Techniques Handling High Water The Ovens River, Victoria flowing high & discoloured

Handling High Water

5 essential tips for handling early season flows

by Tuesday, 18 October 2016

There are only so many days in the trout season and staying home purely because of poor stream conditions should be viewed as a missed opportunity. With the catchment areas already saturated in the South Eastern states of Australia, after a wet winter, the heavy rainfall into spring has seen renewed stream rises and extended high flows. Although conditions may not be ideal for some streams, the adaptable fly angler can still find some good fishing and achieve success with the right approach.

1. Target headwater streams or the higher reaches of tailwaters

The headwater streams may still be running hard, but will always run clearer than those streams draining from farm country. Smaller streams with short forested catchments are the best option when the larger streams of the farming valleys are still high and turbid and they are also the first to recede after rain. Some of our largest water storages are still some way off being full, meaning the sections of river below are at great heights for fishing due to minimum releases from the dams. They may still be a little dirty from drains and small streams entering but are best fished upstream of any major feeder streams adding large amounts of water.

With a little exploration you can find clear headwater streams

2. Fish the edges

A fish living in a high flow environment is going to spend as much time as possible in calmer water. Stream edges typically clear faster than the main flow and fish can often be found actively feeding here. The defined bank edges are the logical choice, but not to be overlooked are the edges of runs and riffles, where fast meets slow. Flooded edges or side channels also provide food and shelter, and, where visibility allows, thoroughly scan the tail outs of pools for fish.

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The upper sections of tailwaters may still be slighty turbid, but offer more sedate flows, Photo: Katie Doyle
Weighted nymphs
Add plenty of weight to get your fly to where the fish are

3. Nymph in the fish’s face

With reduced water clarity, fish can be reluctant to travel even short distances to intercept a drifting nymph and will be seeking refuge close to the bottom of a stream where the current is slower. Suitably weighted nymphs or the addition of weight to the leader can get your flies to the right depth and within a fish’s field of vision. Roll on tungsten putties are great as they allow quick depth adjustments.

4. Dedicated streamer fishing

Early season has always been a great time to fish streamers on the streams of North East Victoria. Just like nymphing, you want to be where the fish are and not fishing over the top of them. Smaller streams or shallower runs can often be covered by weighted flies, but if fishing larger water sinking lines are a more effective tool. The angler has a range of options; full sink, sink tip or poly leaders can all be utilised. Sink tips are the most user friendly tool for the wading angler. For those not wanting to carry a spare spool or reel, poly leaders are a great option to have at hand to convert your floating line to a temporary sink tip and offer the versatility of different sink rates.

5. Don’t forget the dries

All this talk of high flows can have many people thinking the chances of fishing dry flies are next to none. Think again. Small stoneflies are a feature of our freestone streams and tailwaters this time of year, often hatching during the warmest time of the day. Look for fish rising to them on the edges of the runs and bubble lines of the pools. Mayfly hatches are happening as well, especially on our tailwaters and these hatches will only intensify as the weather warms further into spring.

Above all get out and enjoy your time on the water, prepare to mix things up a bit and don’t get bogged down fishing your normal methods if they’re not producing. 

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Stimulators are a great fly choice for fish feeding on stoneflies