Winter Sun at Newlyn and Hepburn

For most of this week, the weather around my central highlands home hasn’t exactly inspired outdoor activity. Temperatures have been running a few degrees below average, leaving ice around some lake margins some mornings, and on Thursday, even adding a few fat blobs of snow to the windswept rain. Trout are still catchable in these conditions – they’re a cold water species after all. But I admit that for most of this week, it’s been easier than usual to get a bit of writing and editing done; indoors, with the fire going and the kettle nearby.

However, yesterday brought a sudden break in the bleak. The sun came out, the wind dropped and it took me about half an hour to decide to swap the desk for the fly rod. First stop was the north-west shore of Hepburn Lagoon. Bright days are not my winter preference here, but I was keen to check the level and the current state of the algae. On the first count, the lake is just below 70%, with a small but noticeable inflow down Langdons Creek and rising slowly. On the second count, the algae is, surprisingly, about the same as it’s been for months – clear enough on the lee shores for fishing (about 2-3ft viso) but pretty bad on the windward shores.

A bit bright for Hepburn, but nice to see the sun!

A bit bright for Hepburn, but nice to see the sun!

The water temperature was just 6.5C and I was disappointed that the cold hadn’t killed off the bloom. On the plus side, I guessed the colour in the water might make the trout less jumpy in the sunny conditions. Even so, I fished with less optimism (read focus) than I should have, and that may have cost me a good fish. Chatting to a unarmed angler who was just down for a look, I felt something, looked to where my Magoo would have been, and saw a powerful boil.

Licence check at Hepburn - it's great to see more and more Fisheries Officers out and about lately.

Licence check at Hepburn – it’s great to see more and more Fisheries Officers out and about lately.

Soon after, a couple of Fisheries officers turned up and checked my licence. That’s the second time in a month I’ve been checked (the last time being on a fairly remote section of the Aire River). It’s great to see such a presence on the water away from the obvious spots like the car parks and boat ramps. In recent years, I’ve gone from being checked once a decade at best, to at least once a year. Good stuff!

By the time I’d finished chatting with the Fisheries guys (they’re always a handy source of general fishing information) time was marching on and with some misgivings given my recent miss, I decided to stay on plan and check out Newlyn.

Newlyn looking magnifcent as usual this season.

Newlyn looking as magnificent as usual this year.

The lake was looking a treat, just as it has all season. The water level has pushed up to 75%, yet it’s as clear as ever. I swapped the Magoo for a subtler Olive BMS and worked my way up into the north-east corner. After half an hour, I spotted a smelter about 100 metres a long the shore. It had stopped moving by the time I got in casting range, but after a few careful casts in the area, there was a steady pull back midway through a figure-8 retrieve, and I was hooked up to brownie of about a kilo.

The smelter goes back to terrorise some more bait fish!

The smelter goes back to terrorise some more bait fish!

It would have been interesting to keep going along the shore, and a few midge coming off made me wonder what might show later in the afternoon. But there were kids to pick up and evening soccer matches to attend, so I headed back to the car like a good dad – grateful all the same for a few hours of sun on my back and a nice fish to the net.