Trout at the Cascades

After beating my way through yet another tea tree, sinking my foot into yet another pool of mud and grass and swatting yet another mozzie away from my face, I finally came to the small opening through which, if I was careful, I could get a cast into the water. I unhooked the green celta from the rod guide and dangled it in front of me. Using a small underarm flick, I cast the lure about 15 metres upstream, just above some submerged rocks that were creating small eddies in the middle of the river. Clicking the bail arm over quickly, so as to avoid a belly in the line, I started winding back the lure. After one or two winds, I felt the telltale vibration that the lure was working properly. After a few winds I could see the lure flickering seductively. Suddenly, a sleek brown shape materialised behind the lure. The vibrations stopped and I saw the bright flank of the fish flash in the morning sunlight. The rod loaded up and the fight begun. After a spirited jump and a few small runs, I had the fish by the water’s edge.

Trout are an interesting fish. From an angling perspective, trout are one of the few fish that ‘have it all’. By this I mean that they can be caught using many different techniques, they can be incredibly difficult to catch, they fight well and can taste delicious. Often only one technique will work, and catching trout can often be dependent on analysing your surroundings for cues.

This weekend I was lucky enough to spend two nights camping at the Cascades, in the Wadbilliga National Park. The campsite is located on the upper Tuross River. The river contains small numbers of brown and rainbow trout, both above and below the cascades. The catchment flows east of the divide towards the coast, which is interesting as it may indicate that the fish in this catchment are predominantly wild fish.

It took me a while to catch the first fish. I’d almost given up as the water was dark with tannins and the recent rain caused some gushing torrents in certain sections. In hindsight, this was probably good for the fishing, as the trout were probably less likely to spook in these conditions. It was pouring with rain and I was wading around in this beautiful river, completely soaked from head to toe. I saw the first fish about 20 minutes before I caught it. It came out from in front of a boulder and smashed the celta, but I failed to hook up. After walking up the river having a few casts here and there, I returned to the same spot and had another cast. The fish came out from the boulder and once again, aggressively attacked the lure. This time there was a solid hookup and before long, I had the fish landed.

A beautiful little brown trout

Earlier I said that trout are one of those fish that ‘have it all’. I don’t want to be too controversial, but the fact of the matter is that they are an invasive predator that seriously impacts the freshwater ecology of some of our fragile rivers. I can totally understand the argument for catch and release trout fishing, but generally disagree with it. Obviously there are laws that we must all abide by, but as this fish was over the legal limit, I decided it would make a nice entree for dinner. A quick snap of the neck and severing of the main artery, and this fish was destined for the pan.

A little Tuross River brown

Back at the campsite, after wowing my girlfriend and her friends with my supreme hunting ability, I cleaned the fish and prepared it for the pan. Just a little garlic and butter, salt and pepper. A few minutes each side, and it was done. Two of her friends were vegetarians, so it was with great pleasure that I watched them devour some of the succulent, pink flesh.

Delicious

I caught a few more small fish and had quite a few follows during another session, but the fishing was generally pretty slow. I think the fish are there, they just weren’t that hungry on this occasion. Most of the fish came from the shallower sections of the river. I had very few follows from fish in deeper water, but did see a few rises and boils. At one stage I saw a big boil barely five metres in front of me, then realised it was a beautiful platypus coming up for air. We also spotted goannas, bats, a plethora of birds and an echidna.

A typical stretch of the upper Tuross River

If you look carefully you can make out the platypus to the right

All in all this is a great spot and I’d encourage anyone to check it out. Just head towards Numeralla from Cooma, head along the Badja road then follow the signs. Bring water and firewood. If you’re interested in a nice drive, you can get back to Canberra by heading north on the Badja road up towards Braidwood. This goes past the Deua National Park and a number of other interesting places.

One of the best mushroom rings I’ve ever seen!

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