The river less travelled
  |  First Published: December 2007

A couple of months ago Dad and I spent a few days in the Northern Territory on a station out of Katherine. We were hunting buffalo and on the second morning I brought down a fine bull with a single shot out on the floodplain.

It took most of the day to butcher the beast for meat and clean up the horns. But on the third afternoon we drove some 20km out into the backblocks for a fish.

Dad had thrown in just a small spin stick for the trip because we had not expected to get any fishing done. That was a big mistake! Over the next couple of hours I enjoyed some of the most frenzied fishing I’ve ever experienced.

Although barra were notably absent – we were a long way inland – nearly every cast was hammered by tarpon, sooty grunters and archer fish.

This was remote angling where the fish had seldom, if ever, seen a lure. On numerous occasions while the lure was in flight bow waves would race across the pool to intercept the imitation when it hit the water. On a light trout stick and 4kg line we had a ball.

The experience reinforced a fact well known to most freshwater anglers – get as far as possible from the road and watch the action hot up. Many coastal anglers in particular are not used to walking long distances to fishing spots. Out here in the weeds, it is common practice.

The lesson for anglers visiting the inland regions is to get out into the backblocks and explore the remoter waterways. Whether it is New England trout or resident Murray cod, you’ll find fishing goldmines the farther you explore from the easier access points.


The Tablelands trout are really giving their best this season with plenty of good stream flows and responsive fish. I regularly meet visiting anglers who drop into the outdoor shop and most have been well pleased with the trout this season.

The Wollomombi River is a little slower at present although it traditionally fishes at its best throughout the mid-season months with weighted yabby imitations or crawdad-style lures.

Perseverance on the bigger water should see some large fish coming to bank here because the high yabby population makes this waterway one of the region’s faster growth rate streams.

Further east, the Ebor waters continue to offer good sport. The rain has been very consistent and all local waters are carrying a good head of fish.

In the Summer months around Ebor most success is with beetle and caddis fly patterns. Foam beetles are very popular because they float well all day when the streams are up and, particularly along the bush streams, will raise plenty of fish.

As I mentioned a few issues ago, among the better choices for lure flickers are tiny rubber tails on tiny jig heads. Target the waterfall pools for consistent action or anywhere downstream of minor turbulence which cools and oxygenates the water – trout love it.

Another great searching spot is downstream of side streams entering the main river. Many of these originate from uphill springs and the water is several degrees colder. Fish tend to hang hard again the bank in the comfort of this cooler flow.

The streams out of Guyra have been a little quieter although there have been reports of some lunker redfin coming from the Moredun area. Although more commonly targeted during the Winter, if you stumble upon some good reddies you’re in for a heap of fun.


The cod season opened last month amid reports of good fish throughout the region. As was the case last season, there are plenty of smaller to medium fish about, which indicates the fishery is in good health.

Copeton Dam has been hotting up – literally – with some excellent yellowbelly and cod being reported. Over the next month fish should be on the chew and willing to move from cover such as drowned timber and rock gardens.

Try trolling medium to large lures in around 3m to 5m or if you lack a sounder, keep a little closer to the shore than normal.

Although I expect some storms to raise the lake a tad, the water should mostly remain clear. If this is the case stick to lures in more natural colours such as green/silver or black/yellow.

If you have a canoe, I recommend working hard through the shallows at first light through to mid-morning. Cast light spinner blades with single blades into the shoreline and work back out.

Pindari Dam has had a few minor blue-green algae blooms so keep and eye out for them. But this impoundment always fishes well through the Summer with slowly worked large lures the go-to tactic for many regulars.

Work along the rocks faces with special focus on those around drowned timber – some big fish come from these spots each Summer.

Keepit Dam continues to have some water issues, as does neighbouring Split Rock. Although a couple of regular competitions have been cancelled at the Split Rock, several anglers I know who visited the dam reported some excellent yellowbelly catches. Anglers should consider the stress imposed upon fish which already suffer from low water levels and decreased oxygen.

Over the holiday period boat traffic on many dams increases immensely. A couple of canny locals report good fishing at first light, particularly around the Keepit ramp and elsewhere prior to the main crowds heading out for the day.

It seems once the tourists and water skiers start to stir up things, the fish put their heads down. It’s probably worth being the first cab off the rank.


Over the hill and down in the bass country, reports are sketchy. Some fishos have been having luck while others blank out.

The patchy nature of catches suggests fish still haven’t spread throughout the upper gorges. The high flows in November also cleaned out a few weed beds here and there so it may simply be old ‘hot’ spots aren’t so hot any more.

I’ll let you know a little more over the coming issues as I’ve planned a couple of three-day canoe trips down through the gorges chasing the bass in some pretty inhospitable country.

The cicadas have been in better numbers this year down the Big Hill and on the Western Slopes, where the greenfish also love them. Small dark poppers worked beneath hanging vegetation are going to raise some cracking bass and cod this month.

Most consistent bass catches are still being reported below the Georges Junction on the Macleay. I also have word that Ron Sattler’s old Bass Lodge at the junction has been purchased with a view to starting up an accommodation and canoeing focal point. Services such as dropping clients upstream and pick ups are also apparently on the agenda.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service in Armidale is having an information day concerning the closure and opening of access to the Chandler River around Halls Peak. Apart from a cup of coffee and biscuits, I’ll be getting the latest oil on their proposals for this popular gorge access. More in coming issues.

There should be plenty of good fish active throughout the Tablelands this month. Give it a shot and enjoy one of our best seasons yet.

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