The cold has arrived in force with regular frosts keeping the mercury low overnight. The days have been fine, though, with a generally stable barometer and sunny afternoons.
These are ideal conditions for persistent anglers to uncover some solid, mature cod. The fish will continue to co-operate throughout the month, providing you follow a few simple rules.
The best bet for most local and visiting fishos are the region’s dams. Copeton tends to be the pick because, unlike Pindari, the impoundment holds some extensive flats.
While many anglers may associate shallow water angling with Spring and Summer, you can turn the seasonal cold to advantage. During the mid-afternoon, when the day’s sun has warmed the shallows, forage fish will move into these areas for a brief period.
The ‘flats’ generally receive more sun. Deeper side bays require the sun to get much higher and hence receive less light. It is no coincidence that during the Winter most predators such as cod are taken of an afternoon.
Light penetration is also greater into the water, with more chance of predators locating prey.
The reason I like to hug the flats during Winter is to target those fish which hang along the drop-offs. As the breeding season approaches, mature cod in particular are looking to put on condition.
Most of the prey fish will be hugging the edge of the flats where the deeper water occurs. Casting soft plastics around 12cm to 15cm is a great tactic here.
Although I tend to concentrate on natural tones, you may well be surprised at what turns up on hot orange or yellow models. Give one a try when things are slow and tempt fish with a stop-start retrieve; they won’t chase a lure too far this month.
At Copeton, give the bay north of the Howell Boat Ramp a shot. Alternatively, south of Woonulla Bay is also an option. Just look for abrupt changes from shallower water to depths greater than 6m.
At Chaffey Dam I’d be trolling around the main island, while the fish at Keepit likewise will be hugging similar raised areas such as Rabbit Island.
Given that the fish won’t move too far, I’d be giving areas a thorough working. In Summer, one or two runs over a point or structure may usually be enough but for Winter trolling, really ‘drag’ an area well before moving on.
As the year advances, most fish will tend to pull back into the cover. At the moment you’ll most likely get a little action on the troll but I’d certainly prefer to cast from a drifting boat in among the sticks.
The top end of Copeton is probably the better option although the deep, crowded bays opposite the wall are well worth exploring. Don’t expect too much action early in the day; wait for the sun to get up and penetrate the water.
Don’t be afraid to poke right up into the tight water here. Many fish will be looking to establish breeding territories soon and normally unproductive locations can suddenly hold some good fish.
In the tighter terrain, medium spinnerbaits are probably a better selection and consider employing a stinger hook. Remember that as the waters cool the fish may be a little lethargic and a trailing hook can mean the difference.
With no algal blooms or weed growth to colour the water, I’d be concentrating on natural or subdued coloured lures fished very, very slowly, but bear in mind my earlier colour suggestion for soft plastics.
The run up the old river bed from Sepoy Knob around to the Aberdeen Point would be worth a go when water levels permit.
July and August can be windy on the Tablelands and there is nothing more frustrating that trying to cast through the timber with the boat drifting along at high speed. Electric motors are useful for repositioning the tinny but start fighting the wind with one and you’ll drain a battery in no time. Get yourself a drogue.
More commonly referred to as ‘sea anchors’, these collapsible nylon buckets greatly reduce your drift rate and allow much more time to pepper the timber if the breezes are puffing a bit. Any good boat or marine yard should be able to order one in.
It is preferable to run a rope from bow to stern and place an overhand loop at the midpoint. Simply clip the drogue on a short rope to the loop with a snap link.
This makes things much easier when deciding whether you want the drogue employed.
Jigging for redfin is also an option throughout the dam. Find suitable structure, timber being the best bet, and put in half an hour bobbing medium-sized jigs in red or orange.
If the fish are there they won’t need much encouragement but if things are quiet, keep moving until you find action. Remember to work the jig within the bottom metre for most success but don’t be surprised to be hit mid-water. Try to remember roughly how deep you were and drop jigs back down to that level.
In the open water of our lakes most native fish will generally be holding between 8m and 12m down because the water is warmer there.
In past issues I have highlighted the wonderful private trout lakes that offer out-of-season angling across the Tablelands. Contact the Armidale, Glen Innes or Walcha tourism offices for further information.
Winter fishing on these lakes really fires over the coldest months and fly casters and lure flickers could do worse than plan a weekend at one of these venues.
Fly anglers will find excellent midge fishing of an evening while large streamer patterns run deep will undo some exceptional trout.
The ever reliable Glo Bugs or similar egg patterns are also terrific options. The problem with many egg patterns is that they either don’t sink very quickly or the copious amounts of tying material crowd the hook gape and reduce hook-ups.
The better bet is to wind several turns of fine lead and then cover with orange chenille. Use a wide-gape hook and fish on a sink-tip line.
Lure flickers will find best results on hot pink or yellow Tassie Devil styles. Dispense with the wire core and rig them straight onto your line with a small, preferably red. bead above a single hook such as a Gamakatsu Siwash which will foul less.
The next two months traditionally are the most difficult to fish across the Tablelands but persistence is the key. For many seeking a more casual outing it’s just not worth the petrol but for the hardy few can still hit the jackpot.Reads: 1901