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Snowy Mountains and Swampy Plains River Experience

By February 6, 2017Blog, Report

Calder fly fishing member Andrew Martin gives us a report on the recent club weekend to the Snowy mountains.

At the last CFFA General meeting for 2016 Scott Xantholakis presented a talk and slide show about Fly Fishing Swampy Plains River, this was in preparation for our January 2017 Association trip. Swampy Plains River described as a classic trout fishers mecca just over the border of Victoria into NSW.

Nothing like early planning and a ‘ripper’ talk and slide show showing the battle of wills between a trout and fly fisher! Will the master escape artist go back to the deep or will the fly fisher, exuberant about the clear water running quickly over rocks and boulders and then into a deep dark pool, his well chosen fly presented perfectly as juicy morsel attract the cunning laziness of the trout?
A great cast and then the concentration sets in as the fly-line and tippet are behaving like a stealth aircraft under radar; hoping they remain unnoticeable to the cunning trout, hoping there’s just the nymph bobbing over rocks and the fly floating naturally catching a ride on a ripple, the fly-line swinging lightly downstream.
The trout can’t resist, it launches itself out of water like a dolphin happily showing off its ability to fly it latches onto the fly! The fish is landed; the fly fisher puts the fish back to run under its terms yet again … now that’s fly-fishing! Scott’s presentation was inspiring!

The questions started whizzing through my mind, as they do. What flies are likely to be needed! Will I need my 4, 6 and 8 weight rods, perhaps not the 8 unless the there’s carp the size of a submarine, I decided to leave the 8 weight! Scott thankfully provided a comprehensive list of flies and gear we might need! The list seemed to indicate a marathon Caddis Hatch … ha ha, surely the Swampy can’t be that good!

I think all ten of the CFFA members that were game to take on the 4 days at Khancoban, started fly tying and stocking up with all stages of the Caddis from larvae, pupa, emerger, adult and spinner. To emulate the complex transformation of the Caddis I made sure I had plenty of Stick Caddis, Sparkle Pupa, various Nymphs and a couple of Lafontaine Pupa. As far as the emerger was concerned I tied various coloured Klinkhammer’s however, my first attempt at these looked more like a something out of nuclear horror movie! I had better luck with my Elk Hair Caddis; with other fly patterns needed I succumbed to purchasing Kosciuszko Dun and Tungsten Caddis Grubbs.

Having arranged a lift with Craig and Graham we set off on the five and half hour drive. We arrived at the at the Khancoban Lakeside Caravan Park and after settling in to our well-appointed single units we set off to discover the Swampy River.

We were all struck by the beauty of the area, Khancoban nestled into a large valley, to the East was Kosciuszko National Park and to the South East Mount Kosciuszko and the Snowy Mountains, all around were treed undulating hills, a magnificent part of the Australia.

We drove down the banks of the Swampy River below the Khancoban pondage dam wall to a point where the riverbanks were accessible and a well-worn track indicated that this was a reasonable place to start fishing. A small bridge provided access from one bank to the other however, we were not game to cross the bridge incase we were sent packing by a marauding aggravated farmer!

The afternoon was very overcast hot and humid and there were no visible signs of life on or underneath the water. The river was running fast with deep drops away from the banks in places, the centre of the river showing signs of years of huge releases of water from the pondage. We fished for about three hours moving up and down the river using various flies, no fish caught in our first session and a storm was setting in … tomorrow was another day!

Saturday Morning and we all assembled for a briefing by Scott, he let us know how the Swampy Plains and other rivers and creeks were fishing. He gave us all invaluable advice and set us up with as much information as we could digest!


Saturday was slightly less cloudy but hot and humid. We again revisited the Friday sessions of the Swampy but with the knowledge that if we used the Cow Bridge we’d be ok, no marauding farmer, he was cool!

