Low water, hungry fish
  |  First Published: December 2012

Most stream and river levels have dropped right back and even the Ebor area is looking a bit dry.

The MacDonald River under the bridge at Bendemeer has been only slightly over the sandbanks for the past month and that means that down in the cod gorges it is going to be low for the season opening.

I still think that plenty of good fish will be working.

Being primarily a fly flicker, I quite like the lower water, which suits shallow-running flies and lures more than the spinnerbait and big hardbody presentations.

Low water flows mean higher water temperatures and clearer conditions. That translates into active fish and plenty of food on the move.

Patient and observant anglers should be able to sight cast to most greenbacks. Generally under these conditions you’ll find quite a lot of fish cruising, rather than holding in ambush positions.

Look for the edges of sandbanks and weed beds as prime places to spot prowling cod.

Don’t wait for the sun to get high overhead, an early start is a little more pleasant and the fish will be on the chew early.

Weapons of choice for fly fishos would be slider patterns or bulky deer hair Deceivers. Shallow-water cod can be spooky so don’t cast too close.

Slider-style flies land a little more gently but still push a bit of water. Their duck-and-dive motion is very seductive when the water is down a little, similar to a Dahlberg.

The easiest ties are simply to reverse a popper head with the shoulder facing forward.

Downsizing spinnerbaits is an effective option for lure casters. Smaller skirts in white, gold or chartreuse are great. Be prepared to encounter more ‘following’ fish than when rivers are higher.

Animate the lure with the rod tip more than the natural retrieve and put in more pauses and hops.


By all accounts the fish have now moved well up into the headwaters. A couple of Armidale anglers recently followed a spur down in into the Enmore Gorge and were rewarded with plenty of bass on surface lures.

Although none was large, all fish were very willing but it was very quiet except at the change of light.

Don’t be afraid to throw larger than normal surface lures over the next month. Even adding some tail material to the rear treble can sweeten up your standard models.

Lately I’ve taken to dressing up soft plastics. Steve Starling and others have been writing about customising softies for some time now.

The simplest and most effective addition is adding legs. A large needle and some leg material is all that is needed.

If you don’t buy rubber legs, cut up an old ocky strap for a mile of material. A drop of superglue locks the legs into the body but it isn’t critical.

The added movement of the flipping appendages is a deal sweetener for bass and other native species. I’ve even suggested my Dad doctors up some 2” plastic grubs for the local trout.


The trout fishing has been excellent despite the falling stream levels. The dry-fly angling so far has been terrific with beetle and caddis patterns working best on the eastern streams.

Ebor fish are in good condition and the other day I enjoyed a delightful session, taking eight fish to a kilo and several proved a little fast on the strike.

I have heard of a couple of good browns coming from Point Lookout way as well as solid rainbows down in the middle reaches of the Styx State Forest.

Walcha area streams are also turning up a few fish, with reports of rainbows under the railway bridge at Woolbrook.

I have also had confirmed reports of carp being taken here, which is bad news. I was not aware that they were so high in the MacDonald system.

Walcha streams traditionally fish well on hopper patterns in December when the wind is blowing. Alternatively, work a medium-sized Woolly Bugger during the heat of the day close to the banks.

If the cloud cover comes in of an afternoon, be ready with some medium-sized dark dun imitations.

Lure flickers will stir up a fish two with a little patience. Work the water at sunup and sundown and rest in the hammock during the dog hours.

Celtas and smaller minnows can be used especially where rapids feed in beneath the willows or at the heads of deep pockets.

This is classic water in the middle to lower stretches of the MacDonald River and each season a couple of cracking rainbows come from this stretch.


All the dams are holding good water. Split Rock, Keepit and Copeton should all fire through Christmas.

Whether land-based or out in the tinnie, spend some time on the gravelly points. From the shore or a drifting boat, really pound these areas.

Brightly coloured lures with plenty of inbuilt action are best. I prefer minnows over spinnerbaits for these areas, where the yellows will be quick to rip up the skirts.

Jigging the trees with flashy spoons is a Summer technique that is starting to get some followers. The erratic nature of spoons, even on the drop, will stir up fish in the sticks.

Large-gape single hooks reduce the chance of snagging; make your own or retrofit them.

Whatever your destination and choice of tactics I’m sure the coming period will produce some superb fishing across our region. Slip, slop, slap and get out there!

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