Pop the champagne corks!
  |  First Published: December 2008

Without a doubt the best fishing for a very long time has arrived throughout the Northern Tablelands. Dams are overflowing, rivers and creeks are holding good flows and the fish, well, they just seem to pounce upon all manner of flies, lures and baits.

Several months ago the Moscow Circus passed through the region and you’d have to be one of their clowns not to catch trout at the moment. All the streams are flowing extremely well, with regular though patchy storms keeping the levels up and the fishing has been exceptional.

This will be the best season for trout throughout New England for three or four years. If you don’t get out and about, it’s your own fault.

Not only are fish in good numbers but some exceptional specimens are being landed.

The key to success at present is stealth. Approach all water carefully because the current conditions (pun intended) mean fish are cruising. Fish close and short, working the bank edges before exploring the main flow.

Down Walcha way, a big old brown recently topped 3kg mark and equally large rainbows are being reported from the western streams. Guyra is fishing well, as are the ever-reliable Ebor waters.

Unless you’ve got a PhD in chemistry there’s no need to experiment.

Lure flickers will enjoy great success with the smaller Celtas in red or black. On the larger streams, shallow running minnows such as the Rapala trout series or Rebel Crawfish are worth casting.

Soft plastics in hot orange or pink will suffice those with a rubber fetish. These are extremely effective when hopped through the inflow at the head of any sizeable pool.

Downsize your jig heads and, in some instances where the water is shallow, dispense with them altogether.

Feather and fur specialists will do well with yellow or green Humpies on the faster streams. Black foam beetles are also a great option this month; either tie or purchase patterns that have prominent legs. These add to the attraction and my recent forays with rubber-legged beetles have been very successful.

On the slower streams you can expect some mayfly action so carry a few duns in sizes between 12 and 14. A Geehi Beetle or Red Tag is also an excellent choice under such conditions.

In the larger pools, fish Woolly Buggers and similar yabby imitations slowly through the deeper pockets. Early and mid-season, I prefer larger versions as big as size 6. Strikes on such patterns are often savage and for this reason I usually upgrade my tippet to around 8lb on the old scale.

Snagging the bottom is a common occurrence when correctly fishing such fly patterns. If you roll your own you can alleviate this to a large extent by tying patterns with small metal bead chain eyes. This causes the fly to ride hook point up and hence reduces fouling on submerged structure.


With many regional impoundments receiving good Spring-top up inflows, Summer angling is really starting to hit top gear.

Down south, Chaffey Dam is actually overflowing for the first time in many a season. This has seen the perch come onto the chew and as the flats clear up you can expect to give the mud puppies (carp) a hammering.

Each Summer I give a plug on wading for carp. Unless you give it a go you’ll never know the action that takes place for a select few. Fly gear is well suited but lure flickers may be just as successful with small, very small lightly weighted plastics.

Accuracy is the key to success here and you’ll very quickly find yourself tweaking your casts to find the money.

This is also great practice for flicking plugs on the bass streams, where accuracy to within 30cm often means doubling the catch rate. Too far left and you’re in the tea trees, a little to the right and you’re tucked up against that sunken weed bed!

Although this report was filed before the cod season opened, as you flick the pages I’ll be down in the gorges on my annual season opener. As with everything else piscatorial, I expect this season to break my personal best goodoo on fly.

Throughout Winter the stream flows were excellent and the sudden change through Spring should bring the cicadas on thicker this year. Whenever the ‘buzz boys’ are thick, the cod are on the prowl and I expect some great fish to be taken this Summer. Medium to small black poppers are the go for fly-flickers.

The lure brigade couldn’t go wrong with large spinnerbaits. Experience has me favouring skirt combos in red/black or chartreuse/white.

Worked slowly through the deeper pockets, spinnerbaits are deadly. Alternatively, ‘helicopter’ the lures down vertical drop-offs and cliff faces. This season I’m also looking forward to further testing my fly rod ‘spinnerbaits’; late last season we had some exceptional results with them.


Trolling the dams will also prove effective and early in the season some excellent cod and goldens should be taken from the margins.

Look for developed weed beds in anything from 2m to 5m of water. Work large lures very slowly along the faces of such areas or return at first and last light to bloop small poppers across the top of drowned weed beds.

Down in the gorges, the bass action is hotting up. The re-opening of Ron Sattler’s old Bass Lodge under new owners is a welcome addition to facilities on the upper Macleay.

Some good fish have been reported in the Macleay above Lower Creek and, given my earlier comments about cicadas on the western side of the range, I’d expect the same down on the eastern gorges.

More on the bass action next month with a special column on getting in and out of the rough stuff, as well as some local tricks.

So there you go. Don’t wait for Santa to bring the goods, get out and find your own Christmas bonus. New England streams and lakes are full of ’em!

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