Tied to the timber
  |  First Published: April 2009

Recently I spent a couple of relaxing days fishing at Copeton Dam. The water levels are still pretty well down but the size of the lake ensures there is never a shortage of water to cover.

The sounder showed plenty of fish but trolling runs produced only a couple of midget redfin and despite persistent efforts, my flies remained untouched.

Frank and I finally put in a fair bit of time bobbing fresh yabbies among the drowned timber at the top of the dam. This hit the mark and we took a few modest yellowbelly with one topping 4kg and a couple of nice catfish.

These days I spend most of my time fly fishing but I’ll throw lures for cod and bass or head down the hill to wet some pilchards off the breakwalls. But it has been many, many years since I spend the days tied up to the timber jigging yabbies.

As a kid growing up in Tamworth I pretty much cut my teeth fishing this way with Dad at Keepit Dam.

In the early 1970s lure flickers were few and far between and fly casters wore tweed coats and seldom ventured far from Eucumbene. So my trip to Copeton was a bit nostalgic.

I guess the point is that often we can limit our angling enjoyment by becoming locked into a particular technique.

Trends tend to be driven by a combination of innovative anglers and innovative marketing. It’s our job to pick the wheat from the chaff to put more fish on the hook and more fun in the chase.


This month the New England trout season winds down.

However, having just experienced the best action for many years you’ll be able to enjoy great fishing right up to the June long weekend closure.

I’ve heard of some great trout throughout the region this year, including good sport from streams that in recent times have offered little.

Down south, the Barrington Tops region fired up pretty well for those prepared to walk a little way.

Although stream levels fluctuated a bit, the captures were largely of fish in excellent condition.

Walcha is slowly recovering from a series of dismal seasons and over the next couple of years should continue to improve.

If the forecasts for a wet Winter are correct then it should put the Walcha region in condition for a great start in October. The priority will be for Fisheries to continue good stocking levels.

Trout were a little patchy throughout the Tamworth-Nundle region although knowledgeable anglers continued to record some excellent specimens, mostly rainbows from the higher country.

Sheba Dams, above Nundle, continued to provide plenty of sport despite the high level of attention the area receives.

Ebor just continues to go from strength to strength.

Several days ago I bumped into a couple of Kiwi visitors who said they’d enjoyed some of the best dry-fly action for years out on the tiny, tussock streams of that region.

Admittedly you won’t catch fish of the quality found across ‘the ditch’ but you’ll certainly find the quantity!


As the season heads into the cold, the native fish action tends to quieten down. However, the options are not really that limited.

Copeton has fished the most consistently in recent months and should continue to do so. Keepit has run hot and cold, whilst Chaffey has literally gone off the radar.

In relatively recent times I’ve covered Winter trolling tactics for cod in our large impoundments and we’ll quickly revisit that next month.

At present it is a case of seeking out the warmer pockets of water where most fish will be holding. These areas are usually:

• Shallows: These locations tend to heat up quicker than the surrounding areas. Don’t expect much difference at first light and avoid areas well shaded by ridges and hills.

It really can take most of the day for the sun to have effect so target the shallows late afternoon and into the early evening. I’d class shallows as flats less than a metre deep.

• Sheltered bays with standing timber: Such areas, and particularly those on the downwind side of the lake, often hold slightly warmer water. Wind moving across the impoundment can push warmer surface water into such areas.

The mix of these ‘currents’ with the standing water can create pockets with temperatures a couple of degrees above the open lake.

The opposite can be true in the middle of Winter, when the upper levels of the water column can be very cold. Under these conditions the bays on the upwind side of the lake will often hold warmer pockets.

Standing timber inhibits the movement of colder currents from the main lake entering the bays. Also the trees themselves hold heat and again such subtle effects can make a difference to water temperature.

• River mouths: During Winter river levels typically fall and where they enter the lakes you’ll often find pools, generally with associated granite structure. This is more typical of impoundments on the Granite Belt such as Copeton and Pindari. Keepit, Chaffey and Split Rock lack such features.

The stone absorbs heat throughout the day and holds it. Again, the difference in water temperature may be small but such adjustments will focus fish activity.

Seek these areas out and pound them with small lures fished on the slow side.

May is a terrific month to lock horns with trout. Given the past season you’d be mad not to give them a run.

Alternatively, take a trip to Copeton or Pindari and explore the upper reaches. The cod of your dreams may be waiting to meet you!

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