Words: Kosta Linardos Images: Kosta Linardos & Tim Haynes
For many years I had seen the images, heard the stories and always wanted to fish the Eucumbene River just before the season closed.
The months leading to the mid-year break coincide with the spawn run of brown trout in the area and thousands of anglers from all over the country travel to the river to tangle with its many huge fish. As an avid trout fisherman whose fishing is largely concentrated around the rivers and streams in the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria, the thought of a day’s fishing catching multiple specimens in excess of 3lb has always been an exciting prospect.
In my home waters the fishing is challenging, and our rivers don’t hold similarly sized fish in great numbers. However, along with the all the positive stories that are associated with this fishery, I had heard just as many negatives. There are those that say the fish should be left alone, there are fights and much animosity between anglers along the river and that the environment suffers from four-wheel driving and rubbish left behind.
We therefore decided we should head up on the last week before the season closed and investigate for ourselves, address the rumours (and the fishing) and provide an unbiased report on what we saw.
What’s it all about?
Lake Eucumbene is situated in the Snowy Mountains region of NSW, with the small town of Adaminaby acting as the home of this popular fishing destination. The Eucumbene River runs into the lake and each year the brown trout make their way as far up the river as they can, laying their eggs along the way. What you have is a mass of huge fish that average around 5lb swimming up the river and anglers can take advantage of this natural phenomenon.
It’s important to remember that the time you’re allowed to fish before the season closes is the lead-up to what is considered the spawn run, and not the actual spawn run. However, rainfall and other weather conditions will cause fish to spawn – more so than a particular point on the calendar. The trout in Lake Eucumbene are not stocked so it is considered a self-sustaining fishery. There are two main points where anglers congregate during the spawn run: Providence Portal, about 12km from the river mouth, and Denison Flat, which is a further 3km up the river. From the research I’ve done it seems that the past five years has seen a strong return to this fishery, the fish are bigger and there are more of them and the fishery is growing in popularity. It was my first visit to the area and what a beautiful location it is. The scenery, the country and the land are simply gorgeous. The drive along the Snowy Mountain Highway and down to the river takes in some of the most beautiful views that Australia has to offer.
As with any type of river fishing the way you fish it is dictated by current. At the time of our trip the east coast of Australia was experiencing a huge storm and we copped the edge of it on arrival. It was cold, very wet and windy, and the river was flowing hard. The river was still clean and the fact it was pushing through didn’t really bother us. When you’ve grown up fishing Victoria’s Goulburn River system, which is subject to constant fluctuation due to irrigation from Lake Eildon, you get used to fast water. I had spoken with many anglers about target methods and the main method that kept popping up was glo-bugging.
Glo-bugging is a technique employed by both spin and fly anglers, of whom I’d say there was 60/40 mix in favour of the spin anglers when I was there. A glo-bug is essentially an orange fluffy ball on a fly hook that is designed to imitate a trout egg that has come loose from its redd (the nest where trout lay their eggs). A nymph fly, best weighted with a tungsten head, is then tied off from the “J” in the hook of the glo-bug and split shot are used to weigh the rig down. The idea is you cast your rig upstream, let it flow downstream bouncing along the gravel and you hook a fish. The general consensus is that trout aren’t feeding while in spawn but they will pick up the glo-bug as they see it as a wasted egg that has come loose from the redd. It’s also thought the males try to fertilise the egg with their milt and you can therefore foul hook males in the anal region. The nymph is also often picked up and I have to say for the 12 fish I landed on this rig it was a 50/50 split between the nymph and the glo-bug. It’s fair to wonder why the trout would be hitting the nymph if they were not feeding. At the end of the day a trout is an animal and all animals will feed at anytime, it just depends how active their feeding habits are. So while the spawning trout aren’t actively feeding, if a well-presented nymph floats past their face and it requires little effort to eat it, they will eat it.
I had never tried glo-bugging before and the idea of it sounded a little boring. Put into practice, I found it effective but just as boring and unrewarding as I had imagined. If you’re new to fishing, you want to take it easy or just want to catch a lot of fish while standing in one spot, by all means, this is the technique for you. However, if you enjoy presenting an artificial offering, and seek a challenge and reward for effort, then lures and flies are a far more enjoyable target method.
