I think it’s finally safe to say it – mayfly, aka Atalophlebia australis, the Lambda Dun, March Brown, etc – are back on the lakes of Victoria’s central highlands. Friends and I have seen appreciable numbers of duns on several waters since the start of the month, and even a few before that. And often, the fish have been on them.
Last spring was a real disappointment for stillwater mayfly activity, not just on the Victorian lakes, but further afield as well. Even many Tasmanian lakes had a poor mayfly season. In all cases it wasn’t that there were no duns, but the hatches seemed patchy, unpredictable and lacking in intensity. Not surprisingly, the duns that did appear received a muted response from the trout. The weird part was, there was no obvious reason. We were coming off the back of three years of excellent lake levels and good water quality: usually predictors of good mayfly hatches. Thankfully, order seems to have been restored. Newlyn, Hepburn and Wendouree have all enjoyed worthwhile hatches so far, and I expect several other lakes have too. (With work flat out at present, I haven’t got out to investigate as often as I’d like!)
For those who aren’t familiar with them, the spring dun hatch on the Vic central highlands lakes usually occurs in October and November. The duns most often hatch in good numbers between 1 and 3 pm EDT, though the odd decent hatch will begin earlier (I had a hatch begin at 11 am yesterday) and finish later. Even on the ‘typical’ days there’s usually a trickle of duns either side of peak hour, though usually not enough to raise the interest of the trout. Ideal conditions have high relative humidity (so cold days can be as good as mild or warm) with a fair bit of cloud. Bright, dry windy days tend to see the duns hatch in fewer numbers, and those that do dry their wings and get off the water quickly without as much interest from the trout. In typical flyfishing fashion, there are exceptions to all these rules – I fished a fair hatch at Hepburn last Thursday, even though there was only a bit of high cirrus to moderate the sun and the air was quite dry. Still, the percentages play out more often than not.
I should add that I have a love/hate relationship with duns. The problem at this time of the year is that they can become the main focus of a day on the lakes, at the expense of many equally good (if perhaps slightly less glamorous) opportunities. Despite my best intentions, I often find myself basically fluffing around killing time either side of dun time, which is no way to fish – especially when even in good years like this, dun hatches aren’t guaranteed every day; even if conditions are apparently perfect. Still, as maddening as the duns can be, I’m glad to see them again.