Like shooting fish in a barrel

A couple of weeks ago photos of Brook trout caught in Victoria started popping up all over FB and instagram. Apparently a bunch of brook trout had escaped from a trout farm and people were jumping at the rare opportunity to catch these fish within a couple of hours from Melbourne. This weekend I decided to join the fray. I was a little late to the party and there was every chance I would miss out on the frantic action of the previous weeks. As Brett said on Friday night “Its been absolutely smashed”. I thought I’d give it a shot anyway.

My first ever brook trout
My first ever brook trout swims off

I arrived at the river at 8am on Saturday morning. I was the sixth car there. “Strewth” I thought to myself. After eating a banana for breakfast and setting up in slow motion due to a lack of caffeine, I finally started walking down the river and the excitement started mounting. As I wandered along, with a paddock and wide open spaces behind me, I thought “F*** it” and decided to have a pre-fish cast, “just to blow out the cobwebs” before I got to my intended destination. I stripped some line, made the cast and almost immediately I was into my first brook trout. It threw the hooks soon afterwards. I recast and was on again. I managed to land this one. Brook trout was now ticked off the bucket list. After my initial success I decided to walk down swinging the fly. It turned out to be a good decision.

Another brook trout
Another brook trout
And another
And another

What followed wasn’t at all what I expected. Those first two casts turned out to be the rule rather than the exception. At 8.30 I messaged Nick and Brett, I’d only caught ten fish at that point. At 915 it was 20. I stopped counting and from there the fishing actually hotted up. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, heck it was probably easier than shooting fish in a barrel. If you were in the right spot anyway. The fish were only schooled up in numbers in certain pools. While many pools wouldn’t hold any brookies or only hold a fish or two, others would be chocked full of fish. In one little 15 meter section of river I landed 20+ fish in half an hour or so, five fish in five casts at one point. It was trout fishing like I’d never seen it. The fly I was using was a little articulated number I had haphazardly thrown together on Friday night after a few beers. Thankfully it worked a treat. On a number of occasions I’d come in behind a few spin fishermen who had been flogging a pool for 15 minutes without a fish and hook up on my first or second cast. Needless to say I got a couple of strange looks and a number of inquiries on what I was using and the technique. In the end, I think it was the fly. I’m sure those fish have seen thousands of lures over the last few weeks, a little articulated fly that would look more at home steel-heading than on one of our local creeks was most likely new to them. It was crazy fishing. It was also lots and lots of fun but by 11am I’d already had my fill. I’d caught a brookie, in fact I’d caught a lot of brookies, it was time for something different. I decided head somewhere else to try and get myself a trout trifecta, it was time to chase some browns and rainbows.

MOAR brookies
MOAR brookies

photo 2 (1)photo (5)

Ugly mug of a meat eater
Ugly mug of a meat eater
The fly
The fly
The fly at the end of the day
The fly at the end of the day

 

The quest for the trifecta was short lived, I dropped a couple of little browns and then managed to land a little bow. Two down, only one to go and it was looking like a sure thing. There was a load of little browns in the stream, it was only a matter of time. At this point the fishing gods taught me a lesson. In fishing there is no such thing as a sure thing. I stalked a likely looking pool, set up to cast and backcast into a tree. I tried to yank the fly out of the tree not noticing that the line was wrapped around the tip and “crack”. The rod broke taking my hopes of a trout trifecta with it. Not to worry. It had been one hell of a day and getting home early would be nice.

LIttle rainbow
LIttle rainbow
Back she goes
Back she goes
Day over.
Day over.

By the time I arrived home, walked in the door and greeted the dog, the day no longer seemed real. Was it too far out of the ordinary? too easy? too fun? As I drank a beer and savoured the rest of the afternoon, I found myself thinking about the lakes and big crafty browns. And that at least now I can say I’ve caught a brookie.

 

Cheers

Hamish

flickandflyjournal.com

Hamish Webb, Dan Firth, Graham Fifield and Lee Georgeson have been fishing the south-east Australian region since 1987. Since then they’ve become avid sportfishermen who are constantly looking for new ways to challenge themselves. They are all scientists and conservationists who are passionate about the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem in which they live. They promote understanding and appreciation of the complex socio-political, economic and environmental issues surrounding fish, fishing and fisheries, while never losing sight of the various motivations that keep them coming back. In English, that means they love all things fishing and have a damn good time on the water, and that’s all that really counts in the end!

