Head for the high country
  |  First Published: October 2011

After its four month closure the New South Wales trout season officially opens on 1st October and once again it’s really pleasing to be able to report that the burst of late winter and spring rain has continued yet again.

Trout streams are like the gardens at home. With plenty of regular rain things flourish. Any by things I refer to the proliferation of insect life plus the aquatic fauna, all of which combine to keep trout on the move, eating well and generally getting into the habit of expecting food.

Third time again lucky

After years of heartbreaking drought the New England rivers are brimful again and the fish, which were outstanding last year, should be even better this year with another successful spawning season behind them. Ebor is the heart of the New England trout area and with 14 streams within the area there’s plenty of room for all comers.

Accommodation is scarce in Ebor, other than the hotel/motel in town, but many anglers like to camp out and this is where the various Travelling Stock Routes that have road access or the Ebor Common come in handy.

Some land owners also allow camping, but prior permission is vital, the same goes for fishing in the first instance. The idea is to ask at the closest house to the bit of water that you fancy. Refusals are rare but if so are usually as the result of stock or agricultural issues.

A few sensible ground rules will help make a trip successful. Firstly, bear in mind that the 1200-1500m altitude will see heavy frosts in the morning after a cold night so take plenty of warm clothing on your trip. Consider foot wear carefully as well and if you intend to wade about in a pair of trousers and joggers keep a spare set to change into after coming off the river on dark with the temperature already chasing single figures.

Thigh waders are very handy at Ebor and many enjoy their use as they do also offer some peace of mind where snakes are concerned. Most trout anglers use a fly vest to carry their kit. I never travel without at least three boxes of flies on the go. And last but not least a landing net to assist in getting these highly mobile fish under control.

Tackling Up

Ebor trout are mainly feisty rainbows, dour but wily browns, with fish between 38-50cm common enough to demand strong but light rods, leader tippets of 2-3kg breaking strain and some cunning and discreet approach on the angler’s part.

A 5wt or 6wt rod is ideal for Ebor and with a floating fly line of matching weight spooled onto a reel with a slick drag and some backing in reserve is all that’s necessary. A leader of around the rod’s length set up with a fine tippet and the angler should be ready to go.

Time of day is important for trout angling as the fish are most active at times of low light so planning to fish at those times is important.

Flies are legendary for trout and most anglers have their favourite flies, the same as spin and plastic anglers have their favourites for their own style of fishing.

All that aside a lot of trout can be taken with just a small selection of wet and dry flies.

For years I fished with nothing but black or brown nymphs in size 14, on a fully greased leader (use Muscilin for greasing leaders) the idea being to offer the nymph very gently in the trout’s path, or where I reckoned one will see it from its hidey hole as it goes past. Watch the leader intently for the slightest sign of a draw, which of course was a trout grabbing the nymph hanging just under the surface.

As my eye sight failed so did my ability to remain on top of the nymphing game so I had to change over to dry fly fishing, which was a pleasure at any rate. The fly is still plied in the usual manner but I can see the take so much easier as the trout’s head engulfs the offering.

Fly Selection

Ideal dry flies for New England streams include the Royal Wulff, the Humpy, the Red Tag, Geehi Special, Black Spinner, Adams, Flying Ant in red or black and the always handy Elk Hair Caddis. I carry two sizes of each: size 16 and size 14. I usually try the 14 first but if the fish won’t play the game go down a size and try again. This usually works but is not so good with daylight fast fading and the fish going berserk.

Wet flies I favour are the Muddler Minnow, the Woolly Bugger in colours olive or black, with or without a bead head, the Black Matuka and the various leech patterns tied on strips of bunny fur, all tied on size eight hooks. Other useful wets are simply large nymphs with or without the bead head.

I don’t believe you need a lot of wet flies, just some faith in their ability.

Incidentally, if changing to a wet fly after dry fly fishing just rub a little mud on the leader to remove all Muscilin.

Working a wet fly involves nothing more than casting upstream, same as in dry fly fishing, but instead of watching for a fish to grab the fly, feel for the take which is usually a sharp wrench followed by some fire works. Both systems require the angler to be on the ball and lift the rod smartly to the one side or other at the take.

Last thoughts

Anglers need a license which can be obtained via the net. Fishing regulations for freshwater are also available at the same source and are worth reading.

Being prepared for all eventualities is the clue to successful trout angling and no matter what sort of day it is the adaptable angler that looks for the signs of insects on the water, total lack of same, or maybe just a change in weather approaching (a storm) is the one that will succeed on these sometimes difficult fish.

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