Ballarat Lakes Late Autumn Update

The strongest cold front so far this year blasted through towards the end of last week, bringing frosts, and snow to 900m. Not quite cold enough for white stuff around Vic’s central highlands lakes, but certainly a switch from what had been, until then, a relatively mild autumn. The change to something more winter-like is usually a sign that stream fishing days (of the classic variety at least) are numbered. However on the bright side, the stillwaters are inclined to be ramping up.

The last warmth is gone.

A few trips over the past week have proved the point. Hepburn Lagoon is at a stable 68% and clearing every visit. While there’s still a little algal discolouration in places, large areas of the lake have visibility exceeding a metre. From a distance, the weed looks daunting, but up close, there are plenty of decent holes and channels to fish.

Despite initial appearances, there’s a surprising amount of fishable water at Hepburn.

Midging trout are the main sight-fishing option, with the very occasional and explosive smelter. There are plenty of smelt in the shallows though, so I expect it won’t be long before more of the smash-and-grabbers appear.

Perfect midge afternoon at Moorabool.

Moorabool continues to be about the best-looking lake in the highlands: clear, not far from full (85%) and with midging trout likely on light wind overcast days, or early and late. Whether these fish are within casting range or not varies depending on a range of factors, but they’re good to see regardless. Again (for me) smelters are in the minority so far.

Tullaroop brownie.

Tullaroop is also in very good shape, at a fairly stable 62%. While you may have to contend with a little algae on windward shores, just about everywhere is appealing and fishable in the right conditions. As to exactly what the trout are doing from day to day? It’s unpredictable – and interesting. So far this May, we’ve caught Tullaroop trout on tiny dries (covering rises), Magoos, damselfly nymphs, small dark nymphs, and stick caddis. The best fish I’ve cast to – a really big brown – was surging around for about half an hour as if feeding on corixia or pin fry… but maybe not. I reckon I got half a dozen casts within half a metre of that trout (and with a few different flies) but no success.

… and into a rainbow on a sunny day.

Fortunately, other fish have been somewhat more accommodating, and it’s even been possible to pick the odd trout up blind.

Lastly to Newlyn, and despite being a healthy 71% with algae clearing quite well on the lee shores at least, I’ve not seen much action there on a couple of admittedly short visits. Newlyn’s ‘fundamentals’ stack up well, so I’m assuming my lack of success has simply been a case of wrong shore, wrong time (wrong tactics)?

Yabby beds at Newlyn. Worth an after-dark cast perhaps?

Meanwhile, water temperatures are presently 12-13C on the higher elevation lakes, and around 15C at Tullaroop – so cool, but not yet really cold. Inflows are very small presently, however the catchments are quite wet, and it shouldn’t take a lot of rain for lake levels to rise. Overall, it’s fair to say that lake season has begun.