SNOWY MOUNTAINS TROUT FSIHING

Snowy Mountains
   One of the great things about fly fishing is that the experiences and rewards are personal. For traveling anglers  there's a big world  to fly fish out there. But fishing in a strange country can be quite intimidating. You don't know what to expect, and don't know what's expected of you. Wrong expectations are the enemy of the traveling angler. So here we will attempt to give you an insight into the Snowy Mountains area of New South Wales, site of the 1999 World Fly Fishing Championships. 
 
 
 

    The Snowy Mountains region is approximately  five hours from Sydney and seven hours from Melbourne. Cooma is the nearest airport about an hour away. The Snowy Mountains are mainly a part of the Kosciusko National Park, covering over 7000 sq km, with six trout filled rivers and a miriad of tributaries. It has four glacial lakes, twelve man-made lakes, deep valleys and gorges slashed through the mountains and a variety of views and scenery to stagger the imagination. The Snowys grade in elevation from 300 meters on the sandy beaches and clear pools of the lower Snowy River, to over 2000 meters. In winter the higher areas are Australia's winter playgrounds, mantled with snow and ice for 140kms north to south, a mecca for downhill and cross country skiers. 
     The Snowy Mountains region is considered to be the premier trout fishery in New South Wales. The headwaters of the Murrumbidgee, Eucumbene and Snowy Rivers, the lakes of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, Eucumbene, Jindabyne and Tantangara and the Three Mile Dam, as well as the numerous basalt streams of the  Monaro, cater for all disciplines of angling in a myriad of fishing environs. From fast cool mountain streams, mostly over 800meters, typically consisting of rapids, alternating with deep pools and beds of course gravel and pebble, to the lower basalt streams of the Monaro, with their nutrient rich  waters which slowly meander their way through the countryside. 

 
World fly fishing championships  

    Every year a member country of the International Federation of Sport Freshwater Fishing is awarded the responsibility of hosting the World Fly Fishing Championships. Anglers from 28 countries are eligible to represent their countries in Australia in 1999. The event will be held in the Snowy Mountains area between 27 November and 5 December. Malcolmbe Crosse, Secretary of Fly Fish Australia reports that the likely venues will be  Lake Eucumbene, Lake Jindabyne, the Murrumbidgee and other rivers in the area. The venue headquarters will be the Station Resort at Jindabyne. The event is held on a catch and release basis and is commonly fished with barbless hooks. 
  FISH OF THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS    The Snowy Mountains region offers fish predominantly of the salmonoid species. 
The following are the four main species of trout and salmon you will encounter. 

 

BROWN TROUT  
 
    Introduced from Europe in the late 1880's (for more details see Tassie Trout Tempters) these fish have been the most successful to acclimatise to their new home. Where conditions suit, they spawn naturally. Large spawning runs of  browns can be experienced in the Eucumbene and Thredbo Rivers in early winter. However the survival rate is low and stocks are supplemented by the Gaden Trout Hatchery. Brown trout are caught in nearly all the waters of the Snowy region with average size between 1 and 3kg,however trophy trout of over 5kg are not uncommon. 

RAINBOW TROUT 
 
     Originally from North America and introduced in the mid 1890's, the rainbow has also acclimatised well. Their numbers are kept up by regular stocking by NSW Fisheries and natural population. Rainbows are the most common trout species caught by anglers fishing the lakes. Average size is between 1 and 2kg, with fish over 3kg commonly caught. 

ATLANTIC SALMON 
 
     Originally from the North Atlantic ocean, the salmon was introduced into Australia in the mid 1880's, although not successfully in NSW til 1962. Only Lakes Burrinjuck and Jindabyne have Atlantic Salmon, with Lake Jindabyne the most successful. Being land locked the fish do not breed naturally and are stacked annually by the Gaden Trout Hatchery. Fish over 10kg are regular captures. 

BROOK TROUT 
 
     The Brook Trout was introduced from North America in the 1880's. Although there are regular stockings into Lake Jindabyne and other waterways, the Brook Trout remains the most elusive and challenging fish to find and catch. Brook Trout go to about 2kg in Lake JindabyneActivity Calendar 
WATERWAYS OF THE SNOWYS  
     In the Snowy Mountains trout fishing can be enjoyed all year round in a variety of different waterways, from small streams to large lakes, all with a healthy population of Trout and Salmon. The lakes may be fished all year round, only the rivers are closed during spawning season (June to October long weekends). Licenses are required by all recreational fishermen over 18 years old. These can be bought at tackle shops and other outlets. Cost is $10 for one month or $25 per year. Aboriginals people are exempt. 
In the Snowys some rivers and streams are declared " fly and lure" only. We suggest you get a copy of the NSW "Guide to Freshwater Fishing" for the various regulations. This can also be picked up at tackle shops etc. Live or dead bait is not permitted in most alpine streams, nor are handlines. 

