Was last weekend the turning point towards winter? For the first week or so of April, we fished in T-shirts and soaked up the sun. Then, last Saturday, flakes of wet snow drifted down in the rain. That might be it for T-shirts, but what about the fishing? Well, it’s still great. The duns have continued, and the trout have shown no signs of losing weight! Smelters have begun to show on some lakes. Midges have been patchy, though that may quickly change with the onset of cooler weather. Meanwhile, lake levels are fairly stable, and the water is clear on most, if not crystal clear. All up, a pretty good time to be on the water.
Autumn is well and truly here at Millbrook. Whatever summer we had is gone, replaced by those beautiful settled days which start off cool to cold, then end up warm by mid-afternoon. Or, there’s rain – quite a bit of it – which is unusual for March. Either way, the fishing has been really good.
Two things are standing out this autumn: amazing dun hatches (more like the best spring hatches), and the size and condition of the trout. I know that sounds like ‘guide talk’ but it seems the cool summer and good lake levels, have kept the trout growing and thriving through summer; whereas in a hot summer, they can seem to hibernate. So, the word for autumn 2021 is ‘bust-offs’. Despite employing everything from 12lb tippet, to pre-fish trout-landing courses, to deliberately avoiding big fish lakes (not easy!) the carnage has been terrible. On occasion, the bust-off count has reached 8 or 10 fish a day, and Philip has just had his first ‘bust-off free’ guiding day since the start of autumn. Anyone know where we can buy some trout growth suppressant?
(PS: As the pics show, the women have been killing it!)
In case you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from us much over the last couple of months, Millbrook goes into a sort of hibernation in reverse from about Christmas until the end of February. Typically, this period of high summer is often too warm for good fishing on our lakes: we’d rather not guide at all, than have a guest book a day that turns out to be too hot for decent lake fishing.
But then, with trout and nature being what they are, we’ve actually had an unusually cool and (until recently) wet summer, so in turn, the trout have been unusually active. This means the odd random guiding day, booked at close range, has been successful.
More importantly, the lack of heat and good lake levels will see us start the ‘proper’ guiding season in great shape. As we get back into full operation next week, not only do we have a range of waters in prime condition, but it looks like the trout have grown better than they normally would over summer. Without the stresses of heat and low water to inhibit growth rates, we’re noticing many pre-summer ‘stockies’ are now approaching a kilo. As for the bigger fish, anything seems possible. For the next few months, small trout may be hard to find at Millbrook!
In many ways, not much has changed since our last report. Right through November, and (unusually) even into early December, the duns and spinner falls been as substantial as ever, although the timing of both hatches and falls became more erratic later in the month. What is new, is an increase in warm days, and a resulting bump up in the number of terrestrials like beetles and termites. With the odd warmer evening, mudeyes have also started moving on dark, providing some explosive moments!
Meanwhile, trout condition is just amazing. Evidently, the fish have benefitted from the now months-long trifecta of high lake levels, good water quality, and an abundance of food. Even many of the browns now resemble spotted footballs. (Turns out 2020 has been good for something after all!)
The final highlight of the last several weeks has been welcoming back our Melbourne friends, and even a few of our interstate guests. These recent words from Melbourne regular Janet, back for her first trip in 8 months, sum up what makes it all worthwhile for us:
“The sight fishing was amazing and the size and numbers of fish caught also very impressive. I love to fish with a dry fly. Following a challenging year of lockdown and uncertainty, this new freedom allowed me to look at Millbrook with new eyes. I was mesmerised by natures beauty; the surroundings were exquisite.” Thanks Janet!
Late October and early November have continued where early October left off. There’s been plenty more rain, the lakes are brimming and the trout are happy… well, at least they seem to be happy! The bug blitz has continued, with dun hatches and spinner falls the best in years, and the evening midge hatches have been huge. At some point, these events must begin to fade somewhat, but it hasn’t happened yet. Not so terrestrials, damsels and dragonflies which love the warm weather: these will feature indefinitely.
Did someone ask about the weather? Well, fair enough: despite the odd shirtsleeves day, it has been colder and wetter than normal. But time after time, days when the forecast had guests anxious, turned out to be rippers for the actual fishing.
Finally, with a bit of luck, we’re on the cusp of welcoming back our Melbourne friends. It’s been too long and, whether at Millbrook or anywhere else, we sincerely wish you great fishing – you deserve it!
At last! Millbrook is almost back to normal… well, COVID-normal. Thanks to incredible support from our regional Victorian guests, it’s been pretty busy here since we went to Stage 3 in late September. Fortunately, the trout are blissfully unaware of the pandemic and the fishing has been fantastic. Our love/hate relationship with mayfly is mostly love right now, with exceptional dun hatches and spinner falls which commenced significantly earlier (late September) than usual, and have been going strong ever since.