The weekend fish went like this:

Andrew Martin:
Saturday morning, my first session was quite a triumph (for me) I chose a fast running spot leading into a large slow pool, however; back casts were difficult due to the large Willows behind me. I was tempted to move on but decided that I’d give my side casting and little knowledge of Italian casting a go. In the whites of the cascades I couldn’t see my Elk Hair Caddis which was leading a beaded Pheasant Tailed Nymph … (I’d also tried Caddis Grubs earlier in the morning) so I decided to change both to a sparkle Nymph under a slightly more visible size 14 Royal Wulff! So by wading precariously into waist deep and slippy flat section, I executed an ok cast to middle of the run and swinging the line I managed to hook my first Swampy trout, about a pound’ish (well maybe, like Dusan I’m not good with weights). I tried this a few times but lost one, I don’t know if it was the Nymph or the Royal Wulff it attempted to take; I also think I let the line swing too far as my Nymph was almost pulling the Wulff under; any way I was amused!

The Caddis Hatches during the evening were something to behold, Scott’s emphasis on caddis was well and truly understood now! Seeing the Hatch with thousands of white Caddis appear as if from nowhere and then the steady appearance of trout rising and launching out of the river was just a wonderful experience! Taking complete advantage of the Trout gorging themselves was great entertainment, I chose a grey Klink Hammer with a Sparkle Pupa underneath and managed to get a couple of nice one pounders (or half Kilo)!


Sunday morning was spent on Nariel Creek with Graham and Craig. This is a really picturesque Creek with trees either side river running quickly over boulders and rock beds and steadily flowing down the Nariel valley its source somewhere up around Tom Groggin.
We fished up stream from a bridge with easy access and within 200 metres of the bridge I caught a small rainbow in a deep pool using a #14 Royal Wulff and again a Pheasant Tailed Nymph, it was the Nymph that was taken!
Shortly after Graham arrived saying he’d not caught or even seen anything and no sooner this said, he cast slightly up stream into a deep hole and he was smashed by a Rainbow about one and a half pounds, very fat for its length; he was not the runt of the litter and was not going into Grahams net easily!

I walked further up stream to where a large deep pool followed by 3 other smaller pools fed a long shallow run over pebbles and rocks, to my absolute surprise there were lots (hundreds) of fingerling trout all less than a half pound, this had to be the sign of a healthy river; I didn’t fish again that morning as I just watched the little fellas go about their business and thought that next year will be awesome!

Craig McKenzie:
The Swampy and the surrounding area also inspired Craig “how great is this” his comment was when we arrived. Craig had an exciting but frustrating Saturday trying his best to entice the trout with his selection of flies however, he had no luck but the emergence of the Caddis hatch also confirmed the reason for his Fly Fishing! Sunday for Craig was a better day he managed 3 very reasonable size Trout his comments to me: “Just got the 3 and lost one. 2 fish from the same spot upstream from where you were mainly fishing. Last spot before the access ran out. 1 on olive/black size 14 nymph, the other on light brown/ grey elk hair caddis.
The best one was the last- downstream of bridge just before the rapids where Graham got a bag load. Just on darkness- last cast- Size 14- no nymph- Royal Wulff. 1.5- 2 pds. Best trout I have caught”.

Graham Lorrimer:
Grahams fly-fishing expertise was well and truly on show! His quiet, cool calm and collect approach enabled him at one time in the evening hatch to catch 3 trout out of 3 casts making his total haul about nine in the evening session!
Sunday was no different, Graham again gave us a great deal of pleasure seeing and hearing about his great efforts.

Dusan Ivanovic:
Dusan also had a frustrating but exciting Saturday and being the life of the party kept us amused after a big day and late night fish followed by “quiet reflection of the day” over dinner and a drink!


Dusan’s comments (from his Facebook report):
“I had been warned prior to the trip by Philip Weigall, that a lot of things had to go right for us (water temp, water level) in order for our trip to be successful. But by day 4, we had worked out both the time to be on the water, and flies to be using to ensure a successful day of fishing would be concluded with smiling faces back at the caravan park.

