Hopper Time

Its usually drought in Australia, until you want to fish a river, then it floods.

Walking the banks of a stretch of a low land western river I had hoped to fish for natives, I realised two things. Firstly, there was no way I was going to hook into any natives due to the chocolate milkshake that was barely contained within the usual river banks; and secondly, there were an insane amount of hoppers around. So many hoppers that simply walking through the long straw coloured grass with your mouth open would result in a decent feed.

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Bucketloads of hoppers

After a quick rethink I decided to cut my losses, head to higher ground and settle for a weekend of trout fishing. According to the guru at the local fly shop the girl scoutin’ had been particularly good although the hoppers I had seen in plague proportions at lower altitudes were only present in certain localities.

It was early afternoon by the time I hit the mighty Eucumbene River and after a short hike was in some prime water.  Initially I was surprised I had the place to myself, but I guess the imminent thunderstorm kept a few punters at bay. The river fished well, with most fish opting for the stimulator of the dry dropper rig. I only managed a few fish, including a rainbow at 38cm, before the storm hit.  The cell appeared to get stuck in the gorge. The days fishing was well and truly over as I crouched soaked to the bone under a tea tree bush trying to avoid the splintering lightning bolts that hit trees on each side of the gorge every few seconds with deafening devastation.

By the next day the weather had cleared and I relocated to higher country to fish the highly oxygenated, acidic waters of the Thredbo River. A long time favourite, the Thredbo is one the rivers I cut my teeth on many years ago. When it is firing it is unmatched in Australia for both quality fly water and fish. This day was no exception, even with high water. The fish weren’t easy to find but they were in excellent condition and were looking up.

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Strong Rainbows, clear water

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Looking up

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Extreme wading

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Fast water brownie

This was the first time I had visited the Kosciusko National Park since the completion of the Thredbo Valley Trail. A bike and hike trail that spans the ~20kms between Thredbo and Crackenback. The trail includes heavy erosion and 4 river crossings, facilitated by monolithic steel bridges.  If you thought that National Parks still had any role in the preservation of intact and undiminished wilderness in Australia then you will find the trail disgusting. After a million years of neglect industrial tourism has finally come to the Thredbo Valley. Rather than spend money on the irradiation and control of feral floral and fauna, which is so desperately needed, the KNP instead chose to develop one of the last remaining stretches of untouched alpine river. Just another national disgrace from the National Park Service.

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Fools progress

Yes there is some irony writing about trout fishing in a national park while also complaining about the lack of vermin control. Sure eradicate the trout, but not before you remove the dams clogging our waterways and restricting the passage of native fish. Let our rivers run.


Tilapia Found in NSW

Sad news this week as it has emerged that Tilapia have been found in some Northern NSW waterways.  Anyone who has fished in North Queensland or areas like Hawaii will know the devastating impact these fish can have on waterways and native species.  As is the case with carp, catch and kill is strongly encouraged and fish should not be returned to the water.  Full announcement about the discovery from the NSW CFA:

Tilapia found in north-eastern streamsCFA_logo
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is seeking assistance from the public to help stop the spread of tilapia, one of the world’s most invasive fish species, after they were recently detected in the far north east of the State.

DPI Strategy Leader Aquatic Biosecurity Melissa Walker said community assistance is urgently needed to control the spread these pest fish, which were recently found in Bogangar Canal and Cudgen Lake, south of Kingscliff.

“The highest risk for transporting tilapia is via humans carrying live fish or eggs,” Ms Walker said.

“If people catch or find a tilapia, it is vital that the fish is not returned to the water.

“Our advice to anyone who catches or finds tilapia is to humanely destroy and dispose of it appropriately.

“In any case of uncertainty about identification, we recommend taking a good quality photo then calling the Aquatic Pest Hotline immediately for confirmation.”

Ms Walker said tilapia have pale olive to silver-grey bodies, with a long continuous dorsal fin, and can grow to more than 36 centimetres and live up to 13 years.

“The fish are particularly threatening because they are such successful breeders,” Ms Walker said.

“Mothers produce up to 1200 eggs a year and protect their young fry in their mouths for up to 14 days before releasing them.

“This technique, known as ‘mouth brooding’, ensures that even if the mother is not living, any eggs in the mouth have the potential to survive.

“Once established in a flowing river or creek, these fish are almost impossible to eradicate so it is important to stop the spread of tilapia now before it’s too late.”

Tilapia impact on native fish numbers by competing for habitat and food, behaving aggressively, disturbing aquatic vegetation and could potentially introduce disease and parasites.

DPI Fisheries and Biosecurity staff are working with local council to coordinate surveys of the surrounding areas to help inform potential management options for this invasive pest fish.

Sightings of tilapia can be reported to DPI via:

•         Phone:  02 4916 3877 (24 hour hotline)

•         Online: www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/pests-diseases/aquatic-pest-sighting

•         Email: aquatic.pests@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Male and female tilapia

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Sharpen the Arrows it’s Carpin Time

It appears as though the push to legalise bow fishing for carp in NSW is gathering some momentum.  A permit system will likely be put in place to manage the sport, with a permit required in addition to a NSW fishing licence.

Whilst not being fly fishing, the removal of carp from waterways by any method is a win for the environment and our native species and therefore should be encouraged.

