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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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Swampy Plains River tript report - great driftt boat fishing on Australias best trout river

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. Bo with a nice brown that took the beadhead

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 the other.

'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.A good start for Rob, just after switching to a technique he uses on the Green River, Utah

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 waitingRob with a fat rainbow taken off the rock wall in the background 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.Bo and bow! This fish came up in the roughest water to snatch a seaducer

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 Rob releasing a good browniepassed 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 biggest fish!

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 perfect.21 " + brown trout! Smile next time Rob!

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 Just stunning waterdown 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.



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