In the south-west, here in the depths of winter, few fish are more popular than the humble trout.
With few anglers being able to make it out offshore this week and therefore few reports coming in, let's take a look at the brown trout fishery here in our local rivers and how you can make the most of the most of this tremendous fishery right on our doorstep.
This week we've seen many quality trout caught by local anglers.
Young Nate Monaghan, who's only recently begun trout fishing, has been finding some lovely fish on shallow running hardbodies in the Woodford area.
Travelling young angler Dasch came across with his dad to sample the fishing in the upper Hopkins; the pair caught (and released) eight fish for the weekend, using Daiwa Bait Junkie soft plastics.
Scott Gray has also been enjoying some quality fishing using soft plastics, but did catch some good trout whilst fly fishing with Tom Jarman in the lower Merri.
Johno Stonehouse caught a ripper fish under one of the bridges in the lower Merri.
As you can probably tell, now is go time for the local brown trout.
To get yourself started, you'll need a light spin rod.
A reel between 1000-2500 in size and a rod of between 6'6 to 7' in length rated 1-3kg.
A combo like that will cover all trout fishing applications right across Australia.
While many anglers (myself included) overcomplicate things by taking more lures than they need, a small selection keeps things simple and affordable.
I'd take half a dozen hardbodies, with a couple of shallow runners around 50mm, 70mm, and 90mm, and maybe one or two deeper divers.
Rapala X-Rap or Original Floating, Daiwa Presso, Zipbaits Rigge and Ecogear MX48s in these size ranges should have you covered.
When the water is clearer, I'd also recommend some small soft plastics in a paddle tailed design, such as the Daiwa Bait Junkie Minnow.
A spool of 8lb leader and a set of pliers should also be included; nice and simple!
So, where should you start fishing?
The Hopkins River, a few kilometres either side of the famous falls, and the Merri River between Dennington and Woodford, would be our most popular and productive locations here in the south-west.
Any public access point in these areas will be guaranteed to put you into a fish holding area.
Many anglers locally simply like to "bridge hop". Trout are known to congregate around bridge crossings for various reasons. Keen anglers go for a drive, fishing under and around any bridge that crosses the river.
This can be a great way to cover productive water quickly.
During winter, rocky sections and flowing water are magnets for trout.
Casting upstream into these areas will produce a fish if one is in the vicinity and feeding.
Trout in pressured areas are often quite keen to follow or chase a lure without taking it, so you'll need to either change lures, try a different retrieve or keep casting.
The vast majority of trout here in the south-west (between Port Fairy and Terang) are stocked fish, and an introduced species, so don't feel guilty about keeping one or two for the table.
The Victorian Fisheries Authority has stocked large numbers of fish over the past couple of years; in fact, I'd almost say there are too many small trout in a lot of areas locally and they need thinning out, to produce fewer but larger fish that these rivers are famous for.
In other fishing news this week, reports have been slow.
Salmon are being caught along the beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy, but they are quite patchy and quick to move.
Bait anglers have been reporting more success than lure casters most of the time, and size has been down.
From reports, some nice perch and bream are being landed in the Curdies, which is a great sign of recovery for this system affected by a large fish kill just a couple of months ago. A lot of work is needed to bring the Curdies back up to a healthy state, but in the meantime, an open mouth has allowed for fish to come back into this river.
The bigger fish and vast numbers are out there, but just haven't been coming in close enough for beach anglers to reach them.
Tuna off Port Fairy have still been readily available on calmer days, trolling skirted lures and divers is the most popular method during winter.
The Hopkins River has been fishing very slowly; a lack of water flow creating a strong upstream salt-wedge, has been the culprit with fish retreating to more oxygenated areas near the mouth.
From reports, some nice perch and bream are being landed in the Curdies, which is a great sign of recovery for this system affected by a large fish kill just a couple of months ago.
A lot of work is needed to bring the Curdies back up to a healthy state, but in the meantime, an open mouth has allowed for fish to come back into this river.
Looking at the forecast, there's some cold weather coming next week; however, the wind does drop back over the weekend, which might allow anglers to get out for a fish.
Best of luck.
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