The Talk

OK, I think it’s time for ‘The Talk’.

‘The Talk´ was once a rite of passage. It was a part of everyone’s development to sit with a trusted senior and have ‘The Talk’. But in this modern age, it seems ‘The Talk’ is not as prevalent as it once was. Perhaps there is considered to be too much available information on the internet and ‘The Talk’ is either deferred or sadly, not even broached.

I get it, it can be uncomfortable and quite confronting, but I feel it is vitally important and still very much required. So the time has come to sit down, get comfortable – maybe grab a coffee and biscuit – and let’s have ‘The Talk’.  Let’s talk about lake fishing.

Yes. Lake fishing.

If you have read even a few books, articles or blogs on flyfishing for trout, you would have heard about it. The storylines are often peppered with photos of large trout and smiling faces. The vibe is that these vast expanses of still water not only have trout, but they even have trout that can actually be caught! The smiling faces of the fish holders convey the message. “Look at this, how good, how great is lake fishing!” But how many times have we be warned, ‘If it sounds too good to be true…’ This is why we need to have ‘The Talk’.

He looks happy, or is that a grimace?

As predominantly a stream fisher, I have the luxury of having boundaries on the water. The fish have to be between the banks! In many the streams, most of (even all) the water can be accessed, and the places where the trout are likely to be holding can be searched with relative ease. Current seams, drop-offs, riffles, pools, etc. Generally speaking, there are interactions with trout. And stream fishing is usually a warm weather affair, and not so good when it gets chilly. Stream fishing is by and large comfortable, and even affords wet-wading opportunities in the height of summer.

But what about lakes? Well, this is where ‘The Talk’ gets to the point. It’s about what you don’t see in the glossy pics. It’s about reality! If you are contemplating fishing lakes this winter, read on.

Lakes are often big and deep; therefore there is a lot of water to cover. If the trout are not rising or somehow showing themselves, it means a lot of searching and blind casting. And often long casts. And often with wind. And often for hours. So if your casting ability is a little suspect (like mine) be prepared for some challenges – and again, if you’re like me, tangles and even the odd fly in the back of the head.

In Victoria, some of the best lake fishing is in winter. Winter is cold. Take a look at what the lake fishers are wearing. Shorts and T-shirts? Maybe a long-sleeved sun protection shirt? NO. They are usually heavily concealed behind beanies, raincoats, gloves; so rugged up, they can hardly move. Photos cannot do justice to how cold it is. While pictures of grey skies and rain suggest low temperatures, you can’t actually feel the winter lake chill without being there. The better Victorian trout lakes are often in the higher altitudes or the cooler parts of the State – so they are cold in winter. Standing hip-deep in a freezing lake, with the wind-chill on your wet hands as you strip or figure-8 your fly back, isn’t mentioned in the brochure.

Having fun yet?

As mentioned already, lakes are usually big places, and the trout are not always distributed evenly around the shores. Some areas may have fish present, while other places are barren. Often, some degree of shore walking is required to investigate various areas when searching for fish. So be prepared to walk.

Rises/smelters/midges, etc, are often talked about and these events give hope to the lake angler. A few boils and rises prove fish are there, and suggest where they have been. At these times, I might forgive lake fishing and concede that this could be exciting fishing. But with limited experience, working out where the fish is after it rises or swirls, is a challenge. You still do a lot of casting. Have I mentioned you do a lot of casting?

The flies required are often large and weighted (notwithstanding those times when the minutest fly is not small enough) so generally, heavier rods in the 6-7 weight range help, especially if you’re throwing large, weighted flies a fair distance into the wind. The finesse of stream fishing is replaced by a more brutal approach to some degree, manhandling large rods and heavy flies longer distances. But not always!

There is some compensation in this though, as fish in lakes are generally larger on average. So remember that heavier tippets are also required.

Cold weather, lots of walking and lots casting doesn’t sound so inviting. And yet, there is something about the lakes and the fishing that gets you in. As a stream fisher, there is a lot to learn so there is that challenge. But also, there is a slower, more relaxed and contemplative side to lake fishing. Slow retrieves allow your eyes and mind to wander. There are birds, animals, clouds and mountains to look at. You get dragged into the fishing, because there is always another cove or weed patch or point or steep bank ahead or around the corner where fish might be. Time passes and you wonder where it went. The almost rhythmic cast and retrieve is very relaxing compared to the concentration required when stream fishing.

Okay, it’s true, lake fishing does have its good points.

So in winter, lakes are large, cold and at times forbidding places, and to fish them you have to be prepared. The clothing is super-important, as long sessions in wintry weather are only tolerable when you are protected. The cricket scores of small fish which can be encountered on the smaller streams, are replaced with fewer, but admittedly larger fish. The pace is inclined to be slower, but this could rapidly change if feeding fish present themselves.

If you’re contemplating fishing the lakes, now you are forewarned. Lakes do actually have some things going for them, and can even provide opportunities to sight fish. At times the trout are smelting or midging, or there could be a hatch of something. My thoughts as a relative newcomer to lake fishing are that, while finding the fish is part of the battle, the most important thing is having your mind right. Fishing expectations on lakes have to be reset from rivers, and if you do this, and are prepared for the weather, then lake fishing has its rewards.

The fish are there, and the weather, fish behaviour and fly selection are all a challenge – but a challenge worth persisting with. The pictures of smiling anglers prove this.

Anyway, I’m glad we’ve had ‘The Talk’, even if parts of it may have been a bit uncomfortable. What you do now of course, is up to you.