Easing into Autumn
  |  First Published: May 2007

Warmer weather persisted for a long time throughout the region, producing mixed fishing, but with the arrival of cooler weather the New England is easing into Autumn.

Some excellent rain has occurred in recent times although it has been patchy; you either got plenty or none!

Those in the know tell us that El Nino has backed off for a while and that we should return to more typical rainfall events. While this is good news it will take extraordinary rain to return dam and river levels to those required. There is an even greater need for water management to be seriously implemented throughout our region, which forms one of the largest catchments in the state.

Whether you find the truth inconvenient or not, the fact remains that as global temperatures rise, traditional trout fisheries in particular will shrink. Marginal waters for the cold-loving salmonoids will vanish, placing greater fishing pressure on already stretched waters.

Perhaps the days of anglers taking for granted the resources of fine impoundments such as Keepit, Copeton, Split Rock, Wyangala, Pejar and the like are gone. As stream flows required for breeding and fish recruitment are reduced, fishing for native species will also suffer over the next few years.

Recently steps have been revealed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service to close off the access to the Chandler River via Carters Road. This has long been a popular camping spot and launching point for multi-day canoe trips.

The reasons cited have been lack of trail maintenance and increased risk of bushfire ignition. It is interesting that none of these problems is considered a reality for the Riverside Rest Area, which you have to pay to visit. While I have no problem with the user-pays system, there are very few safe and legal vehicle access points into the heart of our gorges and any restrictions are a blow to all who visit them.

Despite my brief bitch about the future of our favoured pastime, there is plenty of hope on the horizon. In fact we have seen some great angling by those willing to roam the region. Perhaps that is the biggest change to come from all this is you need to be ready to get up and go when the fish are on.


Trout angling has continued to be fair although the change in season will be welcome. In the run-down to the season closure, I expect some of the best opportunities since it opened way back in October.

Cooler conditions are much more favourable and, especially in the streams around Walcha and the upper Wollomombi catchment, you’ll have your best chance of hooking a rainbow.

Both these areas fished poorly throughout the season; stream levels were just too low and warm. But if you can get out soon, give the mid reaches of the Macdonald River, Walcha, and the feeder streams of the Wollomombi an exploratory trip.

Medium-sized (No 8) wet flies such as Woolly Buggers and Matukas should be the goods for fly fishos while Celtas and small spoons will be favourite choices for lure-flickers.

Ebor water levels have been excellent and this location continues to be the mainstay of the New England trout fishery. As has been the case all season, dry flies continue to produce here and will continue so until the season closure. Flies will change from the terrestrial patterns, such as beetles, to spinners and caddis imitations.

As the days cool and the fish become more active, a great option for spin anglers is to target the bigger pools and waterfall holes with a streamer fly suspended under a small clear float.

I’d tie the fly about 60cm below the float and cast into the running water. It’s a tactic that was fairly common many years ago but seldom seen today. Try it, you’ll wonder why you haven’t given it a go sooner.


Autumn and early Winter can be a cracking time to head out after a cod or three. The days are more pleasant to put in a big effort down in the gorges and the weather tends to be more stable for those cruising about on the lakes.

Copeton Dam has been experiencing some great bursts of cod activity and savvy regular visitors have been taking some great fish. By all accounts they’ve also been taking some big bust-ups.

Trolling big lures as slowly as possible along the drop-offs will prove effective. The key is to employ your sounder, keeping roughly around the 3m mark and troll achingly slowly. Sooner or later, new chums get bored with this and spend half the day changing locations all over the lake. Old hands stick with it and you should, too.

Algal blooms at Pindari Dam have gone now and this would also be a good spot for a trip this month. Here I’d be casting spinnerbaits tight into the trees with line and rod combinations designed to muscle fish out of the sticks.

Night trolling is also proving popular in these smaller impoundments but make sure you have a good knowledge of the waterway and its potential hazards.

Golden perch have been responding well to natural baits recently and yabbies seem to be the pick. It’s probably your last chance to get out and catch some before they disappear into the mud for Winter but it would be well worth the effort.

Despite low lake levels over Summer the Copeton goldens have been in excellent condition with plenty of sizeable specimens. Some good-sized catfish have also been on the chew, mostly after dark on fresh baits in the shallows.

The redfin have been noticeably absent of late. Perhaps the increasing numbers of cod in recent years are starting to have an impact.


Depending on whom you talk to, the past Summer was hit-and-miss on the bass. While some anglers enjoyed excellent catches, mostly small numbers of large fish, many just missed out.

Admittedly, water levels in the upper sections were so low that many of us who traditionally undertake a few float trips through the gorges never got out on the water. The fish may have been there but we weren’t.

Below Georges Creek, the Macleay fished moderately well with some of the better action coming from the smaller feeder creeks.

At present I reckon that walking into the upper gorges from the top ends would be the way to go. You’ll need a weekend to pull it off safely but the cooler conditions don’t make it quite such a slog.

There are a number of access options into the Macleay and Chandler Rivers off the Long Point area. For further information I suggest you contact the Armidale office of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Small soft plastics should work if the water is running clear, and it most likely will be. If it is coloured and up a bit, shallow-running baitfish imitations in pink or black/orange should be effective.

It won’t be long before we are all packing the heavy jumpers into our fishing bags so have one last hurrah in the ‘warm’ weather.

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