Riverine fish populations are traditionally considered to be highly structured and subject to strong genetic drift. Here, we use microsatellites to analyse the population structure of the guppy (Poecilia reticulata), focussing on the headwater floodplain area of the Caroni drainage in Trinidad. We also analyse the population genetics of guppies in the Northern Drainage in Trinidad, a habitat characterized by rivers flowing directly into the sea, and a small isolated population in Tobago. Upland Caroni populations are highly differentiated and display low levels of genetic diversity. However, we found no evidence to suggest that these upland populations experienced recent population crashes and the populations appear to approach mutation–drift equilibrium. Dominant downstream migration over both short- and long-time frames has a strong impact on the population genetics of lowland Caroni populations. This drainage system could be considered a source–sink metapopulation, with the tributary furthest downstream representing a ‘super sink’, receiving immigrants from rivers upstream in the drainage. Moreover, the effective population size in the lowlands is surprisingly low in comparison with the apparently large census population sizes.