Each month I gaze into a crystal ball to see what will be biting and where in the New England region but this time I’m having trouble. The crystal ball is misty from the continual wet weather!
Throughout Christmas and into New Year, the rivers were running a banker. Every time I headed down the highway to Tamworth, the McDonald River at Bendemeer was running well high and the colour of milky coffee.
Reports of forays down onto the upper Macleay River described similar water there.
Massive rises and falls in the river levels mean unresponsive fish.
The coloured and inconsistent river levels have really shut the fishing right down.
It is a real pain because we are experiencing one of the best cicada seasons in a long while.
Unfortunately, the cod and bass have closed down when we should be experiencing the best topwater action for several summers.
Several of the gorges I usually haunt over early summer are totally bombed out.
A couple of Tamworth lads recently headed in for a weekend on the green fish and found that the gorge was essentially unnavigable.
The water levels in some areas had been quite dangerous and I know of several locations down on the eastern side where camps became inundated overnight.
So what to do over the coming month?
Long-range forecasts suggest that the wet conditions will continue until March. If that is the case then river angling anywhere is going to be tough.
The obvious option is to hit the impoundments. Northern NSW has a wealth of terrific dams so let’s take a look at each.
Located between Tamworth and Gunnedah, this impoundment on the Namoi River has been a traditional venue for generations of local anglers. I caught my first yellowbelly as a 15-year-old on the upper reaches near Ski Gardens.
Keepit offers good bait and trolling options for cod and golden perch.
The upper end of the dam near Rabbit Island is a terrific trolling area, especially along the old riverbed. If you don’t have a sounder just stick close to the drowned timber.
Usually at this time of year you don’t have to get deep but the churned-up water at present would suggest you might have to.
In coloured conditions troll or retrieve extra slowly with larger than usual lures.
If you can find a clear backwater or bay you could do worse than flick a few large soft plastics around. There will probably be plenty of carp in the mix but if you can find weed beds nearby there is every chance some nice yellows will be in attendance.
The Quarry, down near the dam wall boat ramp, has long held a reputation for big golden perch during the Summer.
Down this end of the dam the water is often less turbid and more suited to lure casting. Again, oversized lures are the weapon of choice but work them slowly.
This massive body of water on the Gwydir River has been receiving plenty of inflow in recent months. The steady rise means that some substantial grass flats have been inundated.
I’d be exploring these broad basins with soft plastics or brightly coloured spinnerbaits, preferably from a slowly drifting boat.
Some of the better options lie along the north-eastern shore but exploration will find some good backwaters, preferably with a little structure.
Locals in the know commonly target these bays after dark at this time of year, the later the better.
However, if the water is holding any colour you may be surprised if fishing deep. Sediment tends to hold in the upper layers of the water column and deeper pockets can often be clearer.
Near Nundle on the Peel River, Chaffey can run hold and cold. But I reckon the recent inflows will favour bait angling, particularly from the western shore.
Chaffey lacks concentrated structure and the fish tend to be highly mobile.
This month I’d be taking a bucket of shrimp or yabbies with a few bubble floats across to the western shore and fishing into the dark.
The upper end near the river mouth can fish well and don’t be surprised if a large hard-bodied lure gets crunched by a cod.
This dam on the Severn River unfortunately has experienced a couple of blue-green algae alerts lately but hopefully these have cleared.
The timbered northern margin should be fishing well. Because Pindari has a largely unmodified catchment, it doesn’t suffer from sediment inflow.
The rocky, timbered nature of the gorge upstream means that the waters, despite flooding, remain relatively clear.
Slow trolling wide of the timber or casting spinnerbaits into the sticks will probably provide enough action.
The amenities provide a welcome yet quiet campsite compared with most of the other impoundments and this area is one of my favourites.
The water levels and inflows from the Manilla River have stirred up the custard, so to speak. Although I’ve not been out to Split Rock this Summer, reports indicate that the angling has been fairly ordinary.
Even so, the dam does produce some nice fish when in condition.
Generally this is a trolling venue where the biggest returns are achieved by trolling slowly along the 4m to 5m mark.
If you are after a feed then stick to medium minnow lures. If you wish to really test the backbone of that new rod, tie on the largest hardbody you can find; this dam has been the testing ground for a few local lure manufacturers who specialize in big lures. Their results suggest that perseverance is the key.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been sneaking around a few local spring creeks chasing trout.
I spent late December in Vietnam visiting my brother and his family, who have been living there for several years.
The trip was a real hoot and everywhere I saw people fishing.
The gear was pretty rough but they certainly knew how to catch a feed. For many of them no hook-up means no feed. It ain’t sport, it’s survival!
The current conditions are tough but with a little thought and perseverance you’ll find some great sport.
The inundation of our waterways is the best things to happen for their health in a long time. Don’t worry, it is only going to get better.Reads: 1776