Look for cool and shade
  |  First Published: December 2003

FISHING the Central Tablelands successfully in January is all about finding cooler water. That goes for trout as well as our native species.

Venues such as Oberon Dam and Lake Lyell fish best in the wee hours of the morning, when surface temperatures are at their coolest. The time to be on the water is around 3am or 4am – by 8am the sun will already be harsh and most trout will have descended into the depths.

Although more equipped to handle higher water temps, native fish also bite better in low light during Summer. In broad daylight most cod and golden perch are tucked up behind a shady stump or log.

Hot spots in the late afternoon include areas that receive early shade from steep bluffs, usually on the western side of impoundments such as Wyangala and Burrendong. Early morning will see me on the opposite side of these dams, chasing the shade.

I remember a session on Wyangala Dam a few Januaries ago that really rammed home the notion of chasing the shade. Half a dozen golden perch fell in quick time, all caught casting to shaded water around structure. I have used this pattern on many species since and it has always been good to me from January to March.

If all this is not your cup of tea, going deep may be your only option. Trout during the hot daylight hours go deep. There are many trout in dams such as Lake Lyell and Wyangala Dam that get caught well below the 15-metre barrier in January and February. One way to get a lure to this depth is with a downrigger or paravane trolling behind the boat.

Fly anglers need to use a full-sink line to get down deep. Drifting in a boat using a full-sink fly line is a good way to target Lyell trout. Don’t waste time aimlessly drifting, find fish on the sounder first, go up-wind and drift back over the fish. Use a bucket or drift drogue to slow you down if the wind is up. Big red and black Matukas are good flies for this. Small soft plastic grubs and shads on spinning tackle could also be an option, although I’ve yet to try this.

Baits such as worms or even Berkley PowerBait can be used to good success on these thermocline-hugging fish. Jigging the bait slowly up and down among fish showing on the sounder is the way to go. Use different-coloured marker pens on your line at varying depths so you get the right depth every time.


Every now and then something comes to hand that really makes you sit up and take notice. A few seasons ago I heard of a young bloke from Lithgow who was doing really well catching golden perch in Lake Windamere on, of all things, Nils Master Spearheads. Aren’t they a barra lure?

I finally met Mick Ellery and his technique started to make sense. Spearheads weigh about 14g and they sink slowly in freshwater. Mick usually fishes them from the bank. Casting out a short distance, he lets them slowly sink, then gradually retrieves them up the slope with lots of twitches and pauses. This sort of retrieve is just the ticket for Windamere goldens. The ability of the Spearhead to stay in the strike zone for a long time also helps. He does particularly well with the glow-in-the-dark model around sundown but we think this model may be discontinued. Full marks to Mick for thinking outside the square.


Burrendong, Ben Chifley, and Carcoar dams are really fishing well for redfin at the moment. The fish are not big but the numbers are there and early morning and late afternoon are the times to be on the water.

Drifting in a boat with a worm or a small yabby at the right depth is just about the best guarantee of catching a fish as I can give. As usual, use a sounder to locate your fish and then present the bait at that depth. Don’t be surprised if the odd golden perch gets in on the act, especially in Burrendong.

As always, you can catch me on Australia’s No 1 fishing and boating radio show, Hi-Tide on Radio 2KY with Kieren and Bruce bright and early on Saturdays.


What barra lure? That’s 3kg of Spearhead-munching golden perch. Mick Ellery of Lithgow caught this one at the Windamere Golden Classic, along with quite a few others, by keeping the lure in the strike zone.


Wyangala Dam cod love shady banks in the late afternoon. During the midday hours, shade is at a premium so anglers need to go deep. Damien Webb used a deep-diving Whitmore to catch this light-coloured specimen.


Casting to the shady side of stumps and rocks in shallow water is the go in Wyangala in January and February. Damien Webb uses a well-worn Wittys Dee Bob.

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