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The Turon River

Posted:   01-07-2006, 20:30 by Dave

My first encounter with the Turon River was before my passion for fly fishing began, I always remembered it as a fast flowing river, there was always the sound of rushing water as it travelled from its upper reaches towards its end at the Macquarie junction. Even twelve months ago, when the locals were saying that the river was dead and there were no fish in it, I managed to find a trout, quite a decent sized one as well.

Turon in better days, after some strong rains.

In January of this year I spent a few days on the Turon, visiting some of my favorite holes and hoping to catch a fish or two. The weather was warm, definitely not any hotter than I have seen in the past, the water was flowing and levels weren’t to bad - they had dropped some what, but there still was plenty of water there. Some of the camping practices that I saw by the river were less than ideal, but this definitely want the issue. Doing my usual walk along the bank, sussing out possible fish holding spots, a few things got the mind ticking.

Dead yabbies, yabbie shells and very high water temperatures. There were spinners flying about, there were some spent spinners, mayflies were dropping to the water and breaking through the miniscual level to impregnate the river with their eggs. There were a couple of things missing, the crystal clear water was there, but it wasn’t its usual icy cold self, even at this time of the year the water is usually cool. The river in this particular area was generally deprived of any aquatic life apart from that of insects.

I walked further on, traversing new ground on the Turon. I always keep an eye out for snakes in this area, having seen a few red bellied black snakes and browns in the past it pays to tread carefully, especially in the middle of a hot summer. A few more good pools were found and it was approaching sunset, the air was cooling and in any good trout water right about now the evening rise would start. Apart from the sound of running water in the background there was no obvious ’plonk’ sound of a trout picking an unwilling insect off the top of the water. There was no sign of any amphibious life, it was bare, barren and silent.

April 2005, pristine 
trout conditions, and yes they were here.

As I approached the next pool my mind went back to April of the previous year, a very fit buck brown trout had eluded me right here, Two days of throwing everything I had at it was fruitless, it rose in front of me, its golden brown body glistening in the sun - it was almost like the fish was rubbing it in my face that I couldn’t catch it.
So what has happened to the Turon? Other river systems seem to flow around it, especially the Macquarie River, even at the Macquarie/Turon junction the Turon is dead.

Here is a possible answer taken from http://www.we-study-in-australia.com/

It seems that the famous and picturesque Turon River, which runs through the town, is in grave danger of being lost. In the last five years, the Casuarina Tree has been spreading from the banks of the Turon into the actual River. Usually, when the floods came, the excess water would wash away the small trees. But in recent years, the lack of rain has allowed the Casuarina Tree to continue to grow and thrive within the river. This problem creates sandbars, stopping the continual flow of water and forming swampy pools, which allow mosquitoes to breed. What was once a full, free-flowing river where families picnicked, children swam and old men fished are now a swampy tree filled bog.

In particular the Casuarina Cunninghamiana, otherwise known as the ’River Oak’ (She Oak) seems to be the main culprit on the Turon River. What can we do about this? Nothing, the Casuarina Cunninghamiana is a protected plant because their roots help stop bank erosion.

Classic example 
of the River Oak invading on (the empty) Turon River space.

Then there is the case of the ’Booroolong Frog’, a protected species, which exists in only a few rivers throughout Australia, one of them being the Turon. Researchers have indicated that trout prey on this frog and therefore stocking of trout in streams where it existed was suspended or restricted. Yet the big dampener on this theory is it is believed that the reduction of the booroolong frog was due to a virus back in the 1980’s! To stock waters where the frog (may have?) existed NSW Fisheries needed to obtain a permit from National Parks and Wildlife Service - talk about complicating things.

So back in December of 2002 permits were received and trout stocking in the Turon was about to begin, there was only one problem, the water levels were too low.

