Reservoir Fly Fishing


A few years ago, the regional government opened several reservoirs in South Australia to recreational fishos. This was welcome news to fishos who live in the region like myself. With the introduction of new coastal fishing restrictions in 2014, I thought I would take the opportunity to dip my toe in the reservoir fishing water. I started fly fishing from a drifting boat and found it to be an incredibly accessible fishing application once you accept a couple of striking differences.


I live near Warren Reservoir, one of the smallest volume reservoirs at just 4790 megalitres. I found this a great place to start to get the hang of things. It is nicely stocked with Carp and Redfin and a very accessible location to begin. Once I had enjoyed some success at Warren, I moved onto larger reservoirs like Hindmarsh and Tod.


I use a 10-foot rod with a number of lines, both sinkers and floaters. I like using hoppers and CDC dries for dry reservoir fishing. Both flies are representative of a number of species and are versatile enough to handle plenty of species found in the reservoirs of Southern Australia. When I’m fishing wet fly, I like to use an intermediate or a sinking line, with a dabbler or bibio. For beginners, get a nice selection of attractors, dries and nymphs to get yourself started on the reservoirs.


When I fished in the surf, with little to no obstacles I would try and hurl my cast out as far as possible. Fishing the reservoirs, I notice that I am far better off casting for quality over distance. The longer I cast from the boat, the more I seem to encounter tangles and difficulty. For the sake of not spending my afternoon continuously untangling lines, I prefer to hit good casts of average distance, than go for long casts which may go wayward.

When fishing with nymphs, I like to retrieve in a slow and careful figure of eight. In doing this, I am able to quickly take up the slack line produced by my boat drifting, whilst leaving the fly in place.

When I am fishing wet fly, I cast quite short downwind. The majority of the fish take the fly either as soon as it enters the water or within the last 20 feet or so. As a result, I keep my eyes carefully on the fly when it enters the water, with my rod low to the water’s surface, looking for any motion on the line in the seconds after it enters the water. If there is nothing, I start retrieving with quick pulls. When I pull the fly out of the water, if I can see any movement on the water’s surface indicative of some action lying below, I drop the fly straight back in. Fishing in this way has landed me heaps of fish. Giving them a second look at the fly just after you take it out of the water seems to coax them into striking.

I am by no means a reservoir fly fishing expert. I am learning more and more each day after making the transition from coastal applications, but am enjoying the new application.


What else would you recommend for beginner reservoir fly fishos? Do you have anything you can share?

Peter Hollingsworth
Peter Hollingsworth

Peter has been fishing all around Australia since he was a boy. He loves camping, fishing and kayak fishing.