Each year we raft the Swampy
in the month of November to take advantage of the caddis
and dun hatches and the great fishing that results.
This year we were there
again with Antony and myself there in the first week
and David and Antony in the second. David and I exchanged
on the day we flew in new clients on the plane. On the
Monday of the first week we were greeted with fish rising
down the bubble line below the dam as we scrambled to
get the rafts on the water.
On board were Bo and Rob,
two clients with Rob from the USA and Bo a local Melbournian.
The gauge showed .3. On most rivers finding the fish
on the first few days is a challenge but on tailrace
rivers like the Swampy the challenge is a daily event
with levels varying from day to day. Today would be
no different. We needn't have worried as fish fell to
the dry and nymph immediately.
Gravel drop offs, shoots,
and other structures were clearly visible and soon we
were working them over. Best of all were the slowly
drifting bubble lines, fish taking caddis and duns and
their respective emergers fell to the fly. 1.5 to 1.75
fish were common but larger fish were found on the structure
and took nymphs willingly.
The day belonged to Bo,
two great fish, a rainbow just shy of 3lb and a brown
of just over 3lb. Rob meanwhile took about eight fish
for the day but since we had told him it was trophy
water he was a bit disappointed. Day two was to be Rob's
bonanza. The river level dropped to .2 so we found a
lot more fishable structure. Bo managed a good fish
of 2lb and the seppo was looking sad until he hit a
hot spot that produced three fantastic fish one after
'This river is HUGE' he
yelled as his rod went down on full bend. 'This river
does not suck' as he posed with his fish for the photo.
Rob is a total enthusiast, raving at the brilliance
of the river and the big fish.
Day three and Antony and
I had a lay day and guess what? We went fishing up to
Eucumbene River. Antony was really skeptical as it was
raining and there was no sign of insect activity. We
walked into rocky Plain into the head of the gorge and
started to fish. In the first cataract full of boulders
a 3lb rainbow chomped the rubber legged hopper (Miss
Knobby X) in the white water, cart wheeling down the
run and over the waterfall into the gorge! In the next
pool Antony took a 2.5lb rainbow on a dun pattern. The
fish was sipping gently in a bubble line in a slow pool.
This set the pattern for the day - nine fish between
2.5-3.5lb, all released.
Day four and we had Ray
and Dave up for a day drifting. The river had come up
to .9 so that the Snowy Hydro boys who check the banks
for erosion could get their powerboat down to Towong.
That did not put us off as Ray had a date with destiny
having been broken off by a monster fish the previous
year. Inexperience caused him to lock up and break off.
This time it would be different.
Sure enough he hooked a
monster and 'Let him run' was the order. And run he
did, out into the backing with the reel smoking. A mad
scramble to get back into the raft to follow the fish
ended in dismay as angler and fish parted company, the
hook tearing out. Ray was crestfallen but soon he hooked
another thumper, only to drop him too. The third fish
was a big 3.5lb rainbow that decided to fight deep and
up the current, finally surrendering to the net and
Ray's huge relief just in time for the boys coming down
behind us to catch up with the cameras! We are still
for copies of the photos Ray! Dave hooked a number of
smaller fish and dropped a couple of better ones but
no monsters, unable to repeat last years 3.5lb brown.
Day five and I had Milan
on the raft while Antony took Ray and Dave up to Eucumbene
for the day. Milan and I had a big day but no monsters.
The river was still high but slowly coming down throughout
the day to .2 again. With the changing heights things
were tough but we caught lots of fish up to 1.5lb nevertheless.
The boys really scored
at Eucumbene. The sun was out and there were hatches
of caddis and mayfly. The Royal Stimulator in a size
16 was the choice of fly and they got a lot of fish.
Fifteen in fact from between 2-3.5lb. Dave got one that
was close to four. Bubble lines were carefully searched
and more often than not their were rising fish in them.
In the very first pool Ray got two lovely fish at just
under 3lb that took the dry and then cart wheeled all
over the place. Running up and down the pool and jumping.
This was the trend for the rest of the day with the
very last pool at the car producing to more fish of
2.75 and 3.25lb on the dry fly. World class fishing!
The next day and David
arrived on the plane with Richard and Alex who set off
the next morning with the river not even registering
on the gauge is was so low. Lots of portages seemed
to be the order of the day. They had a big day too with
lots of fish and some beauties. Richard and Alex had
a big day with David as guide and fish up to 2.75lb.
Antony and I snuck up into
the hills to the upper Geehi and Bogong Creek but we
had to be back for the pick up so didn't achieve much
except to drool over back country streams. Jason and
Zollie called into our cabin to tell us about the rainbows
in the Thredbo. They observed some monsters but couldn't
get them to take anything, awesome stuff!
David and Antony continued
to run throughout the second week and had some great
fishing and some tougher days with weather becoming
a factor. Mark and david had a good day although they
did not tangle with any large fish. Tuesday the two
rafts were out with four guys organised by Peter. They
caught fish through the day they did on Thursday when
two of them returned.
Wednesday was bright and
warm and the two rafts this time contained a family
group. Antony describes the day below.
" Brian, Darren and
Russell were the clients on Wednesday and when they
lobbed up on our doorstep to introduce themselves on
Tuesday night their was some hesitation, at least on
my part. While we sometimes take out young children
it is usually the exception rather than the rule. Firstly
it is hard on both instructor and pupil as the attention
span of many kids younger than mid teens is not sufficient
to learn to fly cast, let alone the other intricate
detail. Secondly twelve hours on a boat is a long time
even for the most dedicated angler. So it was going
to be an interesting day regardless of the fishing.
