Flyfishing the Brookville Tailwater
The East Fork of the Whitewater River is the primary feeder to Brookville Reservoir. At the dam in Brookville, Indiana, the river is released, forming the "Brookville Tailwater". While the tailwater flows only 2 miles before its confluence with the West Fork of the Whitewater River, those 2 miles of river are home to nice populations of Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout (yes, trout fishing in Indiana!).
The tailwater fishes well year-round when water flows are wadeable. Of course, the US Army Corps of Engineers operate the dam with flood control as their primary objective, so when they need to lower the level of the lake, stand back; but they have been responsive to the requests for flow controls on the tailwater when flooding is not a concern. Check the gauge before you head there. If it's flowing above 4 feet the wading will be tough and possibly dangerous. We also have an informal "70 degree pledge"... if the water temperature is sneaking up on 70 degrees, we refrain from fishing the river. This usually happens in July and August during the hottest days. And, during that time, Smallmouth, Largemouth and other warmwater species are so available that laying off of trout fishing for a few weeks is a small inconvenience, especially since it will preserve the lives of the trout so we can catch them again.
Standard tailwater tactics using small nymphs and wet flies are the most consistent producers, but there are also frequent midge hatches and the occasional small mayfly or caddis hatch to bring fish to the surface. Drifting a midge dry or nymph in the surface film to rising trout can be hours of fun. Streamer fishing can also produce some nice fish, with the streamer selection staying on the small side. Leech and baitfish patterns such as Wooly Buggers and lightly dressed Clousers are the wisest choice, although there are some very large sculpins present as well, so throwing big junk might draw a big fish.
Since the tailwater flows into a warmwater river, you never know what you might catch. We have caught Smallmouth, Largemouth, Sheepshead, Carp, Catfish, Wallaye, Sauger, White Bass, Rock Bass, Bluegill, etc. while fishing for trout.
If you haven't yet fly fished the Brookville Tailwater, consider booking a trip to become acquainted with this great little fishery. We also offer a 4 hour Brookville primer for experienced flyfishers that want an introduction to the the tailwater.
Barbara with a nice big Brown Trout caught while nymphing
The "stack mend" really works miracles sometimes:-)
Ed Devine with a great Brown Trout on a mild January day.
Brookville Flies & Tactics
Here are some of the flies we fish for trout at Brookville… nothing special. As always and everywhere, fishing the right water and getting the right presentation is the key.
- Beadhead Prince - 16-20
- Beadhead Hare's Ear - 16-20
- Beadhead Pheasant Tail - 16-20
- Unweighted Flashback Pheasant Tail - 22-24
- Psycho Prince in peacock or purple color - 16-20
- Red Copper John - 16-20
- Eggs - cream/orange blood dots - 18-20 (tied on Tiemco 2457's)
- Eggs - chartreuse/orange blood dots - 18-20 (tied on Tiemco 2457's)
- Midge Nymph - tan or light gray with black head - 18-24
- Tiger Midge Nymph - red or black with silver wire ribbing and silver tungsten bead - 18-22
- Scuds - light gray and tan - 16-18
- Wet flies - 14-18 (the basics... black, gray, tan, cream)
- Caddis dries (Elk hair) - 16-20
- Conehead Wolly Buggers - white, light olive, dark olive - 6-10 (use tungsten cones or beads)
- Brookville Clouser - 8-12 - (a small Clouser tied with red squirrel on the bottom and gray squirrel for the wing. Black thread. Dark lead eyes. I tie it on a longer streamer hook than a normal Clouser, such as a Daiichi 1750… catches more short-strikers.)
Recommended fly fishing equipment for Brookville Tailwater
A great all around fly rig for Brookville is a 10ft 4wt or 5wt fly rod. The extra length helps you control line and avoid drag. Since Brookville isn't particularly overgrown with trees or bankside brush, fishing the longer rod doesn't hinder casting. This rod setup will serve you well for nymphing, fishing small-to-medium trout streamers, and wet fly or dry fly fishing on trout waters acound the world. I consider this the best basic trout setup for general trout fishing while wading or fishing from a drift boat. The only time this is not a good choice is if you are fishing a small "tunnel" stream where the long rod is too much.
- Here is an excellent 10ft 4wt rod for the job... the Orvis Recon... or this one... the Orvis Clearwater
- Add a good reel... the Orvis Hydros SL
- A 4 or 5 weight trout taper flyline
- A leader setup (I usually start with a 9ft 3x leader and adjust from there for different fishing tactics)
Other equipment you may need includes:
- Waders and wading boots (Brookville water can be cold, especially in Winter)
- Tin split shot (don't use lead, please)
- Strike indicators (Airlock and Floatmaster are my favorites)
- Tippet material (2x thru 6x should cover you at Brookville. 2x/3x for streamers. 4x-6x for nymphing and dry/wet flies. Maybe grab some 7x if midge fishing interests you.)
- Landing net
- A flask for toasting your success:-)
Standard rigging for nymphing
Nymphing is the most effective day-to-day techniques for catching trout at Brookville (and everywhere else). Don’t be afraid to put on small flies in the 18-24 range. Fish have incredible vision and can see tiny flies.
