It’s been a weird June, with the worst windstorm in decades and another lockdown. Yet as I looked out over Lake Tooliorook yesterday evening with the month drawing to a close, the overriding feeling I had was one of contentment. This was all the more remarkable because, from a purely fish-catching viewpoint, it hadn’t been a notable day.
I started at Lake Bullen Merri, which looked about as good as a trout lake ever does, an aqua jewel in an emerald crater. But as Bullen Merri can sometimes, it hid its fish well. After a couple of hours, I stopped to chat with two old bait fishers, the only other anglers I could see, and certainly the only other anglers on the north shore. “Not a touch!” was the response from the first old boy to my question. Turned out they were locals, and they’d been parked on the shore for 3 hours; uneaten pilchard on one rod, worms on the other. “Haven’t even seen a rise,” his mate added with finality, although he did point to a nearby dusting of fish scales on the rocks as some sort of proof of life. Still, we agreed that there were worse places to be than relaxing in the sun at a place as pretty as Bullen Merri – fish or no fish.
“You should try Purrumbete; they’ve been getting a few on fly there,” he continued. It was tempting, and indeed it had been my plan to do just that when I headed off that morning. But for some reason, and maybe it was simply my inclination to explore, I went against the obvious and decided to try Deep Lake.
I hadn’t been to Deep Lake for a couple of years – my last visit had found the lake very low and unappealing. But on the other hand, I’ve had great fishing there when the water level has been high, and after all the rain this year, I suspected levels would be healthy again. Half an hour up the road, I found Deep Lake was indeed almost full… but also very discoloured. Fortunately, after an hour of what felt very much like blind flogging, I saw the unmistakable swirl of a trout nearby, and I landed my black Woolly Bugger right in the spot. One draw… and bang! I was into a good rainbow which, with minnows scattering all around, was soon in the net.
Revitalised, I walked and fished for another hour, but all I saw was the strange sight of a very-focussed fox bounding along the rocks towards me.
There was just enough time for a quick visit to Tooliorook. I’ve never seen it so full, and it was somewhat clearer than Deep Lake. Still, the only other anglers – two bait fishers near the boat ramp – reported a single lean 50cm rainbow landed, and a much bigger one lost at the net: not a huge return for several hours of effort, but once again, proof that trout were about.
I fished until the last light disappeared behind Mt Elephant, and hit the road for home.
On the drive back, I reflected on an interesting June (which my friend DJ would call ‘code for tough!’) But I would disagree. Water levels in the south-west are the best in years. The estuaries I’ve fished lately have been well and truly open to the sea.
Meanwhile, many of the lakes – manmade and natural – are full or nearly so. And the trout are there, if not always easy to catch.
Around home in the central highlands, the lakes are still coming up and things continue to look good – including for midge, which are already causing sporadic but exciting rises.
Windstorms aside, this June has been a positive one, and it sets us up for a decent few months ahead.