Amongst the many trout fishing lakes of the Ballarat Central Highlands, there’s one that hardly gets a mention and isn’t as well known as other impoundments. The lake in question is Gong Gong Reservoir, situated a few kilometers from Creswick.
Along with your current Recreational Fishing Licence you will need to obtain a free, but compulsory, fishing permit from Central Highlands Water, the responsible water management authority. They also manage a number of other impoundments in the Ballarat area so the permit is good for more than just ‘the Gong’.
The reservoir park is open daily from 8am (apart from days when there is a total fire ban). Closing times vary according to seasons — up to 8.30pm during summer and 5pm during winter. No wading is allowed in the lake for scientific reasons that don’t make much sense to me.
With a water capacity of 1,902ML, this lake can hold a lot of water, but with recent drought conditions the lake at present is at only 50%. It’s worth ringing Central Highlands Water when planning a trip to Gong Gong because the water level can be very low at times.
The lake contains stocked brown trout and rainbow trout up to 1kg although low water levels in recent years has meant a sporadic stocking history of late. The lake also contains a population of small redfin that breed naturally in most years. Pine trees and some native vegetation surround the lake.
It’s without question that bait fishing excels on Gong Gong Reservoir with earthworms and scrubbies the angler’s first choice. These baits consistently work well throughout the year but especially so when heavy rain increases the lake’s water level to cover new ground, forcing the worms out of their holes. Scrub worms are the better of the two, with trout relishing them, as they are native to the lake. Worms can be fished on top with the aid of bubble or quill floats, but better results will be obtained by fishing on the bottom with a running sinker rig.
This rig is constructed by threading your main mono line through a small sinker and tying it to one end of a swivel, which acts as a stop. You then tie a mono leader of 2-3ft in length to the other end of the swivel and finish by attaching the free end of the leader to a small size 14/12 hook.
Another one to try is a Paternoster rig where a sinker is tied to the main line. Then, one or two leaders are attached to the main line at a set, desired position of 1-2ft in length, to which a small hook is tied.
It’s also imperative to use the lightest sinker you can, and remember that even though the light weight is difficult to cast, that cast won’t need to be far, as most of the trout will be searching in close to the shoreline.
Mudeyes are good trout bait, working well on all freshwater lakes, and Gong Gong is no exception. As the term floating mudeye suggests, the best method to fish with it is on the surface with the aid of a float. Some people like to use a small piece of cork, some a bubble float, with others favoring a quill float. Whichever way you choose, your mudeye needs to be presented in a natural way. The most common rig is set up by threading your main line of 2kg through a small clear bubble float, then passing the line through a rubber bicycle valve twice and tightening down. This will act as a lightweight stopper on the bubble float. From the bubble float, give yourself a desired length and tie it to a small hook. Finally, hook this through the mudeye’s wings. This will keep it alive, offering a natural presentation to the trout.
Most anglers will let the mudeye drift, while a few prefer to impart a little action into the bait by slowly retrieving the mono line or reeling back with short sharp turns to impart a more erratic action. In the past this was called ‘mudeye dobbing’.
Yabbies are fantastic bait and I’ve seen plenty in the stomachs of trout over the many years I’ve fished. The biggest mistake most anglers make is using too big a yabby. The smaller, the better - around 1-2 inches is best.
You can fish a yabby either dead or alive. When dead, hook it through the underbody, out pass the head in conjunction with either a running sinker or paternoster rig. When fishing a live yabby, hook it through the tail with a sinker running freely down the hook to place it on the bottom. You can either slowly work your live yabby back or just let it sit, acting naturally.
Throughout late summer and early autumn good numbers of field crickets find their way into the water and a natural live cricket is dynamite bait to fish on the surface. Use them in the same way as a mudeye. Hooking through the wing case will keep the bait alive and struggling, but they can also be fished dead on those days when the water is discolored and the trout are searching by smell.
