Heading into the wilderness to connect with nature and take stock of our mental health. Learn more about the Flybiking program for men's health here!
About 40-minutes later, we made it back to our turn, Farm Ridge Trail is steep, rocky and rutted fire road descent followed — if you’ve ever ridden at Mount Buller, think the Delatite River Trail, but steeper and in worse shape.
After about a kilometre of burning brakes, we pulled up to Round Mountain Hut. The historic corrugated iron hut which was originally built in the 1930s and then reconstructed after it burned down in a fire in the 1940s. The hut is still used today, and inside there are a few bunks, and just across the fire road is what's purported to be the best drop toilet in all of Australia; facing Mount Jagungal, a split door allows you to drop a brown trout off at the pond and still enjoy the scenery. Naturally, I had to test the goods, I can happily report the hype is real.
Leaving the hut, you descend further into a spectacular alpine vista, down to the upper headwaters of the Tumut river.
At the riverbank, it was time to ditch the bikes and begin our search for fish. This zone of the Snowy Mountains is brown trout territory (not the kind from the drop toilet), and the fish in this section of the Tumut are big and smart. The water was crystal clear, and healthy backcountry fish are large for a reason — they are fierce hunters, extraordinarily perceptive and skittish; even an angler wearing a brightly coloured shirt standing on the bank will send them to the deepest part of the river.
In a backcountry river, fly selection is critical; the lure you’re casting needs to imitate what the fish are currently eating. Flies are divided into wet, dry, streamers and poppers. Wet flies sink below the surface an imitate insect larvae, fish eggs, or crayfish; dry flies float on top of the water to imitate emerging, or adult insects like mayflies, stoneflies, midges or grasshoppers; streamers are wet flies that imitate baitfish or other subsurface creatures; and poppers are fished along the surface with quick twitches to create the illusion of a wounded baitfish, frogs, mice and the like.
Within these classifications, some patterns are designed to imitate natural bugs, and others which are brightly coloured and unnatural are designed simply to grab attention — usually eliciting a violent strike if the fish takes the lure.
I tied a ‘Bum Fluff Stimulator’ (yes, that’s actually the official name) a buggy pattern that simulates quite a few adult insects and floats like a cork onto a 12ft leader and set off; Matt went for a double fly rig with a small popper and a nymph. Not three steps into the river, I lost my footing and went for a swim; being snow runoff, the water is not warm, but in the heat of the day, it was a refreshing dip, even if it was unintentional.
With Matt up ahead and me playing sweeper, I presented my Bum Fluff in every bubble line and over every hole along the way.
Even with the clear water against a rocky bottom, brown trout are well camouflaged, and both Matt and I stared intently on what we thought to be fish, which turned out to be rocks and cracks on many occasions; we walked well over a kilometre before we even spotted a fish.