Illawarra Flyfishers Club

Polaroiding Lake Jindabyne

by Stephen Chatterton & Andrew Susani

Best time August

Species available Mainly brown trout, some rainbows, brook trout and Atlantic Salmon
Gear to take 4-6wt outfit; WF floating line with an intermediate line as a backup
Flies to use Mainly nymph and small wet patterns
Travel time 5.5hrs south west of Wollongong
Nearest town Jindabyne

Steve Chatterton has the privilege of owning a house at Kalkite, on the foreshores of Lake Jindabyne, and has spent quite a bit of time perusing the lake's edge in search of trout. After numerous accounts of fish captures and exciting trips, we managed to gain an insight into this fishery through an hour long presentation by Steve at the August 2003 AGM. I have made some notes below as a starting point to a 'location' type article on fishing Lake Jindabyne. 

This article will be based mainly on Polaroiding techniques, surely one of the most exciting forms of fishing. If you have any input or new ideas on the place or it's inhabitants, please email them to me and I will incorporate them into the article. The more input, the better!



Best time to fish

August is regarded as the best time to polaroid Jindabyne, for 2 reasons:

For polaroiding anywhere, sunshine greatly increases the angler's field of vision, and although bright conditions can make it easy to find fish, it also makes the fish more wary. The best period is between 10am and 2pm, when the sun is highest.

When walking the bank, you need to be careful about casting shadows onto the water. If the sun is behind you, it helps to stand up the bank further so that your shadow falls onto the ground and not onto the water. You may have to go over to the other side of the lake to get this just right. If you have to move closer to the edge to cast to a fish, crouch down so that your shadow length is reduced. In this respect, the advantage of fishing in pairs is a big one, as it allows the angler to crouch down and get into a good position while the second person keeps an eye on the fish's movements.

Best conditions

While calm days and flat water are great for spotting fish, unfortunately the calm conditions also tend to amplify any bad casts or presentations we might make to the fish. And I would reckon the height of our backcast is the last thing most of us are thinking about when a big brown comes into the radar! 

Ruffled or wind swept water is always going to difficult to spot fish in, but the upside is that on most occasions the fish will lose a lot of their caution and feed really close to the bank. The uneven water surface will also disguise a lot of the bad presentations and allow the angler to use heavier leaders if need be.

The wind factor

While most of us like to be comfortable when fishing, unfortunately a lot of the time, fish usually have other plans. This applies to the age old question of which side of the lake to fish when it's windy - not windy enough to write off the days fishing, but just windy enough to make things annoying. Let's look at both situations:

Wind at your back: On one hand, you will see fish more easily and have less trouble casting with the wind at your back. If it is the right time of year however, there will most likely be a fair few fishermen walking the margins, and most if not all of them will choose the side of the lake with the wind at their back. Calm water will also make the fish very wary and presentations will be difficult.

Wind in your face: Now you have made the tough decision and decided to literally fly in the face of the wind, is it worth it? With the wind blowing onshore, the waves beating against the edge will stir up the mud and dislodge any food items that may be nicely burrowed in there. The wind will also concentrate floating food items from all over the lake, right into the windswept edges and bays. The stirred up water also acts as a form of cover for cruising fish, which will be a lot less cautious as a result. The rough surface of the water also interferes with the fish's long range vision, so movements on the bank will be a lot harder to detect. With all these advantages, all the fisherman has to deal with is casting into the wind! Steve catches a lot of big browns fishing the windswept shores, and finds that a lot of fish are cruising very closely to the edge. With the fish travelling this close to the bank, they are not difficult to spot, and will generally take a large nymph if put in their path.

Steve finds that the best conditions to see and catch fish in are when the waves are undulating into the bank, not wind-chop waves, but the sort that come in after a big wind is settling down or if a gentle wind has been blowing for a while.

So with all this in mind, it could be worth persevering and choosing the windy shoreline - you might just be pleasantly suprised!

Where to fish

While there are a lot of different geographical features around the edges of the lake, the most consistent fish producing areas are where sand is interspersed with rock and gravel. Black soily banks which are usually home to yabby colonies are also good areas to spend time around, with fish regularly patrolling them.

Generally there is a noticeable lack of fish around the clay-earth type banks. During an onshore wind, these areas turn a milky white colour as the clay is stirred up by the wave action. This may result in a change in the water's alkalinity, but for whatever reason, fish usually avoid these areas.

This 5lb brown was feeding in less than a foot of water in a small bay at Kalkite (pic: SC)

Since Steve's house is in Kalkite, he spends a lot of time walking himself (and sometimes his dogs) around that part of the lake. That's not to say the other side is not worth fishing - as usual though, you may have to walk to get away from the crowds on the weekend. If you can get down there and fish through the weekdays however, you might not see another fisherman. The fish can be found anywhere, so don't dismiss areas like boat ramps and parking areas as fishless.

The polaroids

One essential item is a pair of effective polaroids - note that I said effective and not expensive. Personally I use a pair of Mako X-Treme 9350 BZ with amber coloured glass lenses. These cut out glare very well, and on sunny days, it makes everything seem a little brighter, but has no effect on tiring my eyes. Similarly, Andrew Wheeler uses a pair of Bolle's with rose coloured glass lenses. Steve Chatterton has been through a lot of different styles and lens colours, and has settled on the cheaper type of polaroid you get from the Cancer Council shops. These have polycarbonate lenses and retail for around $30. While I personally prefer glass lenses as you can wipe them clean them with anything and not scratch them, the polycarbonate lenses are just as good so long as you take care of them. Being a fraction of the price means that there won't be as many tears shed if they are damaged or lost.

