Shane Flude adds to Greg French's Echo article. This was written right as TFBN went to press. Like Greg French Shane predicts this to be the "HOT" fishery right up to Christmas and beyond.
For many years now I have travelled to Lake Echo around Grand Final weekend in September. I have discovered that this is a particularly productive time of year to fish the lake despite the often inclement weather. Having monitored the every rising water levels now for many months this year's September trip looked sure to deliver the goods. At - 4.5 metres the lake was almost 8 metres higher than at season's end in April and was 4.5 metres higher than September last year. I keep a fishing diary which has enabled me to pin point the best times and locations over the years. This article is an expansion of my diary entry for the trip and as you will read the results you will understand why my next trip is already planned.
Roger and I arrived at Toby's Point near the new northern boat ramp and pitched our tents in record time to beat the first rain shower of the day. Our favourite campsite in the trees that was almost destroyed when the new road was pushed through was, luckily, devoid of other campers. Launching the boat was much easier this year as the water level was only about 50 metres from camp. With our ever reliable CD 7 Rapala lures attached (we opted for the brook trout pattern) we trolled straight up into Large Bay over ground that has been high and dry for years. The first fish fell to my lure as I twitched it along the tree line. It was only a small fish of about a pound, but in good condition. As I dehooked it a huge amount of worms fell from it, a sure sign of exciting shore fishing to come. Another slightly larger specimen was landed before the end of the bay and if it wasn't for two anglers already fly fishing the flooded marsh near the creek mouth I would have happily left the boat there to prospect the shore. We saw them grass two whilst trolling past. Around the corner next to Broken Bay and continued trolling at the ten foot mark claiming another on the Rapala before Roger was forced to let me out and fly fish the magnificent flooded shoreline devoid of other anglers. I nearly trod on the first fish as he spooked from the shallows. Three more steps in deplorable polaroiding conditions and a further three bow waved out of the shallows. I slowed to a snails pace carefully fishing all the new water with a small wet. After pricking the next two, scaring the next two and then having three refusals I decided this was not going to be my best day on the fly. Rogers constant hook ups out from shore did nothing to improve my sanity so I jumped back in as the ground turned to rocks and the fish numbers diminished. Food for thought for tomorrow.
The next location is Tassie's best spinning water, the Monpeelyata canal mouth which is located in the north east corner of the lake. On arrival with a fierce south westerly blowing and a canal running flat out this place was not for the faint hearted boat enthusiast. The mouth was basically split into two main currents complete with nasty snags in between. The fishing we experienced for the next hour was simply remarkable and included three rainbows to about 2.5 pound to bring the session to 9. We lost several more. The snags only managed to claim one lure. As usual the canal produced the biggest fish of the day.
With fading light we raced back to Large Bay to finish the day and a final lap produced three more worm laden brownies. With bag limits reached it was time to sample some fine ale around a huge fire and ponder the fishing tomorrow.
Mostly overcast with a cold 15 knot westerly greeted us as we devoured the traditional eggs and bacon breakfast. We headed south into a small bay I call Cormorant Bay due to number of cormorant nests in the trees. With the levels up we were able to position the boat between the nest area and the shore. Three quick browns falling to my brook trout Rapala was a very positive start. We trolled the open water next heading towards Teal Bay but the 42 foot depth was unproductive over Stormy Bay and turned out to be the same across the entire lake for the trip. All fish were taken in 20 feet or less, the 8 to 12 feet mark being best.
Teal Bay looked superb with a very enticing flooded shoreline. As this bay fished very well last year spinning with Rapalas we were keen to try a few drifts. I nailed three in as many casts on the ever reliable stop-start retrieve. Roger redeemed himself with a magnificent rainbow in the trees. It got snagged on some branches at the last minute but happily fell into the net. Several more drifts produced trout all over the bay.
