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Wendouree’s wow factor
  |  First Published: December 2016



The Ballarat and district anglers are now blessed for choices of waters that they can fish after one of the wettest spring months on record since 1916. A record 162.19mm of rain actually fell in September and continued on throughout the remaining months of spring, and now all our lakes and waterways in the district are full, and true to their word, Fisheries Victoria, as part of the Target 1 Million campaign, have stocked nearly every lake in the state with trout, yellowbelly or Murray cod. This now put us in good stead for fishing for the next couple of years.

Wastell Trophy

The Ballarat Fly Fishers Club recently held the Wastell Trophy, which is probably the most prestigious and oldest fly fishing competition in Australia. The Wastell has been running for more than 70 years, and for the last couple of years the competition has been based from Creswick and the waters available to fish for the trophy are Lake Wendouree, Hepburn Lagoon, as well as Newlyn, Dean, Cosgroves, Moorabool, Tullaroop and Cairn Curran reservoirs.

The competition is fly fishing only for the heaviest trout, and the fishing hours are between 6am on the Saturday until 8pm Saturday night, and then again from 12 midnight until 12 noon on the Sunday.

This year’s Wastell trophy saw 65 fly anglers representing seven fly fishing clubs from Victoria and Tasmania. The weather was not conducive for good fishing, with bright sunny gale force winds that would hamper anyone’s fishing, let alone those fly fishing, but the conditions didn’t stop some excellent fish being caught. A total of six fish were caught, and I would suggest this is because of the weather conditions the numbers were down.

Ross Machar, representing the Yarra Valley Fly Fishers Club, landed the heaviest fish, which was a magnificent 2.34kg brown trout caught from Lake Wendouree, while Andrew Pastuszka from the Mornington Peninsula Fly Fishers Club caught a lovely 1.94kg model from Newly Reservoir and Ballarat Fly Fishers Club member Gordon Whatley kept the flag flying for Ballarat with a lovely 1.77kg brown trout caught from Dean Reservoir.

Wendouree

Lake Wendouree certainly has the ‘wow’ factor, and is now back to its brilliant best. I know this is a big statement, especially since before the drought a few years ago. Wendouree was probably in the top three trout fisheries in the state.

It looks like it’s back there again, and the only missing ingredient from a few years ago was the mayfly and dunn hatches. I have been banging on about them for the last few years in the hope that they would return to their former glory, and each year the hatches have slowly increased.

Every fly angler will be rubbing their hands together when they find out just how good the dunn hatches are, and yes, the fish are feasting on them at every chance they get. Overcast days are perfect, and I have witnessed them myself and been amazed at the length of the hatches, some of which are 2-3 hours long.

Whether you’re fly fishing shore-based or from a boat, these dunn feeders are on the chew and very catchable. Any mayfly or dunn patterns should work. I normally start off fishing with nymphs, and when the fish really start to feed, I change over to either a Shaving Brush or Possum Emerger fly pattern.

Keeping your flies in front of the feeding fish is the secret. I also find that the bigger brown trout really feed well when the hatch is starting to slow down. The smaller rainbow trout, which are very spasmodic when they feed on the mayfly, tend to splash here and there, with no real pattern to where they are going to be, next unlike the bigger fish, which certainly track, and from that you can work out where they are going to feed next.

I have landed some magnificent brown and rainbow trout during these hatches, with my best so far being a magnificently conditioned brown trout of 51cm. Jim Baimbridge has also been out getting amongst the dunn feeders landing some lovely browns as well.

Wendouree is not just about the mayfly hatches, even though I’m very excited about them. The bait fishing, lure casting and trolling are all producing some excellent catches of both rainbow and brown trout. Damien Keirl recently landed a magnificent brown trout using a mudeye for bait under a bubble float, and the fish went 60cm and 2.88kg.

I trolled some hardbodied lures recently with my son Zach and landed some stocky rainbow trout.

James Newtown has been fly fishing after dark with excellent results, catching some lovely brown trout on Craig’s Nighttime, which has been a very successful fly pattern. This fly imitates a mudeyes, which are a very high on the menu for hungry Wendouree trout.

I drove around Lake Wendouree recently after a beautiful warm sunny day one evening and the shoreline was nearly shoulder to shoulder, which was great to see. Lake Wendouree will continue to fish well for many months to come for all methods of angling. The best times will usually be early morning and evening, after dark and any overcast day.

Newlyn and hepburn

Newlyn Reservoir and Hepburn Lagoon are both excellent fisheries both only 20 minutes from Ballarat, and will fish extremely well over the coming months with both waters having mayfly hatches for the fly anglers on the overcast days. For the bait anglers, mudeyes fished under floats will result in excellent catches of brown trout in Newlyn and a mix of rainbow and browns in Hepburn.

Moorabool

Moorabool Reservoir is well worth a look over the next few months with the reservoir now full. The trout will be in feeding over all the flooded margins with worms, grubs and frogs on the menu for hungry trout. A good old bunch of garden worms would be my suggestion on a running sinker rig.

Tullaroop

Tullaroop Reservoir over the next month should fish very well, with the reservoir being full for the first time for many years. There should be an abundance of food and the hungry trout will be foraging around in the shallows, eating everything they can.

A mudeye suspended under a bubble float or a bunch of worms on a running sinker rig would be my suggestion at first light or into the evening. For the fly anglers, the fish should be feeding on midge, so any midge pattern should work before dark, and then I would change over to a Mrs Simpson or a Hammils Killer and fish it with a slow retrieve.

Overall, fishing around the Ballarat district for the next few months should be sensational, it’s just a matter of getting out and wetting a line and enjoying the resources we have.

Photo courtesy of Owen Lloyd.

Photo courtesy of Andrew Pastuszka.

Photo courtesy of Damien Keirl.

Photo courtesy of Craig Coltman.

Photo courtesy of Kiel Jones.

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