Writing a post like this is difficult, as it’s sure to attract criticism. This criticism can be two-fold: firstly, anyone who fishes for trout wants to be the only one on the stream or river, and favourite spots are a tightly held secret. Added to this, Canberra has the largest population in the Murray-Darling Basin, and some of our streams attract a fair bit of pressure. Secondly, some people HATE trout, and wonder why they are favoured by so many when they are, in fact, a noxious pest that has completely destroyed the aquatic ecology of many of our streams and rivers…
Criticism (hopefully) aside, trout are fun to catch, and the environments in which they live can be truly stunning. I can justify giving away some of the secrets because, well, I want people to read our blog, and anyone with internet can do a simple Google search and find most of the information that is presented here in a few more clicks. Regardless of research, it still means you have to go out there, battle the tea tree, snakes, murderers and mosquitoes, and actually catch the fish, so I figure it can’t be that bad…
Once you start to look for trout around Canberra, you realise they are everywhere. The oft-heard thing is that ‘the drought really knocked them around’, which is probably true, but it must have been a damn good fishery before then, because there are still plenty around.
Only open to fishing from the junction with Condor Creek to Bendora Dam Wall. This section is a fly and lure only water. Fishing is prohibited in all waters above Bendora Dam and Cotter Dam Wall to Condor Creek. The 1km section below cotter dam is also open to fishing.
The Cotter is probably Canberra’s best known trout stream, and for good reason. It’s close, has beautiful scenery, and holds good populations of rainbows and the odd brown. Most of the fish are small, but there are some very nice browns in there, and a recent urban myth of a 8lb rainbow getting caught. In water like this, this is a world-class fish. The saving grace of the Cotter’s trout population is the Cotter Dam, a recently enlarged impoundment that provides a sanctuary for the fish. These fish can hold up in the heat of summer and run up the stream during winter to spawn. Interestingly (and somewhat controversially), the Cotter River also holds a good population of Maquarie Perch, and there are rumours that Trout Cod have started colonising the river (coming down from Bendora where there is a healthy population). It seems bizarre that you can fish the Cotter during Macca spawning season and encounter these highly endangered natives, but you can’t fish for the noxious trout during winter…but that’s another blog, and one that is sure to attract far more controversy than this one.
Long story short, it’s a great stream suited to both spinning and flyfishing. Spinning is the easier option, as you’ll be able to cover more water and cast through some tight spots, but catching a fish on the fly in water like this is immensely satisfying. Whether spinning or flyfishing, it pays to wear waders in the cooler months as there are some deeper pools that will test the most reluctant….anglers.
The Goodradigbee is about an hour’s drive from Canberra and eventually flows into Burrinjuck Dam at Wee Jasper. The River holds good populations of rainbows and browns, especially in the higher sections. I’ve only ever seen fish up to about 35cm, generally skinny rainbows. The road from Canberra can be a little hairy, particularly in the wet, but it’s easily accessible in a two-wheel drive. Just be careful navigating some of the blind corners on the way down the hill past Picadilly Circus.
The Godradigbee experienced a massive flood a few years ago, which gouged out huge sections of the river (and destroyed the bridge), and completely changed the river’s character. It seems to have knocked the fish around a bit, and they’re not as easy to come by as they were before the floods.
There are some really cool little campsites up there, right next to the river, but make sure you respect the landholders up here because most of it’s on private property and there are a few keep out signs, but if you are discreet and leave no trace, you probably won’t get shot at. And don’t mind the cattle that seem intent on chasing anything that moves; they’ve evidently been hand-fed and associate humans with food. And if you see some movement in the bushes with compound bows, don’t be alarmed, the bushes are humans, and they are bowhunters. As long as you wear an orange cap you probably won’t get impaled on a high velocity piece of graphite and titanium. Anyway, you get the picture. Great spot, but go with a friend. It’s also high up in the mountains and the weather can change rapidly, so ensure you have the right gear.
Upper Queanbeyan River/Burra Creek
I have to be honest, I’ve never caught a trout up here. I’ve only fished Burra Creek once, and didn’t see a thing. But some recent electrofishing turned up a few rainbows, and in addition to the efforts of NSW DPI (or whatever they’re called now) in stocking Googong Dam with a few fingerlings, indicates that there are a few trouties up there. It will require a bit of walking; or even better, whack the mountain bike on the back of the car and go for a bit of a peddle.
Naas, Gudgenby and Paddy’s
Brian Pratt’s ‘The Canberra Fisherman’ was already lamenting the demise of these fisheries back in 1979. And unfortunately, it’s still seems fairly true. These creeks appear to be a shadow of their former selves, when it comes to trout fishing anyway. However, there are still a few fish around, and they are in some beautiful country, so they are definitely worth a look. A mate went up to Paddy’s recently and saw a few fish, but wasn’t able to tempt them. You could put it down to genetics, I guess. Any trout resilient enough to survive 10 years of drought, and publication in the aforementioned bible of Canberran fishing, is sure to have a brain bigger than a pea. Unless they’re coming in from the ‘bidgee, into which they eventually flow, the few fish that are in here indicates a tenacious and resilient population of wild fish.
This is getting a bit further from Canberra, but surprisingly the Mongarlowe is only 1-1.5 hours away. It’s different from the aforementioned streams in that it flows east into the Shoalhaven and eventually into the Pacific. There are some pretty sections in the Monga National Park that hold good populations of mostly small wild fish, but be prepared for leaches, mosquitoes, pigs, pig hunters and impassable vegetation. In-stream is the way to go here, which lends itself nicely to flyfishing.
I was initially reluctant to include the Tuross, as it’s a magic little river and doesn’t really count as a trout stream, because it’s synonymous with monster flathead, bream, bass, EPs and mulloway. However, the stretches before it flows east down the escarpment hold decent populations of wild trout. Once again, be prepared for tea tree, leaches, mozzies and pig hunters. And if you come across any tomato plantations, walk away quickly and quietly. If you find any scarecrows hanging from trees with spears through them, it’s a good sign that you’re probably not welcome. If you stick to the river though, you can find some lovely pools and riffles, and catching wild trout in these east flowing catchments is somehow more satisfying than some of the taxpayer funded populations further west.
Well, that’s about all. There are numerous other streams within an hour and a half, and potentially hundreds within two hour’s drive. The critical reader might wonder about some possible omissions in the above, but you might have to do a bit more research and some walking to find these. One of the special things about fishing is finding your own spots. I found a ‘secret creek’ a while ago, and while fishing got a nice Royal Wulff snagged in a tree above me. I couldn’t reach the dry, but noticed a nice nymph within reach. Not so secret, but it’s still ‘my’ stream, which is part of what makes it special to me.
I don’t have any strong views on catch and release for trout. There are some streams where it probably wouldn’t make much sense to kill the trout, as the streams are so modified that taking a few will not make a difference (except that they will be harder to catch next time). Other streams, where natives are hanging on, would certainly benefit from a concerted effort to make the most of the trout as both a sportfishing target and a table fish. If these environments (and the fisheries they once supported) could be restored to their former glory, I wouldn’t be complaining about the loss of trout.
Thanks for reading. There’s plenty of other content on the blog about trout fishing around Canberra and in general, so have a look around 🙂