A favourite dry fly among fly-fishers casting to rising trout in the Snowy Mountains and north-east Victoria is the Geehi beetle. This marvellous pattern is named after a non- existent beetle. It’s a fly that trout could easily mistake for any number of bugs.
Andy Zarro tied a Geehi beetle to his tippet before we headed up Nariel Creek, near Corryong. Andy enjoys dry fly-fishing more than presenting wet flies like nymphs and streamers. Dries, however, need an insect hatch to bring the trout to the surface to feed.
On this day, the Nariel, like most creeks in the high country, was running low and clear – a little too low and clear for Andy’s liking. Nevertheless, he persisted with the Geehi beetle. The first fish was a small brown trout of about 600 g that was sitting in the shade of overhanging branches at the bottom of a run, waiting for dinner to be served up by the current.
Andy worked his way across the creek, staying low to avoid spooking the trout. He cast upstream and allowed the fly to drift into the trout’s feeding lane. The take was instant, the hook-up lasting seconds and then the trout jumped free of the barbless hook.
The first time I fished this water was in the early 1990s with legendary fly-fishing guide and instructor, the late Mike Spry. Operating as Spry Fly at Khancoban, Mike’s stomping grounds were the lush alpine river flats fed by the Snowy Mountains. That first day fishing with Mike was unforgettable, but not because of the trout. I met Mike on the creek downstream from the highway. As we were talking, one of his students came up from the creek, white-faced and breathless. He has been standing on a sandbank in the river when a red- bellied black snake swam across and curled up next to him.
‘You must mean a snake like those,’ said Mike, pointing at two snakes writhing and twisting around each other not 20 m away. He motioned for me to follow and take photos, which I did from two steps behind Mike. Every time the camera shutter clicked, the two snakes turned and hissed.
That evening as the Kosciusko mayflies were doing their ritual vertical dance over the Nariel River Mike said: ‘They’re males searching for females. We’ll work Royal Wulff (dry flies) and float them down to the pool where the trout should be.’
Mike left a lasting legacy: many of Australia’s fly-fishers and guides credit him with teaching them the basic fly-fishing skills.
Andy was a friend of Mike, so it was appropriate that I fished the Nariel with him. As we worked upstream, he decided to change tactics. Dry flies weren’t working, so he opted for a gold beadhead nymph below a strike indicator. At the next pool he was hit first cast, landing a neat brown trout of about 750 g. He pulled three more from the same pool before we moved on. The Nariel has offered such good fishing for as long as anyone can remember, which is why it is rated among the top fly-fishing streams for trout.