Spring stream fishing, south-west Victoria

In my little angling world, the stream/ lake conflict often peaks around this time of year. Late October to early November can see that happy mix of good water levels (fishing-wise) on lake and stream alike, plus reasonable water clarity returning after the runoff of winter and early spring. Meanwhile, water temperatures tend to be comfortably within that premium 10-20C bandwidth, and there’s enough warmth above and below the surface for the bugs to be busy.

In short, toss a coin. Both stillwater and fastwater could be great, so which do you choose? In my case, having well and truly scratched the lake itch in the Grampians recently, it made sense to head to the streams for the last week or so.

The trout aren’t the only things enjoying the spring insect bounty.

With limited free time, I stayed relatively close to home, settling for some streams in the Moorabool catchment early in the week, and then moving to the Otways later. As with so many Victorian river systems, in both cases, trout stocks (quality and quantity) are still reaping the benefits of a run of cooler and wetter years.

Daniel and I had an enjoyable day on the Moorabool streams, finding the limits of tight casting, spotting before spooking, and the merits of dry fly versus nymph. As is often the case, one fish we didn’t catch was the most memorable. In a spot where the bank away from the water was too steep and rough to negotiate easily, we snuck down the stream edge, trying to find a way to approach the next pool, while not spooking fish. Just at the head of the pool, I peered from the tea-tree shade into the sunlit bubble-line… and straight into the white mouth of an upstream-facing two pound brown. I froze, and then slunk slowly backwards, hoping the shade had kept me hidden.

Daniel sneaks into position to make the cast.

Using particular branches and rocks to mentally mark the trout’s location, we headed inland and up over a rocky ridge, rejoining the stream a safe distance below. However, deep wading and negotiating a slippery rockface would be necessary to get close enough for a good cast – a mission better suited to my athletic son than me. I stood back while Daniel worked his way into position. “Can you see the fish?” I asked as he peered over the smooth rockface. “Yep, still there,” came the reply.  Daniel worked out enough line for what seemed like a perfect cast… but no response from the fish.

From Daniel’s subsequent description, the trout must have somehow clocked us: it apparently stiffened up, and then sometime between the first cast and the second, it was no longer there.

The trout were easier to fool in the shady broken water.

Our fortunes improved in the shady riffles and rapids upstream, where, although casting was restricted, the (smaller) trout seemed to have no idea we were there, and a few ate our small Royal Wulffs.

A couple of days later, it was time to try some Otway streams with Max. We’ve each fished these creeks for over 50 years now, and by our standards, we were late for a new season visit. It all worked out though, because more through good luck than good management, we hit these streams during a fresh, courtesy of nearly 2 inches of rain back in the ranges a day earlier.

A modest increase in flow, plus a dash of colour = prime fishing.

A boost in flow, plus a dash of colour, is a perfect combination down here. By yesterday afternoon, we were struggling to tally how many trout we’d caught, with a 50/50 split claimed by the Wulff and the gold-beaded brown nymph below. And I have to give credit here to Max’s choice of nymph. Up to the point I put one on, my little black & pink nymph hadn’t caught a fish, with everything coming to the dry.

For any given stream in this part of VIctoria, better-than-average trout are still the norm presently, compared to what’s typical over the long-term.

Did the new nymph have special properties? Following three nice fish in 15 minutes, I wasn’t game to change it to find out, and neither was Max!

But perhaps the highlight of the trip was a gently rising fish which took Max’s Parachute Adams… and turned out to be comfortably the largest Australian grayling I’ve seen on the mainland.

At 30cm, a trophy grayling!

And then this afternoon, between appointments, I had a chance to briefly catch up with Daniel and his mate Cooper bank fishing at Wendouree as the trout rose all around. Lake or stream? I can’t decide, so I’ll just have to fish both for a bit.

Wendouree today was doing its best to lure me back to the lakes.