Brett picked me up at 5pm and we proceeded to Nicks place. We were packed and ready to go at around 545pm and started the 5 hour drive to Khancoban. Lee and Perrin who had come from Canberra andMalua bay respectively were already there and Lee had provided reports of fish rising already. This was going to be a fun weekend.
We finally arrived at the campsite at around 11. Lee and Perrin were still up, the fire raging. High on excitment, we cracked open a bottle of sctoch and proceeded to trade stories that got wilder and less believable as te night wore on. Early on Lee told us of his afternoon, while he didn’t land a fish, he did miss three, two on the dry and one on a wooly bugger… It was cold and the whiskey went down a little too well… By one we were tipsy but at least we were in bed. We had an early start planned and would need some rest. We would fish the creek our camp was on from sunrise then head to the swampy plains river below the pondage…
The next morning came, it was crisp and clear. The beauty of our campground now apparent. The poplars and other european trees were in full Autumn colours, bright and flashy. Red, yellow and orange blocks of colour dotted our bright green valley. Stunning would be one way of describing it, but words cant really do it justice. Despite the stunning beauty our heads were throbbing, the whiskey had taken its toll on a few of us, but we headed out fishing regardless. The fishing was slow, I think Lee and Perrin missed fish, but there wasn’t much action. So we headed back to camp, prepared coffees, made bacon and egg rolls and dolled out panadols which had us all in a much better mood. Off the the swampy we went.
When we arrived at the swampy, it was running high. It was like nothing I have ever fished to be honest, reminiscent of the big rivers you see photos of in America, Canada, New Zealand and Europe. Not the small streams of Australia or the lower slower big waters. It was all a little intimidating to be honest, I was well and truly out of my comfort zone. Swinging nymphs and sparkle caddis was to be the order of the day. It didn’t take too long for Brett to land a solid little brown on a hare and copper nymph. But after that things slowed down. At least 4 of the 5 of us (with Brett the exception), were a little out of our depths, at times quite literally. At one point trying to cross a rapid to get to a little island I almost got washed away, pulling the pin, just before things got too dicey. After a while without any action I lost a little enthusiasm and hankered for the smaller waters I am more accustomed to fishing. I headed back upstream with Perrin to a nice little spot where it was a little shallower and safer. We stood there and swang nymphs for a while. As Lee was coming to say hi, my swung nymph which had been trailing below me for 5 or 10 seconds as I chatted got slammed on the surface, but I failed to hook up. I rolled cast back out and told Lee what had happened as he didnt see it and WHACK! another hit. I had been more intent on talking than fishing for those few seconds and had now missed two hits because of it. I continued swinging for a while but that was it. We spent a few more hours on the swampy, there was a good caddis hatch,, hundreds of swallows swooping and grabbing the emerging caddis off the surface as they hatched but no fish were on them. Eventually we decided to fish a small creek and try get some numbers.
The creek we tried was small, little fish, no great structure and all in all it was pretty hard fishing. I dropped two bonsais on the way up, the others did similarly, missing the odd hit on dries from tiny fish. At a big pool a fair way up river, the river changed, from a low, slow creek, to boulder filled wonderland, pocket water galore. A few pockets in and I had landed my first (and only) fish of the day. A decent rainbow, that fell to a size 14 red spinner, cast over a few boulders so it would sit in the middle of the pool. After 5 seconds on the surface, the fish smashed the fly and I clumsily made my way over the rocks to land her. Just as she came to hand, Nick arrived, the others were restless wanted to get back to the campground for the evening hatch. Even though there was good water ahead, it was time to head home.
The evening hatch was a bit of a flop for most of us. We fished near the campground and saw the odd fish rising, but it was all a bit dissapointing. Nick went further afield than all of us, trudging down river. We had all been back at the camp, huddling around the fire for an hour or so once he finally returned. His stories were of a completely different river. Rising fish galore, dropping two good fish, landing a few tiddlers and missing 15-20 hits! Jeebus! we would have to hit up the lower section tomorrow, we had just been in the wrong place. Without much fish to eat, Perrin cooked us jerk pork, which was deliccious and we made a plan for the next days adventures. Ogilvies to chase Brookies and then back tot he campground to fish the evening rise Nick had just experienced. As we sat at the fire, the moon large, bathing the campground in moonlight, we talked tactics, traded stories and entusiasm for the next day grew and grew.
