Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to Queensland in the middle of my home town’s coldest winter in 20 years. As old Len on the upper Murray would have warned, “It’ll thin yer blood!” At any rate, since I got back from Caloundra’s balmy beaches, I’ve found myself turning into something of a fair weather angler, which if you live in Victoria’s Central Highlands, can greatly limit your winter fishing.
This week, I was determined to snap out of it. As if to test my resolve, there wasn’t a single fine day in the forecast. It snowed yesterday and it’s forecast to snow again tomorrow so today was it; the best of a bad bunch. Layered up and hoping to at least start the day with some shelter from the 20 km/h westerly, I headed first to Talbot Reservoir. This pretty little lake in the middle of nowhere is quite low, but Max and I visited several weeks ago and saw some action, so a return visit seemed sensible. Weather-wise, it was a good choice and although the water had a slightly milky tinge and measured just 9 C, the lake ‘felt’ promising.
Unfortunately the feeling didn’t translate into results. I saw two nice fish porpoise a long way out (presumably in response to the steady trickle of midge) but after a couple of hours for no other excitement, I left the comparatively warm 6 C air temperature of low altitude Talbot and headed for Hepburn. Sure enough, the car thermometer had dropped to 4 C by the time I arrived at the second lake. However the water was quite clear, the weed a little thinner than on my previous visit and the level had risen a bit. Overall, on the sheltered (comparatively speaking) western shore and under grey skies, Hepburn too had the look. I walked south, covering several nice shores with a Wet’s Zonker to no avail, although again, I did see a good fish move out wide. I also watched a solitary bait fisher (the only other angler I saw all day) catch a nice fish on a mudeye, just to spur me on.
I was almost right back at the car when I thought I saw a flat spot in the ripple, a couple of metres beyond the dark weed. I covered the zone methodically, and third cast, there was a pluck right on the edge of the weed bed. I automatically thought ‘weed ’, but years of conditioning ensured I lifted the rod anyway. A good thing, as the ‘weed’ pulled back very hard. A few minutes later, I had a brown of about 3 pounds to hand. I absently noted that the water felt surprisingly neutral, although a subsequent check showed its temperature was a frigid 7 C.
I decided to quit while I was ahead and grab a final hour or so at Moorabool Reservoir. Like Talbot, this lake is quite low and slightly milky, although it is just starting to rise into the revegetated margins. In this respect, Moorabool looked good but in every other way, ‘bleak’ is the word that comes to mind. By now, dark clouds were really racing across the sky, bringing intermittent showers of fine drizzle. There was nowhere to effectively get out of the wind and even with gloves, my fingers started to sting. It was easy to imagine a new burst of snow lurking only a few hours away. Blame my newly thinned blood but before it was anything like dark, I walked back to the car and drove home.
A tough day? In some respects. A cold day? Definitely, although except for the last half hour, quite tolerable. Am I glad I went? Absolutely!