Written by Luke Warren
Over the Easter long weekend, Dad and I made our way down South to the always beautiful Gungarlin River, and as expected we were not the only people on the roads. The Monaro highway, in particular, was packed, with an almost endless line of holidaymakers also making the journey south to sneak in one last holiday before the cooler weather arrives. Short of peak time in ski season, I don’t think either of us has ever seen the main street of Cooma so busy, it was almost gridlock with a steady stream of traffic meandering through. Unfortunately for us, our lunch plans were thrown out the window, as we soon found our regular pitstop destination The Lott was closed. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find a decent alternative and after thankfully remembering to refill our 20-litre water bottle, which we discovered had leaked between Bathurst and Gunning, it was time to hit the road for our final leg.
We soon turned off onto Rocky Plains Rd and started heading West towards the mountains, the countryside was dry, but with a surprising amount fo feed around, especially compared to the Bathurst region. Seems like most farmers in the region had started to de-stock early in the summer. Grazing land soon gave way to twisted gums and a bumpy Nimmo Rd, which was in a very average condition, with many trees down across the road with just enough room to narrowly pass them.
We both secretly hoped this meant it would be quiet, but as we came down the Island Bend Firetrail and got our first glimpse of the campsite, it quickly became clear that we wouldn’t have the place to ourselves. 10 groups were spread out along the length of the more accessible and flatter edges of the river, ensuring it wouldn’t feel quite as secluded as usual. But the weather was stunning and the overall reports for the mountain streams were positive, so we didn’t mind sharing it.
Once we had decided on a nice protected spot amongst the gums and had the camp more or less setup, it was time to rig up and hit the water. It was a warm, clear afternoon and we could see several hatches already in full swing, with an abundance of small mayfly’s floating above the stream and some other smaller insects we couldn’t clearly identify. I decided to attach a small parachute Adams to the end of my 4lb tippet, and set out towards the bridge with my trusty Epic 4 weight, my go-to rod on the streams over the past two years. As I made my way downstream on the opposite side of the river, I found dad already stalking a few small rainbows which were energetically leaping out of the water chasing anything that flew within 6 inches of the water. I was eyeing off a few rises in the large pool below him, that looked like some decent size fish. A fellow camper was flicking a few lures from the other bank casually trying to catch dinner, but it didn’t seem to be scaring the fish, who were feeding very deliberately.
After covering a couple of rises, I finally got a take as a medium sized feisty rainbow, shot up and across from the deeper water and nailed my parachute Adams in the slower, backed up waters where the water started to run back upstream against the current, collecting a lot of the spent mayflies. The fish immediately took off out into the middle of the faster-flowing water and gave a few decent runs, trying to get free as quickly as possible. After creating a decent bend in my rod, it soon decided to change tack and headed straight towards me, leaving me stripping line in like a crazy person to keep tension on it. Unfortunately, it knew the water well and had soon taken me straight through two weed beds, before stopping basically at my feet, having threaded my line through a combination of weed and submerged sticks. I reached in and managed to get my hands around him and somehow slipped the fly out of his mouth with him still in the water (God old barbless hooks), but with a quick shake he was soon free and heading back out to join his friends and get back to chasing real mayflies. I almost had my first fish for the trip on the bank…
As the sun was starting to set, we decided it was time to head further upstream towards the bigger holes, where we did really well on the final night of our previous trip. We were hoping for a solid evening rise, and I had some new Caddis patterns I had tied and wanted to test. As the sun started to disappear, the first few Caddis started to flutter along the surface of the water, unlike the last trip, this time these were mostly natural brown coloured caddis flies not snowflakes. Thankfully that's what I had been tieing and experimenting with, so I tied on a new creation and started covering a few timid rises.
Just on dark Dad called me down to a long curved hole where the fish were really starting to come on, by this stage, I wasn’t sure if this new pattern was going to be very good as it was tending to get a little waterlogged and sit in the surface. My mind was quickly changed though when I gently lifted my rod in response to a swirl near my fly, which had just landed a few meters off the far bank, and the line immediately tightened up. The fish took off abruptly and a decent fight ensued, but it had taken me by surprise and since it was a long cast I had a fair bit of line to deal with and failed to keep enough tension on the fish, so it was soon free. I quickly got my fly back out there and within a few minutes a had another one on, and this time was ready and soon had it up on the bank. By the end of the session we had managed to land 13 fish between us, nothing huge but still decent start to the weekend. The cold mountain air was starting to flow down the valley and the temperature was falling quickly, so we decided it was time to make our way back to camp, doing our best to pick our way through the minefield of wombat holes the size of mine shafts. We finished off the evening with a feed of fresh prawns and would have happily guzzled down a cold beer if we hadn’t got our wires crossed and left them at home. They were sorely missed, but at least we had plenty of coffee for the cold morning that was well and truly going to great us tomorrow!
