The doldrums take hold
  |  First Published: August 2009

If you’ve ever been out in a sailing boat and the wind died, then you’ll have a fair idea of fishing on the Tablelands this month. It’s in the doldrums, with a closure on the trout and cod.

The bass streams have come back on line but it’s still generally considered too early to hit the nearby gorge waters.

Winter was quite warm and the long-range forecast is for dry and above-average hot conditions to develop through Spring and into early Summer.

I don’t mind that a bit because the stream and river levels have been quite consistent over winter. Going into some warmer weather, I expect excellent conditions for Spring spawning by the native species.

With a month to go before the trout are back on the menu, things look great for the opening. Across the region we’ve had some fair to excellent water levels throughout Winter and the early season fish should be fit and keen.

Regional impoundments have been pretty quiet by all accounts but that may well be a result of fewer anglers getting out over Winter, rather than uncooperative fish.

I have heard of a few cod being trolled up at Chaffey Dam and I’d not be surprised if the same were true across the other impoundments.

Split Rock is usually solid for a few medium-sized cod over Winter and Copeton keeps its reputation for the ‘big boys’.

For those keen to wet a line without taking a drive down the Big Hill and hitting the sudsy water, the key is to head west.

The yellowbelly are fair game at present and probably a better bet in the rivers than in the lakes. The rivers tend to be a little warmer than the open dams so you’ll still find a few yellas out on the chew.

The Peel River downstream of Tamworth continues to produce fish.

Rarely do I pass through town these days without seeing a kid or two with a rod along the bank. It’s great, safe recreation in the heart of Country Music Capital and the fishing has been steadily improving.

This is also true of the Namoi above and below Manilla.

Downstream of Manilla town, you can take a leisurely canoe trip to the upper reaches of Keepit.

Similar experiences can be had downstream of Bingara, on the Gwydir River.

On any of these runs, tuck in close to the willows and either jig a fresh shrimp (hard to find at present) or a more readily available large soft plastic grub.


Quiet backwaters are well worth exploring with smaller spinnerbaits, especially those with bright, fluorescent skirts.

The low Winter rainfall has generally left rivers and creeks running clear and normally I’d run more natural, subdued colours on my spinnerbaits. But Winter and early Spring fish seem to love a bit of colour so don’t be afraid to jazz it up.

If you prefer to hit the open water, I’d probably spend time casting small lures into the shallower bays of most lakes.

Look for backwaters that don’t receive much wave action from the lake’s main basin. Waves drive colder water from the main lake into bays and dramatically drop the temperature, inhibiting target fish and their prey.

Generally our Winter winds are westerlies so look for shorelines protected from them. Some banks may take a bit of finding, depending on the water level, but generally the upper ends of most dams hold the better spots.

Sheltered bays, especially with some standing timber, will be a few degrees warmer and that’s all it takes.

Where the waters shelve sharply from deep to shallow, tuck right into the drop-off and cast into the shallows. Don’t wait until dark, even at midday and especially with a little cloud cover, you’ll find pan-sized fish working all day.

Probably among the best lures for this work are the larger bladed spinners. Plenty of nice golden perch were caught on big Celtas before the home-grown timber lure market developed.

I remember my Dad wacking the Keepit goldens in the 1970s with some big Shakespeare divers my uncle brought back from the US. Prior to that, it was big-bladed spinners or bait.

Equally effective but rarely used these days are metal spoons. These have a great, pulsating action on a slow retrieve and are cheap, too, so throw them in among the wild stuff!

I’ve made a heap of different sized models from dessert spoons bought at garage sales and they work perfectly.

While conditions at present are not the best for piscatorial pleasure across the New England, the best is just around the corner.

So the choice is yours. Get out and practise or sit by the fire and sharpen hooks.

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