The Goulburn River from Eildon Pondage to Alexandra is one of the most popular stretches of trout water in Victoria. Places like Thornton, ‘Gilmore’s Bridge’ and the Breakaway, where the Acheron River joins with the Goulburn River, are legendary. Anglers who fish this river expect to catch brown and rainbow trout, redfin and carp. Trout are the primary target species.
Anyone contemplating a visit should note that river levels may rise and fall dramatically during summer when irrigation farming is underway. When this happens you need to look at where you can fish safely, even if that means sitting on the bank.
A lot of private property fronts the river, so access is limited. Access points between Eildon and Thornton along the Back Eildon Rd are at Point Hill Reserve, Blue Gums Caravan Park (convenient accommodation), Thoms La and the bridge at Thornton. On the Goulburn Valley Highway, this stretch of river can be accessed at Walnuts River Reserve.
Between Thornton and Alexandra on the Goulburn Valley Highway, you can get to the river at Gilmores Bridge about halfway between Thornton and Alexandra, McMartins Rd and the Twin Rivers Caravan Park at the Breakaway on Hobans Rd, which runs between the Goulburn Valley Highway and the Maroondah Highway. The Rubicon River joins with the Goulburn between McMartins La and the turf farm.
At Alexandra, the Goulburn River is accessible at the main road bridge and from Brooks Cutting. The Alexandra Bridge has a big reputation for producing redfin to about 1.3 kg and some bigger trout on lures over summer.
Bait fishers do well along the stretch of river from Eildon to Thornton, due mainly to the consistently deeper water, while the river from Thornton to Alexandra is a favourite haunt of fly- and lure-fishers. The Breakaway, where the Acheron River joins with the Goulburn, is a favourite destination with many anglers choosing to stay beside the river in the conveniently situated caravan park.
From Seymour to Shepparton the river becomes a mixed species fishery with a stronger emphasis on native fish, with Murray cod and yellowbelly stocked near Nagambie. The river from Seymour to Nagambie is regarded as native fish water, even though there is still a lot of trout. Boating activity increases as you near Seymour, and wide action lures like Stumpjumpers are used while trolling near the logs and snags for cod and yellowbelly.
The Goulburn joins the Murray River near Echuca. On the way, it runs through Lake Nagambie and the Goulburn Weir, which hold good numbers of native fish and redfin. The Goulburn holds solid populations of native fish all the way to the Murray River.
All methods of angling for trout are employed somewhere along the river. The river’s trout reputation was built on fly-fishing, and the best fly- fishing is where the river shallows and gravel beds and runs are the main features.
A six-weight fly outfit with a weight-forward floating line and tippet section of about 2 kg covers most options.
Bait and lure anglers will find a 2–3 kg threadline outfit suitable.
Yellowbelly and Murray cod can be caught on bait and lures. A 3–4 kg outfit will suffice for yellowbelly; use a heavier, 6–8 kg rig for cod.
If fishing for trout, a long shank No. 6 hook is fine for worms, but if you are using mudeyes then you may want to drop down to a No. 12 or No. 14. Bubble floats are best for bait fishing in still waters, but in fast running water put some split shot on your line, cast upstream and allow the bait to bounce along near the river bed.
The popular bait rig for yellowbelly and cod is a running sinker, with the sinker allowed to run all the way to the hook. For yellowbelly, use as light a lead as you can and about a No. 2 medium shank hook, depending on the size of the bait.
For cod, generally use a No.2–4 long shank or up to a 6/0 Suicide pattern for large baits like bardi grubs. Use a minimum 15 kg breaking strain leader for cod, on lures and bait.
Best baits for trout are garden or scrub worms, mudeyes and crickets. Natural baits for yellowbelly and cod including bardi grubs, shrimp, scrub worms and yabbies. Cheese is also popular.
Small bladed lures like Celtas rarely fail for trout, or alternatively, small-bibbed minnows and even soft plastic worms do well. Lure choice for cod and yellowbelly depends on where you fish.
Lure suggestions include Bassman Spinnerbaits, Oargees, Stumpjumpers and Halco Poltergeists. In heavy timber use spinnerbaits; when trolling or casting into lightly wooded areas bibbed minnows do well, and they are best for trolling.
Flies should suit what the trout are feeding on, but old standards like the Red Tag (wet or dry), Adams and ant and beetle patterns, Tom Jones, and gold beadhead nymphs should always be in your fly box.