Fishing up this way generally starts to ease up this month. The trout season is definitely running out of time and many of the native species start to slow down.
However, fishing on the Tablelands is often great right up until the hardest frosts hit.
The Easter holiday usually sees the last of the visiting anglers, most preferring to head down the coast for the Winter tailor and bream. This is a pity because the angling throughout May and into early June should be well worth braving the cold for.
Recent Winters have been getting progressively shorter but more severe. Given the relatively mild Summer the north of the State experienced, I’d not be surprised to see a return of snow to the higher country this year.
During my earlier years on the Tablelands it was relatively common to see a white blanket from the Moonbi Ranges north to Tenterfield. Several years back I organised a few fly competitions near Guyra and on one occasion we nearly had to pull the pin when heavy snow cut the New England Highway at The Devil’s Pinch.
I’d not be venturing out up here without a good coat and beanie!
Over the next month I doubt you’ll have to work too hard to pick up a trout. The colder conditions will certainly have the fish in the mood and the last couple of months of the season are the pick of it.
Cooler nights and sunny days are a prime combination for fish activity.
You’ll find the rainbows out and about well into the morning, not retreating under the banks as is typical in high summer. So lazy starts are excusable now and if you’re on the water by the time the principal is ringing the school bell, good luck.
Fish can be quite aggressive now and often I’ll spend the day exploring with medium-sized streamer patterns. Woolly Buggers in black or olive are a traditional option but in recent times I’ve been enjoying great success with English wets such as the Invicta and ever-popular March Brown.
Another killer pattern at present is the Rabbit Fur Matuka. Fished vigorously don’t be surprised at some crunching strikes.
The treat with these patterns is they can be fished on a drift through the faster water or stripped slowly through the still pools. Down in the gorge country such as below Ebor Falls on the Guy Fawkes River, you’ll find an all black winged-wet pattern deadly.
Most of the seasonal run of schooling bass and golden perch will be coming to an end. If it’s numbers you’re after, you’re probably better off reading Phil Bennett’s South West Rocks column and heading down-river around Sherwood Falls above Kempsey rather than the upper gorges.
We were fortunate in Summer on many regional impoundments to have some excellent action across the shallows for yellowbelly. This activity should taper off as many fish pull back into the medium depths.
Across our impoundments expect some large cod to be taken this month by anglers working big lures hard against structure.
As in Spring, it is common to find baitfish such as bony bream congregating in the open water. During the warmer months you’ll often see flashes of silver in the shallows as these fish spread out to feed on the weed. Near the wall at Keepit you regularly see them in Summer, grazing just like luderick along a coastal breakwall.
Now they tend to school in the open, where you’ll most likely find numbers of immature golden perch. A sounder is great but if you lack one, try blind-trolling the open basins with lures at several depths down to about 10m.
The key to such tactics is perseverance. This time last year I put in four days chasing one 12-pointer red deer stag until I nailed him. It’s similar with fishing the lakes at present – get out and stay out for success.
There should be some great opportunities in the upper reaches of Pindari Dam this month. It sees less activity that its bigger regional cousins and although it can suffer Summer blue-green algae, the waters tend to open up during Autumn/Winter.
Try jigging heavy spoons or slices around the cliffs and between timber. It can get boring but on some days this technique can break the duck.
Jigging is widely practised in US and New Zealand lakes for all manner of species but has never really caught on here, possibly because you need to use two hands so how are you going to hold a stubby?
On the eastern side of the range over the next month you are more likely to encounter trophy fish. Don’t be surprised to hook the lunker of your dreams, especially on the bigger lures, but you’ll need to work a lot of dead water.
An old guy who has been working the cattle country on the eastern gorges for many years reckons that bass numbers during Autumn and Winter are lower but plenty of bigger fish come to bank. This bloke carries a can of live shrimp on his saddle bag and casts to likely-looking holes from the back of his patient horse!
Most punters should be booking into the Bellbrook Hotel or thereabouts and running up and down the river in canoes. It’s a real hoot fishing and there should be some nice bass. Forget dawn-and-dusk tactics and pound the weed beds throughout the day with weedless-rigged soft plastics. I like orange, pink or white but try your old favourites.
As we venture into the colder months the game plan has to change and it’s the thinking anglers who reap the rewards. There are still plenty of bass, trout, cod, goldens, catfish and redfin across the New England that you haven’t met and May might just be the month to introduce yourself!Reads: 814