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Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre

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Goulburn River Season Overview


September: The Goulburn is way down at what is its designated minimum riparian flow of 130 Megalitres a day (a megalitre is a million litres; the equivalent of one olympic swimming pool of water). This is so that the mighty Lake Eildon, the source of much of central Victoria's irrigation water, can slowly fill. With up to 40,000 megalitres coming into the lake from it's feeder streams at this time of year the storage levels rise as water releases to the Goulburn River are all but stopped.

The fishing in this month is a mixture of about 75:25 subsurface to surface (nymph/wet:dry fly). Often this is the only clear water in the state as the natural flowing rivers are in flood and way too high and cold. The minimum flows of the Goulburn ensure fishable conditions and water releases into it from deep in lake Eildon ensure clear/warmer water is to be found (when compared with naturally flowing streams of the region). Clear water can almost always be found between Thornton and the Pondage but the further downstream that you go the more gullies and gutter enter the river causing discoloration. Some increase in clarity can be found downstream of the Rubicon confluence but the the water is much colder and therefore the fish less likely to be feeding well.

The fish are very wary in the low, clear flows. Many will line the outside bends of the river sitting in ridiculously shallow water and sitting dead still, waiting for aquatic insects to show themselves. This is very tough fishing. As a result blind fishing with nymphs is the best option in clear water. If it is slightly dirty a wet fly like a woolly bugger will do well. Dry flies should be kept small in keeping with the type of insects likely to be hatching; namely midges.

Evening rises are usually slow although there will be surprises as some larger duns will pop off some nights, much to the frustration to the fly fisher who only has a sinking line and wet fly set up. As the month progresses the hatches will start to increase dramatically.

October: The river can remain at 130 Meg if the weather is cool and there is plenty of rain. These sorts of conditions will ensure that there is no demand for irrigation and if the farmers are not demanding it (i.e. paying for it) the water will not be released. In a drier year the need to sustain optimal growth along the farmland downstream will see rises of up to 3,000 Meg a day. Generally speaking you can expect to find the river between 130 and 2000 Meg.

Water temps have now increased and the first big hatches have started. My diaries show it as happening most often sometime between October 1 and 7. Huge hatches of caddis will persist throughout the day and duns will make an appearance on nightfall. The fishing throughout the day on caddis pupa patterns can be ridiculously good. Twenty fish days are relatively common and the river is in great condition, wade able and the fish actively feeding.

As the month progresses we start to see larger insects and more of them. Grannoms begin appearing in numbers, crash landing on the water's surface as they make their way upstream. Caenids begin to appear in huge clouds and this will continue for several months. These hatches are by far the biggest that I have ever seen, anywhere in the world, with literally millions drifting by all morning from first light until about 8 or 9am, sometimes much later. Think long, fine leaders, tiny flies and picky fish. Catching them is more about presentation than imitation. Getting in sync with the fish and putting your fly across it at the right moment is all important.

November: By now we usually have slightly higher water levels as the demand for irrigation increases and this is welcome as by now the fish are getting slightly edgy after a couple of months of low water. Levels of between 1,000 and 3,000 bring on some of the best fishing of the season.

The intensity of the hatches is building to a crescendo that will occur somewhere between late November and Christmas. Absolutely everything is coming off. Caenids at first light for a few hours. Then caddis will hatch through the day as will several species of duns. Beetles are starting to become important and evenings will be an orgy of duns, spinners, caddis, stoneflies, grannoms in every size shape and colour. Being prepared for all eventualities is advisable!

On the thundery days termites hatch in huge numbers capture the full attention of the trout. A good imitation is worth its weight in gold and you will be able to sell a working fly to your mate for at least 20 bucks a pop. Some great fish are caught during this hatch each season.

Some night the Kossie Dun will hatch out and make grown men weep. It is 'THE HATCH'. The biggest, baddest mayfly god ever blew breath into ( I was forced to put that god remark in by the PRO-intelligent design folk). Seriously, this is one of the highlights of the year. Very big duns appear at last light with little indication/warning and the fishing gets very easy for about twenty minutes. A must-experience event with #8-10 mayflies drifting down in the last light.


December: Daylight savings has now kicked in and the days are long and hot. The river will be anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 Meg a day but usually around the 4,000 mark. Backwater fishing is now starting to really come into its own. Fish will move out of the main river flow to seek out more favorable conditions. The bigger fish take up the best positions, often less than a foot off the bank, and defend them from all comers. This is a great time to be fishing.

By now small hoppers are everywhere and ending up on the water. Green is the colour of choice for those seeking to imitate them and sizes should be between 12-14. Beetles are just about peaking in numbers around now and they are also going in, especially on warm northerly days when they tend to get on the wind. As a result terrestrials begin to take over the daytime opportunities. Fish are in close and naturally seeing lots of these insects dropping in from the overhanging banks. Also any that end up drifting in the main river tend to end up being funneled into the backwaters and hence the fish.

Stalking the edges carefully becomes the key to success and those skilled at it will catch many more fish than the average angler. As the month progresses the hoppers will get bigger and so should your flies. But its not all about terrestrials in December. There are a number of good hatches.

Caenids will remain a focal point for those willing to get up early. Also the rusty dun will start showing up each night in ever increasing numbers. Many caddises will also be important but the larger volumes of water will often disguise the presence of small, dull coloured bugs. Look carefully.

