Simple Pleasures

Joshua Hutchins anticipates a rewarding season on the trout streams of New South Wales

In recent years, saltwater fly fishing and overseas expeditions have lured me away from local waters, but I’ve always said that trout were my first love. Walking a trout stream, rod in hand, with echoes of the Aussie bush, is simple and satisfying. The Blue Mountains is on my doorstep, and the Snowy Mountains only a 4–5-hour drive away. No flights, no hire car, no overweight baggage. Just me and a trout stream adventure. I never lost sight of the simple pleasure of local trout fishing, but the last year has certainly brought it back to life. Day trips, overnight campouts and hikes to explore those harder to reach rivers — it all exists in our own backyard. OPENING DAY It had been some time since I’d wandered the streams of Oberon, New South Wales, but as the October weekend approached, Murray Stewart and I decided to stay local. We planned a few days exploring the Blue Mountains and Central-West streams. Our hopes were not high. The area had copped the brunt of the drought for several years, and despite its history of quickly bouncing back, we weren’t sure what to expect. Opening day was beautiful in the rolling hills of Oberon/Tuscany. Perfect trout weather, with only one thing missing: trout. Most of the day passed without us even sighting a fish, having checked out as many areas as we could — the Fish, Campbells and Kowmung rivers, along with a myriad of creeks. It wasn’t until later that evening, when Murray and I had all but given up on success, that I saw a small, unassuming swirl in the back of a pool. That has to be a trout, I thought, as my mind switched into gear. By this point the light was fading, and I was delirious from a day of staring into the void. But then it swirled again. And again, revealing its direction of movement. I made the cast, landing the fly right where I’d anticipated. A large golden head pierced the water surface and consumed my dry. We were shocked. At the end of a long day, a resident six-pound small-stream brown trout reminded me of the simple pleasures of local water. FINDING TROUT Unexpectedly, the Blue Mountains area continued to shine all season long. With an abundance of rain, the trout were coming out of hiding and the fresh stocks were thriving. Many areas in the Snowy Mountains are still marked by the 2020 bushfires while others are better at hiding it, but the trout don’t appear to have suffered. From roadside fishing on the Eucumbene to hikes deep into the National Park, from small-stream brook trout to brawly browns, it is a world-class destination. The whole area is screaming with beauty: wildflowers, kangaroos and the charcoal eucalypts — they all find their place against the setting alpine sun. Finding trout after drought isn’t easy and we had to invest lots of time to uncover their hideaway spots. The advice I would give is to search close to deeper pools where trout may have hunkered down during tougher years. I am surprised at what trout can live through. For next season, you can visit the DPI website (dpi.nsw.gov.au) and see where all the trout stockings have taken place across NSW. It’s a very helpful resource and one that your licence money contributes towards. A TALE OF THREE TROUT Several years back we made a film based in the Snowy Mountains, called ‘A Tale of Three Trout.’ We aimed to showcase the area while also catching a brown, brook and rainbow, all within three days. We managed to achieve our goal, and I was reminded of that expedition when we had some guests requesting exactly that. Jason Taylor, a friend and long-term client, had booked a Snowies trip along with his mate, Jim. Jason managed to tick off the brook and rainbow in the morning of our first day, and snuck in a small brown trout after a lengthy hike that afternoon. We were greeted with all weather conditions on that trip — sun, wind, rain — but on the final day it began to behave. After a day of low temperatures and heavy rain, we woke to clear skies. Jim had landed a great rainbow the day before, but he was also hoping for a brown trout. The morning was beautiful, but as the sun grew higher, so did the wind. It was warm, and as grasshoppers started to show themselves, we looked for some trout willing to eat them. Arriving at a fresh pool, it was Jim’s turn to cast. We immediately sighted a large brown sitting only centimetres below the water surface. It then moved a significant distance to eat off the top. And again. It was clear that the big brown had the hopper memo. Jim stepped up to the plate, but by now the wind wasn’t kind. Like a cruel torture, the trout was visible in front of us, but lay just outside Jim’s manageable cast. A few false starts and Jim finally got that fly to the fish. To say it slurped it off the surface was an understatement. It was a size 10 Royal Wulff, and the trout came over and porpoised from the water as it took the fly. Jim waited, and then struck. We were in a state of shock. His rod bent twice as the weight came into play, then it stood straight as the fly popped from the brown’s mouth… Jim needed some alone time. THE FUTURE IS GOOD The good news is that we are in for some great years ahead for NSW trout. Even as the season closed, just about every Blue Mountains or Snowies stream that I visited was teeming with hand-sized trout. It’s been several years since I have been so positive about the coming season. It doesn’t require a flight; you don’t even need to stay overnight. So, find a nearby stream, explore, and enjoy the simple pleasures of local trout.

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