New England waiting for the fly angler
  |  First Published: November 2014

With the trout season opening on Saturday 4 October, the New England plateau has seen quite a few visitors armed with a gleam in the eye, a fishing vest over a warm jacket and a fly rod in the hand.

The late winter rains have kick-started the resident trout and with a bit of green grass around the rivers and streams the area certainly looks good.

New chum fly anglers hope to glean some information on the fishing from local businesses and other likely sources of information, old hands keep a bit quiet and smile as they head for familiar waters.

That’s trout fishing, undoubtedly subject to some mystique, but the reality is that New England waters, from around Glen Innes to Tamworth in the south and east to around Dorrigo are there for all comers and after a foray to the area for the opening weekend, I can report there are some top fish in the streams. My best fish was a 50cm brownie; a very good fish for small waters, that’s for sure.

Where to Fish?

From around the high altitude town of Guyra, the angler is well and truly in trout territory. To find a trout stream, simply look for the small sign near areas of public access proclaiming the water as being designated for trout and subject to seasonal closure. A license is required for all New South Wales fishing and can be obtained online.

Once a likely stream is found – and I suggest a very good place is around Ebor, east of Guyra, where the New England trout hatchery is located – it’s a pretty sure bet that if the water is running and there are pools with at least a metre of water in them, there should be trout on tap. My thoughts are that the Ebor area, with it’s dozen or more trout streams, is an excellent place to make a start on some fishing, but as always it’s wise to enquire at the nearest house as to access to what is probably private land.

If at Ebor, drop in and have a look at the Dutton trout hatchery just to see how really big trout (there are 3 kg fish in some ponds) can become if the food is available for them and they get a chance to grow instead of being caught and cooked. That aside, New England waters are put-and-take fisheries, so don’t feel bad about serving trout for dinner.

5-6wt outfit ideal

These high altitude waters usually offer fish up to 1kg in weight, so a 5-6wt trout outfit will handle them easily. As the streams are mainly on the small side, fish don’t have a lot of trouble finding either a dry or wet fly in more shallow waters, so a weight forward floating line my preference. With a 3m leader attached to the fly line, a 2kg tippet around 50cm long at the business end the angler is ready to do battle.

It’s the angler’s choice for reels. Some anglers spend small fortunes on fly reels for trout but I don’t over do this outlay; it’s far better to keep the coin for a serious saltwater quality reel for big fat barra, tuna or mackerel.

Selecting the right fly is not all that difficult, despite the many articles written about the selectivity of these speckled sport fish. Yes, they can be selective in waters where specific insect hatches are prolific or prolonged but in the New England streams, trout will eat virtually anything coming their way. This gives a lot of latitude to the angler, as dry flies such as the Red Tag, Nobby Hopper, Royal Wulff, Adams and Black Spinner work quite well in sizes 12 down to 16.

Fished on a lightly greased fly line (I use Mucilin) and with the fly dressed with floatant such as Gink, the clue is to cast the fly upstream of a moving fish or a place where a fish might be on the lookout for tucker and watch for a reaction. It’s important to keep slack line gently stripped back as the fly floats down stream at this time to avoid missing the fish on the rod lift should the fly be taken. Once hooked, the fun begins as the trout first leaps then tries to get into any cover handy.

Wet fly fishing is much the same except, it’s a bit more exciting in that there’s no precise way of knowing when a fish will take the fly but the system is similar to dry fly fishing in that the fly is cast upstream, naturally allowed to sink considerably (some mud rubbed on the leader really helps here) and then retrieved manually in little strips and twitches.

A trout take is very direct. Trout take tucker on the turn and a sudden wrench is the usual thing. About the only difference in the tackle set up might be a longer leader tippet of 2kg line to ensure the fly does get down to where it can be seen.

Likely areas for wet fly fishing include edges of pool head runs or bubble trails, along grassy edges or any over hanging cover. A rising fish will, most times, take a wet fly as easily as a dry fly so a quick cast at a movement often bears fruit. Really good wet flies include the Woolly Bugger (black or olive with or without a bead head), any of the Rabbit or Leech patterns and the old faithful Matuka in Size 6 or 8.

Last thoughts

Trout feed best at times of low light, so it’s good to be on the water really early or late in the day. Remember that high altitude means low temperatures at night and even into the day if it’s a dull or windy forecast. Around Ebor in mid October there were mornings with 1-2°C temperatures at 6am. This sort of cold morning scenario will continue into this month and even into early summer, so don’t omit the warm clothing. Remaining kit might well include a set of thigh waders or gum boots for the feet, a vest to keep fly boxes and other small items in and don’t forget the net. A landing net makes landing jumpy, squirmy and wriggling fish so much easier.

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