Most streams, lakes and rivers remain at typically lower Summer levels but isolated heavy storms have raised flows in a few localities.
The result has been some hot and cold fishing action, although a few simple rules will lift your success rate.
The trout have responded well this season and from Walcha across to Ebor and west to the Guyra streams, there have been plenty of nice fish.
As always, the farther from the road you go, the better the action with quality browns turning up in a few waters where they have usually been absent.
The next month provides prime dry-fly angling with both terrestrials and mayflies prevalent. Fly flickers would do well to concentrate on the deeper pools of an evening with dun or emerger imitations.
Lure tossers should enjoy excellent action with the usual suspects, such as Celtas and tiny soft jigs in natural colours like olive and brown. White soft plastic grubs are also a terrific option at present.
Generally, you’ll pick up a smaller class of fish during the hotter part of the day. The bigger specimens start to work the pools as the shadows fall so plan to stay out well into the evening.
On the shallow, hotter western streams it can be quite successful to fish after dark and into the witching hours. Not many anglers have the heart for it, preferring a comfortable camp chair at day’s end.
The key to night angling is to pick a location with good access and to limit the casts. Don’t pound the water to a foam; cast and retrieve and then leave it for five minutes. Cast again and work the pool at intervals.
The fish will ultimately find your offering and continual casting may only spook them or increase the likelihood you’ll snag on vegetation or sunken structure.
Unfortunately my pre-Christmas trip didn’t come off before I sent this report but warming conditions and a fair cicada hatch will have switched on the fish.
Throughout the gorges the flows in some rivers have been excellent with pools topped right up.
Most of the runs will have dropped back by now unless storm activity increases. This means paddling the upper gorges will probably involve a fair bit of portaging.
However, action should be well and truly on by the time you read this.
In the higher reaches, persevere with small poppers, even throughout the day, wherever you’ve got overhanging cover or obvious weed growth.
Many anglers new to the bass game throw poppers way too big. Downsize for increased success, especially in the shallower runs and backwaters.
The lower reaches of the Macleay below the Bass Lodge should be fishing well and a canoe or punt will make it a lot easier.
If the river drops back a bit, expect the weed to limit opportunities for shore-based lure casting. Better to drift a fresh shrimp or cricket off a bubble float.
January really is one of my favourite times to chase green fish. Sure, it’s hot, but if the Summer storms are late in coming the rivers still have time to rise.
The threat of bushfires and the presence of snakes are disincentives but the angling can be outstanding.
In the cod rivers, if I were to limit myself to a single lure or fly pattern this month it would be a cicada imitation. Although mid-December is often the peak of the cicada hatch, gorge fish in particular are keen for one well into January.
In the past the ever popular Jitterbug lures and Crazy Crawlers were major choices.
However, in recent seasons I’ve had great success with the River2Sea soft plastic cicadas. The wings on these give a terrific life-like action and cut the number of false strikes; cod really want to eat these things.
Best of all, the large single hook configuration means you can crawl them without snagging around and over weed beds and logs where many fish sit. My preferred size is the 6 cm and although I’ve not seen them about for a while (I bought a heap a while back on instinct), ask at your local fishing emporium.
Any foam or deer hair popping fly will provide a suitable imitation for fly aficionados although you must ensure they are dark enough to provide a strong silhouette so that fish lock onto them properly and positive hook-ups result.
Upstream of Manilla lies Warrabah National Park, which holds some excellent gorge fishing but you’ll need to walk to find it.
The fish are not large as a rule but, on the day, they can be plentiful.
This area is remote and a broken leg or snakebite could prove extremely serious.
I’ve been fishing this park for over 20 years and must say these days it is getting a hammering. Please take only photos and leave only footprints.
Below the park and downstream to Manilla there is plenty of good water but seek permission to enter private land. The ‘big bend’ hole has public access but you really want a canoe here to fish the water thoroughly.
Downstream of Manilla and into the upper reaches of Keepit Dam is a good option if the river is carrying flow. If it is minimal on the gravel races in town then give it a miss.
However, during good flows, working a canoe downstream opens up plenty of water. Unfortunately, launch and exit points are few.
Throw spinner baits into the willows and structure for best results.
This river has a wealth of excellent cod options. Most of it flows through open farmland near its namesake town and although access may appear easy, the banks can be lined with heavy reed, limiting spots to get a cast. A small canoe or belly boat will certainly increase you angling choices.
Hardware of choice is usually medium-diving lures with a tight, shimmying action. Large soft plastic minnows are also a good choice as most can be rigged relatively weedless.
This varied stream flows through open farming country and some of Australia’s most spectacular cod gorges and for many years Jimargie has been a destination of choice among keen cod chasers.
Downstream of Emmaville (look out for the legendary panther!) you’ll find many kilometers of terrific water – you just need access.
A visit to Jimargie is an excellent starting point, can get contact information from the Glen Innes Tourism office.
My cod experience on this river has largely been below Copeton Dam, where there are some tidy fish scattered throughout but if dam operators are releasing water, it can put the fish down for a day or two.
The large, sandy-bottomed holes are excellent for deep-diving lures with a wide, rolling action but don’t be surprised if you get numerous follows before the big mouths open.
To date Copeton Dam has not really fired.
Although some cod are taken on the troll or by bait bobbing in the upper reaches, most decent fish here are taken after dark.
A boat will provide access to the better pockets, usually associated with rock structure. Cast large spinnerbaits or quick sinking lures hard against the structure.
Persistence is the key here and most fish are well earned.
At Split Rock and Keepit, most bigger cod are taken trolling at this time of year.
Structure in both dams is less obvious and trolling big lures along the shoreline at 3m to 4m should eventually find fish. It is again a game of commitment; if you’re not out there it just won’t happen.
In the lower end of Keepit the water ski brigade can be a bit annoying so head for greener pastures in the middle reaches. Trolling in mid-morning seems to reap the most rewards.
I’ve begun experimenting with skirted squid-style lures as used on the briny. A large bean sinker in the head provides weight to get the lure down and a large single trailing hook makes these virtually weedless.
There are obvious applications with downriggers but that’s beyond my experience and interest. As results start to come in I shall inform you.
Spring yellowbelly were a little thin but I’ve heard that Chaffey in particular is starting to fire. Figure-eight trolling patterns across the gently shelving points work well b but you’ll want to get down near the bottom.
There is little mid-water structure in Chaffey and most fish, including the carp, tend to hug the deeper water. Of course, once the mercury really gets cranking don’t be surprised to find small schools of yellows tucked into the shallower bays wherever there is obvious weed growth.Reads: 1986