|article: fly fishing victoria's central highlands by bruce smith
Dated: 18 June, 2009
|A Central Highlands Trout caught on the fly|
FLY FISHING VICTORIA’S CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
As I walked along the shoreline amongst the long tussock grass to my intended destination my attention was diverted to some water surface movement that looked like rings from rising trout. Being so far away I wasn’t sure, now I don’t know about you, but I slightly quicken the pace to the point of almost running when I sight rising fish.
My suspicions proved true when I arrived to find a number of surface rings from feeding trout. My first objective was to work out what these trout were feeding on, but I just couldn’t see any floating insects. These trout were definitely taking some thing from the top due to their rise form, so I patiently watched the water surface along the shore to identify the unseen food item.
Looking further out on the lake some more surface movement caught my attention showing a magnificent trout that revealed its dark olive back and golden black spotted side as it porpoise through the water. It must have been easily five pounds in weight and I had this restless desire to put on any fly and just cast it out to the trout and hope for the best. But experience and past success has shown me that you need to identify the insect then select the right fly.
The first lesson of the day came in the area where I stood, right in the surface water where I found the unseen insect of black beetles all round me, half in, and half out of the water. This explained why some of the trout were porpoising to the beetles. Normally when trout are feeding on beetles I’d select a foam body fly to really float it high. In this case I chose a chenille wet beetle fly that absorbs lots of water then rubbed in some floatant to create a fly that would sit half in and half out of the water.
On went the fly to the leader, with its presentation arriving with a splat. The response to the fly was instant, it was like an instant replay of the porpoising rise before, but this time the big trout had my fly. With the trout in the downward position I lifted the rod connecting to a now powerful force that went down deep at first, stripping line from the reel at a great speed.
Then the line went slack as the trout powered to the surface, leaping through the air with me fanatically stripping back line trying to regain the connection. A sigh of relief envelop my body as I felt that thumping surge on the end of my line again.
After a grand battle this trout from one of Malmsbury Reservoir’s bays came to hand and it was at that moment that I could really appreciate the size of this trout. Lifting it half out of the water showed its bulk, weight, and beauty. Removing the fly I released this trout, and like a sliver of ice the trout's glistening body sled through my hands back to its watery world.
That is just one memory of mine that will last forever, a memory from one of the Central Highland Lakes of Victoria.
THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS
The Central Highland Lakes exist out to the west of Victoria as far as Ballarat, widening north to Bendigo and out east to the Macedon ranges. The Central Highlands occurs at an elevation of around 3000 feet and this is why the Highlands weather can be so different to Melbourne's weather, which is at sea level. Some days I’ll leave Melbourne with calm winds and blue skies, only to arrive to the highlands with 30-knot winds and overcast skies, and vice a versa. These lakes are surrounded by many different farming enterprises and by a countryside that is clean, fresh and scenically beautiful. The waters are clean and potable and contain mainly Brown Trout of varying sizes with lesser numbers of rainbows. There are many lakes within the Central Highlands, but lets look at the main ones that really produce great fly-fishing sport.
Newlyns is situated between Creswick and Daylesford and is an hour and a half drive from Melbourne central. It is 73 ha in size with a water capacity of 3,300 m/l. Potato farms that surround this lake irrigate, so the water level does fluctuate throughout the year. Brown Trout predominate averaging 1.2 kg and there have been releases of Rainbow Trout averaging 500 grams.
I’ve lost count to the amount of times that I’ve fished this lake, and within in a word it’s fantastic. Within the winter there are good sized trout feeding on smelt that really stir up the water, and with the right winter clothing to keep the cold at bay, you can have a great time.
Springtime brings on great hatches of stonefly, beetles, and mayfly with all stages of the mayfly life cycle represented well from the emerging nymph through to the dun and spinner. With the right weather conditions these stages can produce exceptional trout fishing.
Autumn can be another productive season with good hatches of mudeye occurring and that terrestrial, the cricket, will create many trout to rise in close to the edge. Access on the lake is unlimited with only a few areas needing a long walk.
Hepburn is the sister lake to Newlyns being only a few km’s away, and it too is situated between Creswick and Daylesford. It is 113 ha in size with a water capacity of 3000 m/l.
Surrounded by grazing land it also has a fluctuating water level that in some years becomes dangerously low for the trout. The lake is stocked with yearling Brown Trout reaching 2.8 kg but averaging 1.6 kg and yearling Rainbow Trout also averaging 1.6 kg.
Like Newlyns, this lake sees me many times with it attraction being the great winter smelt fishing and springtime mayfly fishing. Damsels fly fishing can really produces great trout, especially if you arrive at first light and slowly work the weed beds with a damsel nymph pattern. Midges on a calm windless evening can create multitudes of rising trout, but are frustratingly hard to deceive. Mudeyes are in big number within the weed beds on Hepburn producing some trout of 8 pounds and more, with spring and autumn the best times.
Access round the lake is good with the main points at the southern and northern ends.