Suspension (Indicator) Nymphing
When nymphing using a Strike Indicator (fly rod bobber) you are controlling and fishing the strike indicator and the indicator is suspending the flies through the run for you. With indicator nymphing, the primary advantage is in being able to suspend your flies through a specific run while avoiding hangups on obstructions between you and the target water. The primary disadvantage is that the indicator can cause drag and pull the flies out of the strike zone. The reason this drag occurs lies in the fact that the water on the top of the current flows faster than the deeper water which is slowed and "roiled" when it encounters sunken obstructions such as rocks, logs, etc. So... your indicator can take off down the river and drag your flies up and out of the strike zone. Lots of creative mending can be required to control this drag and keep your flies deep. The Reach Cast, full-line mend, tip mends and high-sticking all have to be combined to get a good dead-drift of your flies.
Here is a sample of common rigging for INDICATOR/SUSPENSION nymphing:
In this example, the first fly below the split shot (fly 1) is usually a tungsten beadhead fly of some sort to help the whole setup sink quickly. Then the "point fly" (fly 2) is usually an unweighted fly such as a scud, egg or midge nymph. This is not a "hard n fast" rule, but just the way I find myself rigging frequently. Sometimes both flies are weighted (beadhead). Seldom is neither fly weighted.
Tightline Nymphing (sometimes called Euro-nymphing)
While there are entire volumes dedicated to tightline nymphing, Euro-nymphing, Czech nymphing, Polish nymphing, French nymphing, etc., the basic approach is the use of longer, lighter leaders that contain a colored section of monofilament called the "sighter". The lighter leaders, while having little turnover power, help the flies sink quickly and minimize drag in the water. The sighter functions as your visual indicator. The sighter is held at the waters surface to give you a visual position indicator and then the tippet is adjusted to accomodate the depth of the water. The quick sinking of the flies and lack of drag are, I believe, the reasons tightline nymphing is such a deadly tactic.
Although, I fished "tightline" for decades by just removing my strike indicator at times, the European contributions to tightline rigging and tactics have energized interest in this style of fishing. Tightline nymphing is essentially "manually suspending" your nymphs at the proper level and "leading" them through your target water. Tightline nymphing is extremely effective for catching fish, but requires good concentration and frequent rigging adjustments to ensure that your flies are presented at the right depth... too deep and they're stuck on the bottom, too shallow and they're above the feeding zone (usually the bottom 3-8 inches of the water.) Tightline nymphing is usually most effective up close... within 20 feet or so of your target water. The length of your rod is a key determining factor in how far you can fish "tightline", which explains the 10-11ft lightweight rods made for this tactic. If you try it with an 8ft rod you'll be limited to water within 10-12 feet of your reach, while with a 10-11ft rod 20+ft can be possible with good control over the drift.
Here is a sample of basic rigging for TIGHTLINE nymphing:
If you are not catching fish while nymphing, change something and try again...
- Change your depth (for indicator nymphing, change the distance between the indicator and split-shot. For tightline nymphing, adjust your depth by modifying your tippet length, or adding lighter or heavier point fly)
- Change your weight (usually add weight to get your flies deeper quicker)
- Change your line mending (always try to mend in a way to prevent drag and allow your flies to sink)
- Change your casting position (a step or two one direction or the other can solve presentation problems)
- Change your flies (start with basic flies like Hare's Ear, Prince, PT, eggs, scuds, midge nymphs, San Juan worms, etc.)
- Then change your location (There are usually fish in most deep water, but sometimes they just won't eat)
For streamer fishing, I prefer a floating line approach. Many other anglers prefer a sinktip line, and I understand and respect their ideas. But, the floating line allows me to animate the fly in ways that entice fish to strike, which is my primary reason for using this approach. The sinking line (or sink tip), while making it easy to get the fly down into the strike zone, does not allow me to animate the fly as well. With the floating line approach, I use a longer leader... usually 10-12 feet in length tapered to 1x through 3x depending on the size of fly and the flow/depth of the water. Then, I also use heavier flies such a tungsten conehead Wooly Buggers. I drop my casts using the Reach Cast (learn it... love it) and then begin animating the fly by using tip mends and recovering my slack. The tip mend should move the tip of the flyline 4-8 inches... and whatever distance the tip of your flyline moves, the fly should be moving accordingly. This swims the fly erractically and draws strikes that a straight retreive may not. I think that making a fish strike a streamer fly is very similar to teasing a cat with a piece of yarn... when you figure out just how to move the yarn, you trigger the animal instinct to "kill" and the animal loses control and attacks.
Dry Fly/Wet Fly Rigging
Since there are so many midge hatches at Brookville (and on every stream), we occasionally see fish rising lazily to surface bugs or rolling just under the surface. There are some good ways to rig for this type of fishing. You can use a small strike indicator such as a pinch-on foam strike indicator or a yarn indicator such as the New Zealand system.
Here are some sample setups
You can use these as basic guidelines to create your own rigs to provide enough visibility of the location of your flies (and hopefully fish movement) so you can quickly determine that you have a fish on.
• A small strike indicator followed by a size 18 wet fly on 5x tippet, followed by 18-24" of 6x or 7x tippet tied to the bend of the wet fly, with a #22 unweighted Pheasant Tail nymph as the point fly.
• A size 16 elk hair caddis fly on 5x tippet as "fly 1" with 24" of 6x tippet tied to the bend of the caddis and a small, unweighted midge emerger as the point fly.
• A "Hopper-Dropper" rig - A size 8 - 10 floating hopper or stonefly pattern on 3x-4x tippet, with 24-36" of 6x tippet tied to the bend of the hopper and a size 20 tiger midge as the point fly. The hopper fly should have enough flotation to be able to suspend the nymph without being pulled under.