Tag Archives: trout

Man vs Fish – Does Fishing For Spawning Trout Create An Ethical Dilemma?

Every year if the conditions are suitable the resident lake brown trout of the lakes in the Snowy Mountains make a pilgrimage up the source rivers to spawn. Two major lakes Jindabyne and Eucumbene are very popular fishing destinations. Does fishing for spawning trout create an ethical dilemma?

Every story has two sides, so this is a summary of the issues as I see it:


  • Over crowding.
  • Amount of fishing pressure.
  • Not a subtle form of fishing, often an over-weighted rig is required (especially true of fly fishing).
  • A minority spoil things for the majority – unfortunately this is true of any pursuit there is always someone who leaves rubbish, is rude or does not follows the rules.


  • Most of these fish sulk in the lake the rest of the year and are rarely seen by anglers.
  • Usually there is only a very short window between when the fish start their spawning run and the close of river fishing.
  • Seeing large numbers of fish (often very big fish) is very exciting.
  • Fishery officers regulate the fishery. They check licenses and enforce catch limits.
  • Taking of fish > 50cm is limited to one per day.
  • Very social and in most cases convivial fishing, you get to say hello and chat to fellow fishers.
  • Most fishers are happy to share a part of the river where normally someone “dropping in” on your part of the river would be considered extremely rude.
  • We catch and release all our fish.

Apart from the main rivers we also fished a couple of the smaller tributaries.  In the shallow water the fish were easily spooked so we reverted to un-weighted globugs and waiting until we saw a fish to cast to. The fishing was as challenging as it was exciting.

It was interesting to watch the effectiveness of a “hybrid” fishing method. A standard fly rig of globug and nymph is rigged on spinning gear. The key difference was that it allowed the use of a series a heavy split-shot to make sure the rig was in contact with the bottom of the riverbed. With the recent rain the river flow certainly was up and it was very difficult to get flies down in the strong current. However, heavy spinning gear and braid just sliced through the water like a cheese-cutter down to where the fish were holding on the riverbed.


Eucumbene Spawn Run Crowd

Welcome to the craziness of the spawn run

Eucumbene Spawn Run Fishing with friends

Our fishing is about enjoying the company of friends as much as the fishing

Mark Kelly Eucumbene Spawning Brown Trout 01

A beautiful brown trout in full spawning colours

Mark Passfield Releasing Eucumbene Spawning Brown Trout

Mark about to release a beautiful brown trout

Mark Kelly Eucumbene Spawning Brown Trout

Just about to release another beautiful brown trout

Mark Passfield Releasing Eucumbene Spawning Brown Trout

Mark releases another fish

Mark Kelly Eucumbene Spawning Brown Trout

What a big mouth!

Mark Kelly Releasing Eucumbene Spawning Brown Trout

About to release my biggest fish of the trip

#fishing #flyfishing #Eucumbene #trout

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Fly fishing Photos to be Published in FlyLife Magazine

My friend Paul Miller has written an article about fly fishing for trout using float tubes and wanted me to take photos to include in the article. We have taken our float-tube fishing to an extreme technological level, where the float-tubes are fitted with depth sounders. An earlier post “Float-tube Fun” explains a bit more about float tubes. Anyway, Paul submitted his article to FlyLife. The editor thought my photos were great and is intending to publish the article.

Several friends have also got depth sounders fitted to their tubes. A small motorbike battery powers them. The sounders are cleverly attached with a strap that wraps around one leg of the tube. It is threaded through a plastic box that holds the battery and a plate where the sounder is mounted. The transducer is also looped through the same strap. The pressure in the inflated tube holds the strap and entire assembly in place.

We enjoy having sounders fitted to our float-tubes.  Others claim this is nonsense and is simply cheating!. Yes, it is true you can often find fish sitting at a particular depth. For example in summer fish will find a depth of water that is a suitable temperature. Lakes can have stratified layers of water. In this case it would be pointless to fish a dry fly on the surface if all the fish are sitting at a depth of 3m. In this circumstance you would start with a buzzer array under a float indicator.  However, there is still no guarantee that the fish will be biting!.

Fish are naturally attracted to underwater structures. These include sudden changes in the lake bed, weed bed edges as well as logs and rocks. The best use of the sounders is to find these structures.

