Good mate Steve Dunn came to stay for a few days this week. It was a long-planned trip with – unusually for us – actual fishing meant to be only a part. However, some last minute events changed Steve’s itinerary so there was suddenly more time for fishing (good), although not quite the notice needed to convert his visit into a full-on fishing trip (not so good, but we’ll take it).
The result has been a somewhat cobbled together adventure, occasionally but significantly interrupted by life’s mundane tasks, and mostly undertaken in truly atrocious weather.
I say mostly, because our first full day, Monday, was so gloriously still and sunny, it was almost disorienting. Stepping outside early Monday morning to blue sky and motionless trees, the threat of forecast rain and gales from Tuesday onward seemed fanciful. But the weather models and charts were all in grim agreement: I had just one day to show my friend the best of Victorian winter lake fishing.
Now Steve is the sort of fishing friend who’s truly happy just to be outdoors somewhere interesting with a rod in his hand. Not in that cop-out way of unsuccessful anglers – he’s a very good flyfisher who almost always manages to combine skill and belief long enough, on even the tough trips, to catch something. But in John Gierach’s words, he’s long since ceased to be at war with the fish.
With all that in mind, for our one fine day, I chose the Grampians. Of course I hoped we’d find some fish but if nothing else, Steve would see some spectacular lakes and landscapes. I caught a rainbow of about a pound on my third cast at Wartook, and saw a very big brown breach nearby only a few minutes later. However, that early promise wasn’t really lived up to. We caught some more fish, but nothing over 1½ pounds. A couple more shots at larger trout didn’t produce.
The theme continued at Fyans later. Like Wartook, it looked magnificent. However if anything, the action was even more subdued. On the drive home, we were concurred that it was great to have spent a day in sunny paradise, but as I couldn’t blame the conditions (I like both lakes in fine weather) I looked for other reasons why we hadn’t done better. The high level of Wartook especially (it’s 90% and only a foot from full) means shore access is limited as it pushes back into dense tea-tree and scrub. Although we still had plenty of water to fish, being boat-less this trip, we could only investigate a small fraction of the lake. As for Fyans, Steve generously offered something to the effect that the fish might have been shocked by such a mild, sunny day after weeks of cold, wind and rain. Not a word about bad guiding… (At least I was cheap!)
The last couple of days we spent closer to home, fishing when we could in the sort of weather that probably would have kept me indoors doing my tax if I didn’t have a guest. There were genuine gale force winds, complete with official warnings and trees blown over.
It rained a lot, sometimes torrentially, and it got steadily colder. I half joked that this was Hepburn weather and the rising water (it’s now 80%) flooding grass on the lee shore looked good with the algae blown mostly to the far side. It wasn’t really Tullaroop weather, but we went there too, hoping for some shelter in the western bays and finding not much. At least the lake was clear, and pretty in a windswept way.
Through it all we landed the occasional fish, missed a few more and enjoyed coffee stops more than usual. On a general note, the crappy weather is producing good run-off: the main Grampians lakes Bellfield, Fyans and Wartook; plus all the central highlands lakes bar Tullaroop are on track to reach full operating level. (Even Tullaroop should rise fast soon as Hepburn and Newlyn spill.) Oh, and I should say that I’m heading up to the Snowys to fish with Steve in a few weeks – at least he won’t be under too much pressure!