Techy Thursday - Tricky Backwater Trout

Backwaters have been a godsend these past few weeks. With heavy rain blowing out rivers, new backwaters and side channels are formed, oxbows are topped up and existing backwaters have filled with water, and fish. Life’s pretty good for a backwater cruiser, living life away from the currents and fluctuations of the main stem, cruising around productive, food laden weedbeds, silty margins, willow lines and rocky edges. If I was a trout, I’d sure be a backwater trout, taking my pick of chironomids, snails, damsels, mayfly, caddis, beetles, willow grubs and other tasties there for the picking.

However, backwater trout can be fickle trout and often require a more technical approach. Here’s my hit:

  • I generally approach backwaters with a dry / dropper, to both hedge my bet, and to account for those hard to see nymph eats ( fish can be facing every which way ).
  • I’ll often fish a single nymph when lighting is good but rarely a single dry, as you may only get one pass a backwater trout and if he's not looking up, you need to have a dirty nymph at the ready.
  • Initially I'll read his beat and lay my rig down in waiting, keep it static. Backwater fish are easily spooked so keep it simple, stupid, for now anyway...

Tip: Reset your cast whenever safe. There will often be a drift / windblown in backwaters and if your fly has drifted say, far left and about to drag when fishy shows, you've screwed the pooch...

  • If he has passed it a couple of times static with no result, consider twitching the fly as he approaches to simulate life. Now don’t do this with the rod tip. That’s just weird. A simple pull with the line hand will move your dry, lift your nymph and let's see what happens..
  • No response? Now's the time to get aggressive, feed the fish as Chuey would say. Try dropping your rig a couple of meters ahead of the cruising fish and make him see the drop.

Another tip: do not wait until the dry dips before you set that hook. By then, its usually too late. Watch for cues such as the flash of his mouth, a change of direction, a lift, a stop...back yourself.

With the longest day approaching and days about to get shorter I'm wondering what summer will bring. Keep an eye on the backwaters. They may just save your day.