9 thoughts on “Like shooting fish in a barrel

  • June 1, 2014 at 1:42 pm
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    Amazing story and pictures Hambone, you might need to give that fly a name. Also, I thought glass was supposed to be indestructible. Eli snapped the tip off mine around about the same place.

    Reply
    • June 1, 2014 at 1:50 pm
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      I know, $30 dollars doesn’t buy you what it used to 😉 On a name for the fly “shitty knockoff of a good US articulated pattern” may be the way to go…

      Sounds like you had a great weekend on the Euc, likely similar in terms of crowds. Was weird fishing around so many people. It wasn’t bad and everyone I met was lovely, it was just strange.

      Reply
  • June 2, 2014 at 11:06 am
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    Wow! Great outing. I had one of those days on Clear Creek outside of Denver back in the day. 60+ fish day. That stream was on fire. Thanks for the report.

    Reply
  • June 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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    Dan, the fish you are chasing are probably wild, which brings its own joys. This was cheating really given they were all well fed hatchery escapes. The biggest went 17 inches but I’d trade it for a 20 cm wild brook trout in a heartbeat tbh.

    Tim, it was definitely pretty crazy fishing. Phillip Weigall over at the http://flystream.com/forums/ forums put me onto a great little story by G.M.Skues which is a little similar http://flyanglersonline.com/lighterside/part364.php At least I was able to leave once I’d had my fill 🙂

    Cheers
    Hamish

    Reply
  • June 2, 2014 at 3:26 pm
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    Not wanting to take away the pleasure of the experience, but I am more concerned by the fact a fish farm had just spewed a huge batch of exotic fish into the Australian environment. This kind of thing is completely unacceptable, and is how many unfolding ecological disasters around the world started.

    Reply
    • June 2, 2014 at 3:51 pm
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      Fair point. I suppose in this case, given the poor record of Brook trout introductions in Australia, the chances of it causing large ecological problems (in a stream that already contains healthy populations of browns and rainbows) is probably pretty low. I also know very little about how it happened and whether it was actually an accident or not tbh (I know there is are specific regulations pretty much for this river on Brook trout bag limits etc, so who knows). Regardless, I dare say the chances of successful spawning is likely to be pretty low and survival is likely to be compromised by putting all that biomass into a small section of river at one time (there is also a pretty large recreational take at the moment). I imagine, given the historical low success of Brook trout stockings in Australia it won’t be all that long until they disappear from the river entirely (barring accidental releases that is.)

      Cheers
      Hamish

      Reply
  • June 10, 2014 at 6:49 am
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    A fine report and photos. This was obviously a recent brook trout escape. There was a bunch of brookies and Atlantic Salmon that escaped into a well known and heavily fished river up towards Eildon a few years ago. When the word got out, this spot was like Burke Street and it got absolutely flogged. Unfortunately I didn’t get up there to tempt the brookies. Brook Trout are a striking looking fish with their red and white fins and colours. I’ve been on a few brook trout wild goose chases in Victoria after being told of them living in small isolated mountain creeks. So far, they’ve turned out to be small immature wild rainbows but still a lot of fun to catch and release. Interesting looking fly. Brook trout apparently do like a little/lot of bling. A popular fly in the US was and still is the Parmachene Belle which is tied to look like a brook trout fin. Other similar flies are the Fontinalus and the Trout Fin.
    Pity about your rod tip. At $30, was it an Eagle Claw? I broke 8 inches off a 6’6″ 3/4wt a few months ago. Not fishing but getting the still rigged up rod out of the car when I got home in the evening. I almost wept. But ebay came to the rescue and I bought another one from the same Victorian company I’d bought the first one from. Quite cheap and a great little small stream rod. The broken rod had a new tip top glued on and it’s now an even handier short 5’8″ 5/6wt rod, so not a total loss, if anything a gain.
    Cheers,
    Steve.

    Reply
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