With the rivers closed for the trout to do their thing, it was time to head off and battle the cold for a few days chasing some big trophy lake trout.
The destination was Lake Toolondo in the state’s North West, a lake which had received much media attention over the last 12 months regarding its on going battle for water. Thanks to much needed top up back in January, the lake currently sits at 20% capacity. While more water is needed, the lake still offers anglers a variety of options to target the lakes trophy class fish.
After arriving in darkness on the Friday night after work, we checked into our accommodation at the shearer’s quarters, a roomy little farm cabin located only a few minutes drive from the boat ramp. The gear was unpacked and we began to rig up for the following morning, whilst warming up in front of the fire. Not quite sure of the current fishing conditions we made sure to cover all bases, rigging up some rods with soft plastics, while others received hardbodies, and the ever reliable Tassie Devil.
The first morning we hit the water early…..a little too early actually. As Toolondo is only a stones throw away from South Australia, we had forgotten to take into consideration the time delay and found ourselves casting in the dark for 45mins before the sun even looked like coming up. It did eventually rise, but was overshadowed by thick cloud cover for most of the morning which made for ideal fishing conditions.
The majority of the morning was spent casting the edges, with the hope of seeing some smelting trout. We fished a small bay opposite the boat ramp where we have had success the year previous. Although everything seemed to look the same as I remember it, there did seem to be something missing……the fish.
Chad managed one follow early in the morning but that was about all the action we received for a good few hours. A change of tactics was required and we fired up the engine, and set out a spread of lures for some trolling.
Anyone that has fished Toolondo before, will know that the weed that holds so much food for these trout has the ability to break your patience and spirit, especially when it comes to trolling. Not only does it limit your lure choices by only allowing you to use those that will swim above the weedline, but you also have to contend with the floating weed that litters the surface. Trolling shallow lures with single hooks is really your only option, even then it was not uncommon to be pulling in lures every 30 seconds that had succumb to fouling.
A few laps of the lake quickly sorted the parts of the lake suitable for trolling and those that would make you want to pull your hair out. It wasn’t long before we got the first hit of the trip when Chad’s Tassie got smashed and hooked up to a sizable brown which instantly became airborne and unfortunately threw the lure.
Although somewhat disappointing we reset the spread and resumed trolling, Chad’s rod again loaded up as another brown took a liking to his lure, but as with the previous fish it won its freedom as quickly as it got on.
A few more laps of the lake brought us nothing but weed which seemed to be getting worse and worse, as the conditions calmed, so we decided to try casting again.
Moving to a different section of the lake we began working the numerous standing trees that surround the lakes edges. Chad threw a cast right in between a couple of trees as we navigated our way through the flooded forest and came up tight. A flash of green and red shone from the water and it quickly became apparent that Chad had actually hooked a Redfin, and a decent one at that. A quick fight ensued and the fish was brought to the net. A welcome relief after the previous two encounters and we were finally on the board.
A personal best redfin (42.5cms 1.5kgs) was one way to welcome Chad to Toolondo.
A spectacular specimen from every angle.Back in the water after a few quick photos.
The fish was sent on its way after a few quick photos and we resumed casting the tree line, slowly working our way towards open water.
Weed beds cover a majority of the lake bed, so fishing in open water can be just as effective as fishing the edges. The fish use these beds not only for cover but also to feed amongst.
Chad continued to work hardbodies while I switched over to a large paddle tail soft plastic. The wind picked up ever so slightly putting a small chop on the water, and my next cast got belted as I slow rolled the plastic back to the boat. I looked up to see a huge boil, and the bronze flank of a fish as it turned away, unfortunately not connected to my lure. I continued my retrieve with the hope of the fish coming back for a second look, meanwhile Chad quickly threw his lure in the vicinity and almost instantly hooked up. The fish screamed off and it wasn’t until the fish became airborn that we saw it was a solid fish as it rolled across the surface. We chased down the fish on the electric applying minimal pressure as we were worried about bending the tiny ultra-thin hooks on Chad’s lure. The fish ran us round and round in circles, hugging the bottom and refusing to come up, changing angles we eventually got the fish up and close enough for a net shot and the fish was finally subdued.
