For the mountain streams of north-east Victoria and southern New South Wales, the coming week looks enticing. Warm days, cool nights and no sign of the storms that have been a feature of summer up until now. Of course, unless you were actually caught in them, the summer storms have been a blessing, constantly topping up flows to counteract some very hot spells.
But now, the natural rivers are finally settling to late summer levels, and with the low and very clear water of the next week at least, tactics need to be refined to ensure a successful trip.
1.Stop and Watch
This is one of the best (worst?) times of year for spooking trout, and it’s not just the fish you spook immediately that are the problem. The extent of cover offered by broken water, depth and foam is much reduced, so whereas a trout you spooked last month might find security only metres away, now they’re likely to tear right up the pool and spook every other already jittery fish in the process.
One good strategy to avoid this is to simply hold back in the shadows or behind a tree when you reach a pool tail, and watch for a bit. Even if the water is flat and clear, it’s surprising how invisible the trout can be, especially if they’re holding right on the lip. Eventually though, they’ll either rise or move and give themselves away, and you’ll have a precise target to cast to. (If you think I’m labouring this point a bit because I recently forgot to stop and watch – and spooked a good fish – you’d be right!)
2.Fish the cover
I know I bang on about this, but it’s a good strategy most of the time, and worth it’s weight in gold(en) brown trout – and the odd decent rainbow – under the present conditions. Any broken water, unusual depth or shadow is good. But add an undercut bank, overhanging branch, log, tree roots or sticks, and I’m almost certain a trout will be there. What’s more, at this time of year it is probably a feeding trout, and because it ‘feels’ secure, less easy to spook. Which is a good thing, because you may have to get quite close to plop that hopper or other big dry (my first choice for spots like this) right in there with the fish.
3.Dry Fly Drag is Death
This fact often goes together with point 2: obstructions and banks create hiding places for trout, and also create complicated currents. By now, trout in most streams have seen a lot of flies and are critical of any unnatural dry fly behaviour – which they get to observe all the more in gentler, clearer flows. Reach casts can be really handy, fish long tippets if you can get away with it (these want to crumple), throw in some gentle mends if needed, and above all, sneak up close if you can – drag is easier to avoid if your fly isn’t 10 metres away!
4. Small flies? Not always.
This is a tough one to be too prescriptive about, but the point is, our natural inclination to go for smaller flies in lower, clearer water – particularly dry flies – isn’t always the right one. First, the trout have seen a lot of big terrestrials by now. Hoppers are at full size and there are plenty of cicadas and beetles about. Second, the risk/ reward thing sometimes seems to operate with big dries at this time of year. Trout that might suspiciously sniff a size 16 CDC emerger, will smash a size 10 Royal Stimulator without thinking it through. Third, leader-shy fish notice the tippet much less if the fly is 20mm long. And fourth, in those fishy but impossible spots to actually place a fly, your chances of drawing a trout out are much better with a big dry.
5. Stay Late
The daytime opportunities are likely to be very good if you apply the points above, so don’t worry if you can’t stay on. However, if you can hang around, from sundown until dark can be truly amazing. Now, those trout which have been hiding in difficult to impossible spots all day, come out into the main feeding lanes. There may or may not be an evening rise as such, but don’t be concerned if there’s not. Keep fishing a big dry (and if you’re not on heavy tippet already, now’s the time to change up). Concentrate on the bubble-lines and pool heads especially. Having sacrificed the best drift-feeding lies for cover during the day, the largest trout in the river will now be making up for lost time.
Hope you can make it out there over the next week or so, and if you do, drop us a report on the Forum.