Here in Victoria, we’re moving rapidly into the confusion phase of the calendar. For the next month and a half or thereabouts, the lake fishing will be increasingly tempting as water temperatures fall and we enter a period of relatively stable, mild weather. But meanwhile, the mountain streams of the north-east will offer some of my favourite fishing of the year with gentle flows, very clear water and lots of bugs. There’s probably no better time to find daytime risers, not to mention the autumn colours.
So with a couple of clear days to go fishing, what to do? This time, I decided to split the difference – Monday at Lake Purrumbete with Andrew, Tuesday on the Acheron River and tributaries with JD.
It looked like we’d nailed it at Purrumbete – soft light courtesy of persistent high cloud, clear 17.5 C water and a gentle ripple. Eventually we even found smelters – big to very big browns and chinooks absolutely belting the schools of Galaxias maculatus huddled on either side of the weed bed that rings much of the lake. Exactly this kind of autumn action has produced for me several times over the years, and while smelters are rarely easy anywhere, I was quietly confident a well-placed Emu Bugger, Green Machine or Wet’s Zonker would yield a fish or two.
But it wasn’t to be. I spooked a 4 pound brown in a foot of water, had a bump from another and pricked a third, but that was it. Despite a generous serve of good chances from boat (thanks Andrew) and bank, I failed to convert. Next time…
On Tuesday, about 300 km east and north of Purrumbete, I pulled up beside the Acheron River. Despite the distance in time and space, the conditions were similar – high cloud with just a hint of rain and no wind. The river was in near enough to ideal condition; clear with a good flow, but not too much. The water temperature of 15.5 C was about perfect too. Five metres up the first pool, a nice brown of about a pound (it didn’t take me long to revise my trout size expectations post Purrumbete) glided up under the Stimulator and snatched at it, but failed to hook up. In the short term, that turned out to be it for the dry. The next several trout I landed all took the nymph beneath the Stimi – a Shock Tactic variation tied by another mate (thanks Will!)
JD turned up mid-afternoon and we headed off to the Steavenson and Taggerty rivers. It only took the first pool on the Steavenson to see the rating of the Shock vs the Stimi flipped. Now two trout enthusiastically hit the dry without any interest in the nymph. When the next pool showed the same bias for the Stimulator, it was as easy decision to remove the nymph. Well… actually a tree branch 5 metres overhead removed it (sorry Will) but once gone, I left it off. The nymph/dry is a handy searcher at times, however if the dry proves itself, I’d rather fish it alone. Not so much out of any dry fly purism, but because it’s easier to achieve perfect presentations – particularly into those tighter lies.
The next couple of hours were autumn bliss. The fishing wasn’t especially easy, but good casts to likely spots and perfect drifts usually produced at least a rise. By the time thoughts of a good meal were nudging us back towards the car, I’d temporarily lost count of the trout we’d caught. A fairly even mix of browns and rainbows, none were monsters (which here is anything over 2 pounds) but there were no charm bracelets either.
Right now I’m back home searching the calendar for the next clear fishing day and when I find it, I can tell already it’s going to be a challenge to choose the destination – river or lake?