If you like the bush and clear mountain streams where you can fish for trout, then the Snowy Mountains offers excellent opportunities. Rivers up this way are part of our fishing folklore, particularly among fly-fishers. Several of my friends take off into the mountains, park their cars along isolated tracks and backpack through the bush to spend a few days fishing pristine waters. This is the extreme end of fishing, ideal when you are young and fit.
For the rest of us, there are plenty of opportunities offering easy access and good fishing, like Geehi Flat, about 30 km east of Khancoban on the Alpine Way. You can’t miss it; simply turn off when you see the bridge over Swampy Plain River.
The camping area includes toilets and a stone hut that can be used for cooking. A paved brick path along the river from the car parking area to the toilets seems out of place in a national park, and in such a pristine environment. Camping is rudimentary but very pleasant, with cleared grass areas surrounded by dogwood and peppermint gums. Drive through the first area and follow the track, and you’ll come across several stone huts, such as Old Geehi Hut and Keeble’s Hut. These are used for shelter, but no one is allowed to take them over, so they are free to all comers.
Keeble’s Hut is a must see. Arthur Keeble, an engineer on the Kiewa Hydro Electric Scheme, built the hut over six weeks in 1948 for Arthur and Flo Nankervis and friends. Its outstanding feature is the actual- size painting of an 8 pound 14 oz (4 kg) brown trout on the door. The plaque alongside the painting says Mrs A. Nankervis caught the trout in February 1954 on a dry Jock Scott fly. Now, if that isn’t enough to get you fishing the Swampy then nothing will!
I fished with Andy Zarro and Neil Bennetts, and they directed me to ford the river in a couple of places until we arrived at our destination, just above where Bogong Creek flows into the Swampy. For a backdrop we had the magnificent, super-steep Geehi Walls. Neil, who combines shearing and farming with being a fishing guide, is a fourth-generation mountain man. He told how his father and grandfather used to drive cattle over the Geehi Walls to feed on the mountain grasses.
The Swampy River was low and clear and there was concern that the trout would see us before we had a chance to put a fly over them. Neil rigged up a two-fly rig, using a dry Stimulator pattern to act as a strike indicator above a gold beadhead brown nymph. Andy preferred to work just the dry fly, a Geehi beetle. One angler walked the river casting his fly at riffles, runs and pools, and the rest of us stayed out of sight of the trout on the riverbank.
Walking through the scrub dodging wombat holes and always alert for snakes, the presence of deer was all-too obvious. Small trees had branches broken and debarked by deer scraping their antlers. In some heavily wooded areas, the deer had created clearings making access easier.
Trout were proving wary and the fishing was slow. Bright sun and shallow clear water are not ideal trout-fishing conditions. After a couple of hours we decided to try our luck in Bogong Creek, which had cover, so the trout would be less likely to see us.
Neil went first and soon managed to catch and release several small brown trout.
Fishing is as much about experiencing the outdoors as it is catching trophies. We didn’t catch any monsters, but the great outdoors was breathtaking.