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The natives are restless
  |  First Published: December 2007



While kiddies across the State wait for the arrival of the jolly bloke with the beard and the red suit, anglers have already received a Christmas bonus – the cod season is open.

Plenty of us were eagerly await the opening of the trout season and now we’re refocusing on the beginning of the cod season. By all accounts this one will be a cracker.

Reports and personal experience from last season support the evidence that there are Plenty of cod about and the drought has had little impact, especially in the headwater gorges. However, in the lowlands I’ve already heard of anglers hooking (and releasing) greenfish in places they haven’t been seen for a few years.

Chaffey Dam was long held as a ‘sleeper’ cod fishery with those in the know regularly getting onto some fairly sizeable fish. Reports indicate that the dam is starting to kick back with enough captures of smaller fish to suggest that the good times are back. Golden perch are also increasing in numbers and size at Chaffey.

Most success seems to be casting lures and soft plastics from the shore, particularly towards the head of the dam. With the warming water and hopefully a little increased inflow, I’d expect the trolling action with medium-sized lures to be particularly effective over the next month.

Chaffey has a high population of carp so it is no surprise that yellow and gold lures are the key at this impoundment.

My man on the ground at Chaffey is Christopher Atkinson of the Nundle Trading Post. Acco assures me that the fishing is hotting up down that way, enough so that he’s now carrying fishing tackle and locally-produced lures to give visiting fishos a leg up on the action.

A free angling map and guide to Chaffey Dam and local trout spots is also proving a welcome addition and can be obtained from Chris at the store. He’s a nice bloke with plenty of local knowledge so if you’re visiting drop in and say g’day.

KEEPIT QUIET

Keepit Dam has been a little quiet although anglers who persevere are hooking, and in some cases losing, their share of small to medium cod. Yellowbelly continue to be a little scarce but this month I’d reckon working the shallows on foot with a pocket of yabby imitations might bring a few nice yellows to the bank.

Further north, the gorges of the Namoi and Gwydir Rivers are turning on the usual cod action for those prepared to walk. Like most sweetwater angling, the further you get from the road the more you’ll get your lures crunched.

Visiting anglers often underestimate the seasonal variations we experience up in the New England. Summers can be quite warm and it is important to keep well hydrated. Include some water-purifying tablets in your day pack if heading out for a long walk – the recent lack of strong stream flows means that some rivers are still a bit thick to drink without treatment.

Along the headwaters at this time of year I prefer to fish medium to large lures and flies. Focus on the major deep holes because the usual January rains which trigger stream heights to push fish out through the system have not arrived. Lures with sizeable bibs and sinking fly lines are the go to get your offerings down to 3m in most holes.

The problem when fishing deep is the tendency for lures and flies to hook up on bottom structure. You can largely alleviate this by re-rigging lures with large single hooks and employing flies which ride with the hook point up.

Pindari Dam is running hot and cold depending upon who’s telling the story but over the next couple of months I expect a couple of big cod to get caught here. Anglers trolling the drop-offs with big lures will probably get the better results although working spinnerbaits at the top of the dam where rocky structure dominates could also run hot.

TOPWATER ACTION

From mid-December through into January we should start to get the cicadas coming out and this really triggers some superb topwater action. The past couple of seasons have been a little quiet on the cicada front but were we to get a bit of late December rain we should be due for a good hatch.

Small, dark poppers are the go and should be fished extremely slowly. Save all that splashing and bloop-blooping across the pools for after dark.

During the day and into early evening, retrieves should be subtle – a slight movement of the imitation and then let it rest.

In recent seasons I’ve been using poppers less and less and going for slider-style lure or fly patterns. Think of the normal popper head shape but reverse it on the hook. These patterns make a much more subtle movement in the upper water column and indeed are especially deadly when employed in the shallow margins of the bigger pools.

The bass were a little slow in coming back up this year. Water in the Macleay River was still cool right into November and most fish were taken in the mid-reaches after dark. The fish size has been consistently good, though, with regular catches of 40cm-plus fish up as far as Kunderang.

At this time of year the fish are on the chew and anglers should search all water thoroughly. Another month and you’ll find most action in the faster runs at the pool heads or after dark. At the moment fish should be hugging the margins of the weed beds and well-placed casts with small spinnerbaits and hardbodies in neutral colours should draw a response.

TROUT

At last the word is out. A recent issue of the FlyFisher magazine carried an article by Victorian writer Phil Weigall praising the quality of the Ebor trout fishery. Tell us something we didn’t know!

Ebor has really been firing this season with plenty of modest-sized fish willing to hit flies and lures. Celtas remain the preferred option for lure casting although I still wince at the thought of those trebles.

One local trout aficionado has been enjoying great success on hard-fished streams by retro-fitting flies such as Red Tags to a standard small Celta. The result has been less bottom fouling and easier release of fish as well as a much improved strike rate. Well worth giving a go.

Dry flies continue to provide great sport throughout the headwater streams. Take a couple of your favourites along but don’t leave home without some Humpies, Royal Wulffs and a couple of dark Parachute Duns. The mayfly action will peak this month with the New Year a great time to flick a few beetle or hopper patterns about.

Unfortunately the Walcha rivers seem to be doing it tough. I’ve yet to hear or experience any improvement in the angling down that way. It’s been tough for a couple of seasons but if you’ve found otherwise, drop me a line.

Up Guyra way there seem to be a few trout kicking about with occasional reports of the odd horse coming to the bank. I’ll let you know more next month after I drop in on a couple of creeks up there.

I’ve heard of some lovely trout coming from Malpas Dam with the local redfin there well on the chew. One feather-tosser cleaned up on the reds from the pontoon. For information on access to Malpas contact the St Kilda Hotel Fishing Club, Armidale.

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