Edge of winter in the Grampians

Packing for this latest Grampians trip, the question wasn’t whether or not to bring gloves, but which pair? The lighter polafleece version, or the serious Simms? With temperatures ranging from low to high single digits at Wartook – the most elevated lake we planned to fish – staying warm would be a priority. Cold fishers tend to run out of that key lake fishing requirement: perseverance.

In the end I packed – and used – both pairs of gloves, which pretty much reflected the conditions for this trip. The days started out cold with misty drizzle (though thankfully not the forecast showers), before becoming almost mild in the afternoons – or at least mild if you stood in the sunlight and out of the wind.

Cold, misty morning at Wartook.

Then, once the sun lowered towards the mountain tops, the temperature plummeted again.

Regardless of which lake Max and I were on, the fishing roughly followed this weather regime: slow in the mornings, good in the afternoons. And just as we would get excited about the evening action, with the trout starting to midge with some consistency, the usual magic half hour after sunset would fade away in an anticlimax.

All three lakes we fished were in very good physical shape. Despite a dry summer, it’s been many years since Fyans (75%), Bellfield (88%) and Wartook (68%) have collectively held this much water in May – often the ‘low tide’ point of the year. Fyans and Bellfield were very clear, while Wartook had just a tinge of colour (about a metre visibility).

Mark joined us for a few hours at Bellfield yesterday afternoon.

As for the fishing, Wartook presented a reasonable number of opportunities in the afternoons especially, with the odd rise and smelter to target, although blind fishing was worthwhile too. Best flies were olive Magoo variants – Max had action on a gold-beaded version, while I seemed to do better on a drabber model. I did get one good brown on an olive BMS, but changed when I couldn’t repeat the result.

A solid Wartook rainbow on the drabber Magoo.

Bellfield had promise as well using similar flies. We landed a few small to medium-sized browns, and saw a couple of really good fish.

A Bellfield brown shows off the beautifully clear water in this lake.

Fyans was saved for an evening fish on the way home. Frustratingly, the works on the wall are over a year behind schedule (Westgate tunnel anyone?) continuing to deny shore-based anglers about half the lake’s fishable bank. After attempts to get some sort of finish date from the managing authorities for FlyStream readers, I’ve given up – guess it will be completed when it’s completed!

At Fyans, just as the rises faded to the point where I could stop and take a picture.      

Still, we fished the works-free western shore for a smattering of evening action, with a few good trout starting to rise just on sunset… before fading away to nothing in the twilight. Fyans possibly deserved more of our time, but you can’t be everywhere!

Finally, I should confess that a theme of the two days was dropped fish. It was one of those trips where it seemed that a lot of hooked fish didn’t make it to net, often for no apparent reason (or so it seemed). Had we landed all of these trout, this would be a more gushing report. But we didn’t, so it isn’t.

Max had this brown on for a few minutes, and then it just came off… like several others this trip. I can’t explain why.

Anyway, no real complaints despite that. That’s how luck – or something like it – rolls sometimes. No doubt the ledger will flip the other way on a future trip. And Grampians lakes are such outstandingly beautiful places to fish, it’s hard to feel ripped off for long.