Start your engines!
  |  First Published: September 2009

October is always the most exciting angling month of the year throughout our region as the trout season opens and Spring gets into full swing.

OK, maybe you’re not too keen on the speckled fish. Don’t panic, because the bass are coming and in another month we’ll again be chasing the cod.

So October to February is the grand prix season for New England Tableland angling, whatever takes your fancy.

The past Winter has been dry and long-range forecasts are for these conditions to continue.

The impact of this suggests that as the trout season progresses, the fishing may become a little harder.

Normally, substantial Spring rains lift water levels into the Summer. This is particularly true along the eastern fall, where humid coastal air often drowns the plateau.

To the west, the streams suffer to a greater degree when Spring rains are generally more inconsistent. Only time will tell but it may well be a case of the early bird that catches the ‘worm’.

The best tactics will depend on your angling style.

Spring is when the immature crustaceans start moving and the trout key in on this.

Generally, you should seek out mud- or sand-bottom pools with a moderate flow. Standing reeds are also a haven for yabbies and shrimp.

Shrimp are an often under-estimated component of trout diet but the fish certainly target them.

Fly flickers would do well to concentrate on yabby imitations fished fairly deep in the major pools.


You may explore a wealth of yabby imitations but an olive Woolly Bugger in size 8 is a good choice. They are quick and easy to tie so I don’t mind losing a few, a common enough eventuality when fishing close to the stream bed.

I carry weighted and unweighted patterns. Although you’ll use weighted patterns most of the time, lighter dressed imitations are very useful around the shallower pool fringes.

Lures which will produce early in the season are smaller Celtas and especially the Rebel Crawdad and its imitations. The tight wiggle of the Crawdad is irresistible to trout but you’ll need a little water depth to get them it work.

In the shallower runs, the smaller Celta is a preferred option but resist temptation to retrieve at a constant rate; this generally produces follows but fewer strikes.

I like to retrieve and stop, retrieve and stop. Clipping off one or two hook points reduces fouling on the bottom and also allows you to slow down your retrieve.

Another often overlooked food item for trout during early season is the beetle.

Across the region we get two major beetle groups.

In areas with heavy bankside vegetation and shrub blossoms, you’ll find many of the sap-sucking species. Trout will hold station in areas near such vegetation and pounce upon any beetle that takes a dive.

Along streams in the more open grazing country you’ll find the dung beetles. These small scarabs find their way onto the streams following windy weather, such as that which accompanies Spring storms.

Both beetles can readily be imitated by fly anglers using black or brown patterns in size 14.

Although most beetle patterns are designed to float do not ignore wet beetles. A simple peacock herl body with a soft hackle is an excellent choice for exploring sub-surface at this time.

Lure anglers should keep an eye out not necessarily for the beetles but for the situations described above. For example, a small black Celta cast adjacent to hanging tea tree may well nail a ‘beetle stalker’.

Early-season fish are active and depending on water heights and time of day, they may be found throughout the waterway.

However, many of these fish will consistently be found at the base of the faster water.

By all means, target these areas but don’t overly concentrate here.

At first and last light I consider the tails of the pools. Often trout will be found in extremely shallow water here and for many anglers, the first indication is a bow wave as a spooked fish retreats to deeper water. Approach the bottoms of all pools with caution.

So the word is to get in early this season.


The fishing will be at its best in the western and southern areas before temperatures rise. In mid season I’d be switching to the eastern streams of the Ebor or Barrington regions but for now, hit the Walcha and Guyra waters.

Specific streams that deserve attention over the opening are the Boororlong River and its feeder streams and the upper Wollomombi River. The latter waterway was a bit slow last season but in early Winter prior to the closure some good fish began to show. They’ll still be there.

Around Walcha you’d be hard pressed to do better than the middle reaches of the Cobrabald River, which has always been a favourite of mine. Stretches of the Macdonald River upstream from Bendemeer also produce well.

Both are great streamer or lure waters early in the season and better before it heats up – and the tiger snakes come out!

Farther south, you’ll find some of the Barrington Tops producing now.

Get into the tighter country for the pick of it, although the going can be tough.

Take a pack for an overnight trip down there and you’ll discover fishing most anglers seldom even hear about.

Digital image


Celtas and crawdad lures are top choices for feisty early-season trout, which love to feast on juvenile crustaceans.


Daniel Rafaelle with a neat lake brown. Fish light and tight for some great spring trout.

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