High country, high flows

Finally, a break in the constant rain and cold weather! Philip and I checked our diaries and miraculously, we both had a few days available to go fishing together.

We chose the beautiful Ovens and Buckland valleys as our destination. So easy to stay in Bright which has become quite the bustling little town for nature lovers and adventure seekers of all denominations. Bright, in the foothills of the Victorian Alps, has it all: good restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and pubs. But above all, it’s the perfect gateway to several wonderful trout rivers and streams – and in season, cod waters too.

The conditions

A mini-Niagra at Porepunkah gives some idea of the power of rivers at present.

Well, the weather and rain held off, but the rivers and streams were not holding back. High flows made wading a challenge, clarity was okay but certainly not crystal, and the super-fast water was not suitable for conventional ‘normal flows’ flyfishing. Simply casting upstream into a run or a riffle would result in your fly coming back to your feet in seconds.


Our options were limited to targeting softer water close to the banks, in particular on the inside of bends or behind obstructions. Dotted along the river, these bathroom-sized bits of water allowed for short (1-2 rod length) casts and reasonable drifts. These pockets provide respite for the trout, where they can hold comfortably out of the main current and happily pick at food drifting downstream.

High flows and high mountains: picking a pocket with 2000m Mt Feathertop in the background.

A combination of adapting to the conditions and stealth resulted in good numbers of browns and rainbows being landed. We also targeted some great little anabranches, which offered patches of delightful stream fishing of the more conventional kind, including exciting bursts of dry fly fishing during a termite fall.

Hooked up during a termite fall.

Overall though, a trip highlight for me was several very visual takes from trout hunting down my nymphs.

The Squirmy versus the beaded nymph

As some of you may know, I am not a huge fan of the Squirmy Worm. Just personal preference. This is where my flyfishing snobbery stops – I promise I don’t own any tweed! I don’t really mind what flies fishers use, and Squirmy Worms, I tell myself, are imitating a ‘hatch’ of sorts. So are perfectly legit.

I stubbornly persisted with indicator nymph fishing and dry/nymph combos whilst Philip started off with a Squirmy. Now the conditions were perfect for the Squirmy – so many worms would have been washed into the river from the inundated and water-logged banks.

I thought I was going to get my butt royally kicked, but when we went head-to-head using these different flies, the catch rate was similar, although overall, Philip’s skill and concentration levels, as expected, are difficult to compete with.

A nice Buckland brownie on a ‘regular’ nymph. I watched this fish swim over and eat it – brilliant!

This is why, when fishing with him I have devised a canny handicap system, (similar to golf) where one of my fish is worth two of his. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me! It turned out the Squirmy was no permanent fixture for Philip, with the Pineapple Express under a dry accounting for a lot of fish for him when conditions suited.

Trout condition and numbers

If the actual high water fishing is challenging at times, the trout are thriving in these conditions: fat and healthy.

A typically tubby Ovens rainbow.

I am not going to give you a count of trout landed, but I will say we caught many, and considering we were only able to literally cherry-pick the infrequent quieter pockets, overall trout numbers must be very good. The other indication of the trout population was the impressive number of fish that started rising during the termite fall, briefly offering us more trout on the dry than nymph below. I can only fantasise at how good these fisheries will be once conditions settle a bit, flows reduce to manageable levels, and things warm up a bit.

A fun few days

What a fun few days! This region is looking spectacular. Iridescent green as far as the eye can see. Vegetation is bursting, spring creeks are sprouting out of nowhere, the streams are flowing generously, and the water temperatures are cool for this time of the year on the back of cloudy weather and snowmelt. Insect activity seems ready to pop and the sighting of a platypus was the cherry on top.

This productive edge on the Buckland produced four trout.

More rain is forecast for the next few days and then hopefully a bit of settled weather. I can’t wait to head back out and do it all over again!