Sussing out the western lakes for the first time by Angus James

I'm a passionate fisher from Tropical North Queensland, where I spent my spare time targeting everything that swims in the crystal clear rainforest streams and also enjoyed sharing my adventures in the Queensland editions of Fishing Monthly. At the end of last year my wife and I made the big move down to Western Victoria. After settling in, my research quickly turned into anticipation and excitement when I discovered how many awesome fish-holding lakes are situated in Western Victoria.
The name Wendouree actually comes from the local Aboriginal word 'Wendaaree,' which translates to 'go away.' The history of this lake dates back to the 1800s when it was dammed during the gold rush era; the lake was established from a natural wetland and it became a thriving part of the Victorian district with plenty of water activities during the early settler days. It even hosted an Olympic rowing event during the 1956 Melbourne games.
It was one of Australia's first stocked lakes for trout and English perch. Now, it's a beautiful place teeming with birdlife and surrounded by well-established European trees and vintage buildings. The lake really is the heart and soul of the town. It's approximately 6km around the whole lake and often has lakeside activities, like Sunday markets and live bands playing most weekends, in close proximity to the botanical gardens nearby.
Most of Lake Wendouree is very shallow with an average depth of 2m. There are two boat ramps to choose from to get you onto the water. These ramps are well maintained and easy to access with plenty of parking spaces. Around the lake there are also little pontoons and jetties, and for the land-based anglers the options are endless.
Being a shallow lake, it is almost completely covered with weed. This sometimes makes it challenging to fish and work lures, but let me tell you, hiding in the weed are some of the healthiest and hardest-fighting fish in Western Victoria.
My favourite time to fish here is early mornings and late afternoons. Spinnerbaits work really well on this weed-covered lake as they create a lot of flash and vibration above the weed. Often you will see the big redfin race out from beneath the dark holes in the weed to smack your lures right in front of your eyes. English perch can be up to half a metre long in this lake; they are super healthy fish and fight hard. Because it is very shallow they can make their way into to weed fast.
It's crucial to get the upper hand in the battle ASAP. I like to run 5lb braid with an 8lb leader. This light gear allows me to cast my spinnerbaits long distances and cover a lot of water when I'm out prospecting for the big perch. There are big numbers of brown and rainbow trout that thrive in the lake and many of the locals say this is the healthiest they have seen the lake in a long time.
As the weather starts to cool down there will be some great catches coming out as the trout will really start to become active. I have caught some nice rainbow trout in the past few weeks on spinners attached to a grub. Slow rolling the weed edges is a dynamite way to go about things.
I also like to rig my soft plastics weedless. This allows me to let my favourite plastics work hard up against the bottom without worrying about snagging up. It's important to set the hook hard when rigging weedless. My goal this year is to catch a 50cm Lake Wendouree perch and I will be giving it a red-hot crack.
Heading south, just over an hour down the road, and we come across another magical Victorian Lake. Located at the stunning foothills of the Grampians, is the spectacular Lake Fyans. This hidden gem is by far my favourite place to fish since moving down to this part of the country. The lake's picturesque Grampians backdrop is a real treat. It makes you realise that catching fish really is just a bonus when you come to places like this. The lake has plenty of timber, weed edges and some deeper water in parts of the lake.
The edges are quite sandy with lots of little drop-offs and snags for fish to ambush small baitfish and other insects that thrive in this stunning ecosystem. Lake Fyans is renowned for its big English perch every year some absolute crackers are caught. If you want to have a crack at the 50cm trophy English perch then this is the place to do it. My biggest from the lake so far is 47cm and it was one of the best fights I have had from a perch - it just wouldn't give up.
When fishing the lake I love casting chatterbaits and spinners around. There are lots of schooling redfin around and I find that these bigger presentations allow me to search out those bigger models. I like to cast my lures past the timber and reeds then bring it back past the clear patches. The fish will be waiting in ambush for that innocent baitfish or yabby, or your lures. If you want to experience some true Wimmera magic then I highly recommend making a trip to this ripper of a lake.
The Lake Fyans Holiday Park is situated right on the lake with its own boat ramp, so it's nice and easy to hit the water to get that morning bite. If you don't have a boat, that's fine - the land-based options are plentiful. Just walk out and cast your lures into the weed edges and fallen timber. Overcast days are best as the fish will be out and about hunting for longer periods during the day.