A childlike part of me wondered if the lakes would be full of silly trout after several weeks of not being fished to. Of course, it’s never that simple and the realist part recognised that. And while the forecast for this auspicious day looked like a good fit for most of the lakes I planned to fish, in fact the conditions turned out to be less than ideal, at least for the first part.
The initial stop was Hepburn, where I arrived to find an icy 8C gale blowing under bright skies. The first thing I noticed was how much more water there was since my last visit in late March (now 60%). The second thing I noticed was that the persistent algae bloom of recent times hadn’t gone away. It was enough to knock viso down to 3 feet tops in the 10C water – clear enough, but it would turn out to be the murkiest lake I fished. I tried to give Hepburn an honest half hour’s effort, but I rarely do well here with the trifecta of bright, windy and cold, so my heart wasn’t really in it.
Next stop was Newlyn. Unlike Hepburn, the level hadn’t changed much since late March – still a healthy 55% or so. In fact, besides being a lot colder, not much had changed period. The water was still very clear, and you had to pick your spot to avoid getting the fly (a pale green BMS) caught in the extensive strapweed beds. Trout activity was minimal overall, but one bright spot was the quantity of smelt in on the shore, one school of which got smashed by a good fish.
I tried for that smelter for 10 minutes, but this day was about checking on the condition of several lakes after a long absence, rather than settling in to fish one. So it was off to the next lake, Tullaroop.
I was pleasantly surprised how much milder it was at Tullaroop: 14C, and the water temp was 14C too. The lake was quite clear, and at a very good height for early May of 64%. The relative stability of Tullaroop’s level was reflected in the many areas of slightly submerged pin-rushes along the north-western bays.
This sort of feature, rather than a scar of bare mud, always makes a lake at least look more promising, and as the wind dropped and a mirror formed, a nice trout started midging. And I caught it – a 3 pound brown on a Milly Midge.
Tullaroop looked good anyway and catching that fish was only further temptation to stay through until evening. There were even a couple of dragonflies buzzing the sheltered shore to emphasise that at this elevation at least, autumn was still hanging in there. But I had two more lakes to try and daylight was slipping away.
It was on to Talbot, which was about 3 metres from full (leaving still plenty of water in this very deep lake) and quite clear. Water temperature was 13C. While some areas were choked with strapweed, it was easy to find channels and open water. After searching a beautiful-looking channel with a small olive Woolly Bugger for about half an hour, I thought I had a follow. Then two casts later, a fat rainbow hit the fly, leapt all over the place, and had the decency to wait until it was safely in the net before throwing the fly.
By then, the sun was really getting low and I should have made my move to Moorabool Reservoir – the fifth lake on my post-lockdown list. However, I’m afraid my ‘just one more cast’ may have morphed into a few more when I spotted a decent swirl further up the channel.
I eventually hit the Western Highway a bit after 5pm, and it soon became apparent that a Moorabool stop would be one of those frustrating races against the dying light; races that often end in a poorly-chosen shore or a poorly tied-on fly in the half light. Moorabool is just up the road from where I live, so I decided I should be able to get back for a less-rushed fish soon. And besides, I reasoned, four out of five ain’t bad.