Meanwhile, with all lakes full, the flooded vegetation has continued the midge boom; some evenings to a silly extent. Be careful what you wish for though: Philip reports that on Wednesday evening just gone, the midges were so thick, there were at least a dozen big trout going flat out in a corner the size of a living room. Talk about a snowflake in a blizzard – it took guest Will countless casts to finally draw his fly right past a riser’s nose at the right instant. (At least it was a 5 pound brown!)
So the fishing has had the decency to perform at, or better than, the standard during lockdown. Now we just need to be able to share that with our Melbourne, Sydney and SA friends again…
Well, it’s spring – and mostly, it feels like it. The average temperature has definitely lifted in the last week or so, the days are noticeably longer, and bugs and trout alike are more active than they’ve been in months. Polaroiding, tailers and midge feeders have been the main game lately, and excepting a couple of days of gales, the fishing has been great. Of course, the problem is (as for much of this weird year) pretty much only us guides have been able to enjoy it!
Anyway, we suppose it’s better for morale to have good fishing than bad, and is that a peek of guiding light we see up ahead? The next couple of weeks will tell. Meanwhile, happy fishing to those who can wherever you are, and to those who can’t yet, we’re really looking forward to showing you around soon.
It’s always a great moment at Millbrook when the lakes fill and spill. As that’s happened a lot in the last few years, it’s easy to assume we can take that for granted. But not so. In recent decades, some of Millbrook’s best lakes have become perilously low on the back of successive dry years (remember the aptly named ‘Noughties’?) True, even in the worst years, we’ve always had good fishing somewhere, but it’s fantastic when every lake is brimming. Not only does that guarantee water for this season, it covers next season as well. (Once full, most of our lakes can provide at least 18 months good fishing, even if – heaven forbid – the tap was turned off tomorrow.)
Well, today’s the day. After a pretty good year anyway, in the last 24 hours, August up here has shot past its long-term average on the back of 35mm of rain in the last 24 hours. This was the run-off downpour we’ve been waiting for, the one when heavy rain falls on already-saturated catchments. As Mark says, this is when we’re reminded why we go to the trouble of putting trout-proof screens on lake outflows!
Besides water security, these big inflows/ outflows also help water quality by, if you like, flushing the lakes (changing the old water over with new). Meanwhile, lake water which floods revegetated ‘new ground’, not only gives the trout an initial food boost through all the drowning worms, grubs, ants, beetles etc., the subsequent rotting vegetation is much appreciated by aquatic insects and midge in particular, which really boom on this flooded bounty. (Yum, rotting grass!)
So, it might have been snowy, icy and wet over the last few days, but at Millbrook, we’re smiling from ear to ear!
Well, just as Millbrook bookings were booming in mid July, that nasty little virus shut us down for a second time. As we write, we can fish personally for recreation and exercise, but we can’t guide or offer accommodation.
And we hate to say it when there’s only the guides to take advantage, but the actual fishing has been really good! Yes, there’s been the inevitable winter blizzards and quite a lot of rain, but the former haven’t lasted for more than a day or two, and the latter has been steadily adding to lake levels. All other things being equal, trout like rising water, and Millbrook’s trout have been as active as you might expect. Midging trout have been the big deal, but there have been tailers too, and excellent polaroiding.
Meanwhile the wattle is blooming everywhere, daffodils are flowering, mayfly nymphs are writhing by the handful under the rocks, and there’s just a little less edge to the cold. It’s going to be a cracking spring; let’s hope you can come up soon and enjoy it with us!
The hardest part of winter fishing at Millbrook can be stepping out of the warmth of the car or the cabin. But once you’re in the open air, dressed appropriately, you quickly forget the single-figure temperatures and start thinking trout. They are of course, a cold water species, and both browns and rainbows will continue to feed even in snow. Many of the things trout eat are similarly out and about in gloves-and-beanie weather, especially midge (chironomid) which famously have anti-freeze in their blood. Some of Millbrook’s lakes also have Australian smelt, a baitfish active all winter and attacked spectacularly by the trout at times.
Perhaps the greatest attraction is the presence of the real monsters, the fish which, for a lot of the year, spend their time being nocturnal or feeding in the depths. For some reason (perhaps the duller light or the location of easy prey?) these really big trout seem to be more visible through winter, presenting more chances – if not guaranteed captures!
So don’t worry about the weather, put on some of that great outdoor gear (see, there is at least one advantage of living in the modern age) and head out for a cast and a chance at a beauty.