Dams, streams change gear
  |  First Published: April 2007

With the imminent arrival of the Northern Tablelands’ cooler period, regional fishing options change gear.

Autumn is preferred by many as a time to visit our local impoundments rather than when searing Summer temperatures turn an open tinny into a microwave oven.

Thankfully, much of the Tablelands has received reasonable rain in the first few months of this year. Sure, falls have been patchy and some areas are dry as a chip but in general we’ve had it pretty good.

Neighbouring districts such as the upper Hunter and Western slopes are in serious drought and numerous rivers are at their lowest levels in decades.


The easing of the heat in favour of frosty starts generally sees an increase in trout activity and a decline in options for those chasing local natives. The other introduced species which favours the cooler weather is the redfin and these may be targeted by anglers seeking a change.

Autumn really is the best time to target trout throughout the New England. The milder temperatures make the days glorious to venture onto the streams and the fish become much more active following the Summer onslaught. Mayfly hatches become more prevalent and the fish target these, knowing that terrestrial snacks such as hoppers and beetles are on the wane.

Nymph angling really kicks into gear over the next couple of months as fish attempt to fatten up and put on condition for spawning.

Throughout the region, small seal’s fur nymph patterns in size 12 and 14 are the go. Choose black or green designs with a few pheasant tail nymphs in natural. I prefer to avoid weighted models because most runs are still low and your patterns don’t have to sink that far.

In the deeper pockets you’ll find a strike indicator can be effective in improving your hook-up rate.

Midges are often underused at this time of year. Small dry midge ball imitations, and I do mean small, perhaps sizes 16 or 18, are a great options on calm evenings. While well-known to lake anglers, midges do occur in pockets throughout most trout streams. Generally look for slow-flowing, winding sections of river where there is a deep silt bottom.

Lure-flickers will do best to stick with the ubiquitous Celta and, as the weather cools, I wouldn’t be afraid to upsize to a No 2 or even No 3 in the big holes.

Although the Walcha district has been doing it tough, Autumn offers probably your best chance to land a decent fish. Most action will probably be at first light so pack the woollies and get out early.

Early Winter is the time for redfin. I must be honest and admit that I’ve never really targeted them much although they were plentiful in the streams that ran through one of my local deer-hunting properties. Reddies, especially the larger ones, love the cold and are keen attackers of active lures with some colour. Fish light as you would for rainbows and target pools with plenty of rushes and timber cover.

In their day redfin have been very plentiful in Copeton and Pindari dams and indeed they are still caught there although not in the numbers of yesteryear. However, what lives in dams also swims up the rivers that feed them so there’s your answer to our best redfin streams. They are quite acceptable eating and being introduced are classed as noxious – so bon appetit!


It is a sad fact that cooler temperatures mean our native fish are slowing down. Having said, that there is reason for one last hurrah – big cod love Autumn. Without question more big fish will be caught (and hopefully released) over the next month.

Smaller fish have a higher metabolism and need to hunt actively throughout the warmer months to maintain good health and body weight but the big old bruisers love to hang back and conserve bodyweight.

As the weather cools and fish begin to consider the annual mating ritual, the larger fish, particularly females, begin to build body mass by eating. Of an evening, particularly, these fish become much more aggressive, roaming the pools seeking a solid feed. Enter the keen fisho armed with sizeable lures or flies and a commitment to braving the cooler evenings.

Big cod hunt the dark waters largely by detecting vibrations and not by sight. Lures with a steady, throbbing action are the key to success. Long pauses in the retrieve will draw the most attention and it would be a wise angler who upgrades his line weight because fights will be won or lost in an instant.

The need for strike-inducing vibrations means most anglers will select bibbed minnows rather than spinnerbaits. I do, however, like the new Chatterbait offering from AusSpin and suggest this lure will take some lunkers in the month ahead.

The impoundment golden perch game is on its last legs at this time of year but some surprisingly good action can still be had before the fish shut down. As the region’s yabbies begin retreating into the mud for their hibernation, impoundment fish will particularly be scouring the flats. Look for knee-deep water adjacent to drop-offs at first light and fish soft plastic crawdads on lightly-weighted jig heads.

This period can see produce better rainfall in the catchments and any fresh into the upper reaches of Copeton or Keepit can trigger a burst of fish action. Baits fished close to the timber are probably the best option where the water tends to be warmer. However, trolling medium diving lures above the old river channels is another option that may undo some nice golden perch.

The bass have by now had the best of their frog-slamming night sessions and tend to retreat into the weedier margins of the rivers. Here the vegetation absorbs more heat during the day and results in more comfortable conditions for the bass and their prey.

Early evenings are a good time to target these areas when the hot spots are at their hottest. A canoe assists a silent approach and allows anglers to draw lures back along the faces of the weed beds, putting offerings in the strike zone longer.

Small lures such as Rebel Crawdads and smaller spinnerbaits in purple and white are good options.

New England is currently blessed with more freshwater than anywhere else in the Premier State – go fish it!

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