LAKES 
     There are a total of 16 lakes in the Snowy Mountains area. In this guide we will deal mainly with two of the largest, Lake Eucumbene ( the largest in the Snowys and nine times the size of Sydney Harbour) and Lake Jindabyne. Smaller lakes and dams include Tantangara, Guthega, Island Bend and Tree Mile. These may be fished all year round, using all fishing methods, but may become inaccessible or frozen during the winter months. Black Lake, near Bombala is Australia's only designated "trophy trout water". Camping on the foreshore of the lakes is not permitted. There is plenty of accomodation in the surrounding area. 

Lake EucumbeneLAKE EUCUMBENE 
      Lake Eucumbene is used for domestic and agricultural water supply and forms part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme. It is huge, with a dam wall over 116 meters high and a back-up storage of 4,785,000 megalitres, you're not dealing with a puddle here. It can be accessed via many secondary roads leading of both the Snowy Mountais Highway and the Alpine Way. It is the largest public access fishing impoundment in NSW and is formed by the back up waters of the Eucumbene River and a host of smaller tributaries which drain into it. It is a beautiful body of water with diverse features ranging from steep rocky banks to shallow grassy flats, with lots of snaggy tree filled bays. The lake covers some ravines but the bottom profile is mainly rolling hills, which makes much of the lake relatively shallow. Deep areas include the old Eucumbene River bed, the Seymour Reach and the central depths of  Middling Broards and the Buckenderra Arm. Mid range depths can be found around the steep rocky shorelines. 
Lake Eucumbene has massive numbers of both Brown and Rainbow Trout. These fish are naturally spawning with annual top ups from the Gaden Trout Hatchery. The trout are in excellent condition, averaging around 1 to 2kg  with the occassional monster over 5kg. The food rich waters of Eucumbene gives the trout a wide variety of food. Mudeyes enjoy a boom/bust cycle, depending on the water levels. Snails are abundant, and there is a huge supply of caddis and midges. Down deep, there is a very healthy population of yabbies. Add to that the various terrestrials like worms and hoppers in season and you can see that there is a real aquatic smorgasbord for the trout and it's no wonder they grow to the prodigious sizes that they do. 
As a prime destinations for Australian anglers Eucumbene is heavily fished, with all methods  being successful. Baitfishing is popular, with mudeyes, scrubworms and yabbies working best. Spinning the edges of secluded bays around the standing dead trees is also productive. Probably the most popular method is trolling. Surface trolling is best in the cooler months or at sunrise or sunset. Leadlining and downrigging is best in the summer months, when the water temperature rises and forces the fish down deep. Harling, or trolling a fly line with a wet fly is very productive in summer and when the fish are feeding close to shore above the weedbeds. Providence Portal is a prime trolling water, being fairly narrow with rocky banks. Be particuarly careful when you are out on the lake. This is a huge body of water  and you're a long way from anywhere. Make sure you take everything you need with you. Watch the weather, it can cut up rough in a flash if a big wind hits, which happens from time to time. If your boat capsizes, you are probably going to die unless you have the required safety equipment. Water temperatures can be low enough to make hyperthermia a real danger. Have a good days fishing, but be prepared, use your head and play it smart and safe. 
Many fly fishermen regard Eucumbene as one of the best waters available. There is excellent fly fishing, especially after dark, many anglers fish the night through. The edges are great for polaroiding for big cruising trout and there are prolific insect hatches over summer. The mosquitos can be a real pain, so carry some good repellent. Snakes can be a hazard in late sring and summer, leave them alone (they are protected) and they will usually leave you alone. 
      Lake Eucumbene is a premium trout water. It is large and diverse offering a selection of angling opportunities to suit every taste and it certainly lives up to its reputation of being one of the best trout waters on the Australian mainland.  

 
 
