Having won a leave pass to go to Eucumbene, I was not about to surrender it. So, when the Club trip was cancelled, a hastily arranged an alternative trip to Khancoban. This was somewhere I had wanted to return to for some time, after I fished there with Trif a couple of years ago.
Leaving Melbourne with boat in tow on a sunny Friday morning we were looking forward to a good weekends fishing, (we being Peter Cogdon, Ray Toohey and myself). Once over the dividing range, we noticed a build up of cloud, so much so that by Benalla the first spots of rain appeared on the windscreen. On reaching Wodonga it was raining steadily and by Khancoban it was positively torrential. Fortunately the rain began to ease around 4pm so we ventured out to the boat ramp to find a very full Khancoban Pondage flooding right up into the picnic area with only 15cm of a rubbish bin visible above the water line.
We decided to fish from the bank that afternoon as the weather was still a bit dodgey. The amount of trout food in the form of insects was amazing. Beetles of all shades and sizes, grasshoppers, spiders, crickets, etc were all being washed into the lake as the water flooded over previously dry land. Sadly the only fish rising were “oncers” about 100m out.
Next morning, back at the ramp we were setting up the boat, when a car with Kayaks on top showed up. It was
Mick Kay and Peter Papworth, along with a couple of mates. They had been up since Thursday and had originally wanted to paddle down the Swampy Plains River, but were sensible enough to realise that would have been a suicide mission at it’s present flow rate. Friday being as wet as it was, they had spent the day in the Pub (told you they were
Looking through the fog that morning, the lake looked like a demolition site, with huge branches of trees and other flotsam and jetsam all over the surface, having been washed down the river or floated off the banks the day before.
Plenty of fish were moving, until the fog burned off to reveal a bright and sunny day. Once the sun hit the water, surface
activity went very quiet.
Now drifting about in a boat casting and retrieving for hours when nothing is happening is not my favourite way to fly fish.
So while Peter and Ray took turns of hitting each other (occasionally) with their weighted flies (three in a tinny is pretty
tight). I decided to have a rest and troll for a while. However not even this lazy tactic produced anything.
At about 12.30 Pete called for any thoughts on where next drift should be. I suggested drifting along a shore that quite a
few shore based anglers (presumably locals) were fishing earlier in the day.
At the start of this drift I decided to change my mudeye pattern for a small `tadpole style’ woolly bugger (don’t ask me why). Half a dozen casts later my fly was hit by a good brown. As I was playing this fish I called for the net. “What net?”
came the reply. Great! Eventually landed, this fish turned the scales at 2.1lbs, which is small by pondage standards.
At the end of the same drift, Peter was about to lift his fly off the water to recast, when it was taken by a fish (larger than
mine). Unfortunately, it spat the fly as it leapt from the water. Bad luck Pete. It’s amazing what a bit of action does to your concentration, and to your casting ability. Alas, all it did was keep us on the water a couple of hours longer than we might have stayed otherwise.
Back to the caravan for some lunch and a rest. At this point I should mention the accomodation at Khancoban Caravan Park. The on-site vans are extremely old and very small. Three people in our van was a squeeze to say the least.
Unless you manage to score a van with an annexe, or a cabin with an ensuite. I would stay elsewhere.
Late Saturday afternoon saw us on the banks of the Swampy Plains below the wall of the Pondage. The river was running a banker. We fished heavily weighted nymphs to no avail. Ray got talking to a local on horseback, who said that he didn’t think that there would be a rise that evening with the river running the way it was. He was right, we stayed until dark, no hatch, no rise, not a sausage.
Back at the caravan, we caught up with Robin Camilleri, Chris Babo and a mate of Rob’s, Matt. They had just come from the pondage where they had caught a couple. Earlier in the day Chris picked up one on the Swampy with a grasshopper pattern.
Sunday morning we were on the lake before daybreak, it was going to be another bright day, and unfortunately no action on the fish front, so at about 10.30am, we dropped the boat back at camp and headed up to Geehi.
The river (Upper Swampy Plains) here looks fantastic, very clear water, and a beautiful spot, with towering mountains rising straight from the river valley. A great place for a bit of 4WD, fishing and camping. There are 3 or 4 stone huts in the area that are interesting to have a look at. The track crosses the river a couple of times, (hence the need for a 4WD), just don’t lose your number plate while making the crossing like we did, fortunately it was found and returned by the following vehicle.
Because it was a long weekend (in Victoria anyway) there were lots of people around, with campsites everywhere along the river. We had learned from speaking to the locals at Khancoban (boat ramps are good places to meet them) that the river up here wasn’t fishing that well, but it was on Peter’s list of places to visit so we had to have look. I’m afraid the locals were right, with only one sprat caught between us. Having visited here, I know that I will return for a more serious stay one day.
Back at the boat ramp that afternoon, to a much lower pondage, we were about to launch, when a group were coming ashore. The usual questions were asked, and when they replied they had the back half bitten off 2 mudeyes in an all day trolling session, they weren’t about to recommend it. However they did recommend we try up the road a bit further at Tooma Dam. They described to us how to find the boat ramp, which was down a track some distance back from the wall.
“Boat ramp” can be a very loose term sometimes, and this looked more like a goat track than anything else.
After unhooking the boat about 200m above the waterline, turning the car around to face uphill, swinging the boat around by hand and rehooking it, then reversing all the way down to launch, this had better be worth it.
Fish were moving as we launched, but we had been told to go around to the main river arm of the lake, so that is where we headed.
Plenty of fish were moving as we rounded the next bend of the lake arm, so we disembarked and fished from the steep sided shore. In short time Ray was into his first of many that evening, Peter and I were still rigged up for wet fly fishing and were not sharing Ray’s success. As soon as we changed to a dry, we were also amongst them. All these fish were rainbows, except one, which was a brown of over 2 lbs, which I was lucky enough to have accept my para-dun.
Darkness was falling fast on account of the very steep sides of the lake, we decided to fish on as the odd fish was still moving. As the darkness increased, a change of fly was necessary to evoke a response.
Black Muddler fishing is something I have read about and heard tales of. Let me tell you that it is great fun. We all caught several in this fashion, with Peter having the best of it.
The trip back in the boat ended up taking a bit longer than it should have, as we missed the turn into the lake arm that we had launched in. Catching up with Robin, Chris and Matt back at the caravan park, we learned that the Indi was also fishing well.
Stories of the days fishing were exchanged, and then it was time for a late (11pm) tea. Packed up on Monday morning in steady rain, and headed for the Nariel, which was at a good level for this time of the year. We fished in the rain for about 3 hours, Ray takings the honours with 4 good fish.
As you can see, Khancoban is central to a wide variety of fishing, from lakes to large rivers to small streams.
Come to think of it, we should have stayed for a week.