Doing it deep and slow
  |  First Published: August 2013

While we would all love to be catching fish on the surface when the season opens this year, the reality is that most fish will be down near the bottom somewhere.

This is for two reasons – the water is cold and most of the surface loving insects are still another three months away and trout being cold blooded follow the food, which is on the bottom.

In lakes we are talking about scud, shrimp, small fish, stick caddis, snails and the like. They all hug the bottom and with the exception of baitfish, move pretty slowly.

In rivers the same food groups dominate, although you can probably swap snails for small mayfly nymphs.

So to get the best of the action, get down deep and fish it slow.


Most of our trout streams in the early months of the season (Tasmanian and Victorian waters) feature higher than summer levels but often discoloured. Barring a good flood when we head to the backwaters to search for shallow feeding trout, pretty much all our trout are sitting at the tail of the pools hard on the bottom. Faster running headwater streams will see most fish under any structure for the most part – alpine streams often have a well-developed undercut that is home to many a brown trout.

Predominantly trout will sit under the main flow is deeper tails waiting for food to fall down from the flow and into their path. Plenty of stick caddis and small nymphs will be dislodged in the faster water and will sink when the flow slows, and here our good friend the trout will be waiting.

The best way to approach these feeding stations is to cast a weighted nymph like a bead head nymph or small weighted Woolly Bugger with enough distance to allow it to sink into the path of the trout. This can often mean casting 5-6m upstream of where you think the trout might be – even more in fast flowing water.

In concert with the sinking fly, a strike indicator of some sort should be used. I often use a big, bright and buoyant dry fly such as a Royal Wullf or Stimulator, although many prefer to use a simple ‘pinch-on’ foam indicator. I like the dry fly, as I can always catch a fish on that if I am lucky! Make sure you have plenty of distance between the indicator and the fly – there is no point having it 30cm below the indicator if the water is 1m deep, as this will regulate its swimming depth.

As soon as that indicator dips, lift the rod. Nine times out of ten it will be the fly bumping the bottom, but if you get 90 false alarms a day that is still ten fish if you follow my logic!


Deep fishing lakes can be a boring affair.

Rarely will I do it for more than an hour or so – 30 minutes and no hits and I am thinking of doing something else!

There are two approaches from a boat – a sinking line and three weighted flies, or a floating line with a long leader and one weighted fly. The sinking line approach has many devotees in the early months of the season, and for good reason, it catches heaps of fish. This is a very ‘energetic’ way to fish.

Cast the line and flies as far as you are able, let it sink while keeping in touch with the fly and then get stuck in with fast strips, interspersed with pauses. As the flies approach the boat, make sure you ‘hang’ the flies, as many a trout makes its decision in the surface 20cm. Rip them out and all you will get is a big boil and a few choice words, no doubt!

The best flies for this are all competition-based patterns – Shrek, Magoo, Humungous and so on. Google is your friend for the tying patterns – not many reasonable commercial patterns exist, but check at your local fly shop in any case. If in doubt just tie on three weighted Woolly Buggers in Green, Black and Brown.

The best depth is between 2-4m of water, preferably over weed.

The other, more subtle method involves a floating line, which is easier handle in itself, and a long leader tapering down to one single weighted fly. The principle here is to cast a long line and let that fly sink down into weeds and other trouty looking areas. By having a weighted fly, it is easier to get a straight line between you and the fly, which is very important to detect those timid touches.

Quite often the takes will be a slight tightening before those fish go buck wild! The best flies for this are ones which mimic slow moving food – scud, stick caddis and snails. Quite often snail feeders will take a slow fished Woolly Bugger too, so don’t forget that.

To be perfectly frank, it really doesn’t matter too much about fly pattern, as long as it is fished in the weeds. Get it down deep and fish it as slow as the wind and drifting boat will allow.

Don’t be fooled by my pessimism, I’ve had days in the opening of the season where I’ve had 10-12 fish in an afternoon – when they are on the feed it can be a dynamite way of catching plenty of those wonderfully well-conditioned trout. And they are usually very tasty too.

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