March heralds my favourite time of the year up here in the New England region. The weather takes a pleasant turn, the fishing is at its best and the deeper wooded gullies echo with the rutting grunts of wild stags. It really is the time to get out and enjoy the New England bush.
Past months have been noticeably warm and while this has not dampened the angling options, things should stabilise this month. Cooler days will offer more pleasant conditions to walk the streams and troll the lakes and also increase fishing options.
Storm, some of which have been quite violent, will decrease in frequency, stream flows will stabilise and our impoundments will fish more consistently.
Nothing has happened to change my thoughts on the 2008-09 season – it’s the best we’ve seen for a good while. From Walcha to Ebor and west to the Guyra streams. the trout have been fit, plentiful and willing to hit our offerings.
The next couple of months see the best of the fly fun.
Hatches become more regular with plenty of mayfly on the wing. Caddis will again be plentiful and both combine to offer some exceptional evening angling.
Leading into Autumn, the average size of emergent insects tends to be a little smaller than early in the season so stick to your favourite dry patterns but downsize to No 14 or No 16 for more consistent success.
Because stream flows tend to be less vigorous at this time of year, patterns do not need to be heavily hackled for flotation. Lightly dressed quill-bodied patterns such as traditional duns are the go.
Mayfly tend to be darker at this time so try black and dark brown dressings. On overcast days or into twilight, period don’t ignore the smaller Red Tag, it can be deadly.
Lure flickers may find larger fish a little coy to take lures at this time. I’ve recommended in earlier issues a small bubble float coupled with a wet fly such as a Woolly Bugger under such conditions.
Alternatively, remove the trebles from your Celtas and attach a small single hook lightly dressed with some hair/hackle or clip a fly to the rear. Both these measures will generally draw a response from followers.
If you want to catch yourself an above- average cod then this is the month to get going.
As I mentioned earlier, stream levels should flatten out, leading to more consistent temperatures (cod like that), a greater distribution of food prey throughout the waters (cod like that) and cooler evening temperatures (cod love that).
During the next two months you could really do worse than walk the streams with a couple of good-sized poppers in your pocket. Don’t be afraid to explore the open water, many fish will be found away from the heavy cover after dark as they hunt well into the shallows.
This particularly applies to our regional impoundments. Regardless of whether you have a boat, I’d be focusing on the lake margins in water certainly no deeper than a couple of metres.
Some surprisingly large fish move into these areas after dark and will readily hit a popper.
Look for locations where weed beds are evident as with the slightly cooler conditions, the bigger crayfish become sluggish and the cod will target them.
In the rivers I’d be heading to the lower reaches away from the gorges.
The Peel below Tamworth and Namoi below Manilla are worth exploring. The odd fish comes from the Manilla weir area at this time of year as well as below the old road bridge downstream of Keepit Dam.
If it’s a thumper you’re keen on then you probably can’t go past Copeton Dam, which continues to hold the highest proportion of big fish and captures can extend right into the frosty months.
Yellowbelly and silver perch tend to start drifting to the top end of most dams and wherever there is a consistent inflow you’ll find fish starting to congregate.
Again, don’t be afraid to focus on the shallow reaches although under these circumstances I’d suggest a fresh yabby under a small float as the preferred option.
Look for sheltered bays away from the windward shoreline where scum, debris and loose weed are less likely to foul floats and lines.
On the bass front, I’m a bit sceptical. All Summer the fish have proved pretty elusive.
This has been especially true through the upper reaches of the gorges, where the fish have yet to appear in any numbers. That said, the cooler conditions make hauling your butt in and out of the gorges a little more tolerable so it’s still worth giving the yowie country a late-season workout.
Lower down in the Macleay is probably the higher-percentage option and with plenty of great camping spots between Bass Lodge and Bellbrook, you can comfortably take the whole family – unless you need to get away from them!
Working medium diving minnows slowly is the general key to success. Alternatively, small, bright spinner blades should be retrieved along the deeper pools, preferably hard against the gravel bottoms.
The next couple of months really are prime time to hit the New England waterways. You should find the lazy days conducive to getting out and the fish will be happy enough to oblige.Reads: 889