Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre
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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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A Morning to Remember by Antony Boliancu

Successful fly-fishing for trout on the Goulburn requires a lot of time and effort. It is a challenging river with varying levels and fishing that borders on being called technical due to the fish's tendency to focus on small, hatching insects. It is because of this that many otherwise successful anglers steer well clear of its banks, preferring the easier fishing in the creeks and rivers that run west off of the Great Dividing Range. Rivers where the conditions are more predictable and the fish are less fussy.Rob's first fish for the day!

Rob has been coming up our way for about five years now and only gets in short trips in what is a pretty hectic lifestyle. He is a good fly fisherman whose home waters include Hat Creek in Northern California and regularly fishes the Flaming Gorge on the Green River Utah for large fish from drift boats. My point is that he knows how to fish and in a wide variety of locations.

The Goulburn however has always promised more than it has delivered for him. A few hours here and there has not allowed him to sample just what it can be like and it was after his last visit on closing weekend that I made a deal with myself, to show him just what it is all about next time we had the opportunity. This happened about a month ago.

The phone rang and Rob was on the other end to let me know that he had twenty-four hours this time. But just as you would expect from a James Bond type it was that evening and the following morning. Not a full day per se but rather a few hours snuck in between other commitments. Less than ideal but then beggars can't be choosey.Another good one!

He arrived late, only about 40 minutes before dark and we were already fishing our lakes. A great termite fall was in progress and it seemed as though every fish on our lakes was rising. It was very hard to leave them and go out into the wild with only a few minutes of light left. But Rob was keen and a few others who had dropped by for flies/advice were yelling from the back verandah for service, wanting some of the flies that were hooking a fish every other cast in our lakes.

Arriving at the river the termites were still thick in the air and there were a couple of people already there. We got the waders on and hurried down the bank to a spot where some larger fish were known to be living. Getting termite patterns on post-haste and then finding two fish rising in the same backwater we decided to run downstream another 500 yards and fish back up to the car, picking out the best of the action.

We made it down to where we wanted to fish and a cold breeze shot up the river. It got steadily stronger over the next few minutes until there was not a termite to be seen anywhere. Most of the fish disappeared with only the odd one mopping up here and there, nothing like what had been happening for the previous hour and a half. The one chance to get Rob into some great fishing seemed to have slipped through the fingers and we were all a little disappointed that evening having missed out by only a few minutes.Ant's first one!

That night we were speaking about what might have been and Rob asked what flies might be suitable for a dawn sortie. After running through what could be expected I offered to come with him. Not guiding, just fishing together. He was happy for me to come as long as it did not muck up my day at work. We had no guiding until after lunch and so that was not an issue. Then I suggested that we take the raft and fish a short section of river known to hold a good head of larger fish. They should be rising at first light and once the sun comes up the sight fishing could be worthwhile too.

Getting out of bed at 5am is not pleasant at the best of times. Especially when the wind has been blowing most of the night and you are doubtful of the conditions. However fortune does favor the brave and the wind had long since stopped, giving us perfect conditions. The plan was a very short drift and so we took no food or drinks hoping to just tangle with a fish in the three or four hours that we had.

The first kilometre did little to raise the level of anticipation. There appeared to be nothing happening despite the odd caddis coming off and lots of midge buzzing about. The river was a sheet of glass which would betray any movement and yet we saw nothing while drifting. Approaching a favourite backwater we proceeded with a fair degree of caution knowing that a fish could be cruising anywhere in it.

We watched and watched, looking for any sign of fish. Nothing showed in any of the easy places. Then from the corner of my eye I spotted a slight ring dissipating from under the fallen A great brownie!wattle tree. Just typical! The fish had to be in the hardest to reach place from bank or raft! We settled in behind him and got used to the rhythm of his rises hoping for a shot. A few drifts short of him did not result in a take and we decided to wait for the fish to drop back from under the canopy in the open.

