I’ve fished the central Victorian lakes since the late 1970’s so it’s no surprise that they’ve been an important part of my flyfishing life. Many of my fishing friendships were built on these waters, while much of what I know about lake fishing was discovered and tested out there.
Cairn Curran 10 years ago.
During the ‘noughties’ the central lakes, like so many Victorian waters, were severely tested by ongoing drought. But since 2010 good rainfall returned and almost immediately the fishing followed. I fished and enjoyed the recovery of course – these lakes are just up the road. Yet something wasn’t quite the same as the old days. Whether it was the changed lake-scape, for example the flooded saplings and bushes that didn’t exist pre 2000, or the fact that the really big fish were yet to reappear, I didn’t get the sense of déjà vu I was expecting.
In the latest issue of Flyfisher (12) I wrote an extensive piece on the lakes and over the last couple of days, I fished them hard for the first time since that story appeared. Mid May was always a favourite time for me, when the transition to winter seemed to galvanise the cryptic browns especially, back into action. And I have to admit that, besides simply wanting to fish on a couple of days off, I was keen to see how what I wrote in the article was holding up.
This time, it was like being on the lakes of old. The water had the cold clarity of Mays long past; the slightly tannin-ish tint that followed the recent rapid refilling was gone. I recognised old fence-lines, logs and rocks that had been hidden by freakishly high levels in May last year. There was always a receding of water levels over summer, even in the pre drought years, and seeing the lakes with a metre or so less water actually restored a late autumn familiarity. The fishing was familiar too. Sighting a fish – even the faintest single dimple or distant smelter – added immeasurably to the chances of success. I did a lot of blind casts while waiting for a trout to move somewhere, but ultimately the 7 I landed were either fish I covered immediately, or fish I caught in the vicinity of where I’d spotted one. Same for the ones I missed, and there were a few of those!
The clincher for a sense of things having turned full circle, was several encounters with really big fish. I think the central lakes are, for the most part, truly back.