Sight fishing the Grampians lakes

As long as it’s on a fly, I’m happy catching a trout using just about any method that’s required (and legal!). But yes, there’s no doubt that, if you get the opportunity, casting to a sighted fish is the cream.

And that’s been the great thing about fishing in the Grampians over the last couple of days with mate JD: the sight fishing. Nearly every trout we caught we spotted: either rising, or polaroided, or both.

Full lakes mean it can take a bit of bush-bashing and/ or wading to reach water you can actually cast a fly into.

Now, a bit of fine print before you drop everything and race off. First, Fyans, Wartook and Bellfield are all full to the brim – which is excellent for water quality, sustainability of trout stocks, and general productivity. However, on the last two lakes especially, all that water is not so good for shore-based access. So, if you’re boatless (as we were this time) expect a lot of tight casting, and tricky wading through flooded scrub or forest – even bush-bashing – to get a fly out to where the trout can find it.

Secondly, the trout weren’t everywhere all the time. If I had to generalise, I’d say you needed enough warmth and breeze to get the food out to trout land; food which included mayfly spinners, beetles, ants, dragonflies and damselflies, tiny caddis, etc. While there were of course the inevitable exceptions, breeze plus warmth seemed the best combination.

Warmth plus breeze equaled bugs on the water – and trout feeding.

Thirdly, we were blessed with full sun to make the most of exceptionally clear water for polaroiding at Fyans and Bellfield, and pretty clear water at Wartook. While there still would have been chances to spot fish subsurface without sun, it certainly helped that we had so much of it.

Here are a few memorable moments from the last two days. Late on Wednesday afternoon, trout which had been showing off and on at Wartook since we arrived, began rising in earnest off the south-western shore. While many were small ‘stockies’, some really good fish were slicing their fins through the water like sharks as they went on regular but erratic feeding binges. With very limited shoreline access, it was going to take a long, accurate and perfectly-timed cast for fly and fish to be in the right place at the right moment. After about quarter of an hour of fly and fish NOT being simultaneously in the right spot, I told JD through gritted teeth that I’d give it five more minutes, and then I’d be ready to try somewhere easier! For the umpteenth time, I put my Claret Carrot almost a full fly-line out, hoping the non-stop rises would stay on course, but resigned to them veering off before they came close to my dry.

Except for once, they didn’t. I was so shocked when the Carrot disappeared in a swirl, I think it inadvertently delayed my strike, leading to a good hookset. I can’t remember the last time I was so pleased to catch a fish.

Happy about that!

Then this morning at Bellfield, I’d just caught a big brown which I polaroided swimming 2 metres down (it came up a metre to eat my almost stationary JC Mini Bugger), when JD called out from somewhere up the bank that he was casting to a consistently rising rainbow. I pushed through the scrub to find my friend perched like a heron above a small gap in the trees. He advised that, unlike some previous trout that morning, this one seemed to have no interest in his Magoo, so he was changing to a small brown nymph.

The nymph was an inspired choice: a couple of casts later, JD’s rod buckled and he spent the next few minutes trying to keep a very solid rainbow out of the snags… with ultimate success.

JD applying plenty of pressure to keep a rainbow out of all that submerged timber.

We left them rising at Bellfield to have a fish on the way home at Lake Fyans. This lake is the fullest it’s been in years, and I can’t ever recall it looking better. Fortunately, the look translated into action, and as we arrived at the lake, we immediately spotted rises, even polaroiding a couple of small trout. Unlike its cousins, Fyans has plenty of open shores when full, and it was a bit of a luxury to be able to pursue a sighted trout almost anywhere – unless it swam out beyond casting range.

Successful intercept of a Fyans spinner feeder.

It turned out that a lot of the rises were to mayfly spinners, and a red parachute spinner worked very well if you could intercept a fish. It was enthralling to run up the bank to a riser, pick its speed and direction (hopefully!), and then watch as it closed on the fly and gently clipped it off the top.

In this way, by late afternoon, we’d each added a few rainbows to the score card, and dropped a couple too. Arguably, we could have stayed to dark – which was an intriguing thought. However, there was also the concept of going out on a high to consider, not to mention a daylight drive home free of wildlife hazards.

There for next time.

Of course, as we strolled along the bank towards the car, it seemed the trout lifted their rising rate a notch, as if to say, “Don’t go, we’re not done yet!” But after the day and half we’d had, it felt like good Karma to just walk away and leave the trout to it – until next time…