A short update on the Ballarat Lakes

What is it that marks the shift from summer to autumn? Up here in Victoria’s central highlands, that’s a surprisingly difficult thing to quantify. However, what I can tell you is in the last week or so, autumn has arrived. Maybe it’s the consistently cool mornings, or my alarm going off while it’s still dark, or getting home from the evening rise at a civilised hour. There’s the odd day that still feels summery; or more to the point, the odd afternoon; because it now takes until well after midday before you feel any real heat, and it’s gone again by 7pm.

Water temperatures are another pretty good indicator that summer has passed. Typically, I’m now measuring 16-17C for the reasons just mentioned. Even the occasional ‘hot’ days don’t change that much.

Near perfect autumn conditions at Newlyn.

So, like some migratory animal, lately I’ve found myself responding to an almost instinctive call and revisiting the nearby lakes; lakes which I’ve all but ignored over summer. I was trying to explain this change to a friend last night on the phone. I said that up until a fortnight ago, I would call into the lakes more in reconnaissance mode, whereas now, I go to actually fish.

And how are they looking? I’ve fished three of the lakes in the last week: Newlyn, Hepburn and Moorabool.

Hepburn is the least inspiring at present. At 51% and over a vertical metre below full, it is much more weed choked than last autumn and it takes a bit of trial and error to find water that’s open enough to comfortably pull wets (my standard procedure here when nothing is moving). The lake still contains the algae particles that seem to have been present for a year or more. This makes the water look very turbid from a distance, although up close, you can see the bottom when wading thigh deep – at least on the lee shores.

Hepburn looks a bit tired, but there is still plenty of water and despite looking too turbid for the fly from a distance, the water clarity is actually not that bad.

Just up the road, Newlyn, at just under 60%, is in lovely shape. The water is clear, and the lake looks half full rather than half empty. Weed is a bit of an issue in spots, but there is a heap of fishable water on most shores. I’ve spotted a few duns on cloudy days (these should only increase over coming weeks) and quite a few smelt dimpling the shallows. There are lots of caddis too – adults and stick caddis.

A Moorabool rainbow caught on a stick caddis, and showing solid condition going in to autumn.

Moorabool is the lowest I’ve seen it for a year or so. The Central Highlands Water website has it at 71%, but I suspect it hasn’t updated in a while – I think it would be lucky to be 50%. Nevertheless, Moorabool is still a sizeable lake and the water is crystal clear. Weed is not an issue and shoreline access is as easy as it gets. On cloudy days or early and late, it’s certainly a good option.

While Moorabool is well below full, its water quality and general condition are excellent.

Incidentally, I haven’t fished Wendouree so far this autumn, but it’s looking good and recently, I’ve noticed a couple of trout rise while making a quick stop on the way to school pick up. Maybe that should be a longer stop next time!