So far this May, between 100 and 150mm of rain has fallen in the catchments of most central highlands lakes. We needed it: up to the end of April, we were experiencing the driest start to a year in decades, and Moorabool, Newlyn and Hepburn had dropped to less than 30% of capacity. That’s nowhere near the dire levels seen during the Millennium Drought (2018 rainfall was good) but it was certainly nice to see some slight rises in lake levels over the past week, instead of the constant falls of the previous 4 months.
The rain has been followed by some beautiful, settled autumn afternoons this week; all the inspiration I needed for a couple of short trips out to the lakes.
Moorabool and Newlyn are looking particularly refreshed, with the former up at least a vertical foot from my last visit, while Newlyn is about as clear as I’ve ever seen it. I should add that weed is a nuisance at Newlyn, though you can find enough gaps and drop-offs for a decent go. Hepburn remains the least impressive to look at; quite discoloured and not surprisingly, probably still the weediest of all the lakes. As we’ll see though, looks aren’t everything.
The headline for the last couple of days would be ‘smelters’. I’m seeing very good numbers of baitfish on all three lakes (maybe the best in years?) and the trout are certainly into them at times. I’ve noticed the most activity at Moorabool and Hepburn, with only a couple of ‘oncers’ out wide at Newlyn. However, I’d be surprised if Newlyn too wasn’t turning on decent action at times, given the overall look of the place, smelt numbers, and the activity on the other two lakes.
I’ve written before that smelters are simultaneously some of the most exciting and exasperating trout you can cast a fly at. (See my article in our back issues: FlyStream Magazine no 7.) Over the last couple of days, the trend has been for the action to ramp up towards late afternoon/ evening, though I know enough about smelters to concede that they could just as likely be smashing the minnows mid-morning or something the next time I go.
One thing that certainly has helped with the smelters when I’ve been out, is calm water or at least only a light ripple. If nothing else, this assists seeing and hearing the smelters from a distance – a big help given that the action is often focussed in one or two seemingly random areas. Not that I’ve been smashing them: for several smelters covered (I think!) in a couple of two hour sessions, I’ve had one hook-up at Moorabool, and landed one at Hepburn. Both were very good fish though, so I’m not complaining.
In other local lake news, friends report Wendouree continues to fish quite well pulling wets, and Cosgrave is still well worth a look on those (increasingly rare) milder, calmer afternoons for trout rising along the steeper treed shores. I expect the same would apply at Wombat.