Bitterly cold and uniquely beautiful, the mountainous north east corner of Victoria still has quite a bit to offer the adventurist angler brave enough to don the thermals and head out fishing in the depths of winter. This area is dominated by trout at this cold time of the year as most other species struggle to even get out of bed on the cold mornings.
Lake Dartmouth is in its prime during winter when the trout are at their most active with trout coming and going from the lake. Brown trout spawn during May and June, and as a result many of the bigger brown trout head back into the lake after spawning with empty stomachs looking to put on some of the condition they lost during the romance season.
Rainbow trout on the other hand spawn much later than brown trout. Their spawning usually starts around mid-July and finishes early in spring. So during July you can expect the hungry brown trout be coming out of the rivers, and the rainbow trout to start heading up into the rivers. Therefore, river mouths and their associated bays are the obvious choice in just about any trout lake at this time of the year.
Try trolling winged lures such as Tassie Devils. I have a major preference for hot pink coloured Tassie Devils during winter. There is no need for downriggers or anything to help you get your lure down as the trout are happy feeding in the shallow water when it is this cold.
With winged lures, I find it is hard to go past monofilament line as it has the stretch to help take up the slack during the wide sways of the lure. I find the hook-up rate better when using monofilament line. Another great way to increase your hook-up rate is to replace the trebles with a single hook, using a bright red bead to stop the hook from sliding up into the hollow core of the lure.
Don't overlook small minnow lures in Lake Dartmouth during winter either. I have had great success trolling small minnows such as the Pontoon21 Greedyguts (named after me perhaps?) and the Rapala CD range of lures. Provided it swims properly, any natural coloured minnow will work.
An often under-rated technique for catching trout in Lake Dartmouth, or any trout lake, is to cast and retrieve a metal blade. I did well in Dartmouth a couple of years ago casting a TT Switchblade in peacock blue colour. I also did exceptionally well in the similar but much smaller Lake William Hovell with this same lure in winter.
Khancoban pondage is another lake worth wetting a line in over winter. One of my coldest ever days fishing was on this lake. The average size of the trout in Khancoban Pondage is much bigger than those found in Lake Dartmouth. I have always said, “Lake Dartmouth for consistency, Khancoban Pondage for size”. Khancoban can be very hit and miss, but if you get there on a good day, you will be glad to went!
As Khancoban Pondage is much shallower than Lake Dartmouth (and a lot smaller) my favourite technique by a mile is angling with mudeyes suspended underneath a bubble float. There's something special about watching your float disappear under the water when you are fishing a lake that is known to hold trout to 10lb or more.
Mudeyes can be very hard to get hold of during winter, but if you do a ring around of some tackle stores I am sure you will find some.
Trolling can be quite difficult in Khancoban Pondage due to the large amount of aquatic weed. You really need the lake to be full and to troll down the deep end of the lake with shallow running minnows or winged lures.
Lake Hume has seen an improvement in trout fishing in recent years thanks to fish stocking. Rarely do I hear reports of large numbers of trout being caught, but I do hear reports of trout nudging 10lb from time to time. I have even seen some photos of the monsters. Last winter there were quite a few monster trout caught in Lake Hume by anglers trolling in the open water near the wall with winged lures.
Well known Lake Hume fishing identity Ray Gamble caught 4 or 5 massive trout last winter on a deep diving Hotlips Lure in redfin colours.
There will still be redfin caught in Lake Hume during July, mainly by the local gurus or dedicated redfin anglers that head to lakes chasing large winter redfin. Try angling with a tiny yabby in no less than 20ft of water during winter as the water down deep can sometimes be a little bit warmer, as opposed to the deeper water being colder during summer.
Just quickly, a couple of weeks before this report was submitted, I managed a couple of really good trout fishing sessions on the Kiewa River. After such a harsh trout season this is a very encouraging sign for when the Victorian trout season re-opens in September.Reads: 1997