard not to see the midge fishing equaling or surpassing 2008. As for mudeye and hopper potential, I think I’ll have to schedule a return trip in a month or two.

Thredbo River

Thredbo River

Lake Eucumbene

Lake Eucumbene

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Two fantastic reviews came in from New Zealand last week, I’ve pasted them below for you to read.

“It is axiomatic that a book should never be judged by its cover. I was immediately taken by this book’s cover, as by its overall presentation. The content, then, should have disappointed but, to the contrary, it was very much a match for the cover. This is not a book with glossy photographs of trophy back-country trout. It is a series of anecdotes and gentle musings. written by an Australian fly-fishing guide, and beautifully illustrated. Some of the stories in fact relate to New Zealand, but the majority are Australian-based, with fly fishing for Victorian trout predominant. Murray cod, salmon at sea, and the game fish of the Gulf of Carpentaria also feature, as do the problems of cooking in the bush, the vagaries of the angling character, and even the comparative dangers of snakes and wasps. This book captures much of the essence of fishing. It may well become a classic.” — John England

Fishing Season is cast in the mould of old, retaining elements that produce a ‘classic’ feel, without losing contemporary appeal. The production quality is superb, with design, writing style and physical attributes creating a synergy that puts it in the classy league and therefore, likely to command a coveted position amidst the libraries of those who appreciate quality.
Bound in traditional hardback and cased with jacket, Fishing Season is beautifully tactile and much of the pleasure in reading it comes from the feel of it in your hands; from the lightly embossed, crisp burnished jacket and high-grade paper that transports the story, to the wonderfully executed thumbnail paintings used to introduce each chapter. It even smells ‘bookish’.
These elements, when combined with the refined writing, promote Fishing Season from the ranks of just another fishing book, to one with perhaps a broader appeal. While essentially a contemplative book about the fly fishing experience, I think it will pique the interest of readers who have no yearning for fishing because it has qualities that transcend the subject matter.
Philip Weigall is obviously an accomplished angler but his ability with the pen, rather than the rod, is the making of this book. He is a wordsmith who crafts a good story, unlike the natural storyteller who fluidly spins a yarn. His style is evocative but uncomplicated, and he writes with clarity and an eye for good imagery: creating a brooding atmosphere one moment, while deftly toying with a little levity in another.
Weigall quietly draws you into the story while keeping you at arm’s length, so that you are only ever a voyeur to his adventures. You are invited to sit at his campfire, but upon the log on the other side of the flames. It’s a case of, “I brought you this far, now go and find the fun on your own.”
The book, as the name would suggest, is physically divided into four obvious sections – winter, spring, summer and autumn. This is a little contrived because the structure is more just a framework on which to hang a selection of his reflective writing, but it works. It works because the stories are engaging, random and meandering, much like a tiny stream that holds promise of a trophy trout.
A slight lapse in attention to detail sees the author, in one chapter, completely switch tense, writing in the present as opposed to the past, suggesting the book is in part a compilation of previously published stories fitted to suit the structure mentioned above. While not a cardinal sin, it is one of a few small literary degrees that may separate Fishing Season from a Great Work and possible classic.
I’ve mentioned nothing of the stories because they are best revealed page by page, as a stream is discovered pool by pool.” —Daryl Crimp

Thank you John and Daryl.

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Last weekend I enjoyed my maiden Tassie fishing trip for the new season, finally managing to combine a book event (at Fullers in Hobart) and some media engagements with a cast or two. The first thing I must mention is the quantity of water. In nearly 3 decades of visits to Tasmania, I’ve never seen so much of the stuff running down the creeks and rivers, or simply lying in the fields. Normally dry gullies looked like spring creeks; depressions in paddocks reminded me of trout lakes. In the previously drought ravaged south-east, the Coal and Jordan rivers were breaking their banks. Further north, water was pouring into lakes Crescent and Sorell and they are almost full – something I doubted I’d ever see again. The Cowpaddock at Arthurs, which could have served as exactly that last season, is a major body of water once again, extending right back beyond Buchanan Creek.

The fishing was ultimately very good, although so much water posed its own challenges. Most rivers were simply too high to bother with. Even floodwater feeders were basically out, with sustained high levels mostly flushing all the terrestrial food (and thus the drawcard for edge-feeding trout) weeks ago. Many lakes posed a similar problem, having already filled and spilled.

In the end, two lakes stood out. At Penstock, we found galaxiid feeders on the western shore on a grey, gale-blown evening. If the trout saw a green Emu Woolly Bugger in the slightly murky water (Penstock is over-full and spilling powerfully), they grabbed it. After dropping two good fish (I blame frozen fingers!) I landed a well conditioned buck rainbow of 5 pounds.

The highlight though was a visit to Lake Echo – a favourite water of mine that was desperately low last season. While still not full, I can report Echo is now several vertical metres higher than when I last fished it. Another bit of good news is the recently opened Large Bay access road, which makes boat trailer and conventional car access possible most of the way to the northern end of the lake, opening up many hundreds of hectares of effectively ‘new’ water. With the water still rising over new ground, the trout were making the most of the flooded bounty, busily searching the classic grassy shores, as well as the steeper shores among the trees and rocks. While it was possible to pick up the odd fish blind searching, sunny skies made for very good polaroiding and any fish covered took a small inert Woolly Bugger confidently. Two of us ended up with about a dozen browns either side of the 1 kg mark between us, and I lost a much bigger rainbow in the sticks – a long story which I’ll expand on some time!