Lure and fly
Working lures or flies is the best way to experience the river and all it has to offer. While most anglers travelling to Eucumbene seem to pick one spot and stand there all day, this isn’t necessary. We walked the length of the river until we couldn’t go any further; we were also able to fish only one side of it as the river was running too hard to cross. So, in times where the river is low there are miles and miles of river to fish. Fly anglers can cast out weighted nymphs and, with the sheer amount of fish moving up the river, you have a great chance of planting your fly in front of the fish. For spin anglers, casting lures is highly effective and just as, if not more, effective as glo-bugging. We were fishing near anglers glo-bugging and caught many more fish then they did.
The trout are ultra-territorial during spawning and will deem any fish coming within their territory a threat and strike out of aggression. The spawn run offers reaction-strike fishing and therefore bigger lures are the more effective choice. They are visible, noisier and appear more threatening. The smallest lures I had with me were 60mm and the largest 110mm – I caught many fish on all sizes and the trout had no issue hitting a massive 110mm Live Target Trout, a lure that is not only long but also has a big profile.
As the river was deep and flowing hard the lures I had most success with were deep divers or sinking lures. The weight of the bigger lures also provided a huge casting advantage in the high winds. The fish also fought vastly differently when hitting lures, as opposed to the glo-bugs: they jumped, tail-danced and hit them hard and aggressively.
Reward for effort
While it was far more enjoyable casting lures, walking the river and leaving the crowded stretches around Denison Flat and Providence Portal, I still felt a lack of reward for my efforts. It almost felt too easy. These are some of the biggest trout I’ve ever caught and it was fish after fish, but they didn’t provide me with that same sense of achievement that I feel when catching a small brown out of my local waters. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t near home; the fish are so thick and easy to catch that it lacked a sense of accomplishment, which for me is the core of what makes fishing so enjoyable.
We spent three full days and a late afternoon fishing the river and not once did we see any animosity between anglers – on the contrary, actually. We spoke to many anglers and everyone was very friendly. At times we fished in close proximity to others and everyone chatted, enjoyed themselves, told stories and talked about the fishing. We netted fish for others and took photos for them. It was a really good vibe. We also noted that all anglers we saw respected the fish and took a quick pic of fish they weren’t going to keep then released them carefully. We also noted there was no rubbish left behind at the end of the day and people were careful and respectful with their four-wheel drives around the river.
The rumours of aggression and lack of care for the environment weren’t apparent while we were there and everyone seemed to fish in what is very close proximity very well. I can see how anglers could get angry with each other based on the nature of glo-bugging – it’s very easy for lines to cross, and we did see this happen – but anglers just worked out their tangles together and kept fishing. Based on my experience I have to assume that anglers doing the wrong thing or acting aggressively towards each other were isolated cases.
An earlier closure
Some people I have spoken to want an earlier closure, feeling that the late-season fishing has a negative impact on the brown trout fishery. I spoke to quite a few members of fisheries, many old trout anglers and breeders of trout as well to get their take on it. The general consensus was that spawning may start earlier some years than others but an earlier closure isn’t necessary. Trout are a ridiculously strong, tough and hardy fish. By nature they have to be. They are designed to swim up rivers for miles in hard-running shallow waters, jumping up banks and waterfalls and scraping their bodies over gravel and sticks. They respond well to handling by anglers and release very well. Does catch and release affect a female’s ability to spawn? Maybe slightly, but not enough to affect the stability of the fishery. These fish were put here to be caught and bag limits are well-managed. While it isn’t the kind of trout fishing I find amazing, I still had a good time and I believe all anglers should have the opportunity to target these fish. I visit many fishing destinations each year and talk to thousands of anglers and we fishermen as a whole are a responsible and environmentally conscious bunch. Treat the fish and fishery well and it will be there for many years for us all to enjoy.
Enjoy it outside of the spawn
I am really looking forward to visiting the Eucumbene River in the spring and summer and fishing it outside of the spawn run. The river is simply amazing and offers great fishing well outside of the spawn run. Adaminaby is a great little town with a cool pub and any keen trout angler will enjoy all it has to offer. While fishing the spawn run offers some big fish and many of them, it’s a fishery that is better suited to the beginner, the kids and those who just want to reel in fish after fish without much value placed on the hunt, which is the most enjoyable and integral part of trout fishing in my opinion. Regardless of my thoughts and opinions, if it sounds like fishing the spawn run is something you’ll enjoy, then go for it, but if you’re like me and enjoy the challenge, and the reward for effort, then visiting outside of the spawn run will best suit you. There are also many other creeks and rivers in the surrounding area you can fish and I’m looking forward to exploring them. You’ll be able to have a crack at the rainbows, too.