There are few things more boring than hearing all about someone else’s illness, so I’ll spare you – except to say that after being belted by the flu for a couple of weeks, it was good to finally be fishing again. And what better place for a bit of active convalescence than the Grampians? After checking in to our unit at Halls Gap and grabbing some lunch…actually on trips with Max you don’t so much grab lunch as enjoy a culinary experience; in this case rolls with fresh lettuce, perfect tomatoes, Swiss cheese, salami and artichokes, topped with caviar spread. Suitably recharged, we headed up the mountain to Lake Wartook. Nearby Mt William has received over half a metre of rain in the last two months; yet even knowing this in advance, it was amazing to see just how much the lake had risen since my last visit only seven weeks earlier. At 87%, Wartook is only knee high from spilling and whole bays that had been dry then were now fishing hotspots. Remarkably, the lake remains very clear – run-off and discolouration seem unconnected in Wartook’s pristine catchment, even after wildfire.
The wind was stronger and with more east in it than we’d counted on from the forecast. Still, with the lake looking so good and the air temperature a comparatively mild 11 C, Max and I were optimistic; and, it turned out, for good reason. Within the first half hour I had a cracking brown and over the rest of the afternoon, we rarely went 30 minutes without hooking or landing a decent fish. Surprisingly, about 1 in 2 were rainbows. As so often happens at Wartook, the standout fly for both species was one of Muz Wilson’s Green Emu Buggers. I still can’t work out how much of my success with this fly is psychological and how much is genuine fish appeal, but once a couple of big fish smash it, it becomes very difficult to get all scientific and change to a ‘control’ pattern!
We didn’t see stacks of fish move – a few midge swirls and a few smelters – but these giveaways were useful and usually resulted in a take. Another interesting point was that the action was fairly evenly spread over a couple of kilometres of shore; from the steeper, deeper water along the wall, to the shallow flats.
Today, the fishing at Fyans and Bellfield wasn’t quite as good. The wind had risen from steady to blustery and as the day wore on, the air also gathered a bite to it that was missing 12 hours earlier. I caught a single ‘pounder’ rainbow at Bellfield which I was lucky enough to see rise just once in a sheltered backwater. At Fyans, we found a little more activity. Mostly this turned out to be new release rainbows, although we did manage one better fish each – in my case on a Scintilla Stick Caddis; Max’s on a black Fuzzle Bugger. Before it was properly dark, my ears and fingers began to hurt as an even more bitter wind found it’s way onto every shore. Max missed a good fish despite the appalling conditions, but even that wasn’t enough to keep us on the lake until dark.
For the full story on Grampians flyfishing, look for my feature in issue 4 of FlyStream magazine, out 1 September.