January: This is one of our favorite months. Not just because the Goulburn is good but because all of the natural streams (read un-dammed) are at perfect levels there is an abundance of opportunities.

As logic would dictate, a drop in the other rivers means that the warmer, drier weather is starting to have an affect. As a result the demand for irrigation increases. Levels between 4,000 and 10,000 can be encountered. Backwater fishing becomes all important. If the level is at the lower end of the spectrum there can be brilliant hatches. When it is up near 10,000 backwaters are the only real option with evenings spent on smaller local rivers.

Hopper fishing with larger flies averaging around a 10 is now the way to go. The fish are used to big grasshoppers going crash and they hit them with real vigor. Blind searching the edges with a hopper or hopper/nymph combo is exciting if not a little draining in the heat. We try to break up hopper sessions into smaller bites of a few hours with a break back in the fly fishing centre in between to cool and escape the heat of the day.

Beetles and small soft hackle wets are deadly in the backwaters and parachute duns will often take a fussy fish that refuses the beetle or hopper. By now there are some big fish to be found in close and the best backwaters are nearly always occupied. On most days you should be able to work the edges carefully and fish to a dozen sighted and often rising fish. These are good time.

This is not to say that evenings are a dead loss. Often the best backwaters are worth fishing on last light. If you find a good fish in along the edge through the day and spook it you can always head back to it with the confidence that it will show up near to last light.

February: This is where the full understanding of tailwaters like the Goulburn work usually occurs. Just as the Goulburn runs low and warm when the other rivers around it are running high and cold, it now runs high and cold as the others are getting low and warm! Great for the trout considering daytime temperatures will reach 40 degrees celsius at times.

Rivers levels severely hinder hatches of aquatic insects. River levels of between 6,000 and 12,000 see the hatches wind back considerably. The focus is now not only on backwaters but also the large areas inundated off the river proper; the billabong's and lagoons. Some of these areas extend back a mile into adjoining farmland and unbeknownst to most fisherman, the fish cruise these areas slowly and silently.

Big hoppers and attractors like the stimulator and chernobyl ant work well as the fish are now used to everything from cicadas to grasshoppers to beetles to spiders going into the river. Sighted fish should be fished to with care, blind fishing the edges should be with bigger rubber legged flies.


March: This month is not really autumn in the Goulburn Valley. Although there is a definite trend of cooler evenings, the endless procession of stable high pressure systems sees blue skies with a few scorchers for good measure. Hot weather will often persist until early April. River levels will come down quite a bit and levels more around 3,500 to 5,000 are the norm. This will signal a return of the MIA hatches with duns and caddis showing up again to the joy of the fly fisher.

Backwaters are still fishable with many more now fishable again after the full irrigation releases of February have subsided. Fish make their way back fro the now drying billabong's and take up positions in the reverses and backwaters. Hoppers and beetles are still working although duns and caddis will catch a fair percentage of the fish on offer.

Fish once again take up position on current seams and a return to normal blind searching techniques will bring results. As the month progresses the water levels will decrease as will the air temperatures and this will trigger more hatching insects.

April: Can be one of the best months of the season. By now the river is somewhere between (1,000 and 3,000) and terrestrials are but a memory. The aquatic insects now take centre stage. Rusty duns can hatch in very large numbers and the last hurrah of the caddis is not to be missed. As the flow rate decreases we usually see an associated increase in water temperatures which triggers all of this mirth.

Insects are again getting smaller in size. The fish are biologically programmed to feed heavily in the anticipation of spawning which will occur in the coming months. As a result hatches are usually met with solid rises from the trout. Small parachute duns, especially in rust, grey or olive will work very well. Emergers in dirty browns will also do well and the humble stick caddis suspended below a dry will at times catch a great number of fish.

Late in the month the river will start to drop rapidly. Days get much shorter and overnights frosts or early morning fogs become common. Autumn proper is on the way.

May: This is a period that occurs every year in between about the third week in April and mid May that is glorious. Sometimes it goes for three weeks sometimes eight, but it is the most pleasant time of the year.

Cool crisp mornings give way to the bluest skies imaginable and days of light wind and rising fish. The river usually comes crashing down to the minimum flows (riparian flow 130 Meg/day) and stay this way throughout the winter/early spring period as rainfall is captured for the following year on lake Eildon.

This is the time of midges, blue wing olives and light gear. Careful wading and approaches to feeding fish are a must. Fish will often rise from about 8.30 am throughout the day. On the foggy mornings the start is just a bit later at around 11am but still the good fishing remains. My most pleasant memories of fishing on the Goulburn are in this time period with the weather as close to perfect as it gets.

Sometime late in the month the weather changes significantly although often the first major rain events are not until at least mid-June. The days are shortened and the hatch and rise occurs in the middle of the day with less emphasis on the last hour or so. It just gets too cool.

About the end of the month the first browns start to spawn and should be left alone. Catching these fish is not sporting and requires little to no skill. Please leave fish that are in spawn mode alone. There are plenty of fish still actively feeding with only the early run fish involved in procreating. This usually in the very last few days of the month.


June - August: The Queen's birthday weekend heralds the end of the trout fishing season. This three month period of closure allows the trout of our rivers to spawn unmolested and is keeping within the sporting ethic of fly fishing. This is the time to tie flies, plan trips or fish on our private waters!

See you on the river some day!



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