Dorothy Mackellar certainly got the Aussie climate right in her poem My Country. Incidentally, she was almost a local, hailing from Gunnedah, just west of the Ranges.
The past couple of months have certainly seen extreme weather conditions throughout the region with droughts and bushfires, not to mention flooding rains.
Spring and early Summer we saw numerous bushfires burning throughout the north of the state. Some national parks were closed to off-track walkers and in some instances roads were cut until fires were brought under control.
Most fishos, me included, had to cancel our early season excursions into the gorges for cod or bass. Lightning strikes were the primary ignition source for many fires so it was not prudent to get too far away from the road ends.
So most recent fishing has focused on the dams. There have been reports of metre-plus cod from Copeton while Chaffey continues to fire for yellowbelly.
I’ve heard little from Pindari but given that the area suffered from fire outbreaks, that may simply be due to a lack of attention.
The Christmas period saw a total reverse of fortune with extensive rain periods across the region and flooding was commonplace.
The Namoi River at Bendemeer had been a sluggish series of pools for many months but after Christmas the river rose markedly with strong flows heading west into the Warrabah catchment.
After such prolonged dry spells I expect some terrific angling into February.
Once the rivers clear and settle back down, the fish should really be starting to work.
Look for major backwaters and pound them with medium-sized spinnerbaits. I prefer spinnerbaits because after the flooding we have experienced you can expect plenty of debris on the river bottoms – great for the fish but a bugger for snaring lures.
Spinnerbaits or large soft plastics rigged weedlessly on wide-gape worm hooks are the best option for exploring post-flood country.
Forget the subtle retrieves of low water angling and be prepared to rip your lures aggressively. You’ll be amazed how fired up the fish become after such major rises in stream flows.
All the gorge waters east and west of the Range will fish well over the next month.
The weather is still plenty warm enough but we’ve probably missed the best of the cicada hatches, which were heavy in many areas.
Targeting backwaters with poppers and pencil baits should bring plenty of cod and bass undone.
Although we generally leave these lures for daybreak and evening excursions, don’t be afraid to put one into the corners of dark bushy pools throughout the day.
This is especially true at the heads of pools, where the bigger fish lie in ambush.
Don’t be afraid to mix your colours up and try something unusual. In clear water I like topwater lures with bright bellies, pink and orange being favourites.
At low light or if the water is carrying colour I prefer a lure which makes more noise, rather than simply relying on a dark belly.
Rattle chambers or cup-faced poppers tend to draw fish better under such conditions.
Over the coming month you’ll do better to put on your walking boots and hit the gorge country. I believe the fishing will be exceptional.
On the bass front, Armidale National Parks office (02 6738 9100) can provide details of access points and West Kunderang Retreat is another terrific option. The latter is run by Cindy McRae and especially for those new to the bass gorges, it’s a great introductory trip. Contact Armidale Outdoors for details on 02 6772 7744.
On the western cod waters Warrabah National Park is a classic but to get the best of it, you’ll want to backpack in. Upstream of Pindari is some great water but again you’ll have to hoof it.
The trout season has been a cracker this year.
Ebor continues to fish well and some excellent trout have also been working throughout the Guyra region.
Walcha kicked off well and the big water over Christmas and New Year should keep the fish active.
As a rule, you’ll walk further for fewer fish down Walcha way but often there are some thumping rainbows among them. The upper Macdonald system is extensive but the Walcha Tourism office puts out a great little publication on access points and properties.
If the streams are still running well then cast small soft plastics or gaudy streamer flies hard against the bank.
Once levels drop, switch to lightweight white bucktail jigs.
If the mayflies start to hatch, generally a midday occurrence in most areas over February/March, then fly flickers should switch to emergent patterns fished on lightly dressed leaders.
Given the recent rains, this month would also be an excellent time to head into the Wollomombi-Rockvale catchment.
These streams hold some terrific fish and small minnow lures and olive Woolly Buggers are the preferred presentations here.Reads: 2235