Autumn Dun Fun

After a wet, cold and rainy Easter, some anglers could be forgiven for hoping for sunny skies to brighten the first full week of the school holidays. But as someone chasing mayfly dun hatches on Victoria’s central highlands lakes over the last couple of days, I confess I’ve been pleased to find plenty of cloud, and even a bit of rain.

Gloomy skies at Moorabool today – perfect!

While autumn dun hatches are rarely as prolific or long-lived as the spring hatches, the current crop is pretty good, and certainly worth looking for on those cool, cloudy and (ideally) humid days when the little sailboards struggle to dry their wings. Unable to quickly fly to safety, the duns become a more appealing target to the trout, which in turn rise more readily. 

The duns this autumn are often smaller and lighter in colour than their spring cousins.

Yesterday, Lake Wendouree was my target water. Conveniently, the physio was able to fit me in at 11am, and with their rooms no more than a long cast from the lake, it seemed sensible to throw the rod, net and vest in the car. I departed the physio with a new set of stretches to work on, and decided to drive around the lake to see if I could find any signs of a rise. It didn’t take long before a particularly busy patch of swallows caused me to pull over, and yep – there was a rise… and another.

I should point out that, although I found rising fish from midday, it wasn’t until 12.30pm that the hatch became sufficiently heavy to encourage trout to rise regularly enough to cover from the shore. Then, by about 1.30pm, either increasing sun (and/or some mayfly clock that we may never understand) slowed the hatch, so that ‘oncers’ again became the norm. Still, several attempts to leave the lake were thwarted by short bursts of activity, and it wasn’t until 2.45pm that I was finally able to pull myself away with some sort of satisfaction that I’d had the best of it.

A solid Wendouree rainbow on the paradun yesterday – just watch out for walkers on the backcast!

With those timings in mind, I made sure I was at Moorabool Reservoir by midday today. Even so, I just might have been a little late, because there were a few duns and the odd rise literally as I arrived at the water’s edge. Then there was a healthy flurry at about 12.30pm, and I missed a fish on a sparse, light paradun, before a form of FOMO had me wondering if a left to right drift of duns would be even better in the next bay.

I found good numbers of fat rainbows on the duns…

Strangely, while the actual dun numbers there seemed fewer, the rises were more regular. I had a ball for over an hour casting a sparse size 14 paradun to numbers of trout. One important tip though: the rises were very subtle (much less obvious than at Wendouree yesterday) and I had to look and listen hard to find them.   

… and this solitary brown, although I suspect I missed another.

I covered – and caught – my last fish about 2.30pm, by which time the rises had reduced to occasional, and it was getting hard to spot a single dun. I gave it another 15 minutes, and decided it was safe to leave (I think!) There’s always that risk on any mayfly lake that there will be a secondary rise of sorts, but I’d had my dun fun, and if it turns out I missed something later, I can live with that.

(For more about dun hatches on these and other nearby lakes, have a listen to my podcast on the subject.)