In November, our Rivers of Carbon – Yass River Linkages project hosted a terrific Feeling Fishy Field Day on the beautiful ‘Casamarah’ property owned by Marie and Sam Polyak. Sixty people joined us to spend time walking along the river and discussing the multiple benefits looking after our waterways can provide.

Cappuccino to go!

The day started with landowner Marie Polyak welcoming people to the property and talking about how she was initially attracted to this stretch of river because it was lined with willows and so beautiful and green. Marie then described how once she learnt more about the problems willows create, she felt she needed to alter her river management. Well seeing is believing (!), and Marie’s river is now lined with native trees, shrubs, grasses and reeds. There is wood in the river providing habitat for fish and other animals, and the river is regenerating both in the stream, and along the banks.

Marie Polyak welcoming people to ‘Casamarah’.

We were then very privileged to have traditional owner Wally Bell welcome us to country with a protective blessing covering the river and all who stood along the bank. It was a wonderful experience and one which all of us present will treasure. Wally was on hand throughout the day for people to talk to about Ngunawal connection to ‘Ya’ (Yass River), and the importance of rivers as living pathways for Aboriginal people.

We also had Woo O’Reilly from Waterwatch, Ross Webster from the local Yass Angling Club, Haydn Burgess from Greening Australia and Luke Pearce from DPI Fisheries, provide an overview of their river work. Field Day participants were then able to spend time with each of these people at different points along the river. Haydn and Ross focused on riparian vegetation using the new Stream Condition Checklist. Ross also talked about the work he has been doing with willows, and provided great insight into how landholders can go about removing and managing these pesky weeds.

Siwan Lovett discussing the river under the shade of a tree.

Luke and Woo had more of an in-stream focus, with Woo’s trays of macro-invertebrates providing children with the opportunity to look at what lives in the river, and then identify where those ‘critters’ are in the food chain. Luke provided great insight into how to bring back native fish into our rivers, with the back of his car covered in photographs of fish that were once in the Yass River and which we hope to have return… He also talked about carp, redfin and gambusia, the fish invaders that are so competitive and adaptable to a range of river conditions.

The end of our morning was heralded by a cow bell kindly provided by Kate and Jeremy Wilson, members of the Yass Landcare Group that so ably helped us to run the day. Our group came together under the shade of a beautiful tree to reflect on what we had heard, and to celebrate Ross Webster’s Landcare Award that was presented by Det Voges, from the Yass Area Network of Landcare Groups.

Our sausage sizzle was then complemented by Luke providing a magnificent display of carp filleting and cooking! We had smoked carp pate, carp fish cakes and even carp sashimi! We all think Luke has a new career ahead of him as a celebrity carp chef!

Overall, it was a terrific day, and our film maker Richard Snashall has some wonderful stories from those who were there about why our rivers are so important to us, in so many ways. Everyone who came was sent a survey after the event and all who responded said they would be keen to bring a friend along to any future events. Our goal of raising awareness, sharing new knowledge and getting people out on the river was certainly achieved!

Feedback on the day from those who attended:

“It was AWESOME!!!”

“Very informative and also fun.”

“Great to be able to share with the kids a little bit about what I do, and for them to understand more about the area they live in. The kids loved looking at the bugs, climbing the trees, paddling in the river!”

“It was a fantastic day, the volunteers did an amazing job.”

“I learnt a lot about the Yass River that I didn’t know. It was interesting to learn about the willows and how much water they take out of the river.”

“Wonderful choice of site. Great advertisement for the program.”

“A magnificent day full of factual information.”

What people took away from the day:

“I learn’t about why the willows were being reduced along the river.”

“A good feeling about the commitment of people to do something good for their rivers.”

“More information re native and pest fish species”

“Information about native fish, the chance to meet and chat with professionals and other interested parties associated with rivers and river health.”

“The great work that is happening in the area, and meet some of the people making it happen.”

“Great day for the kids to learn about river health.”

“Quite a lot of information on our local river, as well as making some really good contacts for the future.”

“I learnt about judging the health of the river and bank from Haydn. It was very interesting to finally taste carp and learn that you can actually eat it. It was good to hear that in some sections of the river the carp are not as dominate as my frontage.”

“Still not entirely convinced about the merits of carp, but the message was not to take anything for granted!”

“What can be achieved from programs that help to restore our rivers to their previous health and beauty.”

“Programs like this give one hope that there could be a positive environmental future.”

“Congratulations to all concerned for the organisation and implementation.”