A few months ago I was in the mountains doing nice things; things unrelated to fishing, like eating at nice cafes and restaurants, sleeping, reading, doing crosswords, looking in shops and so on. It was really lovely, and I also managed a few hours of fishing. When confronted with a limited window of opportunity the decision can be tough – do I want to put a bend in the rod, do I want to try for a trophy spawn-run fish, or do I want to just have a nice walk with a fishing rod and maybe catch a fish or two? When you’re strolling along the Thredbo River in May, the answer will often be ‘I want a trophy spawn-run fish’, regardless of the time available. So off I went, armed with a spinning rod (the wind was howling so flyfishing wasn’t the best option) and a few trusted trout lures.
I met a few fellow fishers, a father and son combo. It was great to see the lad and dad combo, and they looked the part decked out in about $5000 worth of Simms and Loomis gear. They had seen a few fish but hadn’t had much luck. They shared some wisdom about where they saw some said fish, and I’m sure they had a joke about a ‘dirty spin fisho’ once they were a few metres down the track! I kept going and after about 15 minutes landed a little rainbow. I was just blind casting, which is a great way of seeing what is around, but certainly not as fun as spotting and stalking individual fish. After walking a few hundred metres along the river, and making casts in every likely spot, I was starting to understand that catching the spawn run fish that were supposed to be in there was going to be a bit harder than I’d hoped. I finally found a big deep pool that there just had to be fish in. Big fish. So I did what any crazy trout fisher would do and tied on a gold bomber. Anyone who’s fished the runoff in the territory knows that gold bombers are the go-to barra lure. Call me crazy, but surely these are perfect for big, angry trout. I cast this around for a while, but after 10 minutes or so realised that I wasn’t going to catch a fish in this pool.
The morning had become midday, and I noticed a lot more people around the place. Cyclists, trekkers and anglers. Lots of anglers. It started to sink in that this pool had probably been thrashed over the last few days, weeks, even years. Despite having a brain about the size of a pea, trout aren’t stupid animals, and it made sense that any decent fish wouldn’t be hanging around in the pool in which previous generations had been caught and released, or worse still, caught and ‘disappeared’.
It was back to the drawing board. On the way to the pool I was fishing, I crossed a little side creek in which I’d noticed a few little trout flitting about in the shallow water. Tying on a little soft plastic, I decided to head up this little gem of a creek, in the hope of a bit more action. And that’s exactly what happened – a handful of little browns a rainbows, all in the first hundred metres or so of creek. Every likely spot had a fish, and these little naiive fish gave me multiple opportunities to catch them. It was visual fishing, too, and I saw lots of fish before catching them. I realised I’d probably wasted the limited time I had on the ‘big’ river, when I could have been stalking pretty little fish up a relatively unfished stream…catchable fish, at that.
And I realised that big isn’t always best. Surely, finding fish is better than not catching fish. For me, it doesn’t matter whether they are trophy spawn-run browns, or little gems that you can cradle in one hand, admire, and flick back into the stream. It was a lesson; a little one, but a good one. On the way back to the car I walked past a lovely old chap, spinning rod in hand. He had a big grin on his face. ‘How’d you go?’, I asked. ‘Just got a lovely big brown on a celta in that big deep pool down there. There just had to be a fish in there!’.