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Tablelands trout renaissance
  |  First Published: May 2012



It’s only been the last few seasons that my trout fishing interests have been rekindled somewhat. Back when I was a part-time guide, it was pretty much all I did and by the time I finished up; I was burnt out with the trout.

With a break, some rain, follow-on good seasons, a move to acreage close to the river and a young son constantly nagging me to take him trout fishing, the inevitable was bound to happen – I was keen again.

We are very lucky where we live; Wallerawang is very central to some great water. Lakes include Lyell, Wallace, and Thompsons Creek, all within 20 minutes’ drive.

The streams and rivers are no different with Coxs River, the Fish River and the Turon all close by. Add all the associated creeks and small streams that flow into these waterways and it’s easy to see why it’s great to be a trout fisher who lives in Wang.

THE LAKES

Of all the waters close by, the one that is closest, a stone’s throw from my front gate, is Lake Wallace. Wang Dam, as it’s also known by locals, is by far the most frustrating and inconsistent to fish.

My mates and I have pondered this situation many times over the years and have yet to come up with any solid reasons.

Sure, we get the trout from time to time but gee it’s painful. Winter PowerBait fishing is possibly the most consistent and a look out my front window on a warm, sunny Saturday morning in June or July usually confirms any action:

“Any cars there, Murray?”

“Yep.”

“Better get your gear together, then, mate – they’re on!”

It might not last long but you may even score a few spinning with spoons and the like. One thing is sure, Wang Dam is close by and it’s good while it lasts.

Lake Lyell is a busy place, especially in Summer, with plenty of boat traffic getting about.

Avoiding these times is possibly your only course of action, although I remember Ritchie Ryan and a few of the boys from Orange cleaning up on the big browns downrigging during the Summer melee. The comings and goings of all sorts of water craft never worried Ritchie; he just looked the other way and kept fishing. The size of some of the trout they caught was amazing.

Fly-fishing at night during these peak periods is another way to avoid the traffic.

Bob Campbell, now passed on to the big lake in the sky, was the gun when it came to catching these Lake Lyell trout after dark. Many of us benefited from his achievements with the long wand after dark and have landed many trout since.

I remember talking to him one night about leader size and configuration. “Don’t stuff about, boy,” he said. “There are some real big ones in here, keep it simple and stay right away from that light stuff.”

Daytime Winter fishing is different at Lake Lyell. There is a lot less boat traffic and the trout are generally higher up in the water column.

Flatline trolling, spinning and bait fishing off the bank will nearly always score you a fish.

Walking the banks slowly with fly rod or spinning rod in hand, watching and waiting for a trout to come into view, is not something that a lot of guys do there.

But it is a dynamite technique if you’re that way inclined. It’s real heart-in-the mouth stuff when you see a trout working and the catch it, but you can walk some mornings and not see a fish.

Thompsons Creek Dam is possibly the jewel in the crown.

Its limited access hours and fishing methods have restricted the numbers of people who use the dam.

The waterway is well stocked with rainbows and browns and is a mecca for anglers travelling from Sydney and other parts of the country and for good reason, too.

It produces some challenging fishing in very clear water.

The run of browns over 60cm caught this season would rival any fishery in the district.

Remember that I said it’s challenging – the waters are very clear and the fish get a very good look at any presentation on offer. Downsizing lures, lines, and leaders is the key.

Weather is also a factor. I like the real crappy stuff – the best days are generally the ones when everyone else wants to stay at home, especially if you’re using lures.

Fly-fishing is a little different. I think the ability to fish lighter and smaller and make a subtle presentation gives fly the edge when the weather conditions are better.

THE RIVERS

The trout generally will be smaller in the creeks and rivers of the district than those in the lakes, but we fish them for different reasons.

The challenge, the scenery, the different landscape, the ‘next-bend syndrome’ are all very much drawing factors when it comes to walking the creeks. What’s around the corner? What’s in that next pool? It’s addictive.

The Fish River is possibly the best-known trout river in the district and produces plenty of small to middling-sized trout.

A great way to spend a morning or afternoon is to walk and cast small lures into the rapids, pools and runs on light spin gear.

Public access to reserves, bridges and crossings is generally pretty good. Remember to take into account private land and always ask for permission first.

I first learnt to fly-fish on the Fish River and most seasons now are as good as they were back then.

Hatches of black spinners, termites and beetles all play a part in the season. The grasshopper is another tasty morsel that turns up in late Summer and provides plenty of food for the waiting trout of the Fish River.

In Summer early mornings and late afternoons are best, with office hours a better option early or late in the season, especially if fly-fishing.

The Coxs River, between Lake Wallace and Lake Lyell, is real tiger country with limited access.

This water is best fished with a spinning rod because most of the river is overgrown; fly-fishing is only for the very accomplished caster.

The best quality fish are caught when Lake Wallace overflows and the fish escape over the wall.

Trout also move up and out of Lake Lyell times so you can find yourself hooked up to a real lunker at certain times. Sixty centimetres of raging rainbow trout jumping around in a small pool is not for the faint-hearted, let me tell you!

Most of the time, though, what you’ll encounter are pesky little river fish that give solid accounts of themselves on light gear.

A little further west is the Turon River.

When I first got a car licence I spent many an afternoon chasing trout on the Turon. It was great water, a freestone stream with easy access along both sides.

The one thing with the Turon is it can slow and even stop during low-rainfall years. Back in the worst of the drought it was dry for nearly its full length and remained that way for quite some time.

It’s great to see it back; it’s not anywhere near its former glory yet but thanks must go to the stocking group from the Central Acclimatisation Society.

Fly-fishing the Turon is a real treat. The water is very clear and the fish are very spooky, which offers a great challenge.

Little 3wt and 4wt rods and lines, long, light leaders and a good dose of patience are all necessary. At the moment the fish are well spread, with long walks between fish, but they are back.

That’s just a small snapshot of some waters close by that I call home. I hope I can continue to share them with you for many years to come.

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