Penstock Lagoon

Joe Riley

Since the creation of Penstock Lagoon in the early 20th Century to hold water for the Waddamana Power Scheme, Penstock has build a strong and lasting reputation as a challenging and rewarding fishery for both Brown and Rainbow trout. With a dun hatch that was regarded as one of the finest anywhere, polaroiding on bright days for large browns sipping black spinners and trout foraging the shallows for damsel fly and mudeye larvae the lagoon has always offered exciting opportunities for the persistent and observant angler to catch with quality fish.

It is usually in October and November in Penstock Lagoon when the trout really start to come on the feed. The water has warmed significantly from the 2 to 3 degree range of opening weekend to a balmy 8 or 9 degree Celsius. Insect life becomes more active and trout continue to recover from the rigors of winter as they feed heartily on the more active aquatic life abundant in the lagoon. Into November the first of the mayfly appear and Penstock usually offers some of the better and more reliable dun hatches for the early season.

Around the shores
Penstock is one of those places where wading can be a bit of a challenge, the years of silt build up is held together by good weed growth, however as you wade your feet will still sink slightly making a full day of wading a bit of an energy draining exercise. That said however there is ample opportunity to walk the shore and only wade periodically amongst the strap weed as you see signs of movement from the trout pushing their way amongst the strap weed for damsel nymphs, stick caddis and mudeye. With a bit of a walk the Eastern shore is forested and has a solid bank, this shore needs little if any wading and holds fish right through the season. This shore is on private land however there is a 10 metre easement along the shore line to allow angler access. Hot spots around the Western side (road shore)of Penstock include Canal Shore around the pin reeds, Ladys Walk and the Tree Shore to the Southern Wall. The points and bays right along the Eastern Shore, and although less fishy looking the Northern and Southern walls also hold plenty of fish. The Southern Wall especially has a reputation for big trout feeding on duns and spinners as they collect on mass as any form of Northerly wind blows them into this pocket of the lagoon.
Around the shores all of the usual patterns associated with foraging fish will suffice, Fur Fly, Yeti, and damsel imitations will all work well. With abundant strap weed getting the trout to see the fly is more of a challenge, make numerous presentations along the anticipated path of the trout. Don't be afraid to slap the fly down a bit and to give it a good twitch for a retrieve as these trout are looking for larger prey which has the ability to be very mobile in the water. As the dun hatch kicks off, particularly on windy days some very good fish will mop up duns as they drift along the edges of the strap weed, these are quite often bigger, quality fish which will present a few "interesting" moments when first hooked from the shore line side of the strap weed.
On days where there is nothing happening blind fishing along the outside edge of the strap weed and in fact out into the lagoon will produce results. Concentrate on fishing to structure like pockets of weed, around visible stumps and anywhere that looks fishy. With the exception of the dam walls a floating line is all that is required along the bulk of the shore, the water is generally not more that 600mm deep close to shore.

Inland Fisheries, MAST and Hydro have done a great deal of work in 2007 to upgrade the boating and camping facilities. The car park and camping areas have been formalised to make getting in and out of the lagoon more user friendly while vehicular access to the Western shore has been limited to prevent erosion from driving on the soft ground. Once on the water the trip from the ramp out to the greater part of the lagoon is still a bit of a drama however as the canal is generally no more than 400mm deep and care needs to be taken as stirring up piles of silt will not make you popular with the anglers fishing around the canal shore.
Penstock is only a shallow piece of water no more than 6ft deep, the centre of the lake is rainbow territory, particularly off Crisps Point (The shack shore) and the Southern end of the lagoon where it narrows towards the wall. Brown trout can appear anywhere through the lake but hot spots tend to be closer to shore around the areas already listed. Depending on how windy the day is and how fast or slow you want to fish. Lines from intermediate to type 5 can be successfully used in the deeper water. Rainbows show readily when the duns are about but tend to move about more quickly that the browns. Judging their direction and speed is the key to success and this is something that takes a bit of getting used to. Even with a lot of boat traffic on the lake you can still find the odd trout in a quiet corner or working up a scum line in the wind gutsing down large numbers of duns. These fish are always a joy to see as they are relatively easy keeping their snouts out of the water makes judging their movement totally predictable.
A wide range of flies will work from the boat or shore, bead head Woolly Buggers in various colour and flash combinations, traditional wet flies such as the Dunkeld or Zulu. Dry Flies including the famous Penstock Brown, Lodge's Emerger, Parachute Dun and nymph patterns including seals fur nymphs and stick caddis representations.

The late John Brookes identified in his book Lifelong Pleasure that Penstock Lagoon is a fishery that requires special attention. He hit the nail right on the head in referring to one of his last days fishing Penstock saying; "Though Penstock will stay high and clear and have a reasonable stock of fish, I am not sure that it will be able to cope with the angling pressure ahead of it. It is going to be a delicate and difficult fisheries management job to maintain the quality of fly fishing there."

Inland Fisheries Service seem to have recognised the issues with heavy angler pressure on Penstock, they have stepped up stocking and created a reduced bag limit with increased sizes for both brown and rainbow trout. A bag limit of three fish total with a minimum size being 420mm for brown trout and 400mm for rainbows.
Other special regulations include

  • 5 knot speed limit for boats.
  • Restrictions for boats fishing within 100 metres of anglers on the shore unless moored.

IFS has also entered into a rigorous stocking regime to ensure that Penstock Lagoon continues to deliver quality fishing. The table below shows stocking for 2007-2008.
Although Penstock is a relatively small water which at times has been subjected to a lot of angling pressure it still produces some of the finest quality trout in the highlands, thanks in no small part to a consistent stocking and monitoring scheme by the Inland Fisheries Service. Further to this with the popularity of Woods Lake exploding over the last few years angling pressure should ease this year to make Penstock Lagoon a great option.

Joe Riley

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