Two Personal Bests in a row. Cant beat that!
The tiny hooks on the Double Clutch held up surprisingly well.
These fish are in such superb condition.
Back off to the depths.
After a few photos we quickly weighted the fish in the net, it brought the scales down to 5lb 9oz. A great fish by anyone’s standards and certainly setting the bar high for the next few days.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent mixing it up between casting and trolling but to no avail. We fished till the sun went down then retired back to the cabin for a warm meal and awaited the arrival of Joel and Ash who were on their way up.
Day two again saw us up early, this time with twice the vessels and fishermen, our hopes of coming across some more fish were high. Chad paired up with Ash while I was fishing with Joel.
We made the short run down to the ramp and were greeted by a picturesque sunrise, the boats were prepped and quickly launched.
The decision was made to troll first up. The night before I was flicking through a recent Freshwater Fishing magazine and came across an article written by Mark Ainsworth about trolling in shallow weedy lakes, in particular Toolondo and the technique of trolling lures really short to avoid the weed. With new found confidence we set out a spread of Tassies making sure to run them in tight to the boat.
It wasn’t long before my lure got wacked and my rod loaded up. Putting on some acrobatic display’s the fish came to the net after a short tussle. A few quick photos and the beautiful hen was released.
We didn’t have to wait long before we were on again, this time Joel’s rod screamed off. His nervousness was evident as he played the fish softly, the fact it was his first lake trout made things even more tense. As the fish came close to the boat, it took a blistering run upwind. I followed with the electric, positioning us on the upwind side of the fish, as Joel coaxed it towards the boat. The net was lowered and the fish brought aboard. Joel was stoked not only to land his first lake brown trout but also his biggest trout to date.
Meanwhile a quick check in with the boys revealed they were having a fairly average day too.
Ash did however manage a superbly conditioned buck which fell to a bright orange tassie on the troll.
We spent the remainder of the day casting and exploring the lake but how frustrating that turned out to be! The afternoon saw numerous follows by some monstrous fish which would swim right underneath the lure with not the slightest intention of wanting to hit our offerings. We would need a change of tactics for tomorrow.
The sky turns a vivid shade of pink to end the day.
We woke to light winds and showers, and thought we might be in for a bit of a wet day. Chad had to leave the previous night due to work commitments so we were down to three. I once again fished with Joel while Ash took it on solo.
With trolling being the most successful method so far, that’s what we started with. Several hours passed with not a sign of a fish.
As we had been fishing Tassies I thought I’d change it up a little and see how a Bob ‘N’ Spoon would sit in the spread. My idea was that the hull would part the floating weed enough to allow me to fish it further back if i positioned the rod directly out from the center of the boat. Our second lap with this method saw my rod which had been wedged in my tackle bag buckle over as the lure got nailed by a nice hen.A change of tactics brought this fish undone.
Another couple of hours passed with not a hit and the floating weed seemed to be getting worse.
Determined to get a fish on the cast we once again put down the electric and worked our way around the lake throwing lures in every direction. We approached a small opening on the edge of the lake surrounded by drowned trees and saw an unfamiliar shape on the water, I thought it might have been a dead coot or duck which had been floating upside down, but as we drew closer it became clear as to what it was as it started moving around and waving. It was a huge tail!
They say a fisherman’s story grow bigger each and every time its told, so your just going to have to take my word on this one. It was without a doubt the biggest trout I have ever seen. The size of the tail alone dwarfed those of the fish we had caught as it waved around with its head down foraging through the weed. I sent out a nervous cast, trying to get the lure close enough to get its attention but not to spook it, I worked my plastic back right past the fish but it went down. We continued to work the area, throwing cast after cast, then I saw a huge submarine like shape follow my lure, mouth open and closing, darting left and right with my lure, but I was running out of room. The lure drew closer and closer to the boat and the fish turned at the last minute. The adrenalin certainly kicks in when you have a fish of that class interested in your lure and I’m not afraid to say it left me shaking.
