I spent last week in Melbourne visiting friends and managed to sneak in a midwinter trip to Lake Wendouree with good friend and Wendouree expert Tom Jarman. The lake was as high as I have seen it with water lapping onto the footpath in the strong westerly. There are large populations of smelt and, seasonally, redfin fry throughout the lake which is one reason it regularly produces fish in excess of 6lb and sometimes much bigger. Tom took me to the northern side of the lake where he’s enjoyed the most productive fishing lately. Being midwinter my hopes weren’t excessive – maybe a few chances and a fish or two sighted and I’d be happy. So I was pleasantly surprised when the first take came on the second cast of the day!
For the next 2 hours we had cloud and a gently breeze. We drifted onto the reeds in the middle of the lake and averaged a chance about every 10 minutes. Fish were up smelting around the boat with many close enough to cast to. Wendouree trout can be very frustrating with their playful follows, darting to and from your fly the whole way to the boat but rarely attempting to eat it. Fortunately it wasn’t the case this day and most trout that responded to the fly also tried to eat it.
After a while we were no longer fishing blind but paying lots of attention to trout busting up around the boat. The fish were coming up and staying up for a few strikes, making them very catchable. The highlight of the morning session was a smelter that can only be described as sharking the same way fish do on Great Lake. The brownie came up, then it sat behind the unweighted fly which was stripped 3 times with long pauses. Each time the fish just followed about an inch behind. Then it suddenly wolfed the fly down and started tail-walking across the lake. We estimated the fish at around 4 pounds. Unfortunately it came off at the boat as we tried to take some landing photos, but I won’t forget this fish in a hurry. Some other trout looked to be almost sipping dry flies, although it seemed too windy for midge. The sun appeared and the fish stopped showing so we got off the water for some lunch.
After lunch we decided to fish the other side of the lake. It was very windy so the fishing was not relaxing but again it proved productive with quickly stripped sparklers attracted a few smaller browns high up in the waves. Around 3 pm, we headed back to the more sheltered side and continued to connect with trout that had started busting up again. The afternoon highlight was Tom covering a fish that had risen behind us a minute earlier as we were driving up to start a new drift. As his line started to bow, the biggest fish of the day, again around 4 lb, took another unweighted fly but didn’t stay on long due to the lack of contact and barbless hooks we use. This was one of the 3 fish Tom connected to in a 15 minute period.
All in all we landed plenty of trout and dropped as many again, most about 40 cm and 1½ pounds. The best flies were Magoos with copper or orange beads, and the trusty BMS. The most productive line was a DI3. The trout ate the flies fished at all speeds but predominantly in the top 2 feet of the water column. We finished up at about 5pm when the last fish of the day was landed and we were losing light quickly. Thanks Tom for once again taking me to great fishing, I’m looking forward to next time! How lucky are Victorian flyfishers with the central and western lakes producing great fishing even in the absolute depths of winter. The current state of Wendouree and other lakes in the area is a credit to Fisheries Victoria.