When I think of Australia one of the first images that springs to mind is the vast expanse of the Outback, and that immensely spiritual red rock, Uluru. It’s a dry continent, the driest on earth and not one you would readily associate with trout. Ask any local about trout and most will forlornly shake their heads and mention the drought they have experienced for the last 20 or so years. But the trout are there, clinging to life against the odds - if you know where to look. Leaving aside Tasmania, the severe shortage of water in mainland Australia has made the trout’s existence extremely tenuous, shrinking their range to all but the smallest areas and leaving former trout hotspots such as Cooma in New South Wales completely barren of trout.
I asked about trout when passing through the Blue Mountains, near Sydney, and again received the same sad shake of the head in reply, but I did find them in the Snowy Mountains. Being December the mountains weren't snowy at all but they made a nice change from the drab eucalyptus plains of the goldfields in the state of Victoria. I had stopped at a tackle store in Jindabyne, and was relieved when the store assistant confirmed that not only were trout growing to large proportions in the lake, they were also to be found in good numbers in the Thredbo River, which flows through the Kosciuszko National Park, past the winter ski mecca of Thredbo, before emptying into the lake near Jindabyne. The best stretch of the river to fish, I was informed, is about a kilometre above the hatchery “but watch out for the snakes!”
I drove to the river late in the morning, excited by the prospect of fishing. I had been looking forward to fishing for trout in Australia, perhaps because I had found very little information on the internet, making it an unknown quantity. I had watched a movie starring Gabriel Byrne called Jindabyne, in which he and his pals went on a camping and fly fishing trip in the Snowy’s, catching bags of trout before the fly fishing scenes ended all too soon and my interest waned. That movie made up the bulk of my research.
It was a fine, hot day with hardly a hint of cloud or wind, and surprisingly few flies. If you've visited Australia you will have a good idea how annoying the flies can be, boldly buzzing about the corners of your mouth, nose, and eyes, but thankfully they were few and far between on the day. Well, not the biblical proportions you encounter in the Outback that have you running for your fly head net (or "tourist hat" as some of the habituated and disapproving locals call them). But just enough to have you squinting every now and again to keep the flies from the moisture of your eyes whilst concentrating on your dry fly drifting down a likely looking run, using your only free hand to strip in the fly line bobbing back to you on the current. I wonder how many trout have been spooked by the pale palm flash of an irritable fly swat?
A similar thing happened a short way upstream. In a run too deep to wade a trout was rising consistently at the head of a pool, near the far bank. Frustratingly, it too was holding a position impossible to cast to thanks to a well positioned tree. As I said, these were smart trout.
Just above the house I came to a delightful looking run that had trout written all over it. It was starting to get late and I didn’t fancy making the long walk back in the dark with snakes around, so I gave myself 10 minutes to fish the run. A few casts went untouched before, on my last cast of the day, a feisty little 8 inch brown trout took the #16 bead head PTN, and I got it to hand to admire the brilliance of its spotted scales in the setting sun before it swam off without even a breather, as little fish seem to do. Any fish, even a little fella, can lift your spirits after a hard day on the river and instantly turn a bad day’s fishing into an enjoyable one.