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And the rains tumble down in January…
  |  First Published: March 2004



THE FLOODS at the time of writing had put the fishing on hold around Tamworth but even with the dams filthy and rivers still up a fair bit, Shane Raulston and I pinned over 20 small cod and about half dozen golden perch the other day.

The weapon of the day was a double Indiana 3/8oz spinnerbait with a silver curly-tail trailer. The water was still dirty and the avocado green and gold and silver skirt did the job this time.

If you can gain access to cod water when the water subsides and clears, you should do well. Contrary to popular belief, wild cod aren’t the easy pickings that some portray, other wise we wouldn’t have good days and bad days – they’d all be good and the challenge would be gone. Without bad days there wouldn’t be such a thing as a good day, would there?

Anglers who have the knowledge and ability to be versatile will consistently do better than someone who uses one technique, no matter the situation. The first two hours of our trip drew only a few strikes with no hook-ups until we finally found the right spinnerbait.

Different spinnerbaits are suited to different depths and retrieve speeds. There are deep-diving minnows with an extremely slow float rate and others that rise more quickly. And there are surface lures and, for the ultimate challenge, fly. All these techniques are suited to different weather patterns and water temperatures and any of these factors can change from one day to the next.

But fly is the hardest way to catch cod, full stop – but to me it’s the most rewarding. There are days when they’ll hit anything you hurl at them but the harder days are more common. Generally, anglers who take up the fly for cod have served a long apprenticeship with conventional lures and are looking for the challenge, more than the numbers and sizes possible with lures. Even a 60cm or 70cm fish is satisfying on the long wand.

Trolling and casting the impoundments is another area that calls for a bit of lateral thinking. Again it’s important to have the technique dictionary out when they have lock jaw. Go back through some of the old issues of NSWFM and have a look at some of the stuff I’ve written of over the last couple of years – they all work on different days.

One thing that’s obvious is that when the dams fill up again, the fish are gonna be mixed with a lot more water and diluted populations will make them harder to find. The anglers who kept big numbers of fish every weekend when they were on the bite are the ones responsible for the slow action we’re about to experience when dams fill – and you can bet they’ll be the ones whingeing.

THE TROUBLE WITH TROUT

Now that trout numbers have been affected by the drought, it may mean the cod and other natives might have a bit more of a chance of growing too big to be eaten by the resident trout population. Trout seem to be given more consideration than natives and that bugs me. Trout are one of the most aggressive freshwater species towards juvenile fish and the natural food chain.

I’ve caught trout with small cod and blue gut, slimy (river blackfish) in their stomachs and it baffles me the way trout have been made out to be this prestigious fish that is so smart you need to dress like a bush and spend hundreds of dollars to catch one.

Trout are now one of the most accessible fish available in the highland rivers of the New England. All but the cold, upper reaches of streams should be off-limits to trout to allow as natural a life cycle as possible for natives.

Most property owners don’t have any problem with anglers calling in and asking permission to fish, but if they don’t allow you, go and ask another – don’t access properties illegally, as this common occurrence generally meets with a cranky owner and fair enough, too.

If you are a fly fisho, look for a rise and put a dry fly gently on the rise; most times the trout will inhale it. Small Woolly Buggers and the like are great flies for working across the current just under the surface, as are Bead-Head Nymphs. I wont go into trout too much, as they’re a little over-rated for me. They are more difficult in dams to get to eat an offering but when they’re on, they’re really on.

At six years old I had my first trout trip, with my Dad, and caught about a half dozen between a 500g and a kilo using a Celta spinner. I had no experience on trout or lures but their ease of capture by an inexperienced kid in a river is testament to their aggressive nature. They are the same as any fish and can shut down, but all fish do that.

The way I see it, trout and carp are very similar in the damage they cause to native fish populations, Carp pull harder than trout and at times are harder to stalk and therefore more challenging, but why aren’t they as sought-after as trout? Is it because trout are better eating or because they’re more pretty?

In Queensland they have the introduced tilapia, which are just as pretty as trout, fight like buggery and are pretty good chewin’ but even more harmful to natives than trout, carp or redfin. Do the Queenslanders build tilapia up to be the ultimate? No, they just have killing sprees for them to ease the impact on natives.

Now I’m not saying let’s kill all trout. I, too, enjoy chasing them, but not being natives means many of my trout captures end up on a plate with no guilt or bad feeling. I just believe their liberation should be strictly controlled to have minimal impact on the fish that matter. And that’s generally high-altitude, cold small streams.

Like foxes, feral cats, cane toads and other feral species they are imported, voracious predators with negative effects on species that are meant to be here and are more important to the overall scheme of things. When imported species get out of control, government funded eradication schemes are put in place to reduce impact on native wild life from these feral pests.

I believe that it’s because the impact from trout, carp and redfin is less publicised than that from terrestrial predatory imports and because native fish aren’t as cuddly and cute as bilbies, quolls, bandicoots, parrots and finches. Fewer people feel as passionately about their protection. On the other hand, as sporting species trout do have their place but as they encroach on cod waters, the negative impacts are becoming more and more obvious.

Trout in smaller, high country streams aren’t the worry here, but when they start to affect our most iconic species such as Murray Cod, that’s where the line should be drawn. The cold streams of the Snowy Mountains are one area where the trout have minimal impact on natives and the problem is not as drastic.

Many will probably call these views extremist but, as I say, I don’t have a problem with trout, just their geographic distribution and stocking. I reckon stocking trout in native fish water is as practical as a ceiling fan in an aviary.

HASTEN TO HERVEY

I recently conducted a Friday night seminar and Saturday casting day at the Fisherman’s Corner Tackle Store in Harvey Bay and it was a screamer. There were 160 keen anglers, male, female, young and old, and we had a ball. The night was full of laughs and the public reaction from people I’d never met made me realise why I work full-time in the fishing industry. Congratulations to Jim Sullivan and his brilliant crew at Fisherman’s Corner on The Esplanade. Of course, Rolly and I had to hang around for a few days’ fishing while we were there. I make it a habit to fish every area I visit.

After a week of a mega-low barometer and daily thunderstorms, fish activity had slowed to almost non-existent. We were taken to some lesser-known spots with normally hyperactive fish but had only limited success, even with a couple of the most experienced guys in the Bay. Even they skunked it, and that doesn’t happen in the Bay very often.

We did get a few decent grassy sweetlip and some flatties around 630cm and a few bust-ups on plastics while fishing the creeks for jacks but it was hard work. What is frustration? It’s queenies and trevally tailing and nailing bait schools in front of you and looking at nothing you chuck at them, not a plastic, slice, popper or diver.

Despite our unusually slow sessions, you should get up there and try your hand at some tropical stuff. It’s all in reach and accessible to those who have a boat and there’s plenty for those without one.

The boats needed for the Bay don’t need to be huge, either. If you pick your weather and keep an eye on it while you’re out there, you can safely fish the river mouths and inshore reefs. Also keep an eye out for the huge turtles that are incredibly common throughout the area and will unstick a boat when hit at speed.

No.1.

NSWFM ad man Todd Morrow had a bit of fun with this golden and lost a cod at the canoe – not a bad introduction to the local fishing/

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