It is with great anticipation that we country folk look forward to the opening of the trout season. Not so much that it means we can now legitimately stalk the beautiful streams of the Tablelands, but the season opening heralds the start of big rains.
It is a fact of life up here in the high country that the long weekend in October lifts the lid on some of the best trout fishing in the State – as well as opening up the heavens. From late October through into early February we expect to see some solid Summer rainfall – to the delight of farmers and fish alike.
The St. Kilda Fishing Club Fisherama provides a well-established shotgun start to the season throughout the long weekend. Although there is plenty of dam and river activity, much of the conversation is focused around the barbecue at the event’s home – the St. Kilda Hotel. Talk is of the coming Summer and the likelihood of trout, bass and cod angling successes.
On the trout front, I’m looking forward to better than recent seasons. Ebor fished well all last year and at the end of the season the fish were still plentiful and feisty.
October-November provide some exceptional dry-fly action and if you are prepared to walk, then the sky’s the limit. Wulffs, Humpies and high-floating caddis will turn plenty of fish.
Lure anglers would be well advised to take note of my comments last issue on micro-soft plastics. Wait for the rain and bigger water before switching to Celtas.
In the Wollomombi catchment, things have been tough but I certainly believe some good early fish will come from this area.
The upper region is well supported by springs which disappear downstream into the sandy soil. The higher reaches can hold some surprising fish and in early Summer expect a few mayfly hatches here. Generally the duns are small and dark but the fish are not overly caring for an ill-placed cast.
The western Guyra streams and upper Boorolong River should fish OK although given how the 2006-7 season tailed out, I’d probably be heading to the latter first up.
If you are heading out from Armidale then take five minutes to wheel into Dumaresq Dam. The annual kids’ fishing day was held in mid August and not all of those big brood rainbows from the hatchery were landed. You may well be stuck into a serious trout here.
Down Walcha way, last season proved particularly tough for most anglers. That said, I firmly believe that early in the season when the days are a tad cooler really is a great time to target Walcha trout. Comfortable days with clear evenings will often result in spinner hatches and hunting fish.
Some reasonable rains in late August put a decent fresh through most of the streams and there should be fish here to tempt the cunning fisho.
Early starts and late finishes are a hallmark of successfully angling the Walcha streams so camping overnight is a real bonus. There is a good variety of accommodation in town as well as a few travelling stock reserves closer to the streams. Give Charlie Winter at the Tourism Information office a call on 02 7674 2460 if you require further details.
The local council also publishes a brochure listing fishing properties in the district.
Walcha streams tend to be some of the larger in the New England and are well-suited to casting small spinners or hard minnows. Drab or natural colours tend to draw the most response.
The slower nature of these waters means they are suited to drifting a small wet fly under a clear bubble float. It is a little-used technique by modern threadline anglers but an art that definitely needs revival – it works.
There have been some changes to regulations for the 2007-8 trout season which apply to all lakes and southern NSW streams. I’m about to have my bitch and then leave it at that. Most New England streams are not self-sustaining fisheries and require regular restocking. These are essentially small waters that should not be called on to support a daily bag limit of five fish per angler.
Some of these streams should be designated, just like some of their southern cousins, as lure or fly only. The majority of New England trout are not lunkers and to continue a free run on bait angling and treble hooks results in injury to many of the smaller fish. Switching to single hooks would in no way reduce catch rates and would be easier on the trout.
Some of our streams should also be designated as catch and release only. This would enable the size of fish to increase to a point where certain streams held a better quality of fish.
Implementing such changes would require detailed appraisal of stream morphology, surrounding land use and climatic impact. However, the challenge for fisheries managers is there – I strongly believe that New England has some of the best trout fishing on mainland Australia – I also believe that there are ways to further develop and sustain the quality of our fishery.
In further developments, I understand there is now a total closure to fishing for catfish in all western-flowing rivers and unlisted dams. I’m not sure which northern NSW impoundments are involved but will include an update next issue. The size limit on Murray cod has also been lifted to 55cm with a further increase to 60cm in 2008.
October brings the local trout season online and working our local streams with lure or fly is a terrific way to enjoy the Aussie bush. The days are still cool and the fish willing to play the game so load up the chariot and get up here.
November is usually the time to start hitting the bass and, of course, December is the opening of the cod season. It looks like a pretty busy run up to Christmas but first things first – I’m off to catch some trout!Reads: 1600