Signs for the new trout season are rather good, especially around Ebor in northern New South Wales. Trout hatchery staff here have reported that the winter has been fairly kind to the New England region with very few frosts of continued duration and enough rain to ensure the area is nice and green.
I visited Ebor in early August to attend a meeting of trout angling clubs and most of the delegates from New England reported similarly. Their winter was mild and some rain useful. Just a bit more rain in October and November will see things continue on the right track.
Few anglers are as dependent upon rain as trout anglers because without regular rain trout eat much less and simply skulk around the pools conserving energy. They become a bit dour and even in the first weeks of the season tend to feed sporadically. If we are blessed with rain, the chance of seeing some good fish on the job are greatly enhanced.
But before we look at Ebor and how to fish its waters, let’s check that your tackle and flies are ready for the new season.
After being put away at the end of last season, your trout fly tackle will certainly benefit from a bit of TLC.
Getting the fly line off the reel and onto the lawn where it can be cleaned with a soapy rag (don’t use detergent) will do wonders for its ability to float and un-twist at the same time. If you have a polish such as Scientific Angler’s fly line dressing, now is the time to use it to really slick up the line.
The reel might like a bit of a clean up as well. I pulled mine apart in preparation for the opening weekend and found bits of grass and other strange things in and around the drag mechanism.
The rod should receive a once over as well; it might come as a surprise to find that the faithful top runner has some nasty grooves caused by a dirty fly line passing through it countless times. A snappy replacement will fix the situation. Most tackle stores stocking fly gear will have replacement tip runners and the clue is to take the old one in to get the correct size and secure it in place with Araldite. A binding of thread over the runner where the rod goes into it looks nice but is not essential. The fish won’t dislodge the runner without the binding. Don’t neglect the reel seat either: a bit of candle wax on the seat’s threaded section will see it turning freely so that the reel will lock into position without any fuss.
The leader is next and I always look very critically at this vital connection between angler and fish. If a tippet is tied onto a store-bought leader then replace that tippet with another suitable tip, using your best joiner knot. If, like me, you prefer to use a self-tied leader then my best advice is to discard and re-tie the last two sections of that leader, including the tippet, for added security. After contact with water the knots weaken considerably and should never be trusted. Apply a little pressure to a join and see how easily it breaks.
There is nothing wrong with old faithful flies – I have flies from when I first started with trout over thirty years ago. However, if the trusty dry flies are looking a bit tired or squashed, they will really benefit from a light steaming to make their hackles stand out like store-bought jobs again. Boil a kettle of water and use a pair of tweezers to hold the fly over the steam for a couple of seconds. The transformation occurs right before your eyes as the hackles re-align themselves beautifully.
Wet flies and nymphs can be gently cleaned in a container of slightly soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly under the tap before placing them on polystyrene foam to dry in the shade (hot sun can twist the fibres).
Most waters in Ebor had plenty of legal (25cm) trout in them at the close of last season and with the useful rainfall over winter we can confidently expect some growth.
It’s a fair statement that virtually any stream around Ebor will hold trout, but as most are on private property it will pay to ask at the nearest house for permission to fish.
The trick is to head upstream to look for activity at a very slow and leisurely pace so that you don’t miss anything. A trout won’t rise every couple of seconds unless a really good insect hatch is underway but sooner or later they will give themselves away with some little surface sips.
If the lie of the land dictates that a downstream move is necessary before starting to fish then make sure you keep well away from the water so the fish aren’t spooked. Once far enough downstream, quietly approach the water and start fishing back upstream. This is the standard method because trout are looking upstream 99% of the time as they wait for tucker to float down to them.
If the fish aren’t moving there are two alternatives. Firstly, you could use a neat dry fly such as an Adams, Royal Wulff or Red Tag in size 12 and try to coax a trout up out of the faster water. If you use this technique, the leader will need some light grease (Mucilin) to assist the fly to float, even if it is dressed with a floatant such as Gink.
The second alternative is to put on a wet fly such as a Woolly Bugger, New England Yabby or Black Matuka. Cast the fly upstream, give it time to sink and then retrieve it just a bit quicker than current speed with little jerks and twitches. The wet fly does not need to be dressed but the leader should be rubbed down with a bit of mud to whisk it through the water’s surface.
Once a fish is hooked the fun begins. Trout in small waters are usually lively and my advice is to keep the rod up and don’t hurry things too much or he may well jump loose.
Extra gear that will make your Ebor trip a success includes Hornes waders to keep the mud off your feet and the snakes at bay, sunscreen and hat to ward off rapid sunburn at high altitude and a landing net to avoid losing fish at the last second. A backpack with some water, food and a digital camera will make your day more comfortable and fun.
A five trout limit applies in New South Wales and you will need a licence, which can be obtained locally.Reads: 4405