It is with great anticipation that I again climb back into the saddle as the New England columnist for Fishing Monthly and wish Gordon all the best up north. I last wrote regular reports here about six years ago.
In the issues to come I intend to highlight many new fishing opportunities that have developed throughout the region in the past few years. New private fisheries, enhanced angler facilities and increased efforts by many regional angling clubs have ensured the continued survival of a unique and productive freshwater fishery here in the north of the State.
While the continuing drought is placing great pressure on many regional streams, local impoundments have fired up as never before. Anglers are an adaptable mob and what pressures the drought have exerted have simply resulted in many canny fishos changing their approaches to where and how they catch fish.
The New England trout season opened in October with a mixture of success and this trend is still the rule. The Ebor streams continue to be the pick and the coming month should bring some of the best dry-fly action. Warm days and afternoon storms should provide the perfect mix for some excellent caddis and beetle action. Flying ants are also generally thick during the New Year period.
Fly anglers will find that high-riding dry flies such as Humpies, Wulffs and foam-back beetles will be the undoing of many fish. Target any areas where cover extends over the stream. Tea tree, shadow and undercut banks will provide the shelter trout seek and any angler targeting these areas will be rewarded.
Lure-flickers would do well to focus on the waterfall pools, especially the drop-offs hard against the foot of the falls. Fast-sinking lures such as flashy Tassie Devils in small sizes will do well.
Remember that the vast majority of the eastern trout are small and I eagerly promote catch and release. Rigging your Devils with a single straight-eyed Siwash hook instead of the usual treble limits damage to undersized fish and also reduces the probability of snagging up on the stream bed.
Most western streams have been running hot and cold. Earlier in the season some fine rainbows came to the bank from the likes of Laura Creek but the area seems to have quietened down. The Walcha waters are still doing it tough after a bad season in 2005-06.
Some good rain fell in the upper MacDonald catchment in late November but quickly cleared. Wollomombi and Rockvale have also been producing mixed results with the best fish coming from the smaller headwater streams.
The eastern bass fishery is currently in good condition. Leading into Summer, river heights fell in the Macleay and many of the pools appeared weedy and in poor condition. Despite this, a few months prior to Christmas some excellent catches were commonplace in the lower and middle stretches of the river. Good numbers of small to medium fish were regularly being taken upstream of Sherwood Falls and some superb specimens over 50cm were hooked up around Willawarrin.
On several occasions large schools of fish were balled up in pools adjacent to the crossings at Georges Junction. Flows in the middle river were kept topped up by steady pre-Christmas rain in the upper Styx/Point Lookout area.
During the warmer months it is highly likely you’ll find a lot of bass working the weed beds below the rapids. Here high numbers of shrimp congregate, preferring the cooler aerated conditions the fast water provides, and the bass are well and truly locked on this. A juicy shrimp drifted under a bubble float through the head of such pools can often result in a solid hook-up. Alternatively, flipping lightly weighted soft tails through the gravel beds should also be a hit.
Over the New Year the gorges should be running hot, particularly for anglers willing to work poppers and other surface bugs into the witching hour. This type of fishing calls for a fair bit of leg work and resisting the temptations of the pale ale to ensure you’re ready to roll in the wee hours.
Access to the gorges is possible at several locations even for new chums to the region. The likes of Riverside Camping Area near Walcha and East Kunderang Homestead in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park are options to get you close to the river. Equally accessible is West Kunderang, which also provides accommodation and access to the heart of the New England gorges. Over the next couple of months I’ll be outlining these areas in detail.
River levels throughout the majority of the western native streams continue to be low but the fish aren’t going anywhere so it just takes a bit of work to track them down. As the currents slow I’d reckon your best chance of busting a cod is to focus on the period around and after sunset. Locate a suitable pool with plenty of cover.
Fish at this time of year are keen on minimising the amount of work it takes to catch dinner and river holes choked with potential ambush sites offer a hunter’s smorgasbord. Scout the water for easy and safe casting platforms, remembering their position for an after-dark sortie. After dinner, kick back in camp until the mopokes have well and truly finished calling. I’ve enjoyed the best Summer cod angling from midnight until dawn.
Although surface lures such as Jitterbugs, Mudeyes and Crazy Crawlers are preferred by many anglers, shallow-running minnow patterns can be deadly when worked around the edges of the flats and sandy beaches. The cicadas should also be in full cry by now and although I don’t expect a bumper season, the cod will certainly be keyed onto them.
As far as dams go, Keepit and Copeton have been giving up some of their best yellowbelly in years. Reports of fat, fit and strong fish has been reasonably consistent right through to the festive season. Yabbies have seemed to be the preferred bait although at Chaffey Dam plenty of nice table fish are being taken on the troll. The cliff line shore seems to be the productive run at present.
There are plenty of great angling opportunities throughout New England at present despite the big dry. Enjoy the festive season and get out there!Reads: 1011