I managed to hook a very solid rainbow whilst I was taking photos. As I have mentioned before it is very difficult to fish AND take photos! Also thanks to Nick for getting me back out on the water. My float-tube developed a small hole in a fold (on a seam). Nick had a tube of UV wader repair glue. This ended being a very quick fix.


Paul Miller silhouette

Paul prepares his flyrod for fishing

Early dawn launch for float-tubes

Paul and Nick prepare to launch float-tubes

launch float-tubes

Nick and Paul prepare to launch float-tubes

Paul Miller waits paitently for a trout to bite

Paul hopes a trout will take his fly

Paul Miller casts fly rod for trout

Paul casts in the early morning light

Float tube flotilla

Float tube flotilla


Mark Kelly catches solid rainbow trout

Mark Kelly lucky to catch a solid rainbow trout

Nick and Paul compare sounders on float-tubes

Nick and Paul are serious about their fishing






Rule #1 of Photography

We all have heard various rules of photography such as don’t shoot into the sun, compose on the thirds, watch for distracting background elements etc. However, I think the first rule of photography should be :


After fishing rivers around the Lake Taupo district, my mate Roy and myself stayed a couple of extra days to explore around Rotorua.  During the day we checked out various tourist spots. The distinctive Hydrogen Sulpide smell certainly takes a bit to get used to. However the geothermal activity is just astounding!! Apart from the tourist spots where you can see geysers, bubbling mud and multi-coloured pools there are so many spots around Rotorua where the lake edge is bubbling and steam is venting in parks and even out of the gutter where roadworks are being carried out!

At night we tried our luck for trout in Lake Rotorua. It is reported that the lake has one of the highest populations of trout in New Zealand. Apparently in summer the water temperature often gets to warm for the trout so they seek respite in the cooler currents of spring-fed streams that empty into the lake. Advice from the local tackle store said that you would need to wade out some 100-200m from shore. Even here the fish are able to take advantage of the subtle temperature changes. I thought that carrying a backpack that far out into the water then trying to wrestle with a rod a camera and a flash would be a recipe for disaster…

As we left the unit at the caravan park I joke to Roy about leaving the camera behind would almost guarantee that we would catch a big fish. When we arrived at the stream mouth there were about half a dozen other locals, all lined up fishing a largish pool that marked the junction of the stream and the lake. There were also considerable numbers of sizable fish jumping, just to add to the excitement.

It certainly is a different fly fishing experience to cast smelt (baitfish) patterns in the dark. After losing a few fish Roy lands a very respectable brown. I am not sure why, but I keep losing fish by snapping my leader. Each time you curse because you have snagged the bottom, but then the bottom suddenly takes off. These are very hefty fish indeed!

Finally I stay connect to a very solid fish. Roy tells me to hurry up and land it, but at this point it is still stripping line off at an alarming rate. A local offers to help land the fish, as neither of us has a net. The fish is huge and almost does not fit in the net. In old terms it is 12lb – a double-figure fish. Generally a fish this big is regarded as  a “trophy fish” and you get it taxidermied and hang it on your wall. However, I have no intention of killing such a fine fish and the only thing I would like to hang on my wall is a great photo.

Dang – No DSLR!

Luckily I have my iPhone, so at least a get a “record” shot, but not a great shot.

We end up having a brilliant session, with several monsters lost and some “smaller” 4lbers landed

Ah well – I guess next time I will have my good camera with me…

Mark’s personal best – a 12lb brown trout

Roy’s 7lb brown trout


Float-Tube Fun

I have recently been fly fishing lakes from a float tube. This inflatable water craft is best described as a tractor tube with a seat fitted. However, they are much more sophisticated than that, being purpose-built as a fishing platform. The float tube comprises two separate bladders that surrounds a built-in seat.  Propulsion is provided by the angler kicking away with swim fins fitted.

These are very stable and comfortable. I think the rated load is in excess of 130kg! I certainly do not feel concerned about taking my DSLR out on my tube.

Casting is surprisingly still fairly straight forward despite that you are sitting just above water level. Two main fly fishing methods deployed are:

1. Fishing a team of “buzzer” flies under an indicator using a floating line.

2. Fishing a “Woolley Bugger” or similar lure style fly using a sinking line.

The first relies on trying to represent an aquatic invertebrate known as a Chironomid. These are more commonly known as midges or gnats. Unlike mosquitoes they do not bite. They have a very short lifespan and a considerable amount end up as a snack for hungry trout. After adults lay eggs on the surface, bloodworms emerge & sink to the bottom of the lake to live in the mud. Then they float up to the surface film as pupae (or buzzers). As they try to break through the surface tension they are an easy meal.