Fishing lures and spinners can be most productive on the Gong and days when the water is clear are popular. The most significant factor in a lure or spinner’s success is being able to fish the water levels within a lake. If trout can be seen chasing smelt or local baitfish then the lure fishermen needs to select a lure that will work within the first few feet of the surface. The best lures for this type of fishing are the Tassie Devil lures in numbers 47, 7, 4, 55, and 89. Rapalas can also be worked on the surface level and down deeper, with the rainbow trout, brown trout and perch patterns the better selections.
Getting down to the deeper water levels requires heavier lures and the 7-gram Bentbacks, Lazer Lures and Wee Wobblers are popular choices.
Retrieving lures is also critical to fishing success and like flyfishing, you need to retrieve at the same rate as the animal you’re trying to imitate.
Fishing flies is very productive on Gong Gong due to some great seasonal insect hatches. Of these, insects and beetles are very common and are blown onto the surface when there are strong winds (and let me tell you, the Ballarat district isn’t short of windy days).
Springtime and early summer can produce many species, and the fly-fisherman will easily have most species covered with a few patterns like red tags, cocy-bondus and black deer hair beetles. Also in spring are small to fair hatches of mayfly, with Leptophlebiidae or the March Brown species the largest. Other small hatches of Baetis and Caenis do occur but these tend to be for short periods.
The fly patterns needed to cover all the lifecycle stages are weighted brown nymphs, emerging nymphs, dry fly duns, spinners and spent spinners in sizes 12-20 will cover all the likely species you’ll come across.
Caddis hatch in good numbers throughout the summer period and fishing the larval stage before the hatch of the adult with wet fly patterns like size 14 Lafontaine cased caddis, Fly line Stick caddis (Wayne Kempe), CDC Caddis Emerger and Goulburn caddis will work well when retrieved slowly.
The adult caddis is best imitated with size 14 Elk hair caddis, Goddard caddis, Creel Caddis, and peacock caddis. The adult caddis will appear an hour or so before dark, hovering over the shoreline, mating and laying their eggs on light wind evenings.
Midges also hatch in big numbers on the Gong, with the adult stage providing some excellent dry fly action. The early morning and late evening are the better times, but if it isn’t calm and windless, don’t even think of midges, as they will be blown off the surface. When trout are found rising to them, tie to your leader a size 18 Griffith’s Gnats, Olive or black red Grizzly midge, Spackle midge or CDC midge.
Field Crickets, unlike grasshoppers, are plentiful on the lake in late summer and early autumn and can be imitated excellently. Recommended patterns are a size 10 Letort Cricket, Black Muddler Minnow and a Dave Cricket.
Smelt and local baitfish are high on the menu for trout in the Gong and smelt patterns catch not only good numbers of trout, but big sized trout. Again, like lure fishing, you need your flies to be retrieved in the water column where the trout are chasing these small fish.
Patterns like Blue rock Specials, Bag Flies, Matukas and Tom Jones will cover the area just under the surface, while for deeper down, patterns such as Clouser Minnows, Woolly Buggers, and Spuddlers will work best. Also remember that overcast cloudy days are best for trout feeding on smelt.
Gong Gong Reservoir is a fairly large body of water and provides many areas of fishing, although when full to capacity, flyfishing can become casting restricted due to the high number of trees around the whole lake.
Bait fishermen could, in reality, fish the whole lake, but they will find the western and eastern shoreline the more productive areas to fish due to the shoreline water depth.
Lure fishermen will also find many areas suitable to fish, with selected locations such as the dam wall, eastern shoreline and the back end of the lake more suitable due to water depth.
Fly fishermen will discover the northern shoreline and eastern shoreline excellent for mayfly hatches and the backend of the lake productive because of terrestrial insect falls and its good windbreak from the consistently windy days.
All anglers should find that, apart from the restrictive water board rules that Gong Gong is subjected to, it’s a pleasant and productive lake to fish. It will open up new fishing challenges and adventures within the wonderful country district of Ballarat and the Central Highlands.
Chris Smith fishing Gong Gong reservoir when calm conditions prevailed and midge activity was high.
Asher Yovich working a nymph pattern on the Gong after not sighting any rising trout.
A group of bait anglers fishing worms on the bottom – a very productive method on this reservoir.
A nice trout taken with a smelting fly when fishing to feeding trout.