In the morning David wandered
over to their cabin to sort out the details of who would
fish with who and returned saying that I could take
the younger of the group, Russell. He was apparently
the best caster of the group and was club champion at
Cherry Lake. Something that did little to assuage my
fears of a tough day untangling lines and keeping the
interest levels up. But how wrong I would be.
At the launching area there
was a lot of argy bargy! A lot of sharp comments from
Dad and big brother aimed at Russell and more and more
at your's truly! We set off and got Russell going to
check out how his casting was. Well he was first rate.
Pick up shoot, no false cast! Pick up shoot! Roll pick
up, upstream mend! Hook casts, rolls casts, wide loops,
tight loops, he could do it all! What an easy day I
was going to have.
Drifting on down we stopped
as was the plan on every gravel bar, the agreement being
that we would fish thoroughly and give both rafts a
fair go. But little did we know that when the boys passed
us it was for real, they were on a mission and were
going to the rising fish! We searched the water carefully
for no result for hours and every time we caught up
to them they were on the 'best' water for rising fish
and we would drift by and fish the next gravel bar down,
never straying too far and sticking to the arrangement.
Then they started to hook a few within sight of us,
fishing to rising fish when we had not had a chance.
Russell worked hard, and
so did I! Every drift line, tungsten nymph under a dry,
two tungstens under and indicator! Big dry flies, two
big dry flies! Not a look! Then the smart comments from
the other raft asking Russell whether he wanted to swap
rafts as they obviously had the dud guide!!!! This was
getting serious. Russell actually asked me whether he
was doing anything drastically wrong. I explained that
he was fishing the same rigs and flies as the other
guys but that did little to instill much confidence.
Hour after hour he did exactly the right thing and cast
beautifully for nothing!
Later that afternoon we
came to the gravel bar that was producing all of the
big fish. Over 10 big fish thus far hooked and/or landed/dropped.
We pulled up on the top part and started fishing leaving
the best part for later and carefully fishing it out.
then the other raft came by and dropped in below us.
Within 10 minutes they had a double hook up and we could
hear the comments. That was it. We were now on a mission.
Russell explained the situation. You see he usually
catches more fish and is apparently not shy in letting
them know about it. This was payback and they were enjoying
it. He also explained that they had a bet on most fish
and biggest fish for the day, we now had to catch the
Earlier in the day I asked
David to leave one backwater alone. It was one that
continued a good fish over the past few years and where
I had seen another good brown the previous week. Following
them down they stayed clear of it and we pulled in to
the tail end of it. I dropped a leg over the side and
held us on the rocks and we waited and watched. Three
minutes later a tiny dimple rise where the fish had
been every other time. then another one a few minutes
later. The fish was there but was rising inconsistently.
Russell got this look in his eye, something like this
one is not going to get away, and waited.
The fish rose again and
he carefully measured off the distance in his hand,
ready to cast on the next sighting. No blind searching
at all. The fish rose again and two quick false casts
snaked the fly out and just short off the drift. A good
cast but just offline. Now most people would have picked
up and gone again but Russell stripped the line into
his feet and waited for the next rise. Pulling one more
arm length of line off the reel he knew he had the distance
The next rise saw the fly
alight on the water only a foot above the fish and I
think we both held out breath in anticipation. The fish
poked his nose out and snaffled the small dry and the
hook was set with great skill and poise considering
what was at stake. The fish ran out into the main river
with us in pursuit. The next fifteen minutes were about
the most tense I have experienced while fly fishing.
The fish went under the boat at least five times and
down to the bottom and close to the logs and boulders
even more. We ended up dragging it across the river
to the far bank and relative safety.
Getting out there we fought
it from land and came close to losing it a couple of
times as Russ did not want the leader in through the
guides and a good fish on a fifteen foot leader is hard
to control in fast water. eventually we netted the fish
and removed the fly, allowing Russ a couple of seconds
holding it to get the obligatory photos. What a fish,
and at around 3lb, Russel's biggest thus far from a
river. But going on how well he can fish it won't be
long before he eclipses that record. (Photo to come
when we get them developed).
Next morning Russ popped
by our cabin to let me know that he had been giving
it to them all night about catching the biggest fish!
I should have known that there was a reason for all
the ribbing on the previous day. They were just getting
their own back!"
The last two days saw Grahame
and Roger out. Unlike the previous days fish were willing
to take the dry fly on the drift and the #8 Royal Wulff
was called into action. From the first riffle down
to the first bend below the first bridge we had about
nine fish take the large dry fly! Landing only one of
the many takes was beside the point the fish were coming
up. Both days presented many opportunities, both of
fish rising to small emerging caddis and others slamming
the huge wulffs. Both days were also interrupted at
about 3pm by huge electrical storms that saw us leave
the raft and run for cover, sitting out in the middle
of paddocks and gravel bars. Six nine foot lengths of
graphite represents quite an aerial!
Once again the whole two
weeks were spectacular despite the river going up and
down and water temperatures up to 20 degrees. With a
great population that includes some brilliant specimens,
the Swampy is about the best trout river in the country.
Having fished the Swampy for thirty years I have seen
all the ways it has changed. Nevertheless it remains
magnificent, clear and pristine. I can hardly wait for
the next trip!
- Geoff Hall
PS- more photos to be added
when we get them developed and scanned!
To book for next year or
a trip at anytime this summer please phone us on Free
Call 1800 458 111.