Only a minute or so later the fish fell back from under the tree and gave us an opening. A perfect cast under pressure saw the dry fly alight on the water no further than a foot up from the rising fish. 'Blip'. The fish barely broke the surface with his nose to pluck the tiny dry from the top, the hook was set and Rob played out what proved to be a nice brown of around 1.5lb. Photos followed by high fives and plenty of backslapping marked the occasion and we started drifting again.

Less than 100 metres on a fish rose in the middle of the river. A cast was made and allowed to drift towards the last known location of the fish. Another take and another fish of similar size. We had been on the water less than an hour. The day was starting to look promising.

Then Rob declared that he was rowing on the flat sections. "You are not guiding today, and I have a coupe of nice fish, so it's your turn". I resisted, but knowing Rob's background in Rob's with yet another onewater/fishing/boats it was only a matter of minutes before I relented and got in the chair. The next three fish were not in their usual lies and ended up swimming right up to the boat and being spooked. Not a good start.

Coming into a particularly tricky section of water I took over on the oars and got the boat into the next maze of backwaters. There was a 'huge' fish cruising and occasionally rising in a seam that happened to be in about 15 feet of water. The sun being on such a low angle did not allow us to see him from distance and so we played a game of cat and mouse, knowing that eventually the fish would see us if we did not catch him quickly.

The fish was well over 3lb and probably just shy of 4lb. We had a couple of shots but it was difficult in the extreme to see into the early morning water. Eventually we got a fix on the large fish and were distressed to see another one of about 2lb swimming head on into him. They met Ant with the smallest fish of the daywith a fright and the large one chased the intruder out of his area, which co-incidentally took him right under the boat! What a shame to miss out on such a great brown.

By this time the sun was up a bit and we moved into the edge to polaroid some on the shallow banks. Two fish were immediately found on station and the first quickly examined the fly before taking off. The second was under the overhanging willows swinging back and forth in about a foot of water taking nymphs. I used the standard dry fly and set about bringing him to the surface.

Once I was in position the fish started to rise and was a dead certainty. First drift he came up and took it, I lifted and felt nothing! Small flies with lots of hackle often see this happen. The good thing was that he continued to rise, seemingly unaffected by the close encounter. Next cast was about two feet up the drift from him and he again came over and took the fly, as confidently as the first time.

This time I set the hook and played a nice brown to hand on the light tippet. It is an unusual feeling catching a fish when you have been rowing the raft. As it was not a guided trip I felt OK but I still got the odd twinge of guilt! Something that is normal for most guides.Yibbida Yibbida!

Drifting on, Rob wanted me to catch up and fish for a bit longer. With a long slow section of water ahead I agreed. Within 300 metres a tiny dimple was noticed in close to the bank, in water we had just passed. A cast back up to what may have been a hundred things other than a fish, saw the dry get taken and another excellent brown on. Again a good fish, photo and release. Now Rob could get back in the chair having guided me into two nice fish on his first morning as a 'Goulburn Guide'!

The rest of the morning was excellent. More and more fish were found rising and we were able to pick them off one at a time. One bank had three fish between 2-3lb in thirty metres of bubble line, all rising and clearly visible through polaroids. We got each one of them. Swapping places after each fish. The fishing was so good in fact that we went right past the car/take out point and drifted a further 8 kilometres coming out at 2pm. The fish were rising all the way and we ended up with about 5 or six quality fish each. One more nice brown

It was a great morning by anyone's standards. We could have been in the Western USA or even on the South Island of NZ, instead we were only a few minutes from home on the mighty Goulburn River. By the time we got off the water we were tired and hungry. Rob had (willingly) missed an 'important' family function in Geelong and the stream of voice mail messages on his phone suggested that he was in some sort of trouble when he finally made it back. Also the boys had gone guiding and the shop had been closed for an hour or so when it should have been open (sorry to those of you who dropped by!).

They say that when you die your life flashes in front of your eyes. While I have been lucky to accumulate many images in my short 30 years I know that the morning drifting with Rob will surely be on the highlights reel. It was definitely a morning that neither of us will ever forget.

Read the fishing report of the day



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