The Gibbo

David Anderson profiles a stream in Victoria’s North East

Driving south from Corryong across the last bridge over the Nariel, it’s still a long way along a lot of fairly rough and twisting gravel road to the Gibbo, and despite all the awesome mountain views, after the millionth corrugation I did start to question the wisdom of driving past so much iconic northeast Victorian water to get there. I originally sought out the Gibbo while poring over maps and looking for an alternative to the lower Nariel River, which was fishing poorly due to low, hot water during the worst of the 2014 season, and seen from the connivance of Google Earth, it was, well, unseen for all the trees. All that forest, besides being so easy on the eye, and the river’s north/south orientation, should, I figured, keep the water cooler and the fishing more consistent than on the more open rivers through the worst of summer’s heat. Of course, all the banging around, dust and driving was completely forgotten the moment I laid eyes on the river for the first time through gaps in the trees on the descent into the valley. Whatever the water might hold, the scene itself is beautiful. In some ways, the Gibbo is like a half or three-quarters scale version of its northern neighbour the Nariel, but almost totally covered in forest from the sweet little headwaters in the Pinnibar Pendergast State Forest and Alpine National Park right down to Lake Dartmouth some 15 to 20 road K’s to the south. The water is also very easily accessed, being closely followed by the Benambra-Corryong road for the majority of its length, with many short side tracks to the river and a scattering of lovely informal camping spots. Access to the top of the Gibbo is available for capable four-wheel-drives via the Pheasant Creek Track off the RWAP track that runs east off the main road just south of the Gibbo River Bridge. Last time I was up there, the track was quite overgrown, and like a lot of high country tracks it’s very steep in places though the surface, at least in the dry, is quite good. Looking at the map, there’s also a forestry road crossing high up on one of the tributaries, Buenba Creek, but I haven’t been there (yet). Despite the wild surrounds, the top section of the river, above the bridge, is mild in character with long stretches of ripply shallow water over an even gravel bed with only the odd fast bedrock section or deeper run or pool. It’s very easily waded with few obstructions while moving upstream, and in places lined with vivid Kermit-green chest-high grass that makes a good hiding spot for snakes and for anglers stalking the fish sitting along its edges. The river up here is really more of a medium stream during summer and casting is easy with plenty of overhead room. Fishing short casts on a twiggy 3-weight with a big, visible dry along the grass edges is, in my humble opinion, about as pleasant as fly fishing northeast Victoria gets on its day. Because of the dense forest and undergrowth, travel upstream from the bridge is limited almost exclusively to wading, but it’s almost all shallow, very grippy, and easy going underfoot. For the more goat-like amongst you, there is the option of climbing up to the road to shorten the walk back to the bridge, but a quick assessment of the climb from my own gravitational situation has always made the wade more appealing. Nearer and immediately below the bridge is the most accessible and reliable water on the river, with very long stretches of almost featureless ripples interrupted only briefly by pools and a few faster bedrock runs. Through the day, I’ve found the best fishing to be in any fast water or deeper sections hard to the grass, while closer to evening the glides and ripples suddenly go from apparently fishless to boiling, and a great place to finish a long day with an evening hatch. On the lower river, nearer Kings Flat, the pools are deeper, blacker and a little harder to wade around, though it is easier to cut across the banks than further upstream. The most fun to be had down here, is searching out trout in the inky water with a friend spotting from the road where it’s closest to the river. Practicalities This is probably becoming a bit of a theme on some of the rivers I write about, but the trout in the Gibbo, both rainbows and browns, are not all that large and most to hand during the past couple of summers would average around 12 inches and top out at 15. There’s no shortage of them, however, and I’ve found good fishing here through the last two summers no matter what anywhere else was like. That said, I have heard, after a few beers with a couple of locals at the pub, that they catch occasional ‘monsters’ on the lower river near where it joins Lake Dartmouth. But, as ever, it’s important to realise that trout, when fed beer, tend to grow to unsustainable sizes. Personally, I wouldn’t drive past the top of the river to chase them anyway. In terms of tackle, the Gibbo is textbook 9-foot 4-weight water, but never having actually read a textbook, I always fish it with a longer 3-weight in the bottom half, and shorter twigs up high. For all its good points, the Gibbo is very remote (maybe that is a good point?) and a very long drive from almost anywhere. You’re looking at six to seven hours from Melbourne, at least nine from Sydney and over six from Canberra assuming you don’t get lost in a roundabout or have any leadership spills in the car. Access from the north is through Corryong, a pleasant country town with good food and coffee and several accommodation options including a very pretty caravan park on the Nariel River at Colac Colac. Check your fuel as you go through because it’s still another 2-hours drive to the Gibbo. Also, if it’s early or late in the season, check the weather because I’ve been turned around by snow on this road during off-season explorations. From the south, and about an hour from the river, the historic gold mining town of Omeo offers all the essential services plus the very understated and cool art-deco Hilltop Hotel, which has good pub food, cheap rooms and a gender-fluid deer mounted through the front bar wall. As part of a bigger, multi-day trip, the Gibbo fits in nicely between a trip to the Nariel system to the north and the top of the Mitta Mitta system to the west. My friend Jim Jackman (JJ) guides here seasonally, though be warned, he’s sensitive to snoring and if you tease him about his age, you’re likely to cop his apparently ‘arthritic’ middle finger. That aside, he’s great company on the water and a genuine wealth of fly fishing wisdom.

Current FlyLife Subscribers can login to read the full article.
To access this article, back issues & more Subscribe to FlyLife today.