Time to hit the shoreline for what was to be a disgraceful effort on the fly. Hooked the first nice brown right in the creek mouth, but the hook pulled out after five seconds. A huge swirl behind the fly next to the flooded tussocks, but no connection. Another hooked and lost brown behind the floating stump and recast to a waiting rainbow which tail walked and you guessed it, threw the fly again. All this action was in close over the flooded grass but the water was stirred up, and the clouds made polaroiding impossible. Further down the bank the water cleared and within minutes the sun poked its nose out. I spotted and spooked the next two, had one refusal and then finally succeeded in claiming one on a possum nymph. The shoreline became quite rocky and deep further down with no more trout to be found. A memorable, but unproductive session on the fly. Back in the boat and back to camp for lunch.
Friends Simon and Harley had arrived to fish the morning and were just about to pack it in. They had managed four browns but lost just as many. Simon informed me that he had strategically placed several new Rapalas into the mouths of two fish and onto two snags at the canal mouth. An expensive mornings fishing.
After lunch on the bank near camp it was back into Large Bay where a quick spinning session claimed a couple more. No anglers on this shore today so time to check it out. Overcast and raining this time so still no sight fishing. I still had on the possum nymph and fished it blind down the edges. Just as I hooked up on another nice brown I spotted Roger into one out over the creek bed. He drove the boat in to pick me up with a smile on his face as he raised, still kicking in the net what was to be the biggest fish caught on the trip. A three pound brown that had totally engulfed the Rapala lure head first.
Without wasting time trolling the deep shore we shot back round into Broken bay to fish the shallows again. A break in the weather brought the sun out for almost 40 minutes so it was out with the fly rod and down the flooded shore again. This time with better results, three landed and one lost, four others seen but refused or spooked. Two more laps of the bay proved quiet so a dedicated session was had using soft plastics. Not even a nibble after a drift right across the bay and dozens of casts. The canal mouth was beckoning and the reasonable westerly that was blowing would provide calmer water to fish than yesterday. Only eight in the next hour including one small rainbow. Roger donated another rapala lure to the Christmas tree like snags that must be under the raging surface and then lost another further out. His smile returned on his last perfect condition 2.5 pound brownie. Back to Large Bay as the sun went down for a perfect September sunset and some last ditch action. It was almost dark when we pulled up the boat. Clean fish, light fire, eat hot food and oh yes, more cleansing ales. Life was good.
Now knowing where all the action was and with only half the day to fish before we headed home we headed straight up the shore to Large Bay and quickly opened the account by spinning near the creek mouth. In two drifts we were off to a good start again. Around to Broken Bay but this morning I was beaten to the marsh by another angler so I left him to it. Canal mouth anyone?. Oh OK. Only four this time and a number of misses. One more Rapala again generously donated by Roger to the deep that made it five in total between us and four by Simon, ouch. We trolled through the trees on the return journey to camp but only managed one more fish. We just managed to pack up before the weather really set in and down came the snow. What a fantastic trip.
The fishing in September is usually good but this year was exceptional. Overall size and condition was down, average weight being around 600 gms. The best conditioned fish of the trip were the smaller ones and the rainbows. We released a number of the bigger fish as they nearly all had some improving to do and the bag limit for Echo is only 12 a day. Another month on the worms should see a dramatic improvement. Echo normally rises until mid November and should come up another meter or so yet. It rose 12 cm while we were there.
Despite some great shore action it should be noted that the northern bays on Echo are only small with each bay offering only several hundred metres of flooded marshes. If someone is already there then chances are there's no room left for you. Teal Bay was closed to the public two years ago so this is now a boat only destination or a long shore walk. The canal mouth would be a huge shore walk and really needs fishing from a boat anyway. Beware the snags and if the south westerly is blowing then things can get bumpy. With the water temperature currently at seven degrees swimming is not advisable. With the spring weather hopefully about to improve who knows what the fishing at Echo could be like in a few weeks. I do know that this will not be my last trip for the year.