We also managed a day on the Upper Swampy, near the intersection of the Swampy and Geehi River. Wow is the only way I can describe it, with plenty of fish moving around to entice any angler, and damn they were hard to catch. We managed a couple of fish each by the end of the day, but we were not to fussed, as fishing this beautiful stretch of water brought a sense of satisfaction, and conclusion that another water had been tread, fished and enjoyed.

By day 4, each member concluded their fish tally in double figures. There were no monster fish caught (I did get broken off by a nice 3lb fish on the last night, blame the 6x tippet) but each fish that was caught was successfully released.

Our last day of fishing was concluded on the Nariel Creek. Fishing at Nankervis Bridge was pretty tricky, with the bright day, warm water, and very spooky fish. We still managed to bag a few, including a nice 2lb fish that was sitting in a very deep pool on a size 12 Royal Wulf”.

Dusans report on Facebook is great and expresses just how well the trip went.


Wayne Jeffs:
Wayne had taken advantage of the weekend to take his wife on short holiday and arrived a few days earlier than the rest of us.
On arrival Wayne proudly showed us a picture of his first swampy Trout a nice 2 pounder caught just below the pondage dam wall. Wayne’s luck continued throughout the rest of the trip with nice looking trout caught.


John Fischer:
John like Dusan and Craig had a frustrating Saturday. Sunday however, broke the drought while trying his hand on the Upper Swampy with Travis. Despite a bit of dunking he caught a nice one and a half pounder.


Travis Fischer:
On Saturday afternoon I saw Travis about 500m downstream of the Cow Bridge and his comment “I’m a bit pissed off lost three just over there”, he was pointing to a wide deep run which was perfect for what we later found to be a great Caddis Hatch section of the river. Travis tried this area later in the evening and had better luck than his earlier session.


Brian Thompson:
Brian fished with Dusan during the weekend however, I’m not sure how to explain Brian’s efforts other than to say there were not many moves as far as trout fishing was concerned he hadn’t tried, including being chest deep in a hole standing on a rock hooked up to a two pounder as holiday swimmers were waving to him as they swam by; surely can’t get better than that!


At one point on Saturday afternoon I was having a lot of trouble with my leader not unfolding, I put it down to the way I’d made it up of different weight tippet. Brian helped me out showing me his leader style and formulae using maxima brown tippet, he gave me one to try and I had no trouble at all the rest of the weekend.

Mark Hobbs:
Like Brian, Mark fished all weekend with great stories to tell of those fish caught and lost, Marks comments:
“I fished the swampy in the morning hooking a fish on black F Fly smashing 6lb tippet!  Upper Murray – a couple of fish on a Pilchard, then fished Upper Swampy a beautiful river, after numerous fly changes the Pilchard came out on top missed a few on Black F Fly! Back to the Swampy swinging Plichard and Caddis Pupa managed to get 5 fish on Pilchard none on Caddis; then later that night fished again, swung a Pilchard a couple more times before changing to a dry when the fish were up on top, putting on a Bobs Bits for a couple of fish and losing a few! Then to the Iron Blue Dun, well did it perform, fish after fish! I managed about 16 for the day missing quite a few, then Sunday went to the Nariel nice little creek, got 1 out of there seen another about 2lb but spooked him. I had Brad with me he managed 8 fish for weekend one being about 2lb out of upper swampy all up we both managed 25 fish landed for the weekend. WE WILL BE BACK THERE FOR SURE!” 

Don Houston
Don spent a lot of his time exploring the area and between his time fishing and touring he fished many more areas than most of us. The great Snowy Mountains scenery topped off his weekend.

There are no more words to explain how well this trip went other than to say many thanks to the people that made the weekend so memorable.

Scott Xantholakis of Wilderness Fly Fishing, Irene and Joe owners of the Khancoban Lake View Caravan Park and the CFFA members who shared the experience.

Andrew Martin.