Written by Henry Delves | Photography by Henry Delves and Henry Smith
It has been a few months since the NSW trout season shut for 2020/21; I am starting to go a little stir crazy. Although I have wet a line a few times on the lakes and even dipped my toe in the saltwater game – nothing can scratch that trout-stream-itch. I have spent weeks tying flies, pouring over maps, cleaning and organising gear. With only days until the opening weekend for the 2021/2022 trout season, it is an understatement to say I am incredibly keen to get back out there. In anticipation, I thought I’d share how last season’s opening weekend panned out for myself and a few mates.
Sub-surface will be the name of the game early season – but make sure you have a few dries just in case.
Day One - Saturday
After months of preparation, we could finally feel the river current against our waders, wet a line and hunt some trout. Originally the plan was to get straight into the high country. However, over a beer the night before, our plans changed. Despite the weather looking A-plus for the first day, we learnt that the rivers were running very high from preceding rainfall. So giving them an extra day for the flow to drop would be wise. We decided to turn our attention to the ever-reliable Tumut River.
An early morning Tumut River brown trout to open Henry Smith’s account for 2020/21.
The best thing about the Tumut River is no matter the weather and whatever the conditions there is always the opportunity to catch fish. Be sure to always check the water level before planning your day. The Tumut River is lined by a lot of private property so it also helps to familiarise yourself with the public access points.
A hard-fighting, nymph-feeding rainbow.
We spent the day using an indicator nymph rig, fishing the New Zealand Strike Indicator, and pulled fish from all the ‘fishiest’ looking runs. As you'd expect, the rainbows held in the faster water whilst the browns in the slower ‘soft’ water. The common theme was getting the nymphs deep enough, down to the fish holding on the riverbed. All the fish took the nymphs when 'ticking' along the bottom, reaffirming how important it is to get the nymphs deep. Ticking is when a weighted nymph bounces along the riverbed, moving with the current catching slightly on rocks. This has the effect of bouncing the indicator, just slightly below the surface and then back up. A sure sign the nymphs are in the eye line of the trout. Dark brown and black Pheasant Tails (black beaded variants from Fulling Mill) and Hare & Coppers with differing coloured beads (Category 3 do awesome H&C patterns) were the most successful nymph patterns.
A last-ditch effort to find a rising fish as the first day of season 2020/21 comes to a close.
Day Two - Sunday
With the river levels having an extra day to drop, we decided it was worth seeing if we could find some fish up in the high country. Early starts are key during the start of the season. Getting onto the river as the sun broke paid dividends, with the high country streams producing the goods early. Deep diving nymphs proved to be the best strategy once again. Fishing the seams and edges of the faster water produced a surprising number of fish. We found ourselves pulling multiple fish from the same pools despite the disturbance from the immediately preceding catch.
For what they lack in size, high country rainbows go like little Ferraris.
Day Three - Monday
We would have loved to have stayed and peppered a few more of the high-country rivers on Monday. However, the weather turned on us, so we decided it was best to get back on the Tumut. Again, we had an unreal day. We even got a few on the dry fly during a neat little 2 hour period, where the humidity ripped in before a storm right on midday.
The highlight for the whole weekend was the afternoon session. We spent a few hours stalking fish in the slower backwaters of the Tumut. The only thing is – the browns are incredibly spooky and like to hang out under the willows. This makes for difficult access and casting space. However, when you sneak into a good position, there is something incredibly special about sitting and waiting for a brown trout to roll back around on its beat and swim right beneath your feet.
We managed to con a few fish into taking our flies and wrangled a couple from the willows, getting them to the net. Nothing beats the high intensity, adrenaline-filled rush of wrestling an old bruiser out of the snags. More than likely it will get the better of you and bust you off. But when you get those incredibly patterned fish to hand and hold them in the light filtering through the willows, there is nothing quite like it.
The opportunity to wrangle with this guy is something I’ll never forget.
It was an opening weekend to remember. Quintessential early season trout fishing that has inspired another trip to the Snowy Valleys and High Country for this season’s opening weekend. See you out there.