It always gets hard at this time of year to come up with fishing options on the New England Tablelands.
It’s closed season for trout and the bass have all headed for brackish water for the breeding season and the miserable weather we have at this time of year generally finishes the enthusiasm.
That’s not too say that there aren’t any fish to be caught for those who are motivated, it’s just that I tend to be happier sitting by the fire sorting through my Summer photos and restocking the fly boxes.
When the sun shines through and the casting arm starts to twitch, I do still like to get out for a fish, though. At this time of year the local mainstays are redfin and trout stocked in dams.
One of the most commendable traits of the redfin is their propensity to feed even when the weather is totally miserable. I’ve had some of my most successful days fishing for redfin when the sleet has been stinging my cheeks and I almost think I might arrive at the stream to find it iced over – well, that might be a little exaggeration, but you get the picture.
Those who read my column last Winter would remember that we learnt a lot about how to target the reddies on light spin gear and soft plastics and that’s right where I’ll be starting off this season.
Finesse spin gear isn’t just for bass and bream competitions. This gear makes fishing for redfin more productive and also adds a bit more enjoyment to my Winter food-gathering missions (did I mention that reddies also taste great?).
My rod is similar to what I use for bass and bream – a light 2kg to 3kg 6’6” spin rod loaded with 6lb braid and a metre or so of 10lb fluorocarbon. On the streams and rivers I’ll tie on a bright red or pink soft plastic such as Atomic’s Fat Grub. White with a hot pink double-tail was a real winner for me last year. Hopped slowly along the bottom, the fish apparently find them irresistible.
If you have access to a boat then it’s worthwhile giving the local dams a go. In this case I stick with the same outfit but change the light jig heads for something larger and heavier. Big white double-tail grubs work well in deep water and the real stand-out for this kind of fishing has been the soft Jackal Mask lures.
A good sounder helps you locate schools as you drift along jigging and when you get onto a good aggregation of fish it’s just a matter of marking the school with a GPS or with the old ‘lining up the landmarks’ trick and repeating the drift until the fish run out or go off the bite.
For the trouties the options are a little limited but there are still ways of getting a fix. For those who don’t mind spending a bit of money there are the private, stocked lakes, Uncle Billy’s and Dunmore Waters at Wandsworth and Gowry further west near Inverell.
The fishing at Uncle Billy’s at this time of year is awesome with fish in the realm of double figures (pounds, that is) regular being caught in the coldest months.
During the day in these lakes we’ve found the best results have come from nymphs and Woolly Buggers fished deeper in the water column, while early mornings and evenings find the fish feeding closer to the surface.
There’s also the distinct possibility of the famously infuriating evening rise where the fish lock in on the one thing you don’t have in your fly box – next time I go I’ll be taking a few midge patterns, for sure.
On the public front, the much-anticipated St Kilda Fishing Club annual family day, when they release all the old brood fish from the Dutton Trout Hatchery, will be held at Dumaresq Dam. Surviving fish from the weekend will continue to provide entertainment for anglers through the rest of the season but they definitely get wilier as time passes.
The late Matt Quinn admiring his first ever trout from the main lake at Uncle Billy’s Retreat. His spirit will be pacing the bank again this year when the big fish start to stir.Reads: 952