The next day began with a thick fog, we got started early and fished downstream of the campsite and managed a few small rainbows. After some morning tea and coffee, the fog had cleared and it was replaced by blue sky as far as you could see. Not a single cloud in sight, so we decided to make our way downstream, and fish below the old fjord, hoping to get onto some clear water that had seen less fisherman. Of course, we were not the only ones who had this idea, a group of young kids and their fathers had set off just ahead of us, so it somewhat turned it a race down each side of the river once we hit the crossing below Botherum Hut. By now it was nearing the middle of the day and the sun was high and bright, but we still managed to get 3 or 4 fish each, all on various different caddis patterns. They seemed to be holding very low and coming up a long way in the deepest runs or faster water, and were absolutely nailing our flies, dad managed to get a nice colourful brown on the bank and dropped a few decent sized fish in a bigger hole. We fished back upstream to the big cutting and decided it was time to head back for a late lunch and refuel before we embarked on our evening session.
Unfortunately, the cooler air moved in earlier than the previous day, and while it didn’t get as cold as the night before, hatches were few and far between and the fish didn’t really come on. I managed to get a few nice fish in my favourite stretch of runs above the apple tree upstream before the sunset, but the evening rise was slow to start and never really kicked off. Dad was feeling the effects of a long day of fishing and neither of us was having a lot of luck so we decided we were better off heading back to camp. In the end, it was a much milder night, but the fish seemed to be on more during the day and had seemingly had their fill.
The final full day of the trip was upon us, and it was another cracker, no fog this morning just some wispy high cloud and beautiful sunshine. After a big breakfast, we contemplated how we were going to approach the day and finally settled on the idea of heading upstream as far as our legs would carry us. We walked up opposite sides of the river, with me on the western side heading up over the hills, before I dropped down on the river a couple of kilometres upstream. It proved to be a good choice, as I started to see (Well scare) some larger fish, which oddly seems to be pairing up like they were ready to spawn. Either way, they were sitting in the likely places and a couple were actively feeding. I tied on my trusty new caddis invention, which by this point had landed 9 fish, and started blind searching a very good looking run, just as dad was catching up to me on the adjacent side of the stream. It proved to be a very productive run and before I knew It, I had landed 4 feisty rainbows, each one confidently taking my fly. My faith In the new Ahrex barbless hooks we had recently acquired was quickly growing, each fish was well hooked yet easily returned to the water with minimal effort and most importantly as little stress as possible for the trout. We continued upstream and managed a few more small fish each and scared a couple of bigger ones, with the water level quite low and more or less full sun, the fish were easily spooked.
Some lower cloud was now starting to build up and we decided it was time to head back for some lunch and a relaxing afternoon, before our final evening session. While the added cloud helped to keep the late afternoon temperatures relatively mild, and there were significantly more hatches than the previous evening, we still found it relatively tough going. There was an abundance of insects on and above the water and the trout seemed to go through stages of locking onto one single insect, before changing their mind and chasing something else. We finished up on the large pool up above the main campsite, where the water drops down into it quite quickly from the run of rapids. The water was bubbling with fish rising at times, but never consistently, it was very much ebb and flow. But we managed a couple of fish each, by then I had switched to a light grey size 18 Klink hammer and dad has his Alfie Adams (Using undercoat fur collected from there Kelpie) invention on, both of us doing our best to match the mayfly hatch. It wasn’t as explosive as the first evening but was still plenty of fun and a nice way to end another trip to the beautiful Gungarlin River.
The car is packed, our fly boxes are full, we have a good supply of fresh coffee beans and we ready for our next trip to the Snowy Mountains. So I thought it was time to finally sit down and write the follow up to ‘Dreaming of the Gungarlin Part I’. This time tomorrow we will be camped by the side of the beautiful Gungarlin River in the magical Snowy Mountains and after a very busy 2017 and flat out start to 2018, I can’t wait. This will be our first autumn trip in quite a few years, over the past 3-4 years we have favoured spring and early summer, but the weather is looking good and the fishing reports are positive. So let’s get back to where we left off, venturing up stream from our camp, in search of an evening rise.
