There’s fish To be caught

LifeStyle Wimmera - - INSIDE - By Dean Law­son

As wa­ter started to again run into the re­gion’s mighty Rock­lands Reser­voir as a re­sult of this year’s wide­spread rain, some of us couldn’t help but think about just how good this mas­sive dam can be for an­gling.

For the unini­ti­ated, Rock­lands Reser­voir is roughly on the border of the Wim­mera and Western Dis­trict, nes­tled be­tween the Grampians and Black Range and part of a sprawl­ing Glenelg River that runs south to the coast at Nel­son.

What’s ob­vi­ous about the reser­voir is its sheer size. It’s a mon­ster and with a ca­pac­ity of 296,000 me­gal­itres has the po­ten­tial to hold a third of the over­all Wim­mera-mallee wa­ter sup­ply. It also has a shore­line of more than 400 kilo­me­tres. Even at a quar­ter full it is a mas­sive body of wa­ter.

But what about the fish­ing? There are many tall tales about great catches right across the ex­panses of the dam – from pop­u­lar Glendin­ning and Brodies, Moun­tain Dam to the dam wall and in wet years, right up at the north­ern sec­tion at Hynes. And with all the wa­ter flow­ing into Rock­lands this year, we couldn’t help but con­tem­plate the idea that we might one day be in a sit­u­a­tion where we are again chas­ing redfin and trout in the north­ern reaches.

Far too many years ago in the early 1980s it was at the camp at Hynes, ac­ces­si­ble from a Henty High­way turn-off at Glenisla, that a cou­ple of en­thu­si­as­tic young an­glers were ‘spoilt’ for­ever from their ex­pe­ri­ence fish­ing among the Rock­lands tim­ber.

Rock­lands is renowned for pro­duc­ing big redfin, oc­ca­sion­ally up to the three-kilo­gram mark, and is also a su­perb trout-fish­ing wa­ter. These days there are now also hard­fight­ing bass and of course carp in the lake.

On a par­tic­u­lar win­try day af­ter a wet sea­son had topped up the reser­voir, our fish­ing party, which also in­cluded a cou­ple of vet­eran-an­gling adults, made the trip to Hynes with jolly ex­pec­ta­tion.

As young blokes, a mate and I had less ex­pec­ta­tion, hav­ing toiled with lim­ited suc­cess with bank fish­ing de­spite hav­ing all the ‘right’ spin­ners of the time and bait.

What was amaz­ing on ar­rival at Hynes, where Hor­sham An­gling Club has an ac­com­mo­da­tion lodge, was the amount of peo­ple busy­ing them­selves with camps and gear. Boats were de­part­ing and ar­riv­ing at the fore­shore reg­u­larly and the im­me­di­ate thoughts from us two tag-alongs was a hope that these sea­soned an­glers ‘left some for us’.

But from all re­ports the fish­ing to that date hadn’t been too flash.

Word was com­ing in that the fish­ing was ‘slow’ and de­spite calm re­as­sur­ances from the elders of our party, my mate and I qui­etly shared a col­lec­tive groan.

Cold and damp

It was driz­zling and the wa­ter lap­ping on the edge of our boat as we mo­tored off to­wards the stands of ghostly dead trees dot­ted across the lake, was a deep blue.

It was over­cast and cold and we shiv­ered, our hands plunged deeply into pock­ets, as we sat in the back seats near the out­board.

We stopped at one tree and fished briefly for no re­sults ex­cept a tiny ju­ve­nile redfin we didn’t know was on the line. As was the rule of the day – no bite, no stay.

We putted along a bit fur­ther and tied onto an­other tree in what ap­peared to be deep wa­ter. The two older com­pan­ions up the front pon­dered over bait – one went for a lure, the other for a yabby. Us in the back, still shiv­er­ing, went for the sim­ple op­tion of worms to bob over the side.

In what seemed only a mat­ter of mo­ments the tips of our rods in the back of the boat sud­denly jagged sav­agely down­ward. Bang!

Af­ter col­lect­ing our­selves we reeled in en­thu­si­as­ti­cally, which took a while con­sid­er­ing the depth, and were de­lighted with two pan-sized red­dies.

Back in the wa­ter and again – bang, bang! And again, and again. While the vet­er­ans up the front scram­bled to switch to worms we hauled in fish af­ter fish that only seemed to get big­ger and harder to get into the boat.

At one stage most of my mate’s rod was bent so far it was half in the wa­ter as he strug­gled with a big fish.

Big school

We had ob­vi­ously dropped onto a large and hun­gry school of redfin and were quickly fill­ing an esky. It was amaz­ing and re­mains my most pro­found fresh­wa­ter fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

We might have stayed longer had the weather not con­tin­ued to de­te­ri­o­rate but af­ter about three quar­ters of an hour of fre­netic fish­ing, de­cided to re­turn to camp.

Of course the eyes of peo­ple back at Hynes widened when we lugged the esky to shore.

We didn’t bother weigh­ing them, but they were good fish and there was a lot of them.

Af­ter lin­ing them up on the grass to ad­mire our hand­i­work and ar­gue who had caught the largest spec­i­men, we were re­minded that the rule was that if you caught them, you had to clean them.

We didn’t know how to fil­let prop­erly but from mem­ory, scal­ing and gut­ting the fish took longer than it took to catch them.

It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence for­ever burnt in the mem­ory and a re­minder of the recre­ational fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties we have in our part of the world when we have wa­ter.

Many oth­ers have sim­i­lar tales of Rock­lands fish­ing, ei­ther in­volv­ing redfin or trout.

The tim­bered area at Glendin­ning is renowned for trout, per­haps be­cause of an abun­dance of mud­eye and bait fish, and deep wa­ter at the wall has a habit of pro­duc­ing big red­dies.

Lakes across the Wim­mera,

Mallee and Grampians have all re­ceived a new flush of wa­ter af­ter ex­ten­sive win­ter and spring rain, open­ing the door for many recre­ational wa­ter ac­tives.

From high in the up­per catch­ment in the Pyre­nees to the heart of the Wim­mera and be­yond to the Mallee and west Wim­mera lakes coun­try, lakes are glis­ten­ing and primed for vis­i­tors.

Many of the des­ti­na­tions have camp­ing and sight­see­ing fa­cil­i­ties with in­for­ma­tion avail­able from in­for­ma­tion cen­tres or shire of­fices.

• Recre­ational wa­ter map, pages 30 and 31.

Green Lake. Pic­ture: KELLY LAIRD

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