So what is the state of the river now?
Worse than I have ever seen, over the June weekend of this year (2006) I was fortunate (some might say unfortunate due to the icy cold conditions) to camp at Sofala for a few days. I left early on the Saturday morning and the weather was terrible, the rain kept coming down and the wind was icy. Just after Lithgow I turned the trusty Landcruiser right onto the road to Mudgee, arrived at Capertee and turned into the Turon Gates turn off. When I reached the first Turon River crossing I knew there want going to be much water throughout the river and that was apparent as I made my journey on from here to Sofala.

Plenty of puddles 
of water, just no real connection between them.

Following the winding river it seemed to get worse, the ponds of water at some places were just puddles and flow was non existent. Crossing causeways that once would have had water flowing over them now are a breeze for even a 2wd vehicle. It was winter time and the water temperature wasn’t even that cold, back in good times one would be daring to stick their hand into the Turon during winter.
Between January and June there must have been some really hot temperatures, there was quite a lot of water in the river back then.

At Sofala the water was almost non existent apart from an area that traversed from behind the Royal Hotel upstream for about a kilometer, this seems to be the biggest hole that exists in the Turon at present. The water here is murky, green and warm, though in saying that the ducks and frogs are definitely surviving.

Much further downstream, where the Bridle Track crosses the Turon it was much more grim picture, one pool of water nearing emptiness. The water contained within this pool was so murky with green algae that I was scared to put my hand in it for fear of some kind of fungal retribution!

The area near Sofala where camp was set was also of the same scope, where once the river flowed and the sound of running water would have put you to sleep there was one meagre pool of what I could only describe as sludge. Though it was interesting to see where the old eddy’s were when the water flowed and where a boulder had formed a cave under the bank - definite fishy areas if there was water. I couldn’t help but imagine better times when the water was flowing, fish rising in the evening and some lucky angler scoring a bonus.

Are there any fish anywhere?
To put it bluntly, yes! Where there are puddles there are still carp, this species (pest?) seems to survive anything and everything, I am sure it would be able to survive a holocaust. If you are desperate to wet a line there are a few largish puddles upstream of Sofala - from Sofala travel towards the Upper Turon, you will cross one causeway, keep going ahead until you get to another causeway, upstream from here there are a few large puddles that have previously held large schools of carp. It can be hard to access the water, but if your persistent you will get there.

So what about the trout you ask. I am not saying that there isn’t any in the Turon, but it is very safe to say that it is highly unlikely that there will be any due to the current conditions and water levels. Unless there are some very deep and well sheltered holes that have been able to remain cool (if you do find one of these please drop me a line!) there wont be any trout that have survived through this season.

This really only means one thing for the Turon, until there is more rain where water levels start to remain consistent for a few seasons and NSW Fisheries via the Acclimatisation Society of the Central West of NSW restock the river we wont be seeing any trout. For me this will mean a loss of interest in this region until the river regenerates. In saying that there are some wonderful camp sites in the area and there its always a good source of carp fishing!

Casting a fly into 
trout water!

So what can we do to help the Turon?
In the past (and present) I have found some of the camping practices that many campers are using to be extremely inadequate for the environment overall. In particular to the Turon I have seen people irrigate water for their camping needs, if the river is not suffering enough we dont need happy campers irrigating the already low water levels. This particular group had found their way to my favorite fishing spot and started their own irrigation process - I bet without a license as well!

There is always the carp eradication process, which is made a whole lot easier when the carp are holed and hungry. I always find carp fishing fun and challenging on fly, catching them and flinging them up onto the bank where they can fertilise the ground is doing our environment the world of good!

And remember if you do find any native fish species or trout within the Turon please catch and release, its a very fragile environment and it cant afford any bad mannerisms!

Some more images:

Very low water levels. The good old days, 
crystal clear water and trout lurking within. Take heed of the 
sign, it really is a ’General Trout Stream’.

Wonder if you’ve seen the above somewhere else on the internet?
You’re right, its taken from my very old website, shintara.net.

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