We arrived at Ogilvies in the morning, it was bright and clear with only a light breeze. The tiny creek meandered through alpine heath. An absolutely stunning alpine environment. A fish was rising in the first pool. Both Nick and Brett had a go at catching it without luck As we made our way up, leapfrogging each other, it was pretty slow. Nick was first on board, with a rainbow in the high 20’s, a really good fish from water that small… Eventually I found where the fish were hanging out. After spending a lot of time working the slower areas, I spent a bit o time working a fast shallow riffle. Bang, a hit, bnag another one. On the 6th hit in the same riffle I finally hooked up, a nice mid 20’s brown. As I was trying to get it to hand, witht eh fish at my feet, it threw the hook. A few casts and a few more misses later and I dropped a little fingerling. What proceeded would set the tone of the trip for me. For whatever reason, I couldn’t connect. Working the riffles I had another 15-20 hits on the dry (a grey size 18 parachute adams), without connecting to another fish! The most frustrating miss was workinging a slower pool, almost entirely covered with overhannging heath. I managed to get a cast in, which drifted perfectly under the overhanging vegetation (I was pretty happy with myself), a fish rose to it, I struck and I ended up in an almighty tangle in the overhanging bush. As I walked up to deal with the mess I spooked 6 good fish, all over 20cms. That is life I suppose.
Eventually we called it and headed back to the campground. The plan was simple. Me and Perrin would be dropped off at the bridge, the others would drive halfway up, drop off the car and walk to the campground. We would walk to the car. Each group would get 2kms of river each for the afternoon. Perrin and I struggled immensely for the first half. We spent most of our time in the weeds and bushes behind us, very little in the water. I dropped a good fish in one of the first pools, which was the only action we saw for the first hour and a half. Mainly due to incompetence. Our barry culminated in one of the most inept attempts to catch a rising fish I have ever seen. We both had 10 casts each at it. It wasn’t a big cast, 40ft maybe, but we just couldn’t get there, Perrin cast of his rod tip, when we did make the distance our flies would crash into the water, putting the fish down for 5 minutes before it started rising again. With the fish still rising after half an hour of us completely failing to present a fly to it, we gave up and continued moving upstream.
Eventually, things got a bit better. We started casting ok and I even managed to get a nice brown from a set of riffles. We then found a lovely riffle, as it approached dark. I had more than a dozen hits in it, Perrin half a dozen. I dropped a very nice fish, Perrin dropped another, but we just couldn’t land one… With it getting dark, Perrin headed up towards where the car was. I dilly dallied trying to tempt the big one I had missed, but failed. As I tried to catch up, I saw a rising fish, I just had to cast at. First cast and bang, a little bow. It was now almost pitch black, the rising moon not yet providing the light it did later in the night. I needed to motor. As I stormed up a lovely long calm pool, I saw another riser, gently sipping something off the surface, I couldn’t resist. Despite not being able to see much I stalked it and put in a cast. I could see where my flyline landed and was watching that area, when I saw the fish rise again, this time 2 meters closer to the bank, I went to recast and to my surprise I was on, the fish had actually risen to my fly, the leader must have landed at a 90 degree angle to the rest of my flyline. Lucky me. What ensued was the shortest fight of my life. The fish jumped, straight into the bushes on the bank. That was it. With two fish for dinner I ran to catch up with Perrin and we got in the car to see how the others had done.
The others hadn’t done quite as well as us. Brett had got a very nice rainbow on a nymph early into the session, they had missed a few nice fish, but that was it. In any case, we had trout for dinner, even if only very meagre portions for five grown men. Cleaning them, I did the stomach report, which was very interesting. Bretts rainbow was absolutely chocked full of soldier beetles. It had nothing else in its stomach. My two browns, had a far more diverse diet. The bigger one had a few dark irredescent beetles, a few midge, a few soldier beetles and a few other bits and pieces. The sipper that jumped in the bushes was packed to the brim with tiny midge. Hundreds and hundreds of them. That night as we ate smoked trout and a nicoise salad, we decided to spend our last day close to home on our creek. Above the campground there were two bridges, three of us would take the 6km stretch between one and the other, the other two the 5 km stretch up to the third bridge where the first group would pick them up. The stakes were high, Lee and Perrin were yet to catch a fish. It would be a big day.
