Experimenting pays off
  |  First Published: October 2004

WITHOUT a crystal ball to gaze in, it’s hard for me to know whether we’ll get any good rain by time you read this. However, a few short downpours in August and early September at least got the creeks and rivers flowing, which is more than we could say for the same time last year!

The big buzz every October is opening weekend for trout, and this year won’t be any different. Every man and his rod, serious or social, will be out on opening day. Sometimes you wonder if everyone thinks all the fish are going to move house the next day.

Early crowds aside, it looks like it’s shaping up to be a good season. Some anglers are reporting that the previous season’s stocking somehow managed to survive the last Summer in many of the tableland’s streams. These fish will all be up around the 400g mark by now – not huge, but a good start. Coupled with the few bigger fish that have weathered the drought by hiding in the deeper holes, this will make for a bit better fishing than we’ve had to endure over the past few seasons.

Good places to start are the bigger holes on the Wollomombi, such as those at the Grafton road TSR, and ‘The Common’ on the Guy Faulkes at Ebor. The Ebor common nearly always has a heap of fish at the start of the season but these wise up quickly with the amount of fishing pressure they receive, so get in early!

For the spin fisher, the traditional Celtas and small hard-bodied lures will still deliver the goods. However, if you’re keen to try something different, tie on a few soft plastics and do a bit of experimenting. A surprising stand-out for me last season were Crappie Spiders. I discovered their trout-attracting abilities by accident, when a kilo-plus rainbow trout latched onto one of the clear ones while I was out giving the redfin a bash. The thing that really blew me away was that it took a couple of hits before the trout finally got the hook, yet each taste only got it more worked up. Considering the amount of lures and flies this fish had probably seen already, this was a real eye-opener.

As far as flyfishing goes, I’ll share my general rule of thumb with you. In the long, deeper holes I use an intermediate line with large Woolly Buggers or other attractor patterns. In the shallower, flowing water, such as the streams around Ebor, smaller nymphs are more productive.

However, if things aren’t going as planned on the day, don’t be afraid to mix it up – and don’t be afraid to try larger flies. Though many trout anglers cling to the belief that trout are far too astute to be fooled by large, grossly-tied offerings, this is far from the truth. Sometimes a heavily presented Muddler or cicada imitation may be just the ticket to getting Old Trout out of the doldrums. My goal for the season is to get a trout on a Dahlberg Diver. Come on, it’s just a dry fly really!

Native Scene

With the recent rain, and with the gradual increase in temperature, reports suggest golden perch are starting to come on the chew. After a good fresh is always a good time to target these fish in the rivers further west, and a rise in water levels will generally bring them in to the banks in many of the impoundments as well.

There have been reports of good catches of golden perch out of Copeton recently, so now’s the time to get over there. The great thing about Copeton is that it is also an excellent bankside fishery. Walking the bank and targeting rocky points and snaggy bays can be a rewarding way to spend the day. My favourite lures for this kind of fishing are Oar-Gee Pee Wees and 60mm Oar-Gee Ploughs in a variety of colours, though the Gollywog (black with red head) is generally a standout. But again, don’t be afraid to experiment. A few years ago my mate Glen and I stopped at the dam to stretch our legs for half an hour. Much to my amusement, Glen tied on a battered old Shakespeare ‘S’. He proceeded to the nearest rocky point, from which he immediately extracted the fattest, roundest golden perch I have ever seen. We estimated it at 15lb.

He still likes to remind me that I didn’t raise a scale with my flash, modern lures that cost twice as much!

We’re now well into the closed season for Murray cod, and fishing for them won’t resume until December. This gives the valuable breeder fish a chance to do their thing in peace and hopefully help maintain a viable fishery. Although stocking groups work hard to keep fish numbers in our rivers, we still need wild-bred fish to maintain a healthy, genetically diverse population. There has also been much discussion recently (see Hodge’s September column) on how female cod are affected by anglers handling them in the months leading up to the breeding season. I haven’t targeted cod since May for this reason, and I urge all conscientious anglers to do likewise.

However, in regulated rivers, such as the section of the Gwydir below Copeton Dam, it’s highly unlikely that cod have spawned successfully in a long time. Stocking is the only thing maintaining this population of cod, and the situation won’t change until something is done to improve the state of the waterway. With the upcoming election it may be the time to shake some promises out of our local representatives.

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