Overall, Tassie this season looks to me like turning on some of the best fishing – river and lake – for a very long time. Trout stocks have survived in almost all the drought-affected waters, not to mention those that have fared pretty well anyway over the last few years. Already the fish are slapping on condition and size, and once the weather begins to settle, the fishing in all the major waters (not to mention several we’d almost forgotten about) will be superb. If you haven’t planned a trip to Tassie for 09/10, you really should.

Lake Echo

Lake Echo

Lake Echo

Lake Echo

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Aussie Angler Book Launch

Aussie Angler Book Launch

Photograph compliments of David Grisold

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Thanks to everyone who came out this weekend to meet me at Aussie Angler; your support is appreciated. After a very successful signing at the Greensborough store, this video appeared on the ‘Net – I thought I’d share it with you all. If you missed the signing, you can come along to Compleat Flyfisher in the Melbourne CBD (Flinders Lane) on August 14 at 12pm or Hook Up Bait & Tackle in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs (Ferntree Gully) on August 22 at 10am. I’ll also be in Tasmania at the Tasmanian Trout Expo in Cressy at the end of the month and will be talking at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart on September 13 at 2pm. You can visit my publisher’s Events page for more info.

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Just letting you know there have been  some photos added to the Gallery page and  Tahnee has kindly updated the Fishing Season page with reviews, including one from Freshwater Fishing magazine:
“… The book contains 26 stories that vary from a tantalising four pages to more substantial offerings of about three times that size. This is a book to read and enjoy while you are relaxing, perhaps with a glass of red, although it’s so easy to become lost in Philip’s imagery that the latter can frequently be forgotten …”

Read the rest here

And on the publisher’s site, you can find listings for upcoming events in Victoria and Tasmania.

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A few years ago, Muz Wilson gave me some of his Emu Woolly Buggers to try. They worked, and as happens with successful flies owned by flyfishers who forget to re-order, their numbers were soon depleted. Eventually I was down to one survivor – a large green one that had caught trout from Lake Jindabyne to Woods Lake. I became careful about when I used that fly, saving it for those tough days or hours when I felt I needed something special. Such a day occurred about 12 months ago fishing with Felix at Millbrook Lakes. The weather was cold and grey, hardly a fish moved, and yet it took only half a dozen casts to hook this rainbow.


Then yesterday I visited Lake Wartook with mate Max. Things got off to a reasonable start, but by early afternoon the action had slowed. I seriously contemplated a lunch break, but instead decided to try one more spot on the eastern shore. Without too much thought, I clipped off a black midge pupa which hadn’t been touched for an hour or so, and reached into the fly box for the Emu Bugger. First cast, and the best trout I’ve ever caught at Wartook inhaled it.

So, either this particular green Emu Woolly Bugger has been infused with some secret essence Muz is working on, or it’s looking very much like a lucky fly. And now I’m faced with a dilemma. Do I push my luck (something I’m intensely wary of doing when flyfishing) and keep using it? Or do I retire this magic fly to a glass frame above my desk? Meanwhile, it’s about time I gave Muz a call to see if he has any green emu left.

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Middle Creek, May 2009

Cold and rainy late season day on the Mitta

Winter is truly here in south-eastern Australia, with another half-metre snowfall across the Snowy Mountains and the Victorian Alps to follow on from the blizzard in late April. I managed a mid-May trip to the Mitta River system for one last crack at the mountain streams. It was great fun, with plenty of fish caught (even on dries) but as you might expect, the action had slowed considerably from just a few weeks earlier.

I knew it was time to say goodbye to the mountain streams for winter when I noticed ice on a shady edge of the Victoria River (the final stream we fished) and measured the water temperature at just 3.5°.

The dilemma of just how long to persevere with the streams is now decided, with all the Victorian and New South Wales streams (bar a handful of sea trout rivers in coastal Victoria) closed to trout fishing from Queens Birthday until Spring. But as one door shuts…

Sticky Caddis

Purrumbete rainbow on Muz's Stick Caddis

The lakes in western Victoria have produced some good, if not outstanding fishing lately. I had an entertaining day with Muz Wilson at Purrumbete recently, catching rainbows of around 1 ½ pounds on stick caddis and the faithful BMS. There were some bigger browns and salmon around too, though these eluded us—this time.

Fishing in the Grampians

Grey day action at Lake Wartook

The Grampians lakes have also been easing the pain of the stream closed season, particularly Wartook. These drought-stricken lakes are enjoying the best early winter rain for years. Since the start of May, Lake Bellfield’s risen from 11340 megalitres to 12980, Lake Fyans from 2760 to 3480, and Wartook from 6910 to 9580.