The following is a report in the latest NSW CFA newsletter, written by president Don Barton:

Bow fishing for carp
Report by Don Barton, NSW CFA President
The recent changes to the Fishing Rules included provisions enabling a pilot program for bow fishing for carp by a narrowly selected class of persons in specified inland waters in NSW.
On 18 November I attended a full day Bow Fishing Risk Assessment Workshop in Surry Hills conducted by a consultant, and facilitated by officers of DPI (Fisheries and Game Licensing Unit).
The risk assessment was exhaustive. An example of the outcome of a similar process (in respect of permitting regulated hunting in state forests) by the same consultant can be seen at this link.
The permits (or permit – one may be issued for a specified class of persons) which actually make the activity legal for specified persons will probably issue under section 37, Fisheries Management Act 1994. A permit rather than a licence will be required owing to the matter being a trial rather than something new being immediately enshrined in the Act.
The pilot program will commence some time in 2015. Training of applicants for a permit to bow fish for carp in specified locations will be conducted by DPI’s Game Licensing Unit. Individuals will be required to hold a NSW Fishing Fee receipt and a NSW Restricted Game Hunting Licence, endorsed for bow hunting. Issue of a Restricted Game Licence is limited to members of hunting organisations approved by DPI. Obviously, there are quite a lot of filters operating with respect to who will be permitted to bow fish for carp.
Following the trial period, there will be a review of the trial and that review will inform any decision to persist with permitting bow fishing for carp and if so under what conditions and in which inland waters.
The locations where bow fishing for carp will be permitted were identified amongst known carp hot spots in NSW, with the precise locations being identified by taking account of proximity to towns and other considerations.
The day provided an opportunity to examine the equipment used for bow fishing and to speak to experts in the field. Having exercised that opportunity and having the benefit of sitting through the entire risk assessment process, I found it difficult to have any concerns in relation to the trial. (Indeed, I can think of at least one river reach where the opportunity to target carp so precisely may well prove useful in mitigating the presence of carp in refuge holes during dry spells, and I look forward to persuading a bow fishing enthusiast (if I can find one) to demonstrate his skills, if that reach becomes one of the sites scheduled under the terms of the permit/s.)
Of course, anything new will inevitably attract concerns one way or the other, and it is easy to attempt to create a moral panic in respect of any activity with which one is unfamiliar; ignorance being the mother of prejudice.
The practice is in fact not so novel, having been legal in NSW in tidal waters ever since there have been regulations governing recreational fishing. The reasons for it not being permitted inland probably had more to do with conserving freshwater native fish and salmon and trout rather than safety. It is permitted in some other states, in the lower Murray in SA, I have heard.
Some concern may be felt in respect of authorised bow fishers being tempted by fish other than carp. Having regard to the filters operating on the selection of permit holders, this seems to be an unlikely risk. Further, the technique doesn’t seem to lend itself to taking other species and in any case, even if the odd opportunity arose and was exploited, that would be no different to a person doing the wrong thing by keeping a trout cod that they had inadvertently hooked, for example. The fact that some will people will do the wrong thing is not a good reason for forbidding a privilege to people who do the right thing.
There was a concern expressed by a Fisheries compliance officer that some people may hear that bow fishing is permitted in NSW and may rush into it without acquainting themselves with the precise regulations. This would seem to be a matter that can be reasonably addressed by suitable publicity, including informative publications being placed in retail outlets, including those in towns in neighbouring states.
People who don’t bother to read such material probably already bow fish in NSW inland waters. It is already happening illegally in freshwater in NSW. See this Youtube video for example…
Bowfishing Carp nsw

Watch the Video
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It seems reasonable to expect that the individuals who will have taken the trouble to undergo the training, and apply and pay for the permit, and who are members of clubs, will not be well-disposed towards those who persist with bow fishing illegally, and will be as ready as any angler to pass on information to Fisheries’ compliance officers of any illegal activity, including illegal bow fishing.
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Back in Bass

DSC027087 Nov 2014Bass on the Disco Crickroach.

The bass are back and the annual Southern Bass Lake Yarrunga Challenge kicked off the hunt for another summer.  Although the bass have returned to the rivers and creeks, the cicadas are yet to hatch in any significant numbers.  They may still be on their way or it might just be a quiet summer after the bumper hatches last year.  Either way the bass know they aren’t around and so are mostly looking for frogs instead.  Poppers and crickroaches stripped two or three times form the bank and then paused will bring a few bass to the surface.  However due to the lack of cicadas the bass are only holding close to the banks for a couple of hours around first and last light, providing a few hours of power.  They are then retreating to the deeper water throughout the heat of the day and should be targeted with sinking lines along the deep water side of weed beds and submerged structure.

DSC0272121 Nov 2014Time for a coffee break after the dawn hours of power

Despite the cicada deficiency, the number of bass caught during the challenge remained good with 52 anglers netting 857 bass over the 2 days.  The large fish were hard to come by, with Chris Harding of the Illawarra Fly Fishers bagging the largest bass on fly at 404mm (tip to fork).  As well as the bass, 21 carp were landed with the largest going to Ray Ellis also of the Illawarra Fly Fishers at 670mm.

DSC026946 Nov 2014Turning up the beats during a tying session back at camp.

DSC027057 Nov 2014Joe Manzano probing the structure amongst the dawn fog.

DSC0272221 Nov 2014Submerged timber is prime bass structure.

DSC027299 Nov 2014Bent to the cork, 396mm.

Joe and I had tough practise day pre comp with only a few bass landed.  Despite the lack of enthusiasm from the fish, I somehow managed to have my fly chased by three different Water Dragons three casts in a row, with one even diving onto the fly from up a tree.  Unfortunately the third one, which happened to be a large male, got his mouth on the Jitterbug before I could pull it clear.  The feisty bugger was a terror to unhook but was eventually released unharmed.

DSC027107 Nov 2014You’re not gonna have fun.

Sight fishing to carp which were in large schools up to 60 fish was a highlight of the weekend, with Joe and I both landing carp at 640mm on olive and black Woolly Buggers.

DSC0272721 Nov 2014-1Wombat hole fertiliser.