While for freshwater many people recommend brown or amber coloured lenses, Steve's choice of lens colour is grey. I have found amber lenses to be the best for any water, be it fresh or salt. I guess it helps if you are able to try on some different types of glasses and lens colours while fishing with other people before committing to a particular style.


Rod: A 6 weight is the most useful, as it can be handy to have if the wind comes up later in the day and you have walked a couple of kms from the nearest 4wt. If the fish are especially spooky, you could go down to a 4 or 5wt, but keep in mind that these will be more difficult to use in windy conditions. Longer leaders may be the answer.

Reel: These are trout, remember, not tuna. As long as the reel is reliable, it should do the job. No doubt there will be the odd fish that will test you out, but unless you are fishing light tippets, light pressure with an average drag will normally win the battle.

Line: Steve likes to 'overline' the rod for this sort of fishing, and uses a no.7 weight forward floating line coupled to either a 9ft or 10ft 6 weight rod. Overlining a rod refers to using a line weight that is one or two grades above the rod rating (eg. a 5wt line on a 4wt rod). This is done to load the rod more quickly, which results in less false casting and faster casts. Casting into wind is also made a lot easier if you have a heavier line. Of course, you have remember that a heavier line will also land with more of a splash, so your presentation cast will have to be adjusted to suit this.

Leaders: Leaders for this type of fishing generally start at 12 feet and I have heard of some fishermen on this lake resorting to 18 foot leaders for wary fish. Steve uses a fairly simple leader system:

Steve Chatterton's leader system for polaroiding Lake Jindabyne (pic: AS)

The butt section is nail knotted to the fly line, which is a neater and simpler connection than a braided loop. The main advantage for using this system is that you can easily change the front end of your leader without reducing the length of your butt section. Different strength tippets can be made up prior to the trip and carried in a pouch, and the loop to loop connection is a lot quicker than tying a knot to join the sections.

Steve uses Rio Flex Plus fluorocarbon as his tippet material, and while it works out to around $1 per metre for a 30m spool, its fine diameter and high abrasion resistance makes it a very long lasting and reliable choice for leaders.

Flies to use

Steve likes to carry different tippets pre-rigged with one or two flies. These are wound around a piece of foam and allow for fast fly changes. If you are comfortable casting a two fly rig, the offering of two different sizes or types of fly (eg. a nymph and an streamer) can sometimes arouse the attention of an otherwise disinterested fish. The fish may even see or be attracted by the larger fly, then come up and eat the smaller one. 

As far as patterns go, Steve likes to use small flies for the majority of his polaroiding. While he usually carries a few fly boxes with him, there are a few proven performers which form the basis of his polaroiding patterns, such as black nymphs, black and peacock spiders, sand caddis and snails. Rarely does he use large streamer patterns such as woolly buggers or mrs simpsons, and has had some very blunt refusals and even spooked fish with Bushy's Horror, which has got something of a reputation as the polaroiding fly for Jindabyne. Even when blind fishing, Steve prefers to use a large nymph. On windy days when the waves are washing against the shore, a #10 black nymph is Steve's first choice. There can be a lot of debris and stirred up mud around the edge where the fish are cruising, and the large, dark nymph seems to silhouette best in the dirty water. Remember also that fish will generally see a fly from below - the darker the pattern, the better the silhouette will be against the bright sky, even in low light.

Steve has had limited success with dries, but has found that Adams and Elk Hair Caddis work during the warmer months. As far as colours are concerned, he has found that the lighter colours (grey/olive) work better early and late in the season, while dark colours (brown/black) work best in the middle of the season.

Spotting fish

Now this is definitely something that can only be explained in theory to a certain degree. There is no substitute for getting out there and doing it yourself. Even better, fish with an accomplished fish spotter and you will learn more in 1 hour with them than you could possibly imagine.

Having said that, there is one key concept which will be a good starting point:

All this means is that you need to look more at the bottom and midwater sections of the water column, rather than at the surface. Practice by looking hard at submerged rocks or logs, and try to find detail on them. Gradually you will adjust to looking through the water's surface, and the fish will be much easier to spot.

You don't have to travel to Jindabyne to practice your spotting either - head down to any estuary with good water visibility and try to spot mullet, bream or whiting on the sandflats. Once you have seen a fish, look away and see how long it takes you to find it again. Looking from water level, I would rate bream as one of the hardest fish to keep track of, even in clear water. I have stood 10m from a school of 25 or more bream up to about a pound, in half a metre of water, and not seen any of them until I put a flyline over the school and they all scattered. 

Polaroiding is not an easy skill to master, but one that is well worth fine tuning, as you will be able to use it anywhere there are fish.


And you thought spotting the fish was hard! In most cases, spotting the fish is probably not even half the battle! 

Firstly, keep in mind that fish are very sensitive to noise and vibration. When walking the banks, particularly the gravelly ones, try to keep your footsteps as quiet as possible, and move steadily. When you see a fish, try to keep a low profile, but don't take your eyes off the prize! 

Don't be in a hurry to get the fly out in front of the fish - Steve says that it is better to take your time and run the risk of the fish swimming off than for you rush a presentation and scare the fish off. There may be other fish in the area which could be spooked if you scare one, and you might find the fish in the same spot later on, so you can have a second go at it.

When casting to a fish, Steve tries to get into a position where he can make a fairly short cast (8-10m) and put the fly well in front of the fish (up to 20ft). Keeping the cast short means there are less false casts to spook the fish and it is also easier to pick up the line off the water and make a quick recast if need be.

When the fly lands, let it sink down and leave it. By fishing the fly inert, there is a lot less chance of the fish interpreting a moving fly as aggressive behaviour. If it looks like the fish hasn't seen or is ignoring the inert fly, give it a tiny twitch to see if it can grab the fish's attention.

Tips and Tricks