Exploring the Yarrangobilly

Here in Tumut, NSW, there are so many fishing options available right on our door step. Naturally, the Tumut River is the hallmark of the region. The Eucumbene, the Swampy Plains and the Murrumbidgee are all also well regarded. However, this particular weekend we chose one a little less known, the Yarrangobilly River. 

It’s early autumn and the weather is just starting to turn cold. There are even talks of early spawn runners making the customary first wave up the Eucumbene. But, our attention was solely focused on the wild, pure, high country trout of the Yarrangobilly River, in hopes they were eagerly looking up for some ‘dry fly’ action. What we found, resulted in a trip none of us will ever forget.

Day One: Upstream of the Caves

Entering at the end of the Castle Cave walk, via a pretty steep bush bash down to the river, we first wet our lines at about 10am. No decent fall of rain in recent weeks meant the water was running gin clear. With little to no wind and a cooling yet very accommodating 12 odd degrees, it was at least beautiful conditions to be out and about in the high country.

The fishing was very slow for the first two hours, and having committed to this pretty taxing two day long walk we were getting a little nervous that the fishing might not turn on. We certainly found a few fish, but in the crystal clear water with a bright sun right above they were incredibly spooky. They were spotting our movements from a mile away and it was borderline impossible to get into a position to lay out a cast to them. 

Then, like a switch had been flicked, they started hitting our drys. They were all very small fish, but when in the high country any fish on a dry fly is special. To top it off these smaller rainbows had some of the most vivid patterns I have ever seen. 

From then on we found fish willing to take a dry or a nymph in bubble lines and the ‘runs’, all where they are meant to be. It was quintessential high country river fishing. The size got progressively bigger as well, with Andrew landing a nice 2lb rainbow on the dry.  

As the sun set below the cliffs towering above us, and the shadows lengthened to engulf the entire river valley, we turned our mind to finding a campsite. We initially had visions of ample space to pitch a tent, have a decent fire and hang some wet gear up to dry out. What eventuated was a pretty cramped pebbly beach that we managed to squeeze three tents onto, with the fire relegated to a rock slab down on the rivers edge. Whilst it was some pretty uncomfortable camping, it was hard not to fall asleep that night being pretty happy with the day. 

Day Two: Beyond the ‘Natural Arch’ 

Day Two was spent working our way upstream from a cave, or archway, that the river runs through underground. A beautiful sight which had us all marvelling at how the water shaped the rock formation for the entire morning. We broke camp at about 8am, just before the sun stuck its head over the cliff face. The mist coming off the river, in windless, frosty conditions was phenomenal. Fishing up in the high country is always special but to wade the river in the early hours in those conditions is something I won’t ever forget. 

On the very first run of the day we come across a rising fish. Unable to lay eyes on it due to the relative lack of light we weren’t too sure of its size. Andrew started laying a few casts over it. 1,2...3 casts over its previous rise forms with a size 12 Royal Wulff, yet nothing. Then on the fourth, having lengthened the cast slightly, a beautiful 2lb brown trout sipped his fly and was eventually brought to the net. First run of the day we were onto one of the Yarrangobilly rivers finest. 

Thinking this could be as good as it got for the trip we really enjoyed and appreciated that moment. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong. From then on, it was on. For the next 5 hours across about a 2km winding stretch of river, every run we drifted our drys through a healthy brown trout, with the odd rainbow, was happy to oblige. All the fish were in the 1-2lb range and it made for some spectacular fishing.

In the slower, straighter sections, one of the trio could get up off the river ahead using the height as a vantage point to polaroid fish. It culminated in the fish of the trip being sight cast, from serious range, to take the dry and put up an action packed fight. It was there and then we all declared that this was up there with, if not one of the best days of fishing we each had experienced. 

We finished the days fishing exhausted, battered and bruised. We learnt the hard way trudging along the river bed is pretty hard work. To then have to hike back up Yans Crossing trail to the parked car at the highway nearly broke us. But, funnily enough, having had an absolute day out on the river made it all so much more tolerable. If that’s all the price of admission was, we considered it a bargain. 

Sinking Lines and Deep Holes 

In doing this trip, we had our hearts set on targeting a big resident brown that lives in one of the deep cliff faced pools we knew of. Coming up on these deep pools, with fast oxygenated water barrelling in, delivering a conveyor belt of food, you instantly knew an angry territorial brown trout lived here. The only issue with these fish is they hold deep in the water column, particularly on bright clear days, and are very picky with the food they eat.  

The way you mimic this is with big, articulated streamers, that, put simply, anger the fish. The fish are of such size that they own the pool, in a premium spot that will help them get bigger and fatter. They want to stay atop the mountain and are remarkably territorial about their holding spots. If they even suspect another fish is moving in they will hunt and chase that fish out, striking at it. You mimic this is through big streamers that imitate a smaller intruding fish.  

When we approached the first deep slow moving pool on the morning of day two, we didn’t really know what to expect. I’d had some trouble ‘moving’ any fish with the streamer the afternoon before, so I was a little apprehensive. But the very first cast, having skipped the streamer across the surface, right up against the undercut of the cliff face resulted in a fantastically conditioned, resident brown smoking the streamer and start putting up a serious fight. Being my first fish with a bit of size to it for the trip I took a few seconds to get into gear, the fish certainly had the better of me, head shakes galore, with long powerful runs taking my fly line to the bottom of this massive pool. 

Finally, after a few solid minutes of struggle, we managed to get this beautifully patterned wild brown trout up from the depths to have a look up close. The sharp early morning light made the colours absolutely pop and it was incredibly special to see a plan come together resulting in such a beautiful fish. To set out and tick that box really made the trip. 

Written by Henry Delves

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