Getting ready to fish North-east Victoria

With Melbourne finally opening up this Friday, there will likely be a flyfisher hatch all along the Hume Freeway from 6pm heading to the north-east streams. And rightly so! Being a regional Victorian, I cannot begin to imagine what this lock-out from wilderness and flyfishing must feel like. Seeing it was our moral duty, regional fishers just kept the rivers warmed up for you, and here’s a little sneak preview of what you can expect this weekend in north-east Victoria.

First of all, the water levels are still high and flows are stronger than normal. Among other things, this means be prepared to do some tough wading in places. There is still some snow on the mountains, the rivers are clear, and flows are very cold. Levels have been higher still, which meant that fishing up until this last weekend had been confined to slow edges or fishing deep. With the current warm spell, and depending on rainfall over the next couple of days, the coming weekend could be pretty good, with the streams not too high and not too cold.

Big flows, but plenty of fish…

… including these two from the same spot.

At this time of the year, flyfishers tend to be obsessed with one question even more important than vaccination rates, namely: fish the dry or the nymph? When the world’s problems can be reduced again to this question, all will be well! And the answer of course is, ‘It depends.’ I’ve had by far the most fish on the Czech nymph system. Even in water a foot deep where a well-presented dry-dropper did not get a look in, the double nymphs got eaten no problem. Yet, the on some creeks, the dry has done really well, mostly between 12-3pm. This was the case even very early in the season.

Yes, we have also had a few, just a few, great evening rises – for termites mainly. So if you want to scratch that dry fly itch straightaway this weekend, have yourself an early – or very late – dinner and make sure you’re on the water from 7pm till about 8.30pm. I’ve found that a small midge emerger has worked a charm on what can be fussy Ovens evening risers.

And yes, we also have had a fair amount of snake activity. I nearly stepped on a large copperhead just up from the centre of Bright (don’t tell the tourists at the swimming pool!) Anyway, they are out, so remember that you are going from months of Netflix to ‘Realflix’ – take some sturdy gaiters and take care!

Bike track works are in full swing on the Ovens, but the trout don’t seem to mind.

Works around the Ovens River are being completed to connect a cycle path from Bright to Harrietville. This will be great when it’s done, but if you seek real solitude, you may consider planning another section of the system to fish, as the dozers are working overtime to get this track done before Christmas. Does it impact the fishing? Well, I managed 4 fat fish from right under some of the earthworks, so the fish don’t seem to mind the earthworks too much!

Over Mitta Mitta township way, I fished a day with my friend Wayne. Some of the smaller creeks were pumping but clear enough. On one of these creeks, we got some great fish, mostly on the double nymph, including a lovely brown that ate a gold bead Squirrel Nymph. (That fly should be banned, it’s just too good!) The Snowy Creek flowed high but clear and we managed good fish in tricky wading. The Mitta itself was slow, with not much water being released from Dartmouth.

Reward for patient nymphing on the Kiewa.

My personal highlight recently was a deep nymphing session on the Kiewa below Mount Beauty. Wading to about waist-deep around the willows, two stunning browns ate the fly as it drifted along the slow, deep edges. These were fish of lots of casts, but the hit and run (on light tippet) soon got me fired up.

With all the water around, I’ve done some exploration sessions on a few small new creeks. I’ve found great water, and lots of wily rainbows and browns, in places I’ve overlooked for way too long. The prolonged wet period may be a big factor in why some of these creeks are now doing so well and are certainly worth a look. In one section, a fish flashed deep in a pool and I missed it on the gold-bead PHT. I switched to a purple beaded black Perdigon Nymph, and the colourful rainbow responded nicely to that flashy fly. The photo in front of some pretty flowers framed the experience on that new creek for me.

Don’t forget the lesser-known small streams as options.

In summary, the main rivers could be primed to go this weekend, and don’t forget to pack your nymphing gear. Meanwhile, the dry fly action is sporadically picking up, so keep it in mind. If crowds are an issue, have a close look at the map and find yourself a new blue line. After two wet years, you never know what awaits. Good luck everyone!