Lake Eucumbene is an alpine lake about 500km south west of Sydney. My fishing mate, Beard (nickname which refered to his facial hair – he doesn’t have one anymore but the name stuck), and I made a trip down there to fish with former fly-fishing guide and Eucumbene guru, Steve.
We camped at Buckenderra Holiday Village, situated at the bottom end of the lake. According to Steve, fishing has been exceptional in the last few years because new ground was flooded every year. Unfortunately, when we were there, the lake was low and weather conditions extremely hot (35 degrees celsius, 95 fahrenheit). Fishing was not good and no fish were caught the night before.
The first evening saw us fishing in a location only accessible by 4 wheel drive. We had 6 anglers (myself, Beard, Steve and 3 of Steve’s friends) in two cars. Conditions seemed good as it was hot and humid, with lots of bugs hatching, particularly midges. Lots of dragonfly nymph shells could be found on the shore. In fact, they were so good I wished that I had not left the insect repellant in the car.
I was fishing an Alexandra (shown below) because it is a beautiful fly and has a history. It was invented in 1860 and originally called the “Lady of the Lake”. It was later renamed in honour of Princess Alexandra of Denmark who married Edward VII in 1863. In the old days, it was so effective that there was talk of banning this fly.
All evening, I was fishing badly, catching my fly on nearly every object in front and behind. The fishing was tough with very few fish rising, and those that did were well outside fly-casting range.
After a long period of time, a trout rose directly in front of me and I was able to cover it with a cast. I started a slow retrieve (which is very difficult to do when a fish is nearby). It took the fly and the rod buckled over. The fish then promptly wrapped my 4lb tippet around a nearby snag protruding from the water. I was able to wade out to it and, using my feet, lift the unlucky trout out of the water and bring it back to shore.
It was a reasonably nice rainbow trout, and had a clipped fin. It was autopsied and we found it to not be particularly fully, and its diet to have been midge pupae. We were later able to identify the fish as being a 4 year old from its fin as they clip the right and left pectoral and dorsal fins according to year. Shortly after catching my fish, Steve got a similar sized wild rainbow, which had midge pupae and a bloodworm in its stomach. Then the fishing shut down and no more fish were caught, as it turns out, for the rest of the trip.
The next morning we were up at 5:30am to fish Middlingbank. Fished all morning without seeing a single rise. Two guys in a boat were catching some fish trolling though.
Here is a photograph of Beard casting.
The following morning, we went out in Steve’s boat. This was a real treat for us and it is a beautiful bass boat which was imported from the US and not very common in Australia. Although we tried a number of really good looking spots, the only thing that happened in 4 hours of fishing was that a trout took and spat out my fly while I was fiddling with my camera.
Although we were hoping to do better than a single fish in three solid days of fishing, we were rather lucky to catch any at all given the difficult conditions. Lake Eucumbene is a beautiful and tranquil place, and I hope to return soon. It is particularly special to me as I caught my first trout on fly here under Steve’s guidance 20 years ago.