Fishing like there’s no tomorrow

With lockdowns proving as unpredictable as a smelting trout, if I see a gap in work or family commitments – whether for a weekend, a day or merely an hour or two – I now take it. On the other hand, trips away which were planned weeks or months in advance, are mostly now just pencil smudges on the wall calendar. (I must have had a premonition about not using ink!)

Like so many elements of life over the last 18 months, it’s plain weird… and yet in this case, not without its upside. Although flyfishing is also in a sense my work, in the past I haven’t been immune from a bit of guilt ducking out for a fish when there are, say, lawns to be mowed, boys to be picked up from sport, fallen trees from June’s storm still to be cleared, and tax returns to be completed.

Not anymore, and Jane has got right into the spirit of things. When it comes to my fishing trips, she’s always been more than accommodating, but on Friday, we had a little argument. When I mentioned I had an unexpected spare few hours due to a cancelled work commitment, she immediately insisted I go back to a certain lake and try to catch a giant trout which followed the fly to my feet a couple of days earlier: ‘You know you want to.’ I had to push back that with the gale force winds, trying to catch my nemesis would just be an exercise in frustration. Jane gave a non-committal ‘Okay’, of the sort that left me wondering (and not for the first time) if I was in fact making the right decision.

A sight only a flyfisher could love.

Anyway, over the last week or so, the ‘fish when I can’ approach has seen me spend a few hours at Tullaroop, a late afternoon/ evening at Hepburn, and a couple of short sessions at Moorabool. All three are looking amazing, and although I wished I could have started earlier or stayed longer, in every case, it was still well worth going.

Fishing when I could at Tullaroop.

For those who are interested, Tullaroop was 63% and rising, though the rate of rise is slower than on my previous visit. The lake has now passed last year’s maximum height, so it’s pushing back into quite lush vegetation. Clarity has reduced a little to about 1 metre at the northern end, grading to somewhat less a few kilometres south – and probably less again south of Galloways. There’s the odd smelter, and some flushed food, particularly caterpillars and worms.

Moorabool is around 76% but looks higher: it’s getting pretty close to the forest on several shores. Visibility is okay at a bit less than a metre. Again, there’s the odd smelter, and also a few midging fish. Many are tiny stockies, but mixed in is the odd better one if you look carefully.

Midge feeders at Moorabool.

Hepburn has been full for weeks, and yep, visibility is a bit less than a metre once again! The highlight here has been trout cruising and charging along the (very) shallow edges as soon as there’s shadow on the water. They look a bit like they’re hunting smelt, but unlike during trips when the lake was lower, I can’t see enough smelt to explain this behaviour. It could be the trout are hunting gudgeon, but in any case, I managed to intercept and catch a couple of nice ones on a small, lightly-weighted Fuzzle Bugger.

One from the Hepburn shallows.

Midge generally seem to be inexplicably late on the scene everywhere, although a few nice big ones buzzed me at Hepburn in the twilight and I saw a handful of midgy-looking rises. Whether the Hepburn midge get going in a big way will remain a mystery in the short term: as of yesterday, it’s outside my travel radius again.

One thing I will look for on evening in my temporarily much-reduced travel bubble, is cockchafer beetles. I’d thought this wet winter would have drowned most of the larvae, but right on dark yesterday, a few adults buzzed past at Millbrook. And when I told Craig Coltman about this, he immediately pointed out that his lawn in Ballarat has been destroyed by them. A cockchafer early spring in the central highlands? Now that would be a nice little bonus in these testing times.