LAKE JINDABYNE 
     Somewhat overshadowed by it's bigger sister, Lake Eucumbene, Lake Jindabyne is nonetheless a truly amazing piece of water. It produces good fishing all year round and is suited to all common fishing methods. Reliability is a keyword when describing Jindabyne. Lake Jindabyne impounds three river systems - The Snowy, The Thredbo and The Eucumbene. These provide substancial natural stock recruitment for the lake, especially the Thredbo. The natural spawnings are supplemented annually by the Gaden Trout Hatchery, which is open to the public and well worth a visit. The township of Jindabyne is nestled on the eastern shore of the lake and is the major service centre for the region. 
.    Lake Jindabyne is best known for its salmonoid population, with its large stocks of Brown and Rainbow Trout, as well as Brook Trout and Atlantic Salmon. Some truly big fish can be had here, with trout and salmon well over the double figure amount available. Lake Jindabyne has an enormous population of daphnia ( a densely aggregating water flea) which spread right across the open areas of the lake. Rainbows in particular take advantage of this easily gathered food. 
     Lake Jindabyne is part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electicity Scheme and the one thing you can never be sure of is the water level. The lake relies not only on good rainfall, but good snowfalls as well, as it is the melting snows of spring that makes Jindabyne and the other lakes of this area so different from other lakes in Australia. But just because there is heavy rain falling and lots of spring snow melting doesn't neccessarily mean that the water levels will rise. If the Hydro Electricity Authority decides to pump water t generate electricity the level can fall rapidly. 
 All fishing methods may be used successfully at Lake Jindabyne. One of the most popular is trolling. At different times  downriggers  are used to get right down amongst the fish. Ideally the boat angler should be on the water and trolling the edges before dawn. As the sun gets higher deeper water should be explored. Sounders are essential. Shore based anglers have a lot of shore to explore. Bait fishing and spinning the edges are popular and productive. 
    Fly fishing is most popular at Lake Jindabyne. Polaroiding the edges and weed beds has turned up some very large trout. Spring time is the right time to sight fish as trout will be actively feeding in the shallows to put on weight after the rigors of spawning, all you need is a good pair of polaroiding glasses and the willingness to walk the shoreline. The sight of a big shadow cruising the sandy shore really gets the adrenalin flowing. Best areas are around Hatchery Bay, Hayshed and Cooley Bay, however most areas are productive. There are reports of anglers seeing over 20 fish in a two hour period from 1.5kg to 5kg. Just about any wet fly will be accepted by these cruising juggernauts, as long as they are not alarmed by your presence. At times you will come across schools of rainbows cruising the shallows, hammering juvenile yabbies in close. Wind-lane fishing is also tops at Jindabyne. In the early autumn morningsyou will find concentrates of thousands of midges and caddis flies along wind lanes. When you find these ribbons of food you'll usually find feeding fish and plenty of action. In late spring and summerthe evenings and nights are primetimes to fly fish this water. These are the times you will encounter a Jindabyne monster. 
    Lake Jindabyne is a great destination for a family fishing holiday and has a lot to offer the trout angler. The lake is a very user friendly fishery. It has easy access from both the Alpine Way and Kalkite road. Jindabyne is often overlooked in favour of the larger Lake Eucumbene, which is a pit because Jindabyne can produce more consistent captures. Overall it's a great place to wet a line. 

RIVERS AND STREAMS 
  High up in the mountains where the streams run crystal clear, you will find hungry trout waiting to seize upon any passing insect. Fish in these alpine streams are generally smaller than their lowland cousins, but these little beauties fight hard and make for excellent fishing. 
    The two main rivers are the Eucumbene and Thredbo. These rivers are subject to seasonal closure and have a two fish per day bag limit. A two rod per person limit applies and hand lines are not allowed. Other rivers and streams that offer excellent fishing in the high country are the upper Murrumbidgee River, Moonbah River, Snowy River, Bobundara Creek, Mowamba River, Gungarlin River, McLaughlin River, Camberlong Creek, Quidong River, Little Plains River and the Delegate River. Alpine stream fishing is suited to all levels of expertise in fly fishing and spinning. Bait fishing is illegal. 
     The lower Monaro rivers and streams have long been regarded as the best river and stream fishing on mainland Australia. A myriad of clear sparkling waters cater for a fly fishers every interest. Whilst boasting some renown fisheries such as the McLaughlin , Bobundara, Bombala, Delegate, Kybeyan and Kydra Rivers, the region is also home to lesser know creeks and streams which fish just as well. Most streams in the area are "notified trout waters". Popular fishing spots have signs showing their schedule or catagory, however all anglers should obtain a copy of the free pamphlet "Freshwater Fishing In New South Wales". 

One of the best ways I can explain the experience of fishing the Snowys is to relate the story of an American fisherman, who along with his wife was on his way to fly fish in New Zealand. His wife was curious about Australia, and as it was on the way to New Zealand and not that far from their original destination they decided to check it out. They knew nothing about Australia, didn't even know that we had trout here. Anyway an friend he met took him up to the Snowys and pretty soon he was presenting a dry fly to a big brown in a tiny little creek. Now this angler was experienced, he had caught salmon in Alaska, Fished in New Zealand and many other parts of the world, but as that fish rushed around that mini water he definitely had a case of the shakes and a big adrenalin overload as he worked on the fish. He explained that he had never before seen fish of such a big average size in such a small water. It was the intimacy of the fishing that got to him. So you see, when a well travelled, experienced angler such as this can be totally entranced by the scenery and wild trout of the Snowy Mountains, you begin to realise that we have something special to offer. 

      So we welcome the competitors of the 1999 World Fly Fishing Championships and all other anglers to one of Australias best fishing areas and wish you all the best in your piscatorial pursuits. 
 

Colarado born and raised Ty Smith is someone you don't expect to find in the Snowy Mountains. Ty has lived in Jindabyne for over ten years, and was considered a local. A Snowy Mountains guide and fly tyer extroadinaire. Ty passed on recently and will be greatly missed by his many friends. Here are what he considered to be the best ten dry flys to use in the Snowy Mountains area. We thanks Bill Classon and the staff of Freshwater Fishing  Magazine without whose help this would be possible. 

Ten best Dry Flys
Freshwater Fishing is Australia's premier fishing magazine and is available at all leading newsagents. For subscriptions ring +61-3-9761 4044.
 
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