The next couple of months generally see the windiest conditions across the Tablelands. Combined with continuing frosts and cold nights it is probably not the most comfortable time to head bush. However with the right gear and an eye on the weather forecasts, you can still find a fish or two and not lose your fingers to frostbite in the process.
The open impoundments tend to shut down over the next month. Both wind and freezing water temperatures are not suitable to maintaining fish on the bite. The wind on some of the more open dams such as Copeton can also be quite dangerous and conditions quickly deteriorate for those in a small open tinnie a long way from camp.
If you do decide to head out be aware of spots where you can quickly find shelter and indeed take basic gear for a night out if you get stuck. Being wet and cold is a poor incentive to sit out rough weather rather than run for home. Be prepared!
Alternatively if you’re really keen to hit the dams consider a shore-based excursion. Get tented up in behind a sheltered ridge with plenty of wood. Work close to home from the bank, targeting shallow bays where drowned structure can be targeted. Generally sheltered water will stay warmer than open bays, which are churned up by the wave action.
Most of our tableland winds are westerly so find a camp on the western shoreline. Avoiding the eastern shorelines means you’ll be less exposed to whipping winds across the open body of water. Look for a low hill or timbered ridge and tuck yourself in. Large tarps and open flats are a recipe for sleepless nights.
Working the rivers is probably a better option this month. The middle reaches of the Namoi, Gwydir and Macintyre rivers are diverse fisheries with good public access. All methods tend to produce fish during the winter months although bait angling tends to slow down. Lure casting and fly fishing will still draw a response.
On the Namoi system I’d probably look at poking around the Manilla Weir through to the Warrabah National Park. However, there’s a fair bit of private land through here so be assured of permission to access. The Gwydir below Copeton down to Bingara has some rough country but terrific winter water.
The old Munro State Forest area is worth exploring. Just remember the sun doesn’t hit down there till late in the day so early starts are never necessary. On The Macintyre you’ll do well to head out onto the flatter country from Yetman back up to Kwiambal National Park.
Lures suitable for winter river angling are either large spinner baits or spoons. Spoons are a little outdated these days but when things are quiet the flashing, throbbing pulse of a large spoon is irresistible to most species. Get your offerings tight into the structure and be ready for subtle hits, particularly on the drop.
I’m not a big fan of hardbodies in rivers over the cooler months. Generally the fish just aren’t out of the cover and you’ll either lose a lot of lures or not try to hit the rough stuff, which is where the fish are.
Fly anglers will get results with oversized Marabou based Streamers. An unweighted 2/0 or 3/0 Mustad 34007 is a pretty good chassis to wrap up a fluffy treat on. I love Marabou due to its terrific action particularly at slow strip rates. This is especially necessary on cold water fish in amongst the sticks. Add a mono weed guard to reduce snagging and you’ll be on the money.
Generally medium to large cod and stud yellowbelly are typical of winter catches. The smaller fish are more common in spring and tend to sneak away when the chill is in the air. For that reason and the fact that many fish will be in the cover don’t go too light on your line classes. A solid mono leader is also preferable.
If you’re targeting the upper reaches of the Gwydir or Macintyre then pack a trout stick and a box of Celtas. Redfin can be thick in spots and aren’t bad chewing. They are a terrific fish to introduce young anglers to the sport. Reddies offer plenty of fight for their size and will bring a squeal out of the kids.
One of my favourite redfin waters used to be the Severn River out of Glen Innes. As a young fellow I spent a reasonable amount of my winters hunting fallow deer in the area. On a sunny afternoon the local redfin provided a lovely distraction from sneaking through the wattle and tea tree flats.
An important point to remember for winter or any cold water angling is to sharpen your hooks. Most fishos don’t pay enough attention to their hook points. Winter fish tend to be a little less aggressive in the way they hit a lure or fly. Extra sharp hook points will greatly increase your connection rate on tentative fish.
August through to September is probably the leanest period of the New England fishing calendar. However, with a bit of forethought and a decent coat you should have some fun. Let’s not forget the trout season is only another month or so away!Reads: 1906