After a decent start and some promising rises on the main pool above the bridge, we decided to keep working our way up stream. At the base of a big swirling pool, I decided to fish a run of fast water that has always looked fishy, but has never previously delivered. By this time Id switched to small size 16 hares ear nymph with an orange bead, a fly that proved to be very useful in NZ. And sure it enough worked well here, after one try casting the fly down stream along the deeper side of the run, I managed to get a decent drift a small but energetic rainbow shot across and took my fly. Thanks to the decent flow and the fact he was already quite a distance downstream from the fight was actually pretty decent for a relatively small fish, but eventually he was up on the sand and a moment later back in the cool clear water. We continued upstream, and with the exception of one more small rainbow, didn’t have much more luck.
Day 3 replaced the clear blue skies with a grey drizzle, so we decided it was a good day to make our way into Jindabyne and try out some different water. We made our way up to Island Bend to give the snowy a try, which was running high and not much fun on our lighter tackle, neither of us having any luck. We decided to move down to the trusty old Thredbo river and settle in for the afternoon and hopefully an evening rise, which turned out to be a good decision. There were quite a few fish moving around, we each managed a few smaller fish and as it started to get dark dad managed to land a beautiful brook trout and then got into a very solid brown after snapping off on what seemed like an even larger fish. Thankfully the knot I tied for him in the dark, to replace his now absent muddler, held up well and he managed to get a very healthy brown on the bank. By now it was getting late so we made our back to camp, missed the pizza shop for dinner and ended up in bed un fed, but content in a good days fishing.
The following day started at the vice, with us both tying some small caddis patterns with some beautifully soft bleached Elk hair, as we had started to notice a lot of snowflake caddis hatches. Id also made the switch to using flurocarbon tippet, which had been sitting in my vest for a few years. Im not sure if it was the flies or the tippet but a trip up stream turned into a very fun and productive morning with around 10 fish between us. After a quick lunch and little more tying, our bellies and fly boxes were stocked up and we were ready for the afternoon/evening session. And we were not disappointed, after a very good afternoon, with plenty of fish, we ended up fishing the evening rise on a large long pool in the middle of an amazing caddis hatch. As the sun had almost disappeared I managed to hook a beautiful brown, which gulped down my size 16 caddis, which I had tied on a barbless hook. Id lost a few decent fish earlier in the evening and I wasn’t planing on letting this one get away, so I worked it pretty hard knowing my glass rod would offer some protection and after a few quick runs down stream and stumbling around wombat holes in the near dark, I managed to get it up to the bank, but unfortunately that was it for my 4lb tippet. I was basically back to my leader and as I started to lift the fishes head up so I could get my hands under its belly my tippet snapped, the line went shooting in the air and I let out a bunch of expletives as I watched my fish swim away. I wasn’t a happy camper. But it had been a very good day on the water!
That was the final night of the trip, and we decided it was a good time to call it quits and head back to the camp for a beer and debrief, dwell over the ones that got away and start planning our next trip.
There is nothing quite like the closed season, cold winter weather and epic Tour De France scenery, to make you nostalgic about previous trips to explore pristine running waters in some of Australia’s most rugged country. These thoughts are a nice escape from the everyday hustle and bustle of life in inner Sydney.
Tonight, the Tour De France contenders will tackle the highest point of this year’s race, the infamous Col Du Galibier. The majestic images of the alpine peaks that accompanied the many stage preview’s I read over lunch today, stirred my imagination and brought back strong images of our own not so impressive but equally beautiful main range in the Snowy Mountains of NSW. Which brings me to the point of this blog post, which is to recount an enjoyable week spent exploring the Gungarlin River and surrounding area, North of Jindabyne late last year. Dad and I made our most recent trip to this wonderful region back in November (2016), and since it looks unlikely that we will make it back down this year, I thought it was a good time to reminisce and document our previous journey, while I can still recall most of the finer points and the trout haven’t grown to 80cm long, 15lb monsters ;-)
With a favourable weather forecast, plenty of fresh Single O coffee beans and Dad’s carefully selected array of glass masterpieces, we set off on our trip. After two coffee stops, our usual lunch at the Lott in Cooma and a quick visit to Alpine Angler for some last minute tackle supplies (rivers are all fishing well, they inform us), we arrived at the turn off to Nimmo Rd ready for the drive into the Gungarlin River. While it doesn’t exactly hold ‘Trophy’ trout, the Gungarlin is a special little river perched up on the Snowy Plain at 1400m, where it rises in the foothills of the Munyang Range, on the Eastern side of Jagungal. This was the third time we have camped on the side of this lovely stream, and we were ready to wet our lines after a disappointing and particularly miserable outing in 2015.
