The past month has seen the settled weather continues and water levels stabilise across the region.
The inflows have brought dam levels to some of the highest for many seasons and the warming conditions will undoubtedly spur the fish into action.
Down in the gorges the bass should be starting to fire. Anecdotal evidence from the lower Macleay suggests that the fish began to run up-river a little earlier than usual this spring, so I would expect good numbers of fish in the middle reaches and the lower gorges already.
Early season bass are generally looking to put on condition and baitfish are their prime target.
Slim minnow patterns are terrific lure options during this time, especially if worked slowly through the backwaters. A rarely used lure that will take bass under a variety of conditions is the traditional Celtas in larger sizes.
I caught my first bass on a Celta at West Kunderang many years ago and these little bladed options will continue to take bass.
They tend to run fairly shallow although you can count them down to work deeper pockets. There is every chance these lures would entice yellowbelly, trout and bass in the northwest.
Shrimp are a favoured target species during the coming months. As the streams warm and the weed beds bloom the shrimp population will explode.
Bass love the crunchy delicacies and bait anglers shouldn’t go passed a live shrimp under a bubble float. Fly anglers have a wealth of shrimp imitations on offer and small plastic crustaceans can be useful for lure flickers.
Generally the fish will be hunting the gravelly runs at low light seeking to disturb any nymph and shrimp juveniles. Often the immediate head of the pools downstream of a long shallow run is worth exploring.
Accessing the bass grounds is possible by either walking in with a backpack or using 4WD access to locations within the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. Information on both options is readily available from the Armidale District Office of the National Parks.
Alternatively the crew at Armidale Outdoors not only have all the local advice but can also supply last minute camping and outdoor gear.
On the trout front there is heaps of clean water across the region and by all accounts the opening season has been very successful.
Down towards Walcha the streams are fishing pretty well for anglers hitting the water at first and last light. This is the period when fish tend to be most active although mid-morning can see a solid hatch that will stir fish into action.
When the surface activity is quiet the fish will usually respond to a deeply fished streamer or lure anglers can’t go passed a Rebel Crawdad or similar hardbody imitation.
If the sun is well up look for bank side cover such as overhanging trees where the water is shaded.
The Ebor runs are picture perfect with the district streams in excellent condition. The quality of fish last year out in the east was terrific and they will only have grown fatter over the off season.
As with the Walcha waters if the stream levels are still high then streamers and chunky nymphs are probably the way to go for fly flickers. But evening mayfly hatches can be thick and as the season progresses the average size of the hatches will increase.
On the bushy streams you can expect high floating beetle patterns to be effective particularly where the Tea Tree are flowering.
Foam patterns probably give better floatation in the rougher water but on the slower runs a Red Tag or Hackle pattern are productive.
Lure selections can be varied at this time of year but you’d be hard pressed in the tighter water to better a small Celta in green or black blades.
Reduce fouling and snagging the bottom by clipping off one or two points of the treble. Spring trout hit hard and this will not reduce your hook-up rate.
If you get into the back country where the waterfalls occur then pound the rock faces with minnow patterns such as the old Rapalla CD in rainbow trout or even redfin colours.
While we don’t get redfin in the eastern streams it is not a bad colour option, probably because it carries a stronger contrast in the dark water of the bigger pools.
The tail outs of the waterfall pools are terrific spots and should be covered with either a slow working lure or even better by hopping brightly coloured plastic grubs up the face of the drop-off. Fish imitations right to your feet as the trout will often tail the lure and only hit it near the surface.
Well weighted but brightly coloured streamers are the go to pattern here for fly anglers. Slim feathered patterns require a little weight to get deep but respond well to erratic stripping methods that will entice fish.
Yellow is a preferred colour under these conditions but simple white patterns are also effective. Generally these flies will be hit as they come into the shallows and catch the light!
With warming conditions you can expect trout in the Armidale-Wollomombi streams to be chasing deeply fished offerings with a bit of bulk.
The waters do hold good numbers of yabby and the local trout love them. The Olive Mountain Shrimp is a popular fly for these waters and similar patterns will produce when fished slowly.
These streams also have some exceptional Caenid hatches in the spring so fly aficionados should carry a couple of small black duns.
The coming month should be a cracker for all species and with the current conditions I’d expect an explosion in cicada numbers over the festive season. Bring on the cod season and all that popper madness!Reads: 2001