Patience pays in wet
  |  First Published: February 2009

It’s no secret that over the summer holiday period water across the north has been a little too plentiful. The record flood levels restricted fishing options as many anglers had to wait for stream levels to fall.

Despite my best intentions I’ve yet to hit my favourite cod gorge due to high and dirty water restricting safe access. To reach our campsite would involve several hours walk and numerous river crossings. To attempt the trek over the last month would have involved a heck of a lot of swims.

The other problem with the high water levels coupled with relatively cool weather means most flows have injected cold water into the system. Generally, it takes a couple of weeks for the water temperatures to stabilise and the fish to stop sulking, so by now we should again have warm water conditions that will bring all manner of fish food into play. The warmer conditions encourage weed growth as well as switching on the yabby and shrimp.

The wet conditions have however offered some opportunities across regional impoundments. Anglers keen to target the shallower margins of the lakes have been picking up some solid yellowbelly. The growing interest in kayak and canoe fishing has seen anglers, who traditionally trolled the deepwater, heading into the skinny margins.

Most ’yak angling seems to currently be focused on estuary and offshore destinations, but their application to freshwater lakes is relatively undeveloped.

Nevertheless, during a recent overnight stint to Chaffey Dam I was pleasantly surprised at the number of kayaks working the upper end of the impoundment. The broad flats associated with similar areas at Keepit and Copeton are prime summer fish holding areas. Sneaking about in a ’yak is a technique widely used by bream anglers and it’s quickly catching on!

Over the coming couple of months I expect patient anglers will reap the rewards. In recent years the drought conditions have persisted with low levels, especially notable in our larger impoundments. All are well topped up and this has turned around the fishing options.


Most eastern trout streams have been pumping well. High stream levels and fast currents can be daunting for some anglers chasing trout but there are plenty of options.

Ebor continues to fish at its best for many seasons, the fish are in excellent numbers and keen to tackle flies and lures. Westwards, the Guyra waters have been running strongly with good catches being reported. The fish there are perhaps in fewer numbers than the eastern streams but some solid trout are coming to the net.

The downpours that flooded the upper Walcha catchments in late December have fired up the trout streams down that way. Although, local graziers may not be impressed as many have been working overtime to replace destroyed floodgates. The upper Cobrabald in particular has benefited from a ‘clean out’ with numerous pools that had silted up in recent years having been flushed out.

Silt bottoms tend to restrict the diversity of bottom fauna. Pebble and gravel bottomed streams encourage higher densities of mayfly, caddis and stoneflies, and the trout respond in kind to the availability of such tucker. Traditionally Walcha trout have responded to large wet fly tactics and deeply worked lures. A shift in bottom fauna results in improved insect hatches and, as such, more consistent rising fish.


The pick of the month would be angling the flooded shallows of any impoundment after dark and into the wee hours. Yellowbelly and cod will be haunting the backwaters and newly flooded ground. I like to target areas where deep channels cut into the shallower bays as these form ‘highways’ for fish on the move.

You can generally locate such areas by seeking out an absence of standing vegetation. A difference of half a metre can be dynamite as fish sneak into these areas under the cover of the extra depth. Once comfortable they’ll often move right into the shallows and at first light you’ll often find a fish or two.

Fresh shrimp under a bubble float work well or try a soft plastic rigged to a floating jighead. You can work these through flooded ground much like poppers for whiting or bream in the shallows. A very slow retrieve is the key to drawing fish, but get too excited in shallow water and you’ll end up spooking ‘em!

The bass have been slow to respond this year for many of the reasons outlined above. High water is certainly viewed favourably but it needs time to stabilise before the fish get revved up. Another problem is the speed which cold water enters the lower gorge system.

Normally it takes a week or so for water to leisurely make its way from the tops down the gorges. This allows the water time to warm. When high flow levels increase, the cold high country flows quickly descend the system and species such as bass just don’t like it. Consequently flows not only have to fall but also warm again.

On both sides of the range the cicada have been noticeably quiet. Earlier I was of the opinion that we may have been in for a good hatch this summer. Guess I need a new crystal ball!

Despite the negatives there will be some good bass taken this month from the middle and upper river sections of the Macleay. The floodwaters will have chopped up a lot of weed beds so be prepared to move about until you find some cover for the fish. Of an evening look for fish moving up the gravel runs where they seek out nymphs and shrimp.

In the shallows I’d persevere with green or black Celtas and perhaps small grubs. In the dominant pools I’d still work poppers after dark as the fish will be prepared to hit top water.

Things up north are staring to settle down and following the wet conditions I’d forecast some great opportunities into the autumn months. You just got to get up here and give it a shot!

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