A new season surfaces
  |  First Published: December 2006

This is definitely my favourite time to fish the New England and neighbouring regions.

The warm weather brings on great hatches of insect life that prompt the fish to feed and the warm water and balmy nights mean that the fishing can continue on, and often improves, after the sun goes down.

This is particularly the case with bass and Murray cod. With December 1 the first day we can legally target cod after the closed breeding season, it really is the beginning of the ‘festive season’ as far as fishing is concerned – which is why I’m finding it that much harder to leave. I’m off!

As of this issue, I’ll be packing up house and moving back to sunny Queensland after spending 13 years in Armidale. Moving to Redland Bay to work in Fishhead Tackle means I’ll still be fishing but I’ll be hanging up my trout and cod gear for bream, snapper and kingfish rigs though I will get to still spend time chasing my beloved bass. My trusty walking boots will no doubt be shelved in preference for a comfy pedestal seat on the bow of a boat .

Anyway, I’m sure the column will be in good hands as Richard Barnsley takes it on and you may even be in for a refreshing change.

As I write it’s pouring rain and I’m already thinking about what’s going to happen when it stops. With the ground nice and soft and the air hot and humid, it won’t be long before the trees will be full of the trilling of thousands of cicadas.

This is usually my cue to head down the hill to my favourite bass spots and start throwing surface lures around. If there are enough cicadas around the bass can be whipped into such a feeding frenzy that they’ll take surface lures right through the day in areas where there isn’t to much traffic on the water to put them down.

Lures such as the classic Heddon Jitterbug, Tiny Torpedo and Jittermouse, as well as newer models such as the Kokoda Buggachug and even floating soft plastics are all going to do the job.

During the day you need to concentrate your efforts close to snags and under cover but in the wee hours of the morning and again when the shadows lengthen of an evening you can, and will, pick up fish anywhere in the pools.

Fly anglers will do well following the same pattern using small Dahlbergs, Sliders and Gurglers. In areas where there is a proliferation of tiny cicadas of about 2cm to 3cm the old Muddler is sure to work.

The other great surface fishing in the region at this time of year is with the Murray cod in the western-flowing rivers.

Unlike the bass, cod tend to be pretty strict about when they feed off the surface. They generally take surface lures and flies through the dark hours and twilight but will switch off once the sun hits the water.

Occasionally when it’s stormy or overcast they’ll keep going right through the day. At these times (particularly after dark) casting doesn’t need to be as accurate and it actually pays to spend a bit longer on each spot making sure you cover every bit of water, particularly the shallower areas where you would expect smaller prey fish to seek refuge.

It still amazes me how shallow cod will go under the cover of darkness. Really it does make sense that the cod come out of their snags and actively hunt for food, it’s not like the smaller fish are so stupid that they’ll ignore a continuous stream of food parading past their snags.

When targeting cod at night I like to go as big as possible with my lures and flies. The Mudeye Depthcharge and the massive Cod-Lolly still sit firmly at the top of my list of favourites. Big jointed jitterbugs are also proven producers.

Fishing with flies, I’ll again spend some time ensuring I really work over an area of water. This means I cover every possible fish in the pool and that I spend less time stumbling around in the dark at the risk of rod and limb. Although a torch can help, I’d recommend leaving it off because they definitely spook the fish. It also takes your eyes ages to adjust to the dark again when you turn it off and this is when something could go wrong.

Anyway, get out there and make the most of the water while we still have some. And if you’re ever up around Redland Bay, make sure you drop in at Fishhead and say g’day and let me know how the fishing’s going back home.

December is prime time to go in search of cod after the end of the closed season. With a bit of water around there should be plenty of nice fish like this specimen taken on fly by Geoff Volter.

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