Mitta Mitta – above, below and around

The week before Easter saw me heading along C543 (aka the Omeo Highway), turning off at Mitta Mitta township and setting up my tent in preparation for a few days enjoying small fish, big fish, beautiful scenery, and night-time campfires. All with no set schedule or deadlines. The Mitta Mitta tailwater, the Mitta Mitta above Dartmouth Dam, Snowy Creek and Lightning Creek were just some of the waters I intended to try. It was also going to be a perfect chance to test my flyfishing skills acquired to date, learn more, and truly enjoy my fishing.

One of several streams on the Mitta trip menu.

After a long drive and then carefully setting up camp, it was a real effort not to rush cooking and dinner to maximise my remaining fishing time that day. I had found a spot to fish the evening rise, and after the whole day’s anticipation and then rigging up and donning the waders, it was frustratingly quiet – no rises apart from a four-inch brown leaping after hovering insects, which decided to take my dry, a Mayfly Cripple.

I’d hired a local guide for the next day, who I hoped to learn a lot from. And I certainly did! There was so much to learn. Not only new information and skills, but also building self-confidence… as well as ‘unlearning’ (correcting) poor technique. I was guided on a new waterway too. The first skill was to observe what were often complicated drifts and runs, some with multiple currents and bubble lines, and then determine how to fish them. The grid system from my Euro-nymphing skillset helped with that, but since I was fishing dry-dropper, I had to get my casting perfect and fix my mending.

Now, I don’t mind admitting that sometimes I can be lazy. I get too used to Belgian casting, because I mostly pursue flathead, bream and estuary perch during summer, not trout. And I get too used to lobbing 4mm tungsten-beaded nymphs with my nymphing rod. Shorter, more accurate casts to perfectly drift a dry-dropper rig along the edge of a swift current, are forgotten. But I had a guide to carefully observe, and then forensically dissect my casts – as well as explaining how I should be doing things in general. I could see this would all improve my ability; not only for the remainder of the trip, but into the future.

One highlight of the guided day was a very determined baby brown which vigorously and repeatedly tried to get the Stimulator into its mouth – and failed. Most fish I netted preferred the nymph, but the Stimi did more than just keep the nymph at a certain depth and length. At one point, during a lesson on casting under very low branches, a brown showed me just how right my guide’s advice was to maintain using a dry fly that particular day, snatching the Stimi in an explosion of water from just under a lopsided willow.

Later, everything came together when a good cast with a good drift saw the Stimi suddenly dip under, and I struck. After a solid tussle, I manoeuvred a 3lb brown into guide’s net, and a celebratory photo was taken.

A brownie to remember!

The day ended with a helpful review from the guide about what I’d worked on that day, some homework to do to help me reinforce what I’d learned, and suggestions to try a different stream the following day and utilise everything I’d learnt and practiced.

That next day came and went. I reflected on it in front of the campfire, a breeze sending drying autumn leaves rustling by my feet. Whilst the afternoon had been given to exploring and preparing for the evening rise, the morning session saw me mentally revisit the previous day’s lessons, and then put them into practice.

My rod loaded the Stimulator/ beaded nymph combo well, and my improved roll casts delivered the flies further and more accurately 7 out of 9 times – a big increase from my usual 4 out of 9 times. Whilst there was no action on my caddis grub, changing it to a sparkling emerger nymph saw fish starting to show interest. In little time, a good rainbow was netted, and only a few metres upstream from that, a fish followed the emerger back and took it just before the water dropped over a tail out… but my hookset was poor and after a few seconds, it threw the hook.

A nice reward for getting a few things right on my own.

Upstream, two more rainbows came to hand, and I was proud I’d predicted their likely lies: under low-hanging branches, and where some more angular submerged rocks provided great little dens as ambush points. As I cast upstream and watched my rig float back to each spot, I anticipated the Stimulator dipping – and it did each time. I side-struck; another lesson from the previous day, when at one point there was little room for any striking more than 5 degrees above horizontal.

Each rainbow took to the air multiple times; however, my hooksets and tippet were solid and strong. A photo each, and they were quickly on their respective ways.

A little while later, something hit the nymph and gave me a good ten second struggle. It leapt once, and I thought it might have been a brown – but I’ll never know for sure, because as I readied to direct it into my net, it got a second wind, gave a violent head shake and spat the hook. It wasn’t a huge fish, but it was certainly stronger than the previous rainbows.

The morning ended with a small brown netted further up, and then the water became too deep to wade, and the banks unscalable. I retraced my steps some fifty metres or so, clambered up the bank and then walked back to my car.

Promising water on Snowy Creek for next time. 

I ended the trip grateful for all the lessons – both from the guided day, and from the fish the following day.