While Dad was well and truly in testing mode, enjoying having a wide selection of rods to try out, I took the opposite approach. Instead, I was well and truly flying the flag for the ‘less is more” crew, bringing a single rod for our week of fishing. My weapon of choice was my trusty Epic 476 5-piece PackLight in eye catching (and thankfully fish catching) Glow Bug Orange, which Dad built for me early last year. After a quick walk down stream, the rod proved it was certainly up to the task as I soon landed my first fish of the trip, a feisty little brown who eagerly took my size 16 Royal Wulff on the third cast down (you will see a theme developing) and across a fast-flowing ripple just a few feet from the nearest bank.
After covering some likely runs and failing to get another one on the bank, I decided it was time to make my way back up stream to find Dad. He was fishing one of his favourite rods, a James Green 4/5 explorer, and he was also off to a decent start with a couple of small browns gulping down his caddis pattern. After a quick coffee and a late afternoon snack, it was time for a ‘proper’ session and hopefully a solid evening rise. We grabbed our gear, breathed in some fresh mountain air and headed off upstream. The main long pool above the bridge looked like a pot of boiling water, brimming with bubbles just before you add the pasta. There were small fish rising everywhere, but no sizeable residents could be found so we decided to keep on moving upstream in the hope of some chunkier specimens.
To be continued...
Wednesday morning saw Pete and Myself checking out what they had all been talking about the Namoi river below the dam the word was that there were some big carp in it. When we arrived at the water there where already two guy's fishing the car park section and more had already headed up stream so Pete and I head down stream we found a long broad hole with slow flowing water and only average visibility which looked great for Native fishing. We seen a few nice carp but had no luck getting them interested in our flies.
By now Pete was getting itchy feet and was keen to head back to the Dam and see if we could find some more big ones so after a early lunch we where off. On arrival at the bay that had seen all the action the day before, kayak man had already beaten us to it so we chose the next bay around so as not to disturb him. It was not long before we both found fish feeding and a couple cruising the bank as well and the first cruiser I covered that I thought had seen me as he had turned and headed out from the bank but he accelerated to grab my fly that had been placed only a meter in front of him and I was on. As I wanted to test my new prototype 8 weight Vale Creek Native Series rod I had chosen it for today and it did not disappoint handling the rampaging carp with ease that I did not think possible with an eight weight using only 6 lb tippet but I was blown away by the stopping power of this rod combined with the amazing tippet protection given buy the s glass blank.
I could hear Pete hooping and hollering from around the corner in the direction he had headed so new he was into some fish so headed round to see how he was going, he was having some fun seen lots of fish even broken a couple off and landed a couple. There where way more fish in his direction so we decided to fish together for a while and It was not long before I was covering another big carp and he was quick to take my fly once I got it in his sights and it was on for young and old as he tore off the the direction of some vegetation to my right along the bank and on this occasion my s glass could not save my six pound tippet and he did me in on the rubbish. We had a quick chat about my tippet selection while I tied a new fly on and then moved on a bit and I was not long till Pete was into a big one but it to was playing dirty to and heading into some small trees right on the edge and yes it done Pete on his twelve pound nitlon tippet. Pete went on to land 4 good sized carp for the day but had broken off or straightened the hood on seven fish all up. While I only managed only two the next fish was taken from around a tree stump and took me ten minutes to to get him to take my fly and as there where trees and stuff in all directions I had to keep him close and to my delight I manage to keep him out of all of it with my six pound tippet in tacked. After landing this fish I stood for a while watching a monster carp launching its self right out of the water only twenty meters away and another swirling on the surface only 30 meters out but had no luck covering them with a dry.
Day 3 seen me choosing to fish My eight weight Vale Creek Native Series again and although I covered some nice big cruising carp and some big muddying ones as well all I could manage was 3 hook ups all ending in pulled hooks it was not my day. Pete fished hard with both of us being on five fish each and on his way back to the boat he got lucky with a short but very fat carp taking his fly and this made it 6 to Pete and Five to me. While the fishing was hard with the rubbish from the dam rising all along the bank coupled with the algae making it difficult to find the fish and cover them it was made up for with Pete's good company and very strong fish when you did hook up.
