It was on the latest club outing to Kalkite on Lake Jindabyne where I was introduced to loch style fishing. I was picked up at 9.00am by the punctual and jovial Steve Chatterton. Attached to the 4WD was his latest acquisition, a serious boat made of plastic and powered by a 60 HP Yamaha.
Within a few minutes we were at the boat ramp down from “The Counts” property. The boat was quickly launched and before applying power Steve carefully manoeuvred the boat across several large posts submerged just inches under the water’s surface. As Steve explained, numerous hazards wait for the unwary and inexperienced boaties unfamiliar with the hidden underwater structures that are in Lake Jindabyne.
Once clear Steve gunned the motor. The boat took us comfortably across the bay and into the Ecumbene Arm. It was a mild sparkling spring day, the clear blue sky reflected in the water. It looked “fishy”. After about half a kilometre Steve slowed the boat, then set about re-rigging my leader section. To a short dropper a stick caddis imitation was attached then a metre of 7lb fluro carbon with a small bead head. Green/olive nymph pattern completed the rig. This type of fishing was to be a new experience. Steve opted for the eastern shore of the arm, positioned the boat a few metres from the bank and put the drogue over the side to slow the drift. Peering into the water I could see there were rocks and timber galore, perfect for getting snagged. I could visualise myself (Steve) constantly re-rigging. A shallow water “sandbar” ran parallel to the shoreline and extended out for about a metre and a half before being consumed by the drop off and deeper water. Steve positioned me in the boat closest to the shore, generously giving me the best position to catch a fish. Steve advised me to land the fly on the edge of the drop off or into the deeper water close by. Let it sink, strip in line to avoid slack so as to keep in contact with the fly. The retrieve could be a figure of eight or a slow strip. I chose the former.
Suddenly my line tightened. Snagged? The fish pulled and headed downwards. I said to Steve I didn’t think it was big. I worked the fish towards the surface. It was bigger than I first thought. Steve peered at the fish, the fish peered back, turned and headed down. I said to myself, that fish is thinking “not that Chatterton bloke again, I’m out of here!” By this time Steve had hold of the landing net, that’s optimism for you! At least another three times the fish was worked to the surface and another three times it dived in an attempt to gain its freedom. I told Steve he should remove his beard as the fish had recognised him! At last the fish was near the surface and Steve expertly netted the brown, which had taken the bottom fly, the nymph. After much fumbling by me with the fish, a photo was taken. Steve estimated the brownie to be about 3 ½ pounds. I slipped the fish over the side and watched my deep fried tempura disappear into the depths. Shortly after Steve hooked a feisty rainbow that put on a great display of acrobatics with one lengthwise leap where it came close to landing in the boat. This fish was also released. Damn. There goes sushi. We continued the drift. No other fish were sighted in the shallows. The rod bucked, again that wonderful sensation. This time no comment about “only a small fish”. I knew I had a good one on. The fish pulled hard and headed for the depths. Eventually I worked it to the surface. As I drew the fish closer to the boat it dived down and under the boat – bugger! Steve hadn’t the time to remove his beard. I plunged the rod into the water and virtually under the boat following the fish. I thought something had to give – the rod would melt, a break off at the leader joins on hook knot or fish and line wrapped around the prop. Everything held as I coaxed the fish from under the boat and into Steve’s waiting net. Another beautiful brown that took the nymph. Steve estimated this one was around 5 ½ pounds. A quick photo and back into the water. Luckily I had a pork curry and lamb cutlets back at the “Cuff n Collar”. Seriously, who could kill such a beautiful fish. After that the fishing went quiet.
Steve suggested we go ashore for refreshments. While I was securing the rope Steve prepared lunch. I was presented with a cappuccino. Trust Chatto, all the fine things in life. I wondered where he stored the espresso machine on his boat. He showed me the Nestle sachet. The secret was out. Then came the mini choc-coated scotch fingers. Next was a bread roll with a lamb filling wrapped with something. I waited in anticipation for what would come next. A soufflé perhaps, followed by a tap dance from Steve?
Steve suggested we polaroid from the shore. We moved off and up a distance from the water, Steve leading at a brisk pace although the terrain was steep and sandy and unstable in parts. Every now and then Steve would pause and scan the water like a heron, making sure an object like a fish was indeed an object. He has an incredible ability for sighting fish. Eventually we turned around the retraced our steps.
There’s one – that’s a fish – do you see it?” Peering through my $300 “Serengeti” polarized sunglasses I hesitated and said “oh yes - I see it”. I was unsure. What I was looking at could have been rock, stick, fish. Steve said he would get closer and for me to keep my eye on the fish. What a joke! As he approached the water’s edge Steve called out “Is it still there?” I called back “Yes”. What fish? A quick cast by Steve, a fish materialised, took the fly but was only pricked. It was over in seconds. I thought Steve muttered something. I seriously began to doubt my ability to polaroid a fish. We returned to the boat without sighting another fish.
Steve asked if I would like to see spawning rainbows. Into the boat and within 10 minutes we reached the end of the Ecumbene arm. Scrambling over the boulders we came to the flow of the Ecumbene River and in the pools and runs were hundreds of rainbows going about their mating ritual, a scene I had never before witnessed. As earlier, I was having difficulty seeing into the water, until Steve suggested my glasses may not be true polarizers. We swapped. Fish were now seen where none had been seen. The game of blind man’s bluff was over. We stayed for another 10 minutes before heading back to the boat and a speedy return to the ramp.
Thanks Steve for a great day, and for sharing your knowledge (a cheque will be in the mail soon), and yes, I won’t forget to call at the Cancer Council shop for my next pair of sunnys.