Hot with Hoppers in the Kiewa Valley and Beyond

The far north-east has always been a region I’ve wanted to fish since moving to Victoria four years ago, but the minimum 3-4 hour drive has placed it beyond the range of my usual day trips. This time however, I had a whole weekend and after some research, I settled on the Kiewa Valley area, with a stop on the way home to try to catch my first cod.

Waking at 5:30am, I soon hit the road, with a plan to be on the water by 10am to allow a full day’s fishing. Clear blue skies with the temperature quickly rising as the drive continued, led to the promise of a good day. After setting up the tent and putting together a 5 weight and bushy dry, I was having my first cast on a small creek before 11am. Within a few casts, a brown slowly appeared from the shadow of a fallen tree and slurped down the dry. This pattern continued for a while, until a string of refusals suggested a fly change might be required. Rather than going smaller to a caddis or mayfly, I chose a bright rubber-legged hopper that would land with a splat. All of a sudden trout were coming from all angles; even chasing the fly downstream or crossing the stream for it.

Hopper fishing heaven!

The clear water enabled many of the trout to be spotted and stalked. However, the larger 2 to 3 pounders eluded capture. After being hooked, they’d rush for cover and with no chance of stopping them on 4X, I was regularly tying on new flies.

Pocket water.

The afternoon was spent heading further up the valleys to pocket water country, targeting the aggressive rainbows that hid beside and behind the large boulders. They were very happy to come and crunch all sorts of dry flies, with the smaller ones performing a leap over the fly as they attempted to sink it.

Pocket water rainbow.

With the next day forecast to reach 42C in valleys, I made the drive up to the Bogong High Plains to escape the heat. After seeing a few nice-sized but skittish browns in the reservoirs, the wind blew me back down the mountain via some of the aqueducts. In 15 minutes of fishing, I discovered these channels were full of mini-browns, a cool sight to see.

Staying cool on the Bogong High Plains.

Back down in the valley it was hot, dry and windy – perfect conditions for hopper fishing. After walking through the long dry grass and dodging snakes, it didn’t take long until I was finding fish. Much like the day before, the trout were very active and more than willing to crunch a splatting hopper pattern. I found that these hopper feeders would sit in some very fast, shallow water, provided it was fringed by a nice grassy edge. In fact, I was locating as many fish in the shallows as in the more traditional holding water.

Back to the hopper feeders.

After packing up the tent, I made a move down the road to try my luck cod fishing. Finding a few nice pools just before dark yielded no result. Not deterred, I set up camp alongside the river ready for an early start in the morning. Hitting the water shortly after first light, I found a few promising deeper, snaggier pools. I had one good grab but it failed to hook up. An hour later and without another bite, I swapped flies. The change was rewarded with a fish grabbing the fly shortly after it landed and sank. I stripped but the weight was gone. Thinking this might be my last take for the day, I was disappointed but on the next snag another fish hammered the fly mid-strip. Again no hook up. Maybe it’s time to think about hook placement and different weed guards for my next cod flies! I fished further upriver for the next few hour but no more strikes. Getting so close to success only makes me want to try cod on fly again.

The long drive back to Melbourne began with 41C temperatures and the interior of my car like oven. However, the further south I went, the cooler it got and by the time I crossed the Great Divide it was just 21C and drizzly; it felt like I was in a whole new country.

All in all, the trip was surely worth it and hopefully it won’t take me another four years to get back there.