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After a summer most Victorians would have been better off without, the weather at Millbrook Lakes seems to have swung the other way and we’re now in the midst of a much colder than average June, with snow and heavy frosts already. Water temperatures on the lakes have dropped into single figures and fishing opportunities are changing by the day. Steady rain has the water starting to creep up from low summer/autumn levels.

Highlights of winter so far have included smelters. These fish are chasing huge galaxias at Macphersons, gambusia at Cabin and smelt at Baby Blue. A surprise has been the continuation of very good evening midge hatches, particularly at Harbours, Cabin and Bluegum. How much longer these will last is anyone’s guess, but by August big midge hatches are usually back in force, so maybe we’ll have a whole winter of midge!

Meanwhile guided catches in early winter have been good, with indicator fishing and searching with small wets proving most effective, changing to big wets on dark. John and his two novice friends landed 10 fish between them last week, ranging from 2 to 7 pounds.

The exceptional growth rate of fish has been the real highlight of the year so far at Millbrook, and quite unexpected given the tough summer. Some of the trout we stocked in early spring at 6 inches and a few ounces in weight are hitting 20 inches and nearly 4 pounds. Even the older fish in the 5 to 8 pound range are holding superb condition. With trout like this around, once the water starts to flood back into the grass we could see some exceptional action, so fingers crossed for the next downpour.

Bunny caught May 2009

Dash with a typically chubby Millbrook winter rainbow

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A few hundred years ago, Izaak Walton of Complete Angler fame, wrote “Angling can be said to be so like the mathematics, it can never be fully learnt.” I don’t relate entirely to the use of math in the analogy—despite a sorry lack of mathematical talent I still manage to catch fish. But the bit about angling never being fully learnt, well that resonates. In my branch of angling especially—flyfishing—one of the questions you ask yourself from time to time, is ‘Why am I so smitten by this?’ And as Walton deduced back in 1653 or thereabouts, one part of the answer is surely because you never fully learn it, and never will.

There are many other reasons why flyfishing sips people in as surely as a mayfly caught in the vortex of a rise, but in any event I am one of them. My first coherent childhood memory involves catching a fish as a 3 year old, right down to the smells of eel-slime, the riverside silt and tea-tree.

If I look back on my 47 years of life, fishing milestones mark it to an extent that would be embarrassingly out of proportion to all other milestones, except that fishing, and ultimately flyfishing, was (and is) about much more than catching fish. When the regimented environment at school in Geelong got the better of me, I would look across to the Barrabool Hills on the horizon. I knew that from these hills I would have been able to see the Otway Ranges, a trout stream-laced paradise. This tenuous link offered solace that went way beyond thinking ‘I could catch a fish there.’ It brought to mind time with my Dad, my brothers and my friends; exploration and adventure. As much as anything it gave me a sniff of the mind-clearing freedom flyfishing offers.

I should add that school time had plenty of positives, including a teacher who flyfished and taught fly tying, and another who inspired my love of writing. But by the time my school years ended, I had developed a burning ambition to flyfish as much as possible. This turned out to be one of the few burning ambitions I’ve ever had, possibly because fulfilling it stifled most others.

School was followed by university, where I managed to obtain an Arts degree despite making a big start on the ‘freedom to fish’ thing. There followed a decade or so in a reasonably conventional career—suit, CBD, high rise building, etc. I pragmatically viewed this time in a tie as a fair trade for an increasingly generous fishing budget.

After one particularly successful holiday trip to Tasmania, I was inspired to write an article, which I submitted unsolicited to Freshwater Fishing magazine. It’s interesting to reflect that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have tried twice: I sent the article on a whim and if it had been rejected, I would have accepted that easily and moved on. But in one of those life-changing moments I didn’t notice at the time, it was published.

Several hundred flyfishing articles for a range of publications have followed. I also started writing books (of which ‘Fishing Season’ is the sixth). During this time I was doing some flyfishing guiding and instructing. Eventually I reached a point where I felt I could leave my regular job.

Along the way I met my partner Jane and yes, I met her on a fishing trip—long (and happy) story. Having tolerated city living in order to work, it was a relief to move back to the country with Jane in 1996. Our house south-east of Ballarat is also five minutes from the nearest trout lake (make that three minutes if the duns are hatching). We are blessed with two gorgeous little boys. Daniel at 5 is showing serious interest in flyfishing and spots trout through my polaroids with an ease that would be depressing if it wasn’t for the fact he’s my son. Three year old Sean thinks flyfishing is basically waving a stick back and forth and splashing in the water (which is partially true of course).

Presently I’m editor of Flyfisher magazine and I write features for Freshwater Fishing magazine where I also have a column called Bubble Lines. There’s a new book project progressing in the background, and I’m involved in a steady stream of additional paid and unpaid work, all to do with fishing in some way. These days my guiding and most of my instructing is at Millbrook Lakes, my brother’s private lake fishery just down the road.

I’m pleased to say that there’s still plenty of flyfishing that either isn’t work related, or if it is, it might as well not be. I still lie awake with excitement before a big fishing trip, still shake so hard when I spot an outsized fish that I can hardly tie on a fly, and still get lost in a timeless world where seconds can stretch unbearably or hours can evaporate in minutes.

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