Wombat Creek Reservoir, built in 1964, is one of Victoria’s best-kept freshwater fishing secrets. But every year, more anglers are discovering its delights and applying their fishing skills to this challenging fishery.
The reservoir is a 586ML domestic water supply set in pine tree forest, about 11km from Daylesford. Anglers will require a permit from Central Highlands Water to fish the reservoir. These can be obtained free of charge by phoning (03) 5320 3100.
Trout are annually stocked into Wombat Creek Reservoir, which holds mainly brown and rainbow trout as well as a good population of redfin.
To get to the reservoir, travel to the township of Daylesford. From here, head towards Newstead and turn right at the pub, driving over the railway and onwards for a few kilometres until you reach the Wombat Forest.
On a recent trip to the lake I met up with Ian Scott, an angling friend who knows the lake like the back of his hand. We started our fishing day nice and early, just as the sun was filtering through the pine trees and bathing the lake’s surface with a yellow glow. I was struck by how good the water level was compared to a lot of the other lakes in the district.
Ian has been fishing Wombat Creek Reservoir for eight years, having discovered the lake in 1998. In some seasons, he casts flies here twice a week and particularly enjoys the challenging nature of this fishery.
Wombat Creek Reservoir can be especially difficult to fish when it is full of water. Why? Because it restricts your fly casting and makes stealth more difficult. If you don’t take your time, keep low on your approach and give the correct presentation, nine times out of ten you’ll go home empty handed.
Wombat produces the best fishing on calm windless day. Ian recommends casting in the early morning or late evening. One of this fishery’s best features is that it is so close to Melbourne and yet so peaceful and quiet. Ian tells me that you rarely see another angler. Now that’s the sort of place that flyfishers just love to hear about!
The two main insects that trout feed on most of the time are midge and caddis in both the larvae and adult stages. It’s important to work out whether the trout are feeding on the emerging midge and caddis pupae or the adult midge and caddis. Get this right and you’re well on your way to making a goof fly selection.
For the midge pupae, Ian likes a size 18 CDC. Midge or Suspender Midge with an olive grizzly midge; for the adult stage, he prefers Griffith’s Gnat.
For stick caddis, Ian recommends size 12/10 Cased Caddis and Fly Line Caddis, while for the emerger, try size 14/12 olive CDC Caddis emergers. The adult stage can be imitated by using Elk Hair Caddis that are pretty standard in most fly angler’s arsenal.
For these types of small imitations Ian likes to use long and fine leaders. They’re essential to produce feather-landing presentations.
Looking out over Wombat Creek Reservoir, Ian and I could see that the only calm patch of water was down at the southern end of the lake, so we headed towards this spot. Upon arrival, we saw surface rings, which indicated feeding trout. Using one of Ian’s recommended midge pupae patterns, I cast the first fly of the day and was rewarded with a take and solid hook-up. A 1lb brown trout to the bank and the morning was still young.
According to Ian, this is the average size for Wombat trout although he has caught many 1kg trout over the years. His best is around 2.2kg. Now that’s a nice fish in anyone’s book!
By the time I had released my trout, Ian had a constant riser, again taking midge just under the surface. With just two backcasts Ian placed his fly with pinpoint accuracy and instantly the leader moved forward. He lifted the rod and connected with a slightly bigger brown trout of around 1.5lb.
There are also small hatches of mayfly of the Lamba Dun in Wombat Creek Reservoir, but Ian thinks there may be another species of mayfly that only hatches on last light and well into the night. Their numbers are small though and you have to be lucky to be on the lake when this occurs. Recommended flies are size 12 Brown Nymphs, Bean Ball Nymphs, Highland Duns and Orange Quills for the spinner.
Baitfish are also high on the trout’s menu, with small numbers of smelt and galaxias providing protein-rich targets. Ian highlighted the need to work your baitfish patterns down deep in the water column, which is where the vast majority of the reservoir’s trout feed. He recommends floating and sinking fly lines with fly patterns such as size 10/8 Blue Rock Specials, BMS flies, Tom Jones and Silver and Gold Bag flies.
For centuries, English flyfishers have been developing their own styles of flies to imitate many kinds of insect larvae to attract trout. The English are also heavily into loch-style flyfishing where a group of flies is used rather than just one. This group includes some flies that are accurate imitations of insect life on the day as well as one or two flies that are designed to simply attract trout from a distance.
Most English flies have a lot of movement by way of soft hackles that bring the fly to life. This movement is paramount in patterns that imitate small pupae like midges. These are just cast out and left to sit with no retrieve.
Ian explained that English wet flies work really well on Wombat Creek Reservoir, especially close in along the shoreline. He recommends size 16/14/12 Black Buzzers, Silver Invictas, Black Pennels, Cats Whiskers, Micky Finns and Silver Butchers.
Another successful method on Wombat Creek Reservoir, especially when no trout can be seen feeding, are patterns that attract the trout through flash, colour and size.
Try using big, flashy flies that can be seen from a greater distance. Work them with quick movements. Trout respond when they think other fish are invading their territory and are more likely to attack the fly.
Suggested patterns are size 8/6 Woolly Buggers in olive green, black, red and black. The Dirty Harry, which is a Woolly Bugger incorporating flashy material in the tail, also works well. Other worthwhile patterns are Fuzzy Wuzzys, Zulus, Mrs Simpsons and Hamills Killers.
Wombat Creek Reservoir has an unchanging shoreline that is thick with tree growth. First-time visitors might be confused about where the best fishing locations are. If you look closely, however, you will notice a varying bottom terrain, with features such as weed beds and wood debris.
Ian has discovered over his many years of fishing the reservoir that the hard-to-fish areas bring the most success. Many people won’t fish these spots due to the hard work required. That leaves them open to those anglers looking for a challenge and prepared to put in the hard yards.
The eastern shoreline offers good English fly searching areas, while the southern and western shorelines provide excellent rising trout with the right conditions. For bigger trout, Ian recommends the dam wall area, which produces well to all techniques. However, the trout at the dam wall are a little harder to catch because of the higher fishing pressure this area receives. So for the better catch rates, stay away from the easy to reach locations and work the areas that are more difficult to access.
Back out on the water at Wombat, the sun was setting and the wind was dying down. Through the half-light we could see more trout rising to adult midges. I selected a size 16 Sparkle Midge and Ian chose a Griffith Gnat.
With every quick and well-presented cast, we were rewarded with a solid take from a good-sized trout. Finally, the half-light turned to dark and we called it a day.
As Ian says, Wombat Creek Reservoir is a lake that provides a real challenge but when you succeed, the fishing sure is sweet.
Note: these are all yearling trout, averaging about 100 grams each at the time of release.