The month of May can give fishos a real dose of what lies ahead. Those big cold fronts from down south can push up and give you a real hiding. Aside from these tough days, the middle parts can still hold some warmth, certainly enough for some insect hatches on the trout streams around Oberon and Tarana, although they will be brief.
The early mornings on a clear day can be very heavy with frost, especially later in the month, so much so that the runners on a rod, be they spin or fly, can actually ice up, making casting very difficult!
An early spawn run by the brown trout is possible if weather conditions and water are favourable, so keep this in mind when coming up on a tail out gravel run. The browns are almost impossible to see until you are right on top of them, and by then it’s usually too late. All you see is a bow wave heading off into the pool, so it’s better to sit back from the run and watch it for a while. If there is more than 1 fish on station, sometimes they will give themselves away by jostling for prime spawn position.
I may have hinted at this in last month’s column. If I didn’t, I should have… this is the time for the small cod lures to be put away. As water temperatures drop quickly, a lot of small food items disappear or diminish, and suddenly all that warm water tucker is gone. Yabbies pull back and spend more time in their holes, shrimp become scarce, smaller baitfish are fewer in number with life cycles finished, or diminished by predators over summer.
Those first few big frosts are a real trigger for sure; big cod in impoundments feel it and see it, they sense the temperature dropping, they are working harder for a feed, moving further, so it’s prime time to be out chasing them I reckon. Moving fish are hungry fish.
It’s hard to beat trolling for cod as a tactic in impoundments, especially if you drive the lure in conjunction with your sounder, steer the boat to suit, and change lures to suit the conditions and structure. Casting does have its place though — tighter pockets, little gullies, the backs of bays, tree-lined runs, shallow cover. Don’t discount the annoyance factor with cod either, as it can work with trolling or casting. Repeated runs, repeated casts, cod are top of the food chain under water and sometimes they just get pissed off. The strike then is something else, bone jarring in fact… Maybe it’s just that after a few dozen casts or your fifth run over the top in the boat you slip into auto mode, then next minute the rod just about gets ripped out of your hands.
Cooler waters are a trigger for bass as well, with the majority heading for the main basin of dams or the downstream sections of our major rivers and streams. They can be a little tough to find in big systems like the Hawkesbury — you can spend hours with very little action while fishing in some prime country, then all of a sudden the mother load appears.
As with the cod, moving fish are hungry fish. Bass will also school up, which kicks in the whole competition thing. It’s a bit like half a dozen teenage boys getting into the pantry, jostling for position at the front, packets getting ripped open at a rate of knots — nothing is spared.
Late April and early May would have to be one of my favourite times of year to target these fish. With surface temperatures dropping fast, those big browns are again tempted back into shallow water for longer. Yabbies make up a fair portion of a brown trout’s diet, especially in Lake Lyell, but the trouble is by late May the yabbies are few and far between and are back in their holes. I reckon most of the browns go into withdrawal mode for a few weeks; like junkies, they wander about, wondering where their regular fix has gone. Therefore, a well presented imitation, be it plastic, feathers, or hardbody, is eaten with gusto. I have watched them and it’s a sight to see. They light up, they seem to grow in the water, flexing their muscles, fins erect, and then charging the bottom contact presentation from metres away with total disregard for anything else.
Walking the banks is by far the best approach. Wear drab coloured clothing and use the early morning or late afternoon sun to your advantage. Look into the water where you can see — it’s no good looking where you cannot — and don’t expect to see the whole fish. Most of the time it’s a glint of white from the inside of the mouth, or the flick of a tail, or a shadow on the bottom. Polaroiding fish is like most things in life — the more you do it, the better you get. Good polarising lenses are a big help, but you get what you pay for.
Be warned though, it’s very addictive and very soon you will be doing it for more than just your brown trout fishing.Reads: 532