Sun in the south-west

Years ago, I went on a week-long summer trip to Tasmania and the weather was terrible. All our plans for Western Lakes polaroiding, Dee Lagoon gum beetles, and St Clair Lagoon spinner feeders, were sabotaged by incessant showers, gales and winter-like chill. Finally, with two days to go, we had the one fine, sunny day of the week. In our desperation to make the most of it, we ended up traversing the highlands and actually spent at least half the beautiful weather in the car; realising our dreadful error too late.

I could see the same threat looming with the Friday and Saturday just gone. For the first time in a month, the weather was sufficiently benign that the Bureau of Meteorology didn’t have to issue any warnings. It was going to be mild, sunny and – joy – almost windless. The little devil from Tasmania past threatened to be unleashed as I imagined all the waters that could fish superbly under such conditions. But then I took a deep breath and settled on Lake Purrumbete, followed by some west coast estuaries.

Ideal polaroiding conditions at Purrumbete.

Purrumbete was really exciting, with a couple of hours of the best polaroiding I’ve had there in ages. The fine print? Despite good numbers of decent trout (particularly browns) cruising along and even inside the weed-beds, they were difficult to fool; at least for this angler. A variety of Woolly Buggers, baitfish imitations and damsel nymphs were eagerly pursued, but not quite taken. Eventually, a single Scintilla Stick Caddis, cast to a cruising three pound brown and retrieved slowly, was casually eaten. It was a relief to finally land a trout after several chances, although soon after, a few white clouds and a ruffling breeze robbed me of good visibility, so I never had the opportunity to test the Sticky on a second fish. Never mind, I’d planned to get to an estuary or two before the day was done anyway.

Estuary salmon, even small ones, are always fun.

A sun-dappled drive through Otway Ranges tree-ferns and rainforest soon had me on the coast, winding along the Great Ocean Road, with surf crashing just metres from the car. I missed the high tide I prefer on the Barham River (can’t have everything) yet I still managed a couple of small salmon and a reasonable bream on a black Hammerhead. Back at my lodgings after dark, enjoying a hamburger and the pre-finals footy on the TV while waiting for Max to arrive from Melbourne, I don’t think there was anywhere I’d rather have been.

Almost a spring evening.

Max and I spent the next day dedicated to the estuaries and although the conditions were nearly perfect: wide-open river mouths, the chance to fish both a rising and falling tide; and yet more sun and light winds, a lot of the fishing was relatively tough. While I could offer explanations for this, they’re never as convincing in hindsight. We caught one nice bream, some small salmon, and a pretty decent mullet which pulled hard enough to have me momentarily wondering if I’d hooked a big bream, good salmon or even a trout? Overall though, we put a lot of casts into nice-looking water, for no result.

Now that’s a mullet!

The relative lack of action had us wondering, so there was some consolation in chatting in the afternoon sun with a few other apparently capable fishers who had been similarly unsuccessful. Even then, the news wasn’t all bad – one had just received a call from a mate who’d landed a 57cm estuary-dwelling trout. Two other anglers had spent a tantalising few minutes on another river mouth, casting to polaroided yard-long mulloway, before a surge of dirty water had ruined the visibility. Even on a hard day, it seemed there was cause for optimism.

No wind at last, but where were the fish?

It’s gotten cold again now and tonight I fished locally in well-worn winter gear. However with two days of gorgeous weather just behind me and trout opening on the streams less than week away, I can sense that spring is near.