Natives go to ground
  |  First Published: April 2012

This month the region will cool down but the unusually mild Summer may mean the change is not as dramatic as normal.

Above-average rain, lack of warm days and influxes of cooler water from the high country have made fishing pretty difficult in recent months. While the temperatures did enhance the trout fishing, which has pretty much been sensational, all the native species went to ground.

On the western waters from the gorges to the flatland streams, the big green fish have been sulking. I put a bit of time in with the fly down the cod gorges and although I caught fish every trip, the bigger fish were difficult.

Reports from the eastern fall country have been equally disappointing. If the rivers were not running at high levels then they ran cold. The cicada hatch I foretold didn’t really eventuate.

So with Winter around the corner, what are the options and the best prospects to bend a rod?


Late-season trouting across the New England should be terrific. Hit the streams before the season closes in early June and prepare for some good fish full of fight. The eastern and western waters will be in prime condition.

Down Walcha way and in the Nundle hills, you’ll do very nicely on all waters. This is the time when the big fish start to move through the systems so focus on the large holes with bigger lures and flies.

The upper MacDonald River holds terrific options. Twilight and after dark forays can be cool so pack a beanie, but this is when the larger browns and rainbows will be active.

Don’t try to cover too much water in a session, it’s better to move slowly, observe and work the available water thoroughly.

Rapala minnows and small spinnerbaits, preferably with a dash of colour, can be successful. I like pink on late season offerings, it can really fire a fish into action.

Also consider bream-size soft plastics fitted to foam jig heads. You can make these out of heavy-duty packing foam shaved to size and glued to the hook head. Retrieve these in low light and very slowly to bring the bigger fish undone.

Eastern trout streams will also be very responsive. Around Ebor the fish tend to be a little smaller so downsize your offerings.

Smaller yet brightly coloured Tassie Devils are dynamite below the falls while up on the pasture country a well-aimed Celta will do the business.

Fly flickers need not go past streamer action and as the evenings cool the fish will be obvious and moving at the turn of light. Find a nice run and watch it; the fish will show themselves.

A well-placed Woolly Bugger in size 10 to 6 will draw a response. I prefer imitations with oversized marabou tails and small bodies. The pulsing tail is deadly at a slow retrieve and these fish won’t strike short.


Autumn can be tough when chasing native species. The key is to pick the eyes out of the water and hammer it; perseverance is the hallmark of successful autumn angling.

There are plenty of bass spots with public access down the length of the Macleay River; contact the Armidale National Parks and Wildlife Service.

For pay-to-fish options West Kunderang Retreat is a solid favourite while the Bass Lodge at the Junction will provide custom options for visiting anglers.

Autumn fish are keen to bulk up for the Winter and hang especially tight in the structure. For that reason I prefer medium spinnerbaits in rootbeer or natural tones.

Late-season water is generally clear down in the gorge and for that reason you don’t want too bright a colour. The spinnerbait is also a good design to cast well back into the rubbish without fouling.

Although the water is cool, be prepared to wade into the shallows so thermal long johns are terrific. Get in the canoe on the bigger waters.

Work the banks thoroughly because the fish will be hard against the banks and you’ll likely encounter few out in the open.

Wherever a smaller stream enters the main river, the waters can actually be warmer than the main river. These focus shrimp and baitfish and the bass also seek out such areas.

On the other side of the range the cod fishing gets tough. Probably the best options are trolling oversized lures in the impoundments.

Generally the better Autumn fish come during late afternoon sessions when a full day of sun has charged the water. Late starts and midday siestas are the go for with most successful anglers hitting the water after lunch.

The bigger the lure, the better. Troll as slowly as your motor will allow and do not be afraid of running several lures. Experienced trollers often run two similar lures on the same run, with one further back. The first lure wakes the cod, which hammers the trailing lure.

Autumn fishing across the New England demands attention to detail and perseverance. It’s simply a matter of just doing it again and again!

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