High water in the gorges
  |  First Published: September 2012

The Winter rains were pretty erratic but generally flows were probably a little higher than normal.

Down in the gorges we had a couple of big rises after substantial Tableland rain. The lower Macleay ran coffee-coloured for a week back in July and this certainly pushed many fish into the side streams, which generally ran clearer.

Early season bass will still be down in the lower reaches. As a rule the Bellingen and lower Bellbrook areas will see the majority of the big river fish for another month.

However, there are always resident fish throughout the eastern gorge country for those anglers who don’t wish to take a long, winding trip down the mountain.

Access via Halls Peak or Riverside will put you onto good water but be prepared to do some walking.

The key to finding early season bass is to cover plenty of country. This probably suits a backpacking trip rather than base camp affair. Travelling light means you’ll cover more water and find the fish.

Choose lures with plenty of action to draw a response and seek out weed cover. Crawdad or minnow patterns with tight, shimmying actions are terrific for the bigger pools.

Persevere with your casting and if a spot looks like it would hold a fish, it probably does.

Another great option is to cast unweighted soft plastic worms into the tighter pockets. I know one bass chaser who hooks medium-sized worms in the midsection and retrieves them slowly along the pool bottom. The ends wiggle like hell, apparently, and the fish hit them hard.

Often the Spring waters flow a little clear so pick lures in more natural shades.

Depending on how quick things warm up, you will probably see a few terrestrials around the waterways.

Black crickets have been favourite bass bait among the old hands for years. Generally these insects start to move mid-morning or early evening and a lightly hooked natural or imitation drifted through shallow runs at the heads of the pools can produce a strike.

As soft plastics continue to evolve some companies are beginning to produce imitations of grasshoppers, crickets and beetles. Back in the late 1970s my uncle brought Dad some similar rubber copies back from a trip to America.

Dad caught a few bass and trout on those lures and the same could be said of today. A small bubble float will keep them off the bottom and when fish are a little quick such options are well worth the effort.


Up on the Tablelands we’re getting pretty close to the trout season opening in early October. This Spring should be a beauty with all streams running at good levels right throughout the colder months.

If you are planning a trip after the speckled fish, now is the time to book accommodation before it gets snapped up. Traditionally the opening weeks are wet and not my favoured time to stand around a damp fire under a sagging tarp.

Fly flickers should take note of my earlier comments and tie a few beetle patterns. These are terrific early-season flies, especially if a warm spurt gets the tea trees flowering and the beetles thicken up.

The black dung beetle numbers often explode in the early season. As things warm the flush of Spring growth gets cattle bowels working overtime and the beetles relish it.

Redfin schools out in the lakes should continue to hold together before breaking up as the waters warm.

Lake Malpas has been giving up a few nice redfin to boat anglers using traditional jigging tactics. In the smaller Tablelands creeks it is a great time to hit some of the reddies before warming waters promote weed growth and bogs up the smaller pools.


The cod fishery is closed now for a couple of months but the region has been producing well. I’ve not heard too much from the dams in the latter part of the season but the rivers certainly fished well.

Local cod aficionado John Everett took his fair share of Winter fish. While the colder conditions generally shut the greenbacks down a bit, John applied a little lateral thinking and came up trumps.

A trip onto the Gwydir River below Copeton produced plenty of action. Given that the releases from the dam are generally cold water, the cod down that way don’t seem to mind the chill.

Hardbodies and spinnerbaits put a stretch into John’s line and it just shows that a little thought can make the tougher times fruitful.

We’ll need to leave the green fish alone for a while now. However as things gradually warm up across the region there will be plenty of options for those smaller yet tough bass and trout.

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