A few more minutes past and then the fish started tailing once more, this time in a different location, I was torn between wanting to cast and get photos of this epic sight. We threw everything from a F9 Spotted Dog to small 2″ Nymph but to no avail. The fish just kept cruising, teasing us with its tail as if it knew we were there but didn’t give a care in the world. These big browns don’t get big by being dumb. We spent a good 30mins working over the area, before finally admitting defeat and moving on.
We moved back out into open water and began working the area where Chad had caught his fish earlier in the trip. Joel was first to strike with a nice little redfin.
Not to be outdone I followed up shortly after with a much bigger fish.Such an impressive looking fish. Healthy release.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent casting, the number of follows we had during this session was truly frustrating, the fish seemed to be a lot more active, chasing down the lure with a lot more aggression but still carried the same hesitation to properly commit.
Dark clouds moved in and it looked like it was going to get very wet, but we persisted through the showers.
Thankfully they cleared nearly as soon as they arrived and left us with a spectacular rainbow lit up against the dark sky.
The day was getting long and thought we would troll our way back to the ramp, however something made me want to keep casting, much to Joel’s dismay after he had just re-rigged his rods for trolling.
As we worked our way along a bank on the Eastern side of the lake, I saw a small disturbance on the surface, and began casting, Joel followed suit and only a few casts later the water erupted as a big brown thrashed its way across the surface with Joel’s lure pinned in its upper jaw. Some quick rod work from Joel prevented the fish from jumping further and we had the fish to the boat relatively quickly. Joel was ecstatic and let out a cheer as the big buck slid into the net.Pinned lightly in the upper jaw. Back he goes.
Our final day on the lake and it was to be a short one as we had to head back home at midday. We returned to where we had seen the largest concentration of fish earlier and thoroughly worked the area, Joel and myself choosing to cast, while Ash hedged our bets and trolled.
After a slow weekend Ash really seemed to be picking things up, landing two really nice fish in quick succession. First a 5lb buck followed shortly after by a 5lb 11oz hen.
Joel and I quickly re rigged and started trolling, we did several laps of the area for not a touch, meanwhile Ash got another hit as well as another fish dropped. It seemed that lure colour was the key factor in getting these fish to strike and as you would have guessed, we were out of luck, having every colour under the sun but the one he was using.
We gave it away and returned to casting with the hope of getting one more fish on the cast before the trip was over.
It was like we were re-living the previous days as we watched fish after fish come in hot behind our lures only to shy away boat side without hitting. Time was running out and we slowly worked our way back to the ramp when Joel’s lure came up tight. We both wrote it off as a clump of weed, until the “weed” started to move. It wasn’t fighting like a trout which could only mean that it was a redfin and by the way it was staying down and dogging it out it looked to a good one at that.A great way to end the trip,
An awesome way to finish up the trip, we packed up the gear, secured down the boats and made the long drive home. Thanks to Ash, Joel and Chad for an awesome trip. The boys are already in discussion about a return trip so stay tuned for more photos in the near future.
Lake Toolondo is located approximately 50kms south-west of Horsham Vic.
Ex Melbourne – 4hrs Ex Adelaide – 5hrs
WHERE WE STAYED:
Shears Quarters – Contact Trev at Victorian Inland Charters – 0438 132 130.
Telstra: Partial Coverage Optus: Partial Coverage
Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Redfin
EQUIPMENT & LURES
Rods – 1-3kg-2-4kg Spin rods
Reels – 2000-2500 sizes reels
Line – 8- 10lb
Leader – 4-8lb
Lures: 50-70mm Minnows & Jerkbaits, Winged Lures (Tassie Devil), Soft Plastics
Casting – Slow Rolling & Twitching
Trolling – 3.5-4kph
Standing timber, Weed edges, Open Flats