The Bonang River is one of those often overlooked rivers that was always just out of reach as a child and became forgotten as a young adult. However in 2012 while visiting my parents I thought it was time to give it the attention it deserved. Like many roads leading to the high country it was slow going, in some areas logs had fallen across the lanes and the ever present log truck made it for a very interesting drive
Bonang forms a part of the Snowy River Country Trail and lies about one and a half hours north of Orbost. The town consists of a couple of local homes and not much else, if you blink you might just miss it as they say.
The small river was quite overgrown and downstream of the bridge there were only a couple of pools accessible. As has become too common, Blackberries had well and truly taken over the banks making it very hard to get to the water.
With my limited fly fishing experience and no real knowledge about fishing these small streams, I selected a small Red Humpy which is a great general attractor pattern and arguably one of the top ten dry flies of all time. To increase my odds I also tied on a dropper with a small weighted pheasant tail nymph. Since shown this method at the Goulburn Valley Fly Fishing Centre it has been a go to for me on many waters.
This technique consists of having the nymph drag as close to the bottom as possible with the dry fly acting as both an indicator, but also allow you the opportunity to catch any surface feeding fish.
The first pool was very small, and I held no real hopes of it holding a fish! No matter how many times I read articles and see films of people catching trout out of the shallowest, smallest streams it is always hard for me to approach such a location with any real confidence! Never the less I slowly made my way into the tail of the pool and flicked the line to the head of the pool. A slow drift followed with the humpy sitting beautifully in the surface film. Suddenly a small browny came from no where and engulfed the Humpy! I’m not sure who was more surprised, the little browny for the fight its breakfast was putting up or me for hooking him on the first cast!
Unfortunately at that stage I only owned a 9ft, 6wt rod which was much to heavy and long for such a small stream, regardless it was great fun!
I quickly took a few photos and then slid the beautiful little fish back into the pool! I don’t often take any trout, as these small rivers are no longer stocked so it is very important to me to look after this precious resource! I made my way to the next pool and again it only took a couple of casts and the small humpy was engulfed! The morning continued in this fashion pool after pool!
I noticed something very interesting after a few more fish and a tangle in which I lost my nymph. The nymph was in fact playing an interesting role I wasn’t expecting. Disregarding it for the next few pools it seemed like the fish disappeared, my dry fly received no attention. Was it a change in weather? Was it too late in the morning or too bright? Trying to come up with an answer I soon realised it might have something to do with grasshoppers! Being the middle of summer it was grasshopper season. Although it was cloudy, which meant the hoppers were not very active, I remembered reading an article in FlyLife magazine about fish reacting to the “plopping” sound the hoppers made when they fell in the water! In some ways I suppose it is the dinner bell ringing! I decided to tie on a green Copper John nymph with a tungsten bead head and a few casts later, with the nymph plopping into the stream and drifting down underneath the Humpy the action was back on!
A few more fish followed and the fly fisherman’s habit of “just one more pool, one more bend, one more fish” started to kick in!
Well after a few more pools, a couple more bends and one last fish it was time to hit the road! A final snack of wild blackberries and a cup of coffee and I was on my way home! A day that started full of doubt and uncertainty, turned out to be packed full of excitement, a couple of beautiful Browns and a few lessons learnt!