Rubicon River

Fishing knee deep in the Rubicon River, Steve Cooper

The Rubicon, one of Victoria’s legendary trout waters, is popular with trout anglers who fish using all methods available. Rising in forested hills with a steep gradient in the headwaters, the river varies from shallow riffles and runs to deeper pools.

I first fished the Rubicon in the company of Eildon local Mick Hall. We fished several kilometres upstream, just below the power station at an area known as Kendalls. Instead of casting dry  flies to rising trout we fished with gold beadhead nymphs below  an indicator. It resulted in many brown trout to 1.2 kg and smaller rainbow trout.

The turn-off to Kendalls is a few kilometres south of Thornton, and the road follows the Rubicon River to the Rubicon township. This area is popular for bush campers, and fishes best early in the season when there is ample flow.

The most easily accessible area on the Rubicon is Tumbling Waters, located where the highway bridge crosses the river on the Thornton– Taggerty road, about 3 km out  of Thornton. This area features a toilet block, playground and barbecue facilities.

Downstream from Thornton is an area known as the ‘Tennis Courts’. Access is restricted and depends on the property owners. The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority in conjunction with Fisheries Victoria undertook to repair the riverbank as they removed willow trees. Boulders were added and undercut cover created along the banks. The latter idea was gleaned from the USA, where they call these undercuts ‘Lunker Bunkers’. The system works well. Sadly, despite widespread willow removal along other waters, little has happened in the way of streamside rehabilitation. 

As Mick and I walked the bank, scores of grasshoppers jumped out of our way. Seeking escape from our feet, some hoppers leapt too far, clearing the bank and landing on the water. The lucky ones ended up on rafts of gum leaves, the rest sat atop the water – a floating smorgasbord for hungry trout.

The name Rubicon was made famous by Julius Caesar. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon’s namesake in northern Italy with  his 13th Legion more than 2000  years ago, it was an act of war against Rome. For Mick, the reluctance of the trout to sip his  fly was an equal affront.

Mick is the most knowledgeable fly-fisher I know, a man with an international reputation for his exquisite fly-tying skills.

But Mick is more than a match for a wily opponent like Mr Speckles. He reduced his tippet size to about 1 kg breaking strain and downsized his Chopper Hopper pattern fly two hook sizes to match the size of the grasshoppers. As soon as the fly kissed the water a trout rose to the bogus offering.

Rubicon trout are generally 250– 650 g, but much bigger trout can be caught. The Rubicon joins with the Goulburn River just below Thornton and the trout in the Goulburn use the Rubicon for spawning during winter. Late in the trout season, as the brown trout begin to move to their spawning areas, you hear of anglers catching trout to about 3 kg. A few seasons back, at the start of the spawning run, a 7.93 kg brown trout was found dying in the shallows above Tumbling Waters.

Tackle

Flies

Bait and lure fishers will find small 2–3 kg  threadline outfits ideal. Bait should be presented unweighted, cast upstream and allowed to drift downstream along the banks to the fish. Use unweighted mudeyes, grasshoppers, worms and crickets on No. 8–14 hooks.

For lure fishers, small hard-bodied lures in rainbow trout or brown trout patterns are used. These are cast upstream and retrieved slowly past structure or along the banks.

Fly-fishers working dry flies often go down to four-weight outfits with a weight-forward floating line and a 2–3 m long leader and 2 kg tippet. When working nymphs a six-weight outfit is fine. Use an indicator about 45–60 cm above the fly.

Flies

The best wet fly is the gold beadhead nymph. Popular dry flies include Royal Wulff, Grey or Rusty Duns, Chopper Hopper and Hackle Hopper, generally in sizes 14–16.

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