Well rested, we started our day with coffee and muesli bars and hit the river. Woefully underprepared in my case. I didn’t bring any food or water, just a red bull and a beer, not quite grasping how long 6 kms of fishing would take. In the end it took most of the day, we started on the river at 830-9 and we wouldn’t reach the bridge till 4. Whoops. The days fishing was hard, but the scenery was stunning which made for a great day. I started the day by missing a dozen strikes. As I said before, I couldn’t hook a fish for the life of me for most of the trip, despite getting loads to rise to my dry flies. Lee and Brett missed a few strikes as well. We definitely weren’t capitalising on our opportunities. Then it went quite for a while. Then we started seeing insects, then in a lovely bit of fast water, that ripped past a log, I finally managed a fish. In this case persistence paid off. The water looked so good, I knew there was going to be a fish there. It was only on about the 15th drift past the log that the fish decided to play ball. Another nice brown to the tally. On the next log which Lee had been fishing, I missed another nice fish.
Things hotted up from there. Lee finally caught a fish, a cute fingerling on a size 18 parachute adams. He soon had 3 in the bag. Brett got a couple of fingerlings and then spotted a big trout sitting under some willows in a big pool. On his first cast at the fish, which landed a bit short, he landed a nice rainbow, about a third of the size of the big one which was still happily sitting along the bank. As he continued to try and get that fish, me and Lee moved upstream and got into a couple of fingerlings, landing a few more each. A few bends up I missed a really nice brown that was sitting in fast water under a willow branch. Ten meters up from that I dropped another good fish. In the next pool, Lee dropped a very nice brown due to the line being around his foot. In the next pool, I managed to land another nice brown. Then it all stopped, the river went behind a hill, into shade, the insects disappeared as did the fish. Me and Brett gave up, Lee continued fishing hard and dropped another good fish. For whatever reason the fishing gods weren’t smiling on him. Eventually we called it and started hauling arse to the car. I spotted a few sippers which I cast at on the way back, I got two to rise to my fly but missed both. I was doing something seriously wrong somewhere, never have I had such a poor conversion rate of fish to rises to my flies. But it didn’t matter, at least I was catching a few nice fish.
We got the car and radioed Nick and Perrin. They had done better than us. Perrin who hadn’t caught a thing all trip cleaned up, with four nice fish, 2 rainbows (best 34cm) and 2 browns (best 35cm). Nick had got a few lovely rainbows. The bows had mainly fallen to nymphs the browns to dries. The boys were buzzing, they had had a great day. As well as their 6 big fish, they had caught a bunch of fingerlings and missed countless fish, they had definitely won the day.
As we headed back to camp, we decided to fish the evening rise, all of us at the middle entry and exit point fromt he day before. I immediately headed down to the riffle I had dropped my bigger fish on the day before. It wasn’t long before I had him (or another similar fish). He fell to a size 16 red spinner on about my 5th cast. A lovely 38cm brown, my biggest of the trip. A few pools up I had a nice 25cm rainbow. I’d doubled my “bigger” fish tally for the day in a matter of minutes which was nice. I met up with Lee as it was getting dark and as we wondered past a big open pool, the fish started rising. Perrin had been in the pool only 10 minutes before and didn’t see a thing!. We proceeded to try and catch the risers. Lee landed a couple and dropped a couple before we headed back. Meeting up with Brett and Nick, they had also found a good evening rise. Each of them landing a nice fish on the F fly in the same pool and dropping a few more. We headed back to camp exhausted. We would have to head home tomorrow back to the real world, it would be a little while till we got be in such a picturesque place doing what we loved.
Overall it was a great trip, the fishing wasn’t easy but we caught fish and had fun. Mostly anyway, Lee had a bit of a tough time and was really struggling after two days without a fish. It was made worse by everyone backseat driving and telling him what to do. “tie on this”, “tie on that”, “fish that bit of water”, “cast there”… In hindsight that probably only made it a whole lot worse. Hopefully I can convince him to do a post on losing your fishing mojo. We have all been there, we have all had trips like Lees, where we just cant quite get it together for whatever reason, lose confidence. I wrote about it in Spring, I had a similar experience on the lakes around Ballarat over winter. Half a dozen day trips and I didn’t even get a hit!
PS- A huge thank you to Lee for doing almost all the photography. Some cracking shots and some great video that you might see if we ever get around to editing it