Fishing Flooded Rivers with Brian

Flooded Rivers. What to do.

So often I have heard fishermen say: “The rivers are all dirty, so the fishing is bad”. So often this is not the case and indeed the fishing can be anything but.

As a guide I have had numerous cancellations at times when the weather has been abysmal and the rivers are high and that is fine because if the customer will not be happy in less than ideal conditions then it is best to not go as if the fishing is tough then they are not going to have a good experience and that is what we are trying to offer.

Often though, when these conditions present themselves, one must think outside the square and work out the best methodology to catch a trout. This is truly the time to utilise the swinging wet fly either Spey casting or conventional across and down with a sinking line and a large streamer.

Now the edges of the current are what you want to target, and I like to concentrate on the tails of pools where the water is shallower and generally a bit clearer especially if the bottom is shingle. The best time to target this water is when the river level is on the turn, i.e. it is starting to fall. The trout have very good eyesight and if you have a nice big fly, they will find it and, indeed, probably smash it.

Start with a big dark streamer (black is always good, night or day in high water conditions. My favourite fly is the Woolly Bugger, but you will have your favourite. Use it and fish with it with confidence.

The other day I went down to the Tongariro River. The river was high but not brown, more a milky green. I had the whole river to myself. It was pouring down with rain, but conditions were far from unpleasant as there was no wind and it was warm.

I found a shingle bar in the middle of the river where I could adequately stand and in front of me it dropped off as it does at a stream mouth when it enters the lake. Be careful where you stand here and, like stream mouths, you should stand well back from the lip.

My cast was across and down with a fast-sinking wet line and a large black woolly bugger on the end. I was casting into the smoothest (and cleanest) water on the edge and allowing my streamer to swing into the seam line.

The results were consistent action over the next few hours with some very good fish landed.

Very high river levels can also provide excellent fishing at steam mouths where the edges of the rip will be clear. These edges are the areas to concentrate your fishing. You may be surprised if just how good it can be.

Tight lines, Brian Willson NZPFGA member. 021-667867 – ILFF Shop Turangi.



My name is Brian Willson and I have been a fly fisher for over 50 years. I am a professional fishing guide and current NZPFGA member of which I have served at executive level and have guided anglers of different skill sets, ages and gender from all over the world. I have also written two books on fly fishing and am a keen artist. I am passionate about fly fishing and the therapeutic qualities it offers and enjoy sharing this experience with people on and off the water. Over the years I have made some amazing friendships that continue to this day. I have partnered up with one of these friendships, Barrie Barnes from I Love Fly Fishing, and I sell exclusively, quality, affordable fly fishing gear at my premises at 8 Wiremu Street, Turangi, the designated I Love Fly Fishing shop in Turangi which is open all hours— just ring 021667867 anytime. I take a serious interest in my clients and freely offer advice when asked and am happy to talk fishing anytime. Tight lines, Brian Willson

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