The months since the end of last trout season in June have been quite wet and now all the region’s waterways are well set up for a tremendous opening period, with cool conditions and high flows continuing.
I expect to see some excellent fish caught in the next couple of months, particularly in the Walcha area. Here the consistently high water throughout Winter would have kept fish in top condition and the runoff will have washed plenty of tucker into the creeks.
I recently drove down to Tamworth and the Macdonald River at Bendemeer was really pumping – as high as I’ve seen it in ages. Given that the river drains the majority of the Walcha trout area, there have certainly been good conditions throughout.
Early season trout, particularly given the high water in many areas, are suckers for a meaty lure or fly.
Throughout the Tablelands lure flickers cannot go past a Rapala CD3 minnow in rainbow trout colour. These lures are awesome throughout the season but when the waterfall pools are up, they excel.
Generally I let one drift into the head of the rough pool and then work it on a tight line with the rod tip. The bib will kick the minnow across the current and down, where trout will be keen.
Smaller Celtas or Rooster Tails can also be employed this way. Use a long rod to hold the lure off the bottom where the current will drive the blades.
Hits with this style of angling are often vicious, even from smaller fish, so don’t go less than 3kg line.
Fly anglers adopt the same tactic. I favour a brighter, feathered streamer: yellow is a great choice but in overcast conditions, go for a Black Matuka.
Although bead heads are an option, you’ll find things easier if you tie a short tippet extension and leave a tag end about 20cm above the fly. Squeeze a small split shot or two onto the tag end. This allows the fly to dance higher in the current but still get some depth in the pumping water.
At this time of the season, be prepared to find trout throughout the creek systems, but three areas should receive plenty of attention.
I’ve already mentioned the waterfall pools, where the best option is to cast tight in to the head where the water is white and foaming.
The second target area is the tail-out of a long glide. Generally, when the water is up a bit you’ll find in some of the meadow streams that the larger fish in particular often lie up at the tails of the long, still pools. Look for pools with a little bit of current faster than usual.
Most fish will be tucked in against any prominent boulder or tree root adjacent to the main current.
The trick here is to cast well upstream and drift your offering down to the obstruction. Floating minnow lures are a great choice. You can see the lure floating downstream and then, when it is a metre above the target zone, tighten up to impart the diving action.
Fly anglers can achieve similar success by drifting a sunken streamer, preferably lightly weighted, and then raising it up off the bottom by lifting the rod tip.
Early season fish, particularly when the water is high, are generally not quick to spook so cautious approaches will get you quite close.
A third option is to focus on outer bends. The undercut tussock banks can be quite deeply cut out and the higher water volumes drive plenty of food items in under to waiting trout.
Floating minnows are no-gos here – you need offerings that are down in the water column so they are easily swept under the bank. Celtas are good and small soft plastics are another option.
Fly choices should be well weighted – consider my earlier comments on weighted tags on leader extensions.
Of an evening, I expect to see some terrific hatches across the region. Look for plenty of chunky mayfly and caddis action.
Fly flickers would do well to carry a couple of rods, one rigged with a dry and another with a streamer.
Alternatively, if you are fishing in pairs, take turns with differing rigs as the conditions demand. Any large brown dun pattern will suffice and you wouldn’t go wrong with a Goddard’s Caddis in size 10.
Cunning lure aficionados will have twigged and will fish the evening rises with a small, clear bubble float with a bushy dry fly about 60cm below.
The bubble float provides the weight to cast, but make your cast well upstream of a visible trout or a likely spot. The float tends to make a splash when landing that will put any self-respecting fish down.
The high volumes of rain have sent a heap of water down the western and eastern watersheds. This should be a terrific bonus for both the cod and bass fisheries.
If things stabilise in the next couple of months then December is going to be one of the best Murray cod openings for a good while.
The cicadas respond to a good damp Spring so prepare yourself for some ripper popper madness. Likewise, the crickets and grasshoppers enjoy a wet Spring so whether trout or bass, the surface action into festive season and beyond may well be sensational.
The opening weekend on the Tablelands is nearly always wet, so if it’s your first trip up this way bring warm gear and a tent that doesn’t leak!
These two shots show the differing flow heights experienced on many Northern Tablelands feeder streams. Plenty of water for Spring!Reads: 1556