Bloodworms spend most of their time in the bottom of the lake but often wind and wave action can move them up the water column. Trout often can be located at a depth of 3-5m. This is a zone where any deeper and the water is too cold and de-oxygenated, or any shallower can be too warm or bright. A long leader with a team of two or three flies spaced at 1.5m are used to locate a suitable depth were fish may be holding.

I am still learning to fish the “buzzer array”, but if the fish are switched onto feeding Chironomids it can be a very effective method!

The second method involves using a sinking fly line which is cast out. After counting-down the fly is twitched and retrieved. A variation is to let the line sink all the way to the bottom, then retrieve up through the “strike zone”. This method can be deadly when a small nymph is used.

All the photos have been “tweaked” to some degree or another using a combination of LightRoom and Nik Colour Efex software. In general I will make any exposure adjustments and crop/rotate in LightRoom, then use the Colour Efex plugin. I currently like the grungy “bleach bypass” filter, although it is easy to over-do the effect. Also, as it brings out a lot of detail peoples faces are not generally flattering. I find I am now nearly always using a “subtractive” control point, so that the filter effect is not applied to faces.

When Colour Efex is done it creates a duplicate image and then proceeds to automatically load that image back into LightRoom. I find that I will often use the graduated filter to balance out the effects especially in the sky. I may add a vignette or even use a brush to selectively lighten or darken areas.

Paul Miller has recently published a book about fishing. Not necessarily a “how to”, but more a collection of interesting fishing related stories. It is available from his website as both a standard edition, or a leather bound  limited edition. It is also available from Amazon as a e-book from this link: Paul Miller Ebook.


Float Tube Fun – A Change in the Weather

Kevin Booth Float Tube in the Mist

Kevin Booth Float Tube in the Mist


Nick Reay Thinks Strategy to Trick Trout


Nick Reay Ties on New Fly


Nick Reay Waits For a Trout


Paul Miller Float Tube Hookup #1


Paul Miller Float Tube Hookup #2


Paul Miller Float Tube Large Rainbow Trout #1


Paul Miller Float Tube Large Rainbow Trout #2


Fishing and Photography

I have several mates that are regular fishing partners. We all enjoy fly fishing for trout. Whilst we all fish dams and the larger more popular designated trout rivers our preference is to fish the smaller Alpine streams of the Snowy Mountains region. On these smaller waters we practice “catch and release” and record our activities through stills and video. Yes, we have our fair share of “catch and grin” images were the happy smiling angler shows off his catch, but increasingly we are trying a more artistic approach through capturing images of the landscape in which we fish, abstracts of fish or gear, and more contemplative portraits.

Our approach to fishing is probably different to what most people would expect. We enjoy just being out in the environment  sharing each others company. If we do catch fish it is an added bonus. No matter what you do there is no guarantee of success. The water conditions,weather, the choice of flies and their presentation –  not to mention the “mood” of the trout all conspire against you. Sometimes the fish are just “on” and all you have to do is land a fly anywhere on the water. Other times fish will refuse the most beautifully delicate presentation, or ignore it completely.

I must admit this behaviour can be frustrating at times, but if you are stressed or anxious I believe your chances of success are less than when you are calm, controlled and focused.

It is interesting that I find myself applying this philosophy to my photography as well.  Just enjoy begin out shooting images, not being too worried about having “to catch” the perfect image. If you are relaxed the images will come far easier than if you are stressed.

I have recently been playing with Nik Color Efex primarily with “Bleach-Bypass” and “Detail Extractor” filters.

Roy is a fishing master – he spots (then often catches) fish we cannot see. He is a video editing genius and has recently purchased a Canon DSLR.

Callum is a master craftsman – he builds beautiful split cane rods.

Callum’s Rod making website can be found by clicking Indi River Rods

Mark – thinking about the next fishing trip?

Mark has recently jumped into photography in a big way – but does not like having his photo taken!

Roy lays out long cast in some beautiful light.

A beautifully marked brown trout is about to be released.

Mark contemplates a “top five” fishing day – the kind of day in which everything was just perfect!