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Reconsider your tactics
  |  First Published: July 2016



My time was limited on the water over the last month, so I will talk more tactics in this report. I’m looking forward to a busy few months on the water chasing big trout but will miss the redfin as they close down for the big chill.

With better than average rainfall during May and the experts tipping the El Niño cycle to be complete, we have much to look forward to and exciting times ahead. While the rains have soaked in, we haven’t received enough to make the small streams and rivers flow, but it won’t be long before this happens, given the current rate of rainfall. As we are now in the grips of winter, changing tactics (especially for trout) is a must. In spring and summer we hunt the upwind end of the lake for the big models that lurk in wait for hatches of all types of insects to blow in. As the cold, shorter days kick in and the stronger wind pound all living matter to the downwind side. Smelt, minnow, shrimp, water beetles and snails all become a major part of the diet and can be found hiding under any structure or culmination of weed forced in against edges. Over the last week or two I’ve been lucky enough to look for and find fish work these edges as they become desperate to supplement their normal diet. Matching the feed is important here and after seeing slashes and swirls in next to no water, the OSP bent minnow has become my favourite lure. Natural colours worked on the surface provide some exciting sight fishing.

Success has been had from both bank and boat – but it’s imperative to work that windy corner or end for best results. Quite often once an area is worked and the fish seem to disappear or become wise to what’s going on, a break of a couple of hours will see them congregate in the same area. Trout especially can hunt down a food source, sit off it and then feed at random as it suits them. If you work the banks, scan well ahead for the tell tale signs of swirls and rises to alert you to a working fish or a school herding bait together. With spawn time upon us, there are usually many fish that congregate in one area and it’s not unusual, especially at Toolondo, to see bunched up fish anywhere from pairs and threes to large groups of 60-70. Keep in mind that when the fish are in large numbers they can be hard to tempt.

Bait can be presented perfectly for the working fish, but they are often completely ignored as well. Frustration can set in as you watch a large trout swim up to a normally desirable mudeye, sniff it and swim away. Aggressive and threatening lures are the best option, but this fishing can be very frustrating too. Working past sighted fish and retrieving back towards them can entice a chase or follow but not always a strike. Territorial rights come into play here and the fish will ram or bump the lure to scare or chase it away from either a nest of eggs or a prospective partner.

Habits will change over several weeks, and while the fish seem to have on and off switches it’s a good policy to note conditions, barometer, winds, and water temperatures for future reference as there is a definite set pattern there and triggers that can lead to less fishing and more catching time! Don’t be afraid to use the bright standout lures in the box that you wouldn’t normally. The bright pinks, oranges, and reds are ideal to encourage big trout to chase. If you are sight fishing and you spot a pair of browns, there could be a nest-raiding rainbow hovering nearby. Usually a larger buck that is waiting for a chance of a feed of eggs. Having said that, be prepared and have a PowerBait supply to replicate the eggs and present either under a float, unweighted on top or on a running sinker rig on the bottom. Worms can also be a good option for large trout feeding the fringes, especially where there is a natural runoff of water such as a small creek or depression.

LAKE TOOLONDO

With some colder weather and above average rainfall, the lake has started to fire up again, with good numbers of redfin and some lovely browns and rainbows landed. Trolling is again an option as the weed growth that inhibits anglers has died off. Access and navigation of the lake should be done with caution as there are plenty of exposed and submerged logs and stumps for the unwary to come unstuck on. More great work has been carried out here by Fisheries under the Target 1 Million initiative by extending the western ramp by 30m to ease the launching pain suffered over summer where we saw cars and trailers stuck and damaged by logs, stumps and low water.

ROCKLANDS RESERVOIR

Trout are starting to fire up, while the redfin back down for their winter quiet patch. Locals have reported some better numbers here of rainbows taken trolling and casting around edges and structure. There are some extra large browns in there too, so be prepared for some good action on them as the genuine cold hits. The low wall area and tree lines are a great option to target as the bait hold up in these areas. Bass will eventually go quiet as the temperatures drop more but the good numbers landed and mostly released over the last few months is very encouraging.

LAKE FYANS AND LAKE WARTOOK

These two lakes have started to produce what they are renowned for – large fish! Some nice trout have come in and those in the know are hunting down some great redfin, probably the largest you will find in Victoria. Fyans has been the better of the two lakes and gets huge fishing pressure from all forms of angling. Bank and boat anglers do very well here and hopefully some good rains continue to raise water levels and produce fish. The redfin will go a little quiet during the colder months but don’t rule out a trophy female fish here in excess of 3kg as they nest in the weed beds. These girls are hard work but a rewarding prize.

WIMMERA RIVER and TAYLORS LAKE

Temperature drops lately and the first frosts have made the native waters a little quiet, but as with the trout, a few anglers who fish fringes and edges where the water runs in have done well dangling worms in the muddy inflow areas. These dirtied up areas are known as typical feeding areas as they provide both cover and feed for the most cunning golden perch and cod. Yabbies will work here, as will spinnerbaits and hardbody lures. A bit of rattle doesn’t go astray to aggravate and entice fish into action. With their metabolism slowing down in colder water, the fishing could be tough until spring or summer. Still, the odd cod has been landed on the troll at Taylors on big lures and yellas on bait fished on the bottom. Yabbies and scrub worms are your best bait choice.

LAKE BELLFIELD

Bellfield has seen some great redfin captures over the last few weeks around the edges and up near the wall especially in the darker times of the day. Trout will come to the fore now, so the wall, rocky and treed areas will be the best option as the browns and rainbows seek out a cheap feed of minnows, gudgeon and small redfin to substitute for the lack of insects over winter. Soft plastics and small hardbody lures that match the minnows and gudgeon will be the prime option. PowerBait should work well on the rainbows leading to spawn time and, as mentioned, a worm fished in the dirtier water should trick a cunning trout.

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