We’re in the middle of what is, on average, the hottest fortnight of the year in this part of Victoria. I normally wouldn’t even bother thinking about the likes of Hepburn, Newlyn, or Moorabool for another few weeks at least. But here in the Central Highlands, there’s been nothing normal about summer 2021. January maximums ran about 1C below the long-term average, and we had the second highest January rainfall in my 25 years living up here. As for February, 10 days in, and maximum temperatures are currently running about 3.5C below average – which mightn’t sound like a lot, but in terms of climate averages, it’s a huge difference.
What does this mean for the local lake fishing? Well, whereas summer (especially late summer) up here is usually about snatching fleeting cool weather opportunities before the heat returns, so far in 2021, the lakes have been a decent option more often than not – as the FlyStream Forum demonstrates. It’s a bit unsettling. At a time of year when I can normally focus on the north-east Victorian streams, the Snowy Mountains or Tasmania, this summer, I almost feel guilty for not spending more time fishing in my backyard. Today’s rounds, even on a bright mid-20s day, have done nothing to ease my conscience!
Newlyn looks fantastic. At 88.5%, it’s all but full, with just a teeny perimeter scar to make it easy to get around the shore. Weed is hardly a factor except for out wide and deep, and clarity is good. I arrived this morning to find a sprinkling of caenids and I noticed a couple of rises. The breeze literally picked up as I was rigging up, so I suspect I might have had a great opportunity if I’d been a couple of hours earlier. Still, by searching the area of the rises with a damsel nymph, I managed to pick up a 2 pound brown.
Next stop was Hepburn. While it’s at a very good level (nearly 80%), the algae which has lingered for years has thickened up again, knocking visibility down to about 2 feet. Weed is dense in places, but there are also decent open areas and channels; more than enough for plenty of searching with the damsel and then black Woolly Bugger. I didn’t expect much from Hepburn under a bright midday sun in February, so I was surprised to see one nice fish porpoise a bit beyond casting range, right where the open water met the dark weed. The water temperature was just 17C, so I suppose it wasn’t quite as incredible as it appeared to be. A few mudeye shucks and dragonflies suggest that Hepburn could be well worth a twilight visit – after scouting some weed-free lee shores first (where the algae won’t be as thick).
Finally, Moorabool is a healthy (for late summer) 60%. The water is clear, and weed growth is about right – not too thick, but enough to provide cover for trout and the things they eat. Under searingly blue skies, I didn’t expect much there either, though a did see two good fish launch (presumably) for dragonflies about 3 casts out! Somewhere to seriously think about on the next cloudy day.
Looking ahead, it’s statistically likely summer has at least one more hot spell to throw our way before autumn arrives. Regardless, the cool and relatively wet summer to date has set these lakes up for the coming months; for when the ‘real’ lake season gets underway.