Although the region has experienced some patchy rainfall, it’s still very dry. The small town of Wallabadah south of Tamworth actually ran bone dry early last month and the shire had to truck in water.
The only rule breaker is the Ebor district, where green feed sits waist high in many paddocks. However there are differences in stream flows between creeks and you only have to drive a few kilometres up the road to find higher or lower flows. For anglers around here, it pays to be mobile.
The decision in January to virtually drain Split Rock and Keepit Dams for downstream irrigation has put a dampener upon two of the north’s premier impoundment fisheries. Back in 1998, Lake Burrinjuck in the south suffered a similar fate. As forecast conditions for the immediate future look dire, it’s questionable whether these storage basins will ever return to their former health. With state elections upon the horizon, every serious angler should consider environmental responsibility when deciding how to vote.
The fishing continues to be patchy across the region, with most successful anglers working the higher, cooler streams.
On a recent guiding trip I spent a day at Ebor with three clients. The weather was extremely warm for the Tablelands and by lunchtime we’d only raised two fish. After a feed we hit the third stream for the day, with huge thunderheads rising to the east. The hot and bright conditions were replaced with rain and heavy mist, and the rainbows began to rise eagerly. Plenty of small to medium fish began hammering our high floating terrestrials such as Goddard’s Caddis and Muddlers fished dry.
Of the western streams, the Boorolong seems to be holding its own. The word is that if you’re prepared to walk, some excellent rainbows have been responding to large wet flies and small lures such as Baby Merlins or natural coloured rubber tails on small jigheads.
The low water levels mean the fish will be best in deeper pools, preferably those with a reasonable current. Another option is the faster shallows where there is obvious overhead cover providing shade. On the Boorolong and Wollomombi watershed look for established willows, while in eastern streams there are plenty of tea trees.
Although the trout have been hard hit by the summer of 2006-7, there is still plenty of good angling to be had. Fish light and close, targeting the cooler periods of early morning, late afternoon or days of heavy cloud cover. I recently met two young anglers in Armidale who had driven up from Orange to fish the New England region for trout. Their home streams were bone dry and they thankfully left the Tablelands satisfied that the drive was well worth the effort.
With low water levels throughout the upper Macleay system most anglers have been focusing upon the stretches below George’s Junction. Catfish and mullet are about in big numbers but a steady run of bass just isn’t happening. Poor river heights mean there is no opportunity for the adventurous to run the river in canoes from higher up. The popular trip from Riverside down to the Junction would currently involve more walking than paddling.
On both sides of the range the cicada hatch was relatively light this summer, not surprising given that researchers suggest that heavy cicada hatches occur every six or seven years and 2005 was a corker!
Anglers seeking to tangle with a few bass – and there are some excellent specimens around – would do well to use small dark-bodied lures with a ‘slow roll’ action. With the water so low and clear it’s best to keep imitations as natural as possible. Night fishing is still the best option, with subtle-actioned poppers or fizzers preferable. I would also include a couple of smaller Celtas in my tackle box as low-water bass love these. Flick one into the tail of the rapids and let it swing downstream with the current working the blades.
However, if the dry continues I suggest concentrating upon shaded snags with fizzers. These are usually cigar shaped with one or two propellers. They make less surface disturbance than traditional poppers or bloopers and draw fish rather than put them down in the low, clear conditions. These lure styles can also be fished downstream on a tight line with the current providing the action.
The cod population is enjoying a resurgence with anglers reporting good numbers of small to medium-sized fish. Cod are plentiful from the Namoi and Gwydir north into the Severn and Dumaresq. In the slower flowing, lower reaches the better fish are being taken on small to medium-sized divers worked very slowly.
nglers trekking into the gorges will find bibless minnows worked vertically along the ledges and drop-offs are the better option. With conditions low and clear, spinnerbaits are generally too flashy to draw attention and will more likely spook fish. Natural coloured rubbertail jigs are a possibility although you’d need to consider resin-style or slow sinking heads. Weedless rigging is also a preferred method.
Many gorge sections are experiencing heavy weed growth with the current low water and high temperatures. These rivers need a massive flow increase to clean them out. Temps remain high and I believe this will continue for a while. The cooler water conditions of Autumn usually signal the arrival of larger, mature specimens but if things continue to stay warm we may well get some excellent cod angling late into Winter.
Overall, despite the big dry there’s still some great fishing if you’re prepared to travel and modify your tactics. My tips for this month are a cod trip to the Ashford or Bingara regions and an afternoon on some Ebor trout. Enjoy!
High floating terrestrial flies are a good choice on smaller trout streams.
Low water conditions demand a cautious approach when stalking New England trout.
For success on river goldens, Steve Knott wisely focused on the deeper pools of the Namoi.
Cod continue to be about in good numbers.Reads: 591