Till next time happy fishing
Tuesday morning good mate Peter Hanrahan and myself headed to Keepit dam to see if we could catch some of the strong carp we had heard of up there. We arrived at twelve o'clock after a five hour run with Pete's boat in tow to a dam that was now at 97 percent after being at 7 percent and it had not been at this lever for 6 years so there was heaps of debris around the edges as well as lots of algae and only 200 mm of clarity into the water, we new straight away fishing was going to be tough.
After a quick lunch we rigged up our rods Pete went with his Stalker 7 weight while I was keen to put a bend in my Vale Creek built Seele 886 rapid that had been built for a while and features in our reviews section but I had not yet fished. I was running a 406 fly line with cutthroat big bug leader tippet was 6 pound maxima ultra green, yes that is light for big carp water but I no my glass rods have great shock absorbing tippet protection so all should be good. We launched the boat loaded our gear and we where off in search of some big strong carp, on bank one we both only seen 1 carp each and it was very shallow and had lots of grass and rubbish in the water so we moved across the lake to the next bay to see what we could find. When we came into the bay it looked very muddy for about 4 meters out and both of us thought it must be wave action that had caused this mud cloud so Pete headed around the point to clearer water and I took my time to check out the bay more carefully and it was not long before I realised that it was mud from lots of carp muddying in the bay. Even being able to see fish it was not going to be easy going with the mud, weed and decaying grass it was very tough going even frustrating at times.
I did manage two from this bay both of them giving me a quick introduction to my backing the biggest went 10.8 lb on Pete's scales. Around the point I go to see how Pete was going and the water was clearer but Pete was having a hard time as well only landing one nice fat carp, I seen one as we where walking back to the boat and after covering it a couple of times I was hooked up solid to another solid Keepit dam carp, so that was 3 fish for close to 30 pound of carp all with 6 lb tippet so yes my glass rods do give great tippet protection. We where both tied so back to camp for a good shower and tea was in order and a beer or two, then a big sleep day two was going to be big.
Fish number 1 on my Seele built buy Vale Creek Rodworks 10.8 lbs
Having been a very we start to the trout season it was great to get out on some water that was at a fish-able height and clear enough to fish. Today I used my Vale Creek built James Green explorer rod,at 7 foot 9 inch this rod makes a great all round stream rod, although rated as a 4/5 I like it with a 3 weight line as well so I teamed it up with my VCR 321 reel and 406 Weight Forward fly line and 68 inch cutthroat leader tipped with 3 lb maxima ultra green tippet.
This little hen brown fell victim to a nicely presented geehi beetle place about 2 foot off the bank in a small pocket of slower running water see picture below. I was fishing a short line slowly up the bank no more than 6 foot of line at any time. The fish was back in the water in less than 60 seconds.
Thanks and happy fishing from the VCR crew
Hi - the next rod off the building bench is the second in our native series. The ten weight Murray Cod rod and wow, this is a very powerful rod! I will have loads of fun testing this on some big cod come December 1 when our cod season re opens. This rod is a very tough and durable build featuring REC recoil stripping guides x 3 and rec snakes, topped off with a snake brand over sized loop tip. I have also used my very own VCR up locking reel seat and river red gum insert and fighting butt. This is going to be one fun rod to fish.
Welcome to my first VCR blog post and thanks for checking in @ Vale creek rod works.
After building many fly rods for trout and carp fishing and having an interest in fly fishing for native Australian freshwater species like Golden Perch and Murray Cod, to name a couple I will target, I put a lot of thought into the rod I wanted for the water I wanted to target these species on. I decided a length of 7 foot 10 inches would be a suitable length. Next step was who would I get to roll my new blanks? After much research I decided to contact Mike McFarland from the McFarland rod company, a master blank roller from America, to see if he was interested in the project. After discussing the project we decided to do a couple of prototype blanks to begin with. My research suggested I would need a ten weight to cast the big cod flies and a 8 weight would work as general purpose rod weight... so this is where I started. Material for the blanks would be black S-Glass un-sanded traditional looking blanks in three piece with spigot ferrules.
Below are some pictures of the first of our native series prototypes to be known as Magura which is the aboriginal word for fish. This is the eight weight featuring snake brand guides and tip with Rosewood insert and fighting butt and of course, our own Vale Creek up locking reel seat.