Another point to remember is that the northern public road end allows you to drive to the lakes shoreline that is great for disabled anglers, which they use regularly.
Again Dean’s is within the same area but only a lot smaller in size, being 6.5 ha.
Surrounded also by grazing land it supports Brown Trout only, which can reach 2.kg.
This is one hard lake to fish as it receives a fair amount of angling pressure. The lake has a good Mayfly population that hatch out in November. Damselfly and Mudeye hatches are there in good numbers, which in turn produce nice trout to the persevering angler. Summertime see exceptionally good caddis hatches that are bigger than your normal snowflake caddis being brown in colour.
Access around the lake is unlimited but a permit from central highlands water board is required which can be obtained from the local ranger.
CAIRN CURRAN RESERVOIR
This lake takes about two hours to drive too from Melbourne central. And is situated a few km’s from the township of Newstead and the celebrated town of Maldon. Cairn Curran is a big reservoir being 1,900 ha in size and having a 148,000-m/l-water capacity. Grazing land surrounds it but the lakes main purpose is to supply water for the district and irrigation.
Brown Trout and redfin are its main inhabits with the Brown Trout averaging 1kg, but 3.2 kg trout are not uncommon. Of all the lakes in the Central Highlands Cairn Curran would be top listing as trophy trout water.
Throughout winter and early spring the trout go crazy over the massive populations of smelt that exist in this water. In springtime the fly-fishing really produces the goods as winter rain increasing the water level, which covers new ground. This brings forth big trout to the shallow shoreline especially on evening. Midges are another main food source of the trout with massive hatches at times. So to are the Mudeye hatches predominately created by the heavy timber and submerged trees in the lake. I’ve found it great when the lakes water level is low and many of the submerged trees are only a short cast to work your fly around.
Nighttime mudeye fishing is also successful with the massive hatches at times, to the point where I’ve had mudeyes crawling up my body.
Within the summer time when fly fishing from the bank, I’ve found the lake only fishes well at first and last light due to the high temperatures this lake experiences. Over all this is one great lake to fly fish. Access to the lake is gained at numerous places with Joyce's Creek, Trelours Bay and Picnic Point the best areas.
Harcourt reservoir is situated North of the township of Harcourt, and is 58 ha in size holding a water capacity 20,000m/l. The principle-farming product of apples, which the area is renowned for, surrounds it. Within its water are Brown Trout that average 600g, with 2.2kg trout not uncommon. This lake has one of the areas best Mayfly populations that hatch within the months of September and October. Last year I experienced one of the best seasons for the mayfly period, where trout captures to emerging nymph, duns and spinners produce trout from 2 to 4 pound. The lake is also renowned for its damselfly and mudeye hatches with some trout showing their full size when the adult dragonflies are scoffed down in mid air by the leaping trout.
Access is easy with a few entry points at the northern and eastern side, then it’s just a bit of a walk from there.
THE TRILOGY LAKES
The trilogy lakes are the Coiban, Lauriston and Malmsbury reservoirs set within a short distance of the Kyneton Township. The upper Coilban was constructed in 1902 creating a surface area of 304 ha and a capacity of 30,000 m/l. The reservoir was enlarged in 1917 then in 1925 and again in the early 1990s. Trout average a kilo, but bigger trout of over 3 kg are not uncommon. Access is only available from Premium Road.
Lauriston reservoir was constructed in 1941 with a surface area of 208 ha and a water capacity of 20,000 m/l. like the other two reservoirs, Lauriston is annually stocked with Brown Trout that average 400g. Lauriston has good access with the pine tree entrance from Spring Hill Road the best.
Malmsbury reservoir which is the oldest of the three, was constructed in 1865, then enlarged to expand it’s surface area to 301 ha with a water capacity of 18,000 m/l. Malmsbury is also stocked annually with Brown Trout which average 600 g in size, but trout of 3kg or more are not uncommon. The main access points around the lake are gained from Portwines Road and Reservoir Road that will lead to the southern and some of the western banks. Lauriston Road leads to the eastern side, and to the Dam wall picnic area that allows access to the northern area of the lake.
All three of these lakes provide good smelt fly-fishing with shrimp flies working a treat when worked in close throughout the late winter and early spring period. Mayfly populations are good on Coiban and Lauriston, but on Malmsbury the Mayfly have died a little. Just a decade ago it had good numbers of mayfly producing great dry fly fishing, (why this is so, is another story). Beetle and Ant falls can produce some exceptionally fly-fishing on Malmsbury and Lauriston bringing many trout to the surface. Like everywhere Mudeyes and midges produce good fishing, plus around autumn the good old Cricket pattern can start to bend a few rods.
The Victorian Central Highland lakes are a group of impoundments that provide excellent fly-fishing and insect hatches within a scenic setting. If the fisherman takes into account the right weather and water conditions that pertain to the insect hatches that the trout